Thursday, 29 March 2012

TOTP 24/3/77 (tx 29/3/12): that big hair sound

Without wanting to turn this into another blog foregrounding the narrative of changing times in 1977, it's worth noting that on the 26th March 1977 ITV's self-consciously hipper (though it wasn't really, three weeks before the star guests had been Slade and Paul Nicholas) Pops rival Supersonic featured Mr Big, Racing Cars, Guys And Dolls, Roy Harper, Cliff Richard, Dennis Weaver and this:

According to iPlayer, if you like TOTP77 "you may also like Songs Of Praise". I'm saying nothing.

Dave Lee Travis in extreme close-up. Some things are not meant for family audiences.

Brendon – Gimme Some
Having spotted their true USP from their debut appearance, their rundown photo features the wedding suited bass-playing youth front and centre. For his studio return he's dressed down to grey shirt and jeans, safe in the knowledge that tonight he gets to play in front of a drummer who looks even younger, as Brendon and his Keegan hair kicks off with some good old-fashioned clapping above the head. Whether Brendon thought he hadn't made the most of his opportunity first time round I can't say but his shirt is even further open tonight and he's miming into and gripping onto the mike like it's a buoyancy aid, some achievement when that involves extemporising lines like "I need me some sugar and your love is tea". Meanwhile one of the guitarists gurns unpleasantly and plays like he's Johnny Ramone while sporting a Rubettes cap. Well, they weren't using them any more.

Elkie Brooks – Pearl's A Singer
DLT, resplendent in a red T-shirt with Marilyn Monroe pictorial design, introduces "the lovely Elkie Brook". In TOTP world she just hadn't qualified for surname plurality yet. Beside a stage prop that resembles a peacock lost in an autumnal hedgerow Elkie croons gainfully while her band in full dickie-bowed, ruffled shirt formal dress, including a guitarist the spit of Denis Law, do their slow, subtle thing, the bassist seemingly only requiring one finger. Even at supper club speed a marauding camera mows half the front row down. Luckily the tracking shot wasn't required when Elkie and band break into proper jazzy mode, heralded by a pianist with a perm that would have got him into any contemporary funk band, a glorious goatee hanging over the end of the chin and a cardigan that can't have cost more than 75p from a dubious flea market. You're on telly, man! As the Richard Stilgoe-alike on keyboard switches to lustfully swiped tambourine in-house backing singers the Ladybirds make a rare screen appearance, though they only get to sing one line while actually on screen. Them's the breaks.

Brotherhood Of Man – Oh Boy (The Mood I'm In)
DLT pretends to faint at the end of his link. The girls surrounding him find it amusing. Simpler times. The look this time is all over the shop, the blokes in white shirts and medallions both playing guitars because THEY'RE NOT LIKE ABBA, ALRIGHT?, the girls in matching white overalls. To them, this was sophistication. To the viewer, their decorators' van is ready to whisk them away to another job the moment recording finishes. One of them starts with one hand in her pocket. By the chorus they're standing at ninety degree angles to each other. Not seen that anywhere else.

Graham Parker & The Rumour – Hold Back The Night
But first DLT has an announcement. "A lot of you people watching at home this evening would be expecting to see David Soul... unfortunately he's had to rush back to the States... of course we will be trying very hard to get him for you in the near future". David Soul never appeared in person on Top Of The Pops. (Unless he turned up for a quick chat, but then the likelihood is he'd have been asked to record something while he was there, so it seems not) Meanwhile this is a repeat, and it's a good thing too as just to squeeze the show into a 30 minute slot this was edited down... to 73 seconds. Cheers for coming, Graham. All together now - it's an appearance as short as he is.

Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis Jnr – You Don’t Have To Be A Star (To Be In My Show)
"David Hamilton's theme tune" DLT claims. Oi, don't encroach on Tony's comedic patch! A video, or possibly a recording from an overseas programme, in which the couple sing their professional soul right at each other - well, they're a married couple - and we here note Davis looks like the surreal love child of Bo Selecta's Craig David mask and a negative of Tom Jones.

Dead End Kids – Have I The Right
DLT is flanked by two girls wearing T-shirts reading 'MOTORING UNIT BBC'. Nothing is explained, much less why one of them looks like the potential love child of Jimmy Savile and Laura Marling (who wasn't born for another thirteen years, so it's even more surprising) Dead End Kids is a tremendous '77 punk bandname, it's just it got swiped first by a band looking to fill the gap the Bay City Rollers (who they'd supported the previous year) hadn't quite left just yet - Scottish, young, delusions of rock chops. They ended up teen-glam after both concepts had long since left the frame of reference, which explains why they were one hit wonders. Singer Robbie Gray had clearly decided belts and braces was the look, making him look like a stereotypical 1970s football hooligan were it not for the night's latest voluminous perm. Throughout he holds a small mallet in his left hand, not for bludgeoning the front row if they look at him funny but for first banging against his thigh and then, when the time comes, for studiously 'playing' some tubular bells that continue being played after he's walked away following nine hits. That's the sort of thing that gets the teens running.

