Thursday, 15 March 2012

TOTP 10/3/77 (tx 15/3/12): European harmony

"It's your weekly shot of rhythm and rock" enthuses Kid Jensen, which seems a very Americanised way of putting it, especially as in his white jacket and big collared stripy shirt he seems to be dressed as an airmail letter. There's a slow clearout process going on in the top 30, though Barry Biggs is still about, the best of the new pictures being the O'Jays looking like trainee gangsters.

Graham Parker & The Rumour – Hold Back The Night
Not punk yet, no, but pub rock's still pulling at populism's coat tails. Admittedly this is Parker's soul/Van Morrison leanings rather than wiry Feelgoods pub rock, but it's all heading somewhere. Seems slightly desperate to be covering this, though, the Trammps had only sent it to number five sixteen months earlier so there was no great call for him to be resuscitating a lost classic or family favourite. It doesn't help matters that Parker is wearing shades, is tiny (unless the Rumour's guitarists are all medical giants, which I doubt) and is doing a lot of double fist pumping before the vocals start. When he does start singing, he seems to have retroactively borrowed the voice of Craig Finn from The Hold Steady, despite being from a different continent. He's big on arm movements to exude the lyrics further, the title always, always getting the outstretched palm. And what is he mouthing during the bridge? Can't work out if it's proposed new lyrics, the sax or electric keyboard solo expressed through the larynx or trying to remind himself of how the next bit goes. "What an exciting debut!" Kid makes sure to exude.

The Real Thing – You’ll Never Know What You’re Missing
"What a good week it's been for Liverpool, what with John Conteh" I like the period detail, don't you? For the record he'd defended his WBC light-heavyweight title for the fourth and last time against one Len Hutchins with a third round TKO. You don't get boxers called Len Hutchins any more, do you? As well as doing a lot of smiling to himself Eddie's gone for Zapata moustache in the works and hairline headband, while his bandmates have gone to the usual lengths of the laundry basket - red T-shirt and dungarees, fringed jacket over bare chest and what seems to be a dark blue apron. Any port in no storm at all.

Brotherhood Of Man – Oh Boy (The Mood I'm In)
Kid calls theirs "a change in style" even though they barely had a style to begin with, they were one hit wonders to this point whose only proper idea was a twist ending. This is their British Abba (But With The Blokes Singing And Not Playing Instruments Or Being Much Use To Anyone) relaunch, checkered alternating outfit colours the style plus neckerchiefs for the women.

Smokie – Lay Back In The Arms Of Someone
At least Kid admits they're "always" on the show, but you can't say they're moving on in the same way as BoM. The bassist has bought himself white flares and a home perming kit on an apparent mission to look like a future 70s stereotype and Chris Norman's lapels might be made out of Axminster but otherwise it's earnest acoustic melodic rock all the way. Right at the end of what seems to be a truncated version everyone ignores the physical probabilities and tries to go back to back on the instrumental break. It doesn't really work. As Kid prepares to tell us "I think that's just about the best 45 they've ever made" we briefly see a black man in a fedora, shades and smart suit and tie with buttonhole white carnation, so . Had he turned up at the wrong address?

Barbara Dickson – Another Suitcase In Another Hall
Just to confuse modern viewers, and probably a lot of contemporary viewers too, Kid remarks on how Dickson "has come a long way since the days of John, Paul, George, Ringo... and Bert". Kid's in an easy to please mood, he states it's his favourite song from Evita, and just for him Barbara's brought her guitar to fill the instrumentation gap where the harp from the first performance went. Still nobody to sing the male part, which makes her look like she's throwing a strange voice at the very end.

The Rubettes – Baby I Know
"Last time I was on Top Of The Pops I introduced the new single from the Rubettes and I said it would get to number one. Well, it's not far off this week, it's at number eleven!" Kid follows this with the kind of fixed smile that one can only attain when one has said something of that leap of logical faith on prime-time national television of their own volition. One strange thing given we'll never need to hear this again soon, as much of a grower as it is (just me? Oh alright then) The Rubettes didn't change their sound and look overnight, the one time we saw them in 1976 they were heading in a country direction anyway, but nobody's told whoever was in charge of the chart rundown as it's still using a picture of the band in smart jackets and two, including front and centre Alan Williams, in cloth caps. Also there's still five of them pictured, which means someone's not paying attention. This is curtailed by the single worst cut-to-black edit in the whole run so they can keep in two songs that were on the last Pops while cutting out the week's, and maybe month's, most interesting newcomer to the running order. Why bother, eh?

