Friday, 23 March 2012

TOTP 17/3/77 (tx 22/3/12) open thread

Hello. Due to a series of minor crises I haven't got time to write up last night's show, but as the comments box tends to get lively quite quickly I thought I'd throw this up and append to it when I've got time. Sorry, and go ahead.


nigeyb said...

A few random thoughts...

Watching that Abba video really bought home the psychodrama that must have permeated the band as the relationships broke up and the dynamic changed. Was that acting we were watching or a live break up? How did they manage to continue to function and create material out of the demise of their relationships?

Billy Ocean - surely they were the biggest cuffs in pop. What an outfit. And, "Red Light Spells Danger" is a cracker of a tune. Billy Ocean - real name Leslie Sebastian Charles - took his stage name from the Ocean estate in Stepney, where he lived. Fact!

Showwaddywaddy. Every time I see them I wonder how on earth they sustained such a long chart career. They are shockingly bad. Who bought their stuff? Why not just buy the original of all the covers they churned out?

Barclay James Harvest. Talk about wrong time? They look like they've stepped out of 1972 and here they are with a hit single just as punk is about to wipe them out. Actually I seem to recall, though have no first hand knowledge, that BJH had quite a long and successful album career. Or maybe that's just based on seeing their albums in record shops as a kid? Another of those bands that I know absolutely nothing about. The song was pretty dull.

Some great hats in the audience this week. Obviously a group who had decided to all wear a hat. All of them were pretty enthusiastic dancers. Was that because of the hats or would they have done it anyway?

Angelo Gravity said...

I've always liked the Knowing Me Knowing You video - Agnetha looks so hot in it its a wonder she didn't melt all that snow ~ in fact when it comes to hotness she's in a league all of her own - even if the Eskimos had fifty words for hot it still wouldn't be anywhere near enough to describe just how hot Agnetha was!

Arthur Nibble said...

Hope it all works out, Simon.

A bit of a social experiment chez Nibble this week as, for the first time in twenty years, I watched TOTP with my Mum and Dad (plus my wife on this occasion). Some things never change – the inablility to hear most of the links and a large amount of the songs through natter, the nostalgic cry of “what’s this crap!” in this instance when Maxine was on, Mum enjoying the old stuff (ManTran and Boney M’s remake) and Dad’s inherent hatred of Cliff Richard as soon as Tone introduced him.

Two pieces of self-promo chest product placement this week by Suzi and Cliff – sadly no foot on piano by the gal this time round and she didn't have her coat open enough to fully advertise the single, but plenty of ‘my body is my tool'-style movement by the man in white. I liked the song,b ut the instrumentation was nothing like punchy enough for a supposedly rocky song.

“Opportunity Knocks” had a bit of a hold (pun intended) on music and light entertainment in those days. We’ve barely seen the last of The Brothers when another OpKnocks winner hits the charts. I seem to recall big things were expected of Berni – hope he didn’t have the same agent as John Christie. Funny way to spell Berni, which resulted in the steak-house namechecking catchphrase “Is Berni in?” at my school at the time.

Couldn’t watch Abba without thinking of Alan Partridge (Ahaaa!) and being scared by those did-you-spill-my-pint faces, and was intrigued by the abundance of blue but no moody at all in the Leggers’ routine - very chipper, weren't they? I couldn’t work out why at least one of the non-musicians (and virtually non-vocalists for that matter) in Showaddywaddy didn’t take up or at least mime with a saxophone to make their performances look more authentic.

"Rock 'N’ Roll Star”? Which bit of that double-neck soft prog sound was within five miles of rock ‘n’ roll? Until I checked elsewhere, I didn’t realise Barclay James Harvest actually made the chart (okay, two weeks at 49) with that one. Mum wasn’t taken with it or indeed the singer's fashion sense, but she saved the best for our Bill with his fantastic collar and cuffs and fine performance as always. I quote..."Did he just say red light? He’s not singing about a prostitute, is he?” Parents – bless ‘em! Think I'lll go back to watching on the iPlayer next week!

Steve Does Top of the Pops said...