Smokie – Lay Back In The Arms Of Someone
As much as it seems they had a studio residency for these few months, this is merely a repeat.

Boney M – Sunny
"It's girlie time!" As usual when introducing Legs & Co DLT seems to be on the verge of doing himself a mischief, this time coupling his not quite comedic enough not to be convincing lasciviousness by proxy with a comedy northern accent. It even looks like he's making the male masturbatory gesture at the end. Still Gill-less, it's more standard hoofing in time is made in dresses possibly made from those strips of paper you get in kebab houses to seperate the counter and kitchen. Really it needs Bobby Farrell.

T-Rex – The Soul Of My Suit
We weren't to know it yet but this is the last we'd see of Marc Bolan on TOTP. He looks more imperial phase elfin-like then he did on his two 1976 showings but it's hard to tell which seems less fitting for prime Bolan, the yellow suit jacket or the keyboard player with a Scottish folkie beard, tracksuit top and Badly Drawn Boy hat. Once upon a time he'd have been given proper style pointers. Not to denigrate the whole thing, there's a fine crane shot from the back of the stage revealing both Dead End Kids' instruments still set up on the other stage and the actual paucity of audience numbers, and Bolan, still not yet (and indeed never) 30, has regained his charisma. He'd have been 65 this year. Imagine.

Manhattan Transfer – Chanson D'Amour
But before then DLT has special guests... The Captain & Tennille! What level of specialness this is is unclear as their biggest hit at this point had peaked at 28 and they wouldn't reach the top 40 again until 1979, but never mind, nice of them to drop in. The Captain has a captain's hat on and, bearing the permanently surprised look of latter day Brian Wilson. says he's on holiday "to look for a few captain's hats". Yeah, alright. Tennille's only contribution is to confirm that the pair got together in 1971, "a long time ago". Then it's the last week on top for this "magnificent piece of music" - his words - at number one, after which DLT does his piece on his knees claiming "a bezerk cameraman has attacked me". Not before time, if so. Sound And Vision, presently up to number three, again plays over the credits, and again the early edit cuts it off before the vocals.


Angelo Gravity said...

The Dead End Kids ~ ok I admit I actually bought that single in 1977, I think it cost me 79p, the same price as a download in 2012! Still got it somewhere up in the loft, along with my Dr Kiss Kiss record.

I remember their performance very well - was always unsure how those chimes kept on playing after he'd finished hitting them - eventually began to suspect some miming going on!

Simon said...

In other news, this blog has been used as a Wikipedia citation! Albeit an inaccurate one.

Arthur Nibble said...

Happy birthday, YIN1! Who'd have ever guessed we'd get this far? And let's kick off celebrations with...

Surely an early candidate for forumites' end-of-year awards. I'm still seething that we missed Boston completely at 7.30 due to a wiping and a chop-out yet, potentially, we'll get this three times. A souffle of a song with no substance at all but, like "Torn Between Two Lovers", it seems that the songs I dislike are the ones I find myself humming for days afterwards. Too much tongue action by Brendon in between lines for my weak palate. Reminded me of David Pleat.

Both set and singer looking like Manhattan Transfer cast-offs, Elkie’s backed by a bassist who kicks off early doors with some great jaw jutting synchronised to his notes. AfroMan apart, despite their attire, the band make Jimmy James’s bunch look like caviar snafflers.

Didn’t realise till recently that Sandra and Martin out of The ‘Man have been married for donkeys’ years. I was definitely a Nicky fan myself. Those outfits made me hungry for a pack of Pacers.

Schoolboy pun alert...Ah, Soul – or not as the case may be. Poor Graham, but at least he got more pre-watershed action than Boston (leave it, Arthur...). Just how many people did the cameraman run over to get that judder at 10:44 on the clock?

From the sign behind Billy and his marvellous diagonal mic style, it looked like the clip was from a show called Sop Pop. Get that set designer in my office now! Anyone else notice what looked like a psychedelic Dalek balancing a ball seal-like behind Marilyn?

What a night for perms. At first I thought Brendon was doing a bit of moonlighting. Jethro Tull must have been quaking in their boots at that hot tubular action. Could someone please explain what was going on with the elbows of the bassist’s coat?