Electric Light Orchestra – Rockaria
Video again, still no room for Jeff's specific vision on the Pops stage.

Mary McGregor – Torn Between Two Lovers
A Gill-less Legs & Co with rather too little literalism this week. No duality, no switching from one side/emotion to the other, no general expression of feeling like a fool, just a lot of twirling and crouching down in Quality Street wrapper dresses because the song is too slow to really do much with.

Brendon – Gimme Some
"If you go to discotheques regularly here's a tune you'll have undoubtedly been tapping your toes to recently". Kid, I don't think people go to discos to tap their toes. Just a friendly word of advice. Brendon, a man with a full Keegan perm, is clearly aimed at Stardust Club - International Singing Talent And Chicken In A Basket Served All Night rather than Wigan Casino, given his song is chiefly the title shouted over a watery glam beat. The well dressed theme of the night continues with the young bassist, who in contrast to the neatly patterned shirts of the guitarists must have been sent out by his mum as there's no good reason for him to don not just a grey suit but a matching waistcoat. Wouldn't be surprised to find he's got a pocket watch on a chain on him too. Our fedora'd friend, despite being right at the back, is really going for his dance moves.

Manhattan Transfer – Chanson D'Amour
Ra-ta-ta-ta-ta! "Manhattan Transfer Company", as Kid calls them for some reason, are on video, in costume and responsive to clearly canned applause after the first line. They've got a band with them, Laurel Masse ordering "play it, boys!" like a jazz singer with ambitions. Elton John's Crazy Water sees us out. Kid sees us off with an extravagant Going For Gold opening titles-like wave and - let's not let a single mention of this attempt at a catchphrase go unnoticed - "goodbye and good love".

EDIT NEWS: Lynsey De Paul & Mike Moran's Rock Bottom, maybe cut for being the longest song on the show and it will be on again but... I so wanted to see the reaction from the prime-time crowd to this. A year after Brotherhood Of Man brought the Eurovision party home, this back to back duelling piano jazz chords duet about working together against the failing economy - hey, timely too - was offered up as our continental representative. In its own way, this was as far from the pop mainstream as New Rose.

27 comments:

Arthur Nibble said...

Thanks for the swift critique, Simon. 10.35 and the edition still hasn't been downloaded onto the BBC iPlayer. Due to this tardiness and other factors, I'll now be late to the party with my four-penn'orth, so at least someone else will get a good crack at airing their views.

Dory said...

Best song in this episode has to be Rockaria, although a better intro on Noel Edmunds show a couple of weeks ago as he looked up to the balcony where the maiden in the video brings in ELO to start their rock anthem.
The only other highlight is the No.1 from Manhattan Transfer, although the Legs & Co version a few weeks earlier on Paul Burnett's episode of the show was a better video in my opinion...

Simon said...

Don't expect express service every week, I'd mostly worked off a previous recording.

Steve Williams said...

I liked the frantic nature of this show, especially the brilliantly shambolic link out of the Real Thing where the camera had to do a circuit round Kid and then turn around to zoom straight past the Brotherhood of Man. In fact it was a big week for shoddy camerawork as it wasn't until the last chorus that you could see The Rumour had a keyboard player, zooming out of nowhere. We'll see them again later backing Nick Lowe, of course, where the keyboard player gets far more camera time.

Some dull Legs and Co performances recently, they seem to have had a load of ballads and I'm still pining for the demented days of Ruby Flipper. I suppose we should make the most of the days until Lulu gets that terrible perm.

I keep trying to think who the violinist (Violinski?) of ELO reminds me of, he sort of looks like all the Pythons put together. He's proving you can't successfully do rock poses with a violin, in any case.

Anonymous said...

Nonsense comments about Barbara Dickson. Unlike so many other artists - Dickson is singing live - and gives a stunning performance.

Angelo Gravity said...