I enjoyed this week's show much more than those of recent weeks. ABBA, Billy Ocean, Maxine Nightingale and, yes, even the eternally unheralded Showaddywaddy gave me pleasure. I even have space in my heart for Berni Flint. If it carries on improving at this rate, they won't need to bother inventing punk.

Noax said...

Tony wasn't too bad this week, was he? Only got one song title wrong I think, and no terrible predictions. Mind you, the "I don't think I've heard this much on the radio" before Barclay James Harvest was a bit daft. You're a DJ, Tony - why don't you play it!

Not much opportunity to use the Toppotron this week in fairness, as there were very few videos. It wouldn't really have worked with ABBA I guess.

Suzi Quatro, or to go by the rundown caption, Suzi Quatro - A much better rendition of this than last time, but still not exactly a world beating song is it?

Berni Flint - This is one of those chugging songs that doesn't actually have a proper chorus, isn't it? Pleasant enough.

Cliff - You're not a country singer. This must end NOW!

Maxine Nightingale - Great performance, making the most of a pretty average tune.

Barclay James Harvest - Go on, say that in your head without doing it in a Whispering Bob Harris voice. It's impossible! I can only assume someone cancelled at the last minute and they were next door doing Whistle Test.

Showaddywaddy - Do you know what? I know I've said this before, but balls to all this 'ooh, how terrible all this 70s stuff is, it should all be all about punk and pub rock and blah blah'. The 5 year old me LOVED this, loved Dave and the boys showboating it like crazy, and all the lurid colours. 35 years later, after a totally shit week, this still cheered me up immensely. And then...

Well, a guy with a massive hat who should at least pretend to be called Pedro but who admits to being a Colin. And then....

Billy Ocean - What a guy! Purple suit, massive cuffs, giving it his all as he does with every performance (has he ever NOT sung live?!) and a cracking song to boot.

That'll do. I ignored the rest after that.

Noax said...

And this bloody blog comment thing ruins my Suzi Quatro joke - I was referring to the massive spaces between the two names in the rundown pic. Apparently deliberate spacing's not allowed here any more, along with a bit of colour as we used to have. Mind you, Showaddywaddy had enough colour this week for all of us.

Julie Joanne Bevan said...

I LOVED the Barclay James Harvest number!

Berni Flint comes from Southport - not far from my hometown, Liverpool - and is still active on the cabaret circuit. His one hit was harmless enough; I remember him covering songs by Ralph McTell and Cat Stevens on 'Opportunity Knocks', but there's no doubt his biggest influence was Jim Croce.

wilberforce said...

it seems a bit odd putting comments without simon's cues, but i suppose if i wait too long for him to do his write-up everyone else will have said what i wanted to (arthur's already got in with showaddywaddy's invisible sax!):

1 - tony's hair (or whatever it is) is looking more pathetic than ever

2 - barclay james harvest seemed to have the plug pulled on them in almost indecent haste - they probably weren't even half way through!

3 - don't know if boney m make an actual appearance with this on a later show (if so bobby will have to stick to a bez routine), but if not i have to say in the wake of the horrors that were to come i thought their version of "sunny" was a fantastic disco effort, and still do... in my youthful naivety i'd never heard the song before so didn't know it was a cover, but now probably have well over a dozen takes of it in my collection (the first chord change is so sweet it gets me every time!)

Arthur Nibble said...

Good call on Berni's influences, Julie. Jim Croce was a fine, underrated artist. Even so, I'll raise you and say there's an ever so subtle hint of Gordon Lightfoot in there too.

Chris Barratt said...

Though I am slightly biased as, being 3 1/2 at the time 1977 is the first spring I can really remember, I can't help as these TOTP's become stronger to correlate this time as a very real "Springtime of Pop" preceding a musical summer that lasted another 7 years or so. This weeks show - whilst not 'amazing' - was enjoyably consistent, no real filler and the tracks by Abba, Billy Ocean, Cliff, Elvis & The Manhattan Transfer being genuine classics. and it's only going to get better,,,,

Dory said...

No-one yet commented on Legs & Co dance to Moody Blue. The song by Elvis still sounds so good today, 35 years later, and Legs & co produced their best performance in my opinion since the first show of the year to David Soul. Anyway, their all blue attire for Elvis was a gem...where did they get those tops, and have they still got them?