A good show I thought - I watched the late night version so got to see the Rock Bottom song - I'd forgotten how very attractive Lynsey de Paul was - she can certainly rock my bottom any day!

And Brendon - is he Mika's dad or what?

Arthur Nibble said...

With the show still not downloaded by 11.30 I decided to stay up and watch the re-run, and was taken by the Beeching-style butchering of the older songs - The Real Thing were cut off before Chris’s emotings (first sighting of a sort of dream catcher since Candi Staton), and we lost an entire verse and chorus of “Rockaria”. Wish they’d truncated Smokie’s plodathon while they were at it.

Simon would have been disappointed by “Rock Bottom”, performed with no audience - it may well have been the “Song For Europe” clip. I’m developing a soft spot for Brotherhood of Man’s pop version of an Aussie country smash, but couldn’t stand Elton’s play-out track, which sounded like a rag-bag of different song ideas cobbled together.

Delighted we didn’t get that boring Mary MacGregor video again, but I pined for the Legs & Co version of “Chanson D’Amour” which would have been much better than what we got - and that sax solo was appalling. Where were Stutz Bear Cats when you needed them?

The missing Rubette from the countdown photo is probably the one who started another version of the band and got involved in that court case. Talking of missing people, seeing as we didn’t see a male vocalist helping out, couldn’t Barbara Dickson have done a Les Gray and used a ventriloquist’s dummy? Agree though, great performance.

Does anyone else think Graham Parker could have been a style and vocal inspiration for Elvis Costello? After all, some of The Rumour helped out on a number of Elvis’s early recordings.

Leaving the best to last – with his stylish haircut, good looks and charisma, how come Brendon didn’t become a major international recording artiste? Such a complex, intricate song too!

Arthur Nibble (again) said...

I‘m becoming obsessed - it appears “Gimme Some” was the work of KC and The Sunshine Band’s songwriters Casey and Finch. Brendon’s version was released on Jonathan King’s UK label in 1976 then re-issued on Magnet in ’77, our favourite banned pop star also releasing a cover version in 1986. I reckon Brendon’s drummer was also sent down the shops by his mum but could only afford the waistcoat. Still, it’s the thought that counts.

wilberforce said...

i'd like to point out that unlike many recent editions, virtually all the acts on this show appeared to actually be performing in the studio this week (mind you, smokie and the real thing have been on so often they probably lived next door!)

i remember graham parker got a lot of music press coverage throughout the punk/new wave era (especially in "sounds"), which seems absurd considering he was basically a pub rock act... i never knew how diminutive he actually was - were i of that stature i would have employed musicians that were similar build rather than the big strapping guys accompanying him, or else done an "alan ladd" and stood on a box or something (btw the bassist in the glitter band got the job primarily because he was a shortarse like the rest of them)...

i checked out brendon on discogs and somewhat spookily bearing in mind his song was written by casey & finch of sunshine band fame, he looks like a permed version of KC himself - are they related by any chance?

http://www.discogs.com/viewimages?artist=Brendon+%282%29

oh yes, thanks to whoever saw sense and put the comments text right across the page again rather than all down one side...

Mikey said...

Interesting that KId said that this was our first chance to see Rock Bottom being performed. This is true, of course, because the Song for Europe in 1977 was blacked out by a strike - although it was broadcast in sound only on Radio 2. (Two years later, a strike affected both TV and radio, so nobody could hear or see Black Lace until after they had been selected).

Loved the camerawork, especially the link from the Real Thing via Kid into (and beyond) the Brotherhood of Man, as Steve mentions. Maybe it was new Director David G Hillier getting used to the studio!

The Man said...

Wasn't Graham Parker tiny? He makes Leo Sayer look like Giant Haystacks!

Incidentally does anyone know when captions denoting the various bands/singers were introduced to TOTP?

Wellieman said...

I don't know which gave me the biggest laugh: Diddy Graham Parker stood between two giant guitarists (one of whom was on a platform to enhance the effect); or Tony Thorpe giving a c'mon girls wink to the camera on the back of his new-found lead singer success. Why didn't they put Parker on the stage? I'd back up Wilberforce's observation that he was "talked up" in the music press at the time, only for us to think, "is that it?" when we finally saw him.

The Brotherhood of Man's rejig to make the girls the focal point gets my tick. Abba comparisons or not the two Stevens' girls - particularly Sandra - were much more TV friendly than poor old Martin Lee and his dodgy winks to camera. Set them up for a few more hits too. The Dooleys would also use this trick in a couple of years too, to move the focus from the smug older brother to the more attractive younger sisters to keep their hits flowing.

Don't mind Smokie at all, Chris Norman had a great voice and didn't really need the others IMO. Plus he reminds me of Allan 'Sniffer' Clarke from 'dirty' Leeds United, the most hated team of the 70s. (Who actually happened to play some wonderful footie too... at least until Cloughie joined them.)

Not much love for Legs & Co on here this week. But I think they are at their best with this style of formation style dancing to sweet, sugary songs. Let's face it, they don't hold a candle to the early 70s version of Pans when they try to raunch it up. Give me Dee Dee, Babs, Louise et al. anytime for the hot stuff.

Sorry gang but Rock Bottom.... awful, awful, awful. (Well OK not all bad as Lynsey is a chick - but would still look better without her trademark beauty spot.) Didn't it even finish 2nd in the contest? And who is Mike Moran, I feel I should know more about him but don't. Can anyone enlighten us where he came from and where he went to?

Can't believe nobody has yet mentioned the significance of the Brendon song, Gimme Some. That being the first (to my knowledge) line/formation dance that all teenage girls used to do at Youth Club Discos. No? I tell you I still work with some of these lasses who are now in their 40s and 50s but religiously get up at weddings and Xmas dos to show us the moves. Me, I never did figure out what to do!!

How did Chanson d'Amour make No1? Not that it isn't quite catchy and stays in your head and all that. But how did it get on Radio 1 (which was a must to sell records), and who was promoting it? Can't believe that the DJs like Tony Blackburn or Diddy David Hamilton would pick it as their record of the week. And doesn't the lead lady singer (Laurel Masse?) just look French? She has that certain style, elegance, demeanour that British girls just don't. I know - Baby I Know!

THX said...

I'm a bit disappointed there was no Gill this week, but it was a more enjoyable edition than last time.

When I was little I thought Lynsey de Paul was the most beautiful and glamorous woman in the world. Just thought I'd share that. We wuz robbed at Eurovision that year!

Simon said...

Mike Moran's had a hell of a career, in fact, including:

- co-writing and co-producing Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballe's Barcelona
- engineering Aladdin Sane and producing the Ziggy Stardust live album/film
- scoring Time Bandits
- producing various West End original cast albums
- writing the themes to Taggart, Chain Letters and New Tricks
- musical director of Children's ITV's Get It Together

Noax said...

No Toppotron I see - has it been retired for good?

Graham Parker - This is the first time I've heard this, let alone seen it. It's, erm, not very good really.

Brotherhood of Man - I remember LOVING this when I was little. I had a thing for blonde singers though as I worshipped Agnetha as well. I still like the song now, although it's not their best tune.

Smokie - 'Their best 45'? No Kid, that'll be one that's in the charts later in the year. This one's dull.

Barbara Dickson - The hair doesn't look quite right somehow. Another good performance though, despite the slightly dodgy invisible backing singers. I like the way that she doesn't quite know what to do at the end and then looks politely pleased.

Lynsey De Paul / Mike Moran - I didn't know that a strike had affected the Song For Europe show. This is OK, not the worst UK entry ever but not brilliant either. It did finish 2nd, behind Marie Myriam with a song that wasn't exactly great either. 'Twas a poor Eurovision year.
Frankly, the UK should be grateful it couldn't see or hear Black Lace the following year. I always wondered how that got through.

Brendon - Best song on the show, even if it is repetitive, it's a great pop tune. Not as big a hit as it should've been though.

Manhattan Transfer - Where did they get this performance from? 3-2-1?! It's bloody awful, and the sax player doesn't even bother trying to hit any of the high notes.

Elton John - What the? I've never heard this before! It's very odd - Elton goes disco clearly not working in the way that The Bee Gees would.

The fact that this minor hit has gone totally unnoticed makes it worth mentioning one of my pet hates : why, when artists like Elt and Madonna have so many hits, do they not do a proper Greatest Hits and put ALL the singles on?! For god's sake, you can't even get the single version of 'Like A Prayer' on ANY of Madonna's albums!