As if the colour wasn't enough, we had Showaddywaddy with every colour of the rainbow...I like Dave's orange suit...this group always makes me feel good.

Billy Ocean had to be different....singing Red Light Spells Danger, and wearing purple!

For me these three songs were the highlight of a much better show in a relatively slow start to 1977, with more fun and colours all round this week, an ideal formula for a fun evening's viewing.

Matra Rancho said...

There's a couple of things I found interesting this week, one (as with their 76 hits) was seeing ABBA "in context". A direct comparision between them and their contempories, production-wise they really do stand out. I wonder if that's why they never appeared on the show again, they'd rather have the video shown with the full blown production, rather than a BBC Orchestra arrangement?

And then there's Cliff - back then he was already the older statesman of pop, he'd already been in the business longer than most people could *ever* manage. And that was 35 years ago!

Barclay James Nibble said...

Only just noticed ...that double-neck in Barclay James Harvest isn't yer run-of-the-mill twin guitar, it's one neck guitar and one neck bass! Never seen one of those before. I'll reaffirm one of Simon's blog comments - Tone introduces this by saying "I haven't heard this much on the radio"...unless you thought this tune was the turntable domain of the likes of Peelie or Whispering Bob, you could have rectified thst by playing it on your show a bit, Tone.

Stegron said...

This week's show just drove home how much I bloody hate Abba and love Showaddywaddy!

And yeah, didn't BJH look like they'd turned up late for a party that was about to end...

Steve Williams said...

I'm surprised Tony expressed a liking for Barclay James Harvest - or Barclay James-Harvest as he announced it - given it seemed a bit too much like prog, which I thought he didn't like.

It's quite impressive Cliff managed to pull off dance moves like that given the tightness of his trousers and indeed his T-shirt. A lot of fun, anyway.

I used to have a Crackerjack Annual which went into great detail about Stu Francis' previous work with Berni Flint.

Steve Does Top of the Pops said...

Poor old Tony's getting so much stick for not playing Barclay James Harvest. Which does raise a question. Does anyone know how much say Radio 1 DJ's had back then as to what they played? Did they have input or were they lumbered with only playing what was on the station's play-list (apart, presumably, from their record of the week)?

Simon said...

Right then. First thing to note is BBC4's bravado in getting ten songs and a playout into 29:33 and, playout overlap aside, only having to slim down two songs, albeit losing about three quarters of an hour from BJH (alright, about a minute from the middle)

At least Suzi hit the first note better this time. That kind of visual effect must have been glaring enough when there weren't LED widescreen sets and HD, especially that heat map version which added nothing there. Odd that the same song would launch the show four weeks apart, especially as it had only just gone top 30. Do you reckon she purposefully bought basses with huge necks? There's been a lot of discussion about misuse of 'literally' recently, but only when unwarranted - "she's literally been touring around the world" somewhat spoke for itself.

Berni Flint showing this was the beginning of the age of the thin moustache, later brought into centre stage by Midge Ure in the early days of Ultravox's proper success.

Abba and their stern looks in the snow didn't come back to the Pops studio again after they popped by for the 1976 Christmas recording, though they did appear on...whatever this is in 1978. Is that the Generation Game with Mike Yarwood as guest host or The Mike Yarwood Show hiring the Generation Game set and titles? And how was it explained to the band? Barely, by the look of them.

We must assume Cliff was a bit lost around this point, previous album I'm Nearly Famous had nearly broken him internationally but it was all over the place, from Devil Woman to that one with the falsetto, and now he seems to be channelling Dave Edmunds. There's a proper growled "weeeeeell" at one point, which is not what you want from a Cliff Richard record. Very energetic performance, though, darting around the mike and elongated air guitar to cycle arms for the soloette.

Proving the Clash at least a third wrong about 1977, the title track from Elvis' last album (though not the last single of his life, Way Down snuck into the charts a week or two before his death) shows that with a rhythm Legs & Co can actually get something out of it. And then a song Tony, alongside his radio pessimism, claims will be "very new to you". Come on, by this stage we'd even had the next step on with Be-Bop Deluxe and mellotron-aided spaced out prog by extravangantly bearded men was hardly unknown. The recorded version carries on for another two and a half minutes after the full version here.