And yet bloody Cilla was on The One Show today boasting about her 116 track 'Greatest Hits' - no, Chris Evans, that's just lots of albums being re-released. That doesn't count.
Who wants that many Cilla songs anyway? Stray cats in need of company?!

David H said...

1977's Brotherhood of Man may have been a "Lidl own-label copy of ABBA" (as someone else said on Twitter), but this was still a good improvement compared to their 1976 incarnation.

Plus Chanson D'Amour is a great record but that video version is quite frankly awful (even worse than Donna Summer's I Feel Love video of which we'll be subjected to in the not too distant future). Can't specifically remember whether Radio 1 played Chanson D'Amour but the single did get a lot of exposure at the time.

Wikipedia says that Mike Moran was musical director on Get It Together but I'm sure that his name also cropped up on credits for other ITV (Granada)-related programmes as musical director. He has also written other songs for Lynsey de Paul and for other artists (Kenny Everett's Snot Rap of all things), as well as production, film and stage work throughout his lengthy career.

Someone else will probably provide a more definitive answer, but I'm pretty sure that on-screen captions for each performance were not used until some point in 1980 when the show was given a major revamp; the Christmas 1978 edition I've seen is captionless (for example).

Mikey said...

Yes, the captions at the end of the song appeared from August 1980 onwards (the same time that the chart rundown was moved to later in the show) until the end of 1988, and then again from March 1997. Captions at the beginning of the song appeared from 1983 onwards (although they were missing from March 1997 until April 1998, except for the opening song and the number one).

The Man said...

Thanks for that. Yes they did make some changes from 1980 - culminating in the "Yellow Pearl" Phil Lynott theme tune in 1981 - The definitive TOTP theme tune IMO...

wilberforce said...

the phil lynott "yellow pearl" theme was great (the rest of the record was a disappointment in comparison) and ideal for the show at that time, but surely the CCS "whole lotta love" cover (thank god they didn't use the zeplin original) is the ultimate TOTP theme? i suppose it depends on when you started watching it...

mike moran was a regular session keyboard player in the 70's and also a library music composer, which (for those unaware) often consisted of soundalikes, pastiches and knock-offs for use by those in showbiz who refused or couldn't afford to licence the the original recordings - mike once ripped-off a certain scottish funk band's classic to the point where he even nicked part of the title (it's called "the pick-up")...

graham parker may have been minute but he also looks like one mean mutha - i'd hesitate to take him on one-on-one despite his size! maybe he and his band of giants used to march down to the "sounds" office en masse and intimidate the hacks into writing about them? (or more likely, in whatever seedy dive said scribes were getting wasted in)

mention of the sunshine band songwriting team leads me to inform that KC's erstwhile partner (and bassist) richard finch has sadly joined a rather infamous club (current members: gary glitter and jonathan king), presently doing a stretch for offences involving minors (so says wiki)... does anyone know if he ever appeared on TOTP after this point? and if so will the beeb take some kind of action? after all, unlike the other two he's still serving time for the crime...

Simon said...

Apart from the Please Don't Go video at the end of 1978 KC doesn't appear until 1983, by which time Finch had left. King actually produced Gimme Some, presumably meaning he earns something from the repeat royalties, but if BBC4 can show Gary Glitter in prime-time...

Yellow Pearl is I'd imagine the alpha TOTP theme, so much so they went back to it with a new arrangement in 1998. Soon they'll drop the thing entirely, running a chart hit under the rundown, which with nothing but the intro to go on to confirm that this really is TOTP isn't much in the way of show branding.

One other thing about Chanson d'Amour: that live mix is terrible, the backing vocals are hardly audible if you don't know where they come in and it moves slower than the recording. Not even surrounded by cut-outs of waiters and French-looking high society figures, which is what the Two Ronnies would have done.

I was going to use this for when Rock Bottom is next on, in which case try and forget this by next month: the little choreographed moments were apparently worked on by Lionel Blair. It's a wonder they didn't play standing up.

Anonymous said...

Fish. Barrell. Fire at will.

Brotherhood of Man:
"Sleep, baby, sleep,
While your mama walks the streets,
To find your daddy, boy."
Single-parent mother, leaves the kid unattended, while she works as a prostitute. Throw in a drug habbit and it's a Daily Mail wet dream.

Mary MacGregor bravely tells her husband of her bit on the side:
"You mustn't think you've failed me,
Just because there's someone else."
Word to the wise, Mary. Probably NOT what he's thinking right now.

Finally, Elton tells all:
"Down by the docks I saw,
A mast unfolding,
Don't turn away, please understand,
It's a life and a living."

Steve Morgan said...

I really enjoyed the show this week, I'm beginning to feel like it's the late seventies what with the pub rock sound of the great Graham Parker/Rumours cover of the Trammps Hold Back The Night. Ironically its repeat showing comes in the week of Trammps lead singer's Jimmy Ellis' death at 74.
Good to see The Real Thing yet again but shame it was cut off just to fit the next act in, Brotherhood of Man, nice to see the girls in action there though in what became my fave Brotherhood single.
I'll always welcome the acoustic rock of Smokie, and Lay Back.. is one of their best, and Chris Norman did have a good voice.
I thought Barbara Dickson looked a little nervous and unsure of herself on this weeks performance, but it wasn't bad nevertheless.
Here we go again with The Rubettes, a song which has grown on me in recent weeks, but wow! what a bad edit with that fade to black, thank goodness for the longer version with De Paul/Moran's performance intact, but not a hope of winning Eurovision with that one.
As for Brendan, don't remember where he came from but that was repetative, boring rubbish, but it climbs to number 14.
I bought Chanson D'Amour and helped it climb to the top, later wished I hadn't, but I'd bought their previous two singles and they seemed to be a staple on the Parkinson show around then, I recall them performing the jazzier Two Brothers (but that may have been a little later on).
Noax, Elt's Crazy Horses was the second single from the album Blue Moves, an album criticised at the time for being an (double) album of dirges rather than faster paced rock songs and as a result didn't do as well as previous albums. If you don't like Crazy Water wait until the third single gets released. Tom Moulton took Bite Your Lip and totally remixed the song with a disco groove and also swapping the verses and choruses around, so much so that when David Hamilton chose it as his record of the week he had a fun competion just to see how many times Elton repeated the phrase "bite your lip" can't remember the result but it was at least fifty times or more. That single mix is very hard to get these days.

Mikey said...

Simon - I think you are referring to Whole Lotta Love being the Alpha theme, resurrected in 1998. I think it was first used in some form in 1971, and lasted until 1977 when, as you say, it was dropped, along with all branding whatsoever, apart from the logo at the beginning of the end credits. Apart from the odd play in the late 70s at Christmas (and the 800th edition?) it returned in modified form from August 1980 for 11 months.

Yellow Pearl lasted less than 5 years until March 1986, followed by 5 and a half years for the Wizard.

Now Get Out of That by Tony Gibber lasted for 3 and a third years from October 1991, and again from November 2003 until now. In recent decades , the shortest-lived theme was Vince Clarke's tune fom February 1995 - just 2 and a half years.

wilberforce said...

purely by coincidence i've been browsing my old "encylopedia of rock" book that i've now had for nearly 30 years... and have just come across a "backroom boys" entry for mike moran, where i learnt that he co-wrote kenny everett's "snot rap"!

btw steve m the jazzy manhattan transfer tune is "four brothers", which i seem to recall being on the b-side of another single "walk in love" - it's a challenging close harmony arrangement of a jazz standard (originally done in that manner by lambert, hendricks and ross according to wiki) that would probably have "chanson" fans thinking it was by an entirely different group!

Steve Morgan said...

Yes! "Four Brothers", typo on my part, but still a great track, and yes, you are correct in stating it's the b side of Walk In Love, which was released around the time they guested on Parky's show.

Steve Does Top of the Pops said...

Apart from Graham Parker's somewhat aggressive performance, it was all a bit tired this week.

But at least it introduced me to Brendon, an act I'd never heard of before.

The downside of being introduced to Brendon is I now can't get his rotten song out of my head.

Simon said...

So iPlayer's not putting new Pops up until the Friday now? That's... not entirely helpful.