The Legs & Co Love Hit Me in a few weeks is more memorable (clue: think Flick's propensity for the obvious) but Maxine's putting her all into it. As, in their own way, are the 'Waddy. Dave Bartram knew how to play up to television, didn't he? And note Romeo back in sparingly used kettle drums and bass vocal interjection, just like on the big hit.

I wonder if that hat was a show self-knowing setup? Tony addresses its wearer as "Colin", where audience members brought properly in front of the cameras aren't usually afforded the courtesy of names. As for Billy I hate to suggest Austin Powers, as it's an overused comparison for all gaily dressed men of a certain nostalgia, but the collar and cuffs had seen rather too much starch for their own good, especially when against that colour of suit. Why did he only dress soberly when he came back a decade later?

Laurel Masse's "play it, boys!" always gets me, especially as it only seems to be the saxophonist who goes on to play any solo.

The embarrassment of the girl in the cap to Tony's right at the end was palpable. You accepted the offer to go up there!

Arthur Nibble said...

And you're back in the room! Welcome back, Simon.

I see what you mean about Billy Ocean's gear, but there's currently a programme on the BBC iPlayer called "The History of Light Entertainment" (episode 5 - pop and easy listening, which I watched avidly until it got to the Louis Walsh boyband era then switched off) which gives concrete evidence that Mike Myers saw Cliff's "Congratulations" performance in the Eurovision Song Contest and completely copied the clobber.

A couple of fond goodbyes in the next two editions. Some might shrug, but the sea change involuntarily starts in more ways than one.

Simon said...

Talking of the near future, there's some conjecture over whether the show after next will be broadcast - 31/3/77 has had to be rescued from various sources joined together and by some accounts all of it may not be of modern broadcast quality. The 5th April is a Sky At Night week and the advance schedules for the 12th hasn't been confirmed yet (and even then advance schedules have missed a show in their official blurb until late in the day)

wilberforce said...

arthur - i've taped the LE/pop prog to watch later: thanks for the warning about boybands...

simon - good to see you back and sorry to be pedantic but the lead lady on "chanson d'amour" is janis seigel, not laurel masse (laurel did sing lead on later hit "walk in love", but unfortunately was badly injured in a car accident soon after and had to leave the group... although i once remember reading that the two ladies didn't get on anyway!)

Wellieman said...

Barclay James Harvest always reminds me of a school classmate who rated them very highly. When invited to his house one day in the school hols I discovered that also in his collection were Yes, King Crimson, ELP and Be Bop Deluxe amongst others. Needless to say when he came to mine and I treated him to Wings, Smokie and Abba he was less than impressed. Our musical paths never crossed again! I had a hunch there was a 5 minute guitar solo waiting to be unleashed when the director cut them off.

Other comments that spring to mind this week... Billy Ocean, welcome back to 1976! Although not even three months into the new year Billy sounds and looks so last year!

Tony's hair... oh dear.

Berni Flint... yep I'd go for the Gordon Lightfoot influence. It's 34.8 yrs since I last heard this and it wasn't as bad as I'd remembered, in fact I've had the bloody song in my head all weekend. (Finally replaced Sideshow in there!)

I'm sure I'll be sick of it in about five weeks time but really enjoyed the Abba track and video. All the different camera angles to get the various head and shoulders shots might look corny now but it was imaginative and showed how to make an interesting video with no budget. And I think the song choice was a bit of a risk as a single. It's not poppy stuff - it's a real slow building anthem that deals with pretty grown up themes. Well done to them for being brave.

And a final mention for Elvis - whatever we think of his later years lifestyle and image he obviously had an army of fans who got virtually every one of his songs in the chart. This one happens to be pretty good too.

Conor Cotter said...

The Abba TV appearance in the Generation Game sketch referred to above was on the Mike Yarwood 1978 Christmas Show, see here for details.

Top of the Babes! said...

I've enjoyed reading the Yes, it's Number One blog for the past year. Hope you get a chance to backdate the 17/03/77 edition thread.