Not much too say about Smokie, except the permed one looks like the potential dad of that rascal in Corrie who was recently in “Dancing On Ice” - erm, allegedly!

In hindsight, a really sad way for Marc to end his TOTP career, with a total flop. Marc hadn't really cut the mustard with his most recent releases (the last one, "Laser Love", didn't make the top 40) but looming tragic events mean this is how we say goodbye. Loved the chink in Marc’s pouting armour when he flashed a huge smile at 24:02. Remember him that way.

The Captain reminded me of Gyles Brandreth for some reason. Never forget he and his betrothed were the people who subjected us to one of the most cringeworthy singles ever, “Muskrat Love”. Once we get past the poor man’s Thelma Houston and the penguins, we finish with no sound of Bowie, no vision of Bowie, and not even a namecheck of Bowie.

I really hope we get to see a cut-and-paste version of the next edition on BBC4, irrespective of the quality, as I think it’s the swansong of one of the DJ’s and afterwards, frankly, we can’t see the point any more (big clue there as to who it is). Right, off now for a slice of that birthday cake!

Arthur Nibble said...

I forgot to mention - was Gill's name actually short for Gillespie? It's starting to look like she was just as good at truant as our erstwhile heroine.

Erithian said...

The Damned – woah yeah!!

Brendon – I can’t remember getting worked up about this song in ’77 but it really irritates me now. Absolutely nothing to the song, as basic as anything, but the singer looks so pleased with himself and his weedy vocals. Urrrggh.

Elkie Brooks – quality, Salford girl. I knew she was in Vinegar Joe with Robert Palmer, but only just found out through Wiki that she made her first single in 1964, supported the Beatles and toured with the Animals. Elkie Brooks had been in a band called Vinegar Joe alongside Robert Palmer for some years previous to this. There was a parody single called “Earl's A Winger" by Richard Digance - not quite as good as I remembered it:

BoM – the influence of you-know-who gets ever stronger, but this was surely their best single and maybe the nearest they ever got to moving on from Eurovision to quality pop the way Bucks Fizz were later to do.

Parker – was this cut as short as BJH the previous week? While that was on my eldest asked me a question about his homework, I turned the sound down and by the time I’d answered they’d been cut off.

Marilyn & Billy – er, don’t mind us will you? A bit cruise-ship, as Simon Cowell would say, but endearing all the same.

Dead End Kids – what Brendon would have been with a decent song and a half-decent singer. Nice glam treatment of a song that was a good old stomper in the first place.

Smokie – comforting and familiar by now, Chris Norman perfectly at home in the studio – which he might actually have been, did he have a flat upstairs?

Boney M – hearing it for possibly the first time since it was a hit (since it’s played rarely compared to their later, bigger hits) this sounds really fresh and a great production – pleasantest surprise on the show.

T Rex – the strange thought flashed through my mind that this is where Gotye got his look from! Very odd to see Marc with such a conventional-looking band. And RIP in six months’ time.

Captain & Tennille – don’t forget they were a very big deal in the US, “Love Will Keep Us Together” having been the top-selling single of 1975 and a Grammy winner, so a Radio 1 jock would no doubt have considered it an honour to have them on.

ManTran – so all we had on TOTP was that same clip where the main “Ra-ta-ta-ta-ta” hook was way down in the mix. I recall a feature on Newsbeat where they interviewed people outside an Abba gig in Manchester, and one old Northern lad said they were OK but his favourite song of the moment was (in broad Lancs accent) “Shonshon Damooer”. (Looking up the dates on the ABBA Forever site, Abba played Birmingham Odeon, Manchester Free Trade Hall, Glasgow Apollo and two nights at the Albert Hall in February, and at this point in March they’d just finished the Australian tour captured in “ABBA The Movie”, which led someone to comment that they were so popular in Oz they could have formed a government.)

Bowie – not enough of him again!

Chris Barratt said...

Another consistently good TOTP, though we had both Brendon & The Dead End Kids reminding that us that punk wasn't just a musical spring-clean but also did something about the terrible hair-do's & clobber sported by these limp acts.
Elkie Brooks was excellent - great song, great performance, and it was good to Marc Bolan looking as contemporary & "1977" - if not more so - than anyone else on the show. I know his latter-day chart stats don't look great but I've always thought all his singles - give or take a couple from 1974 - were consistently good, he was simply a victim of pop fashion.
Au Revoir Chanson D'Amour... for some reason I like that tune more now than I ever have

Steve Does Top of the Pops said...

I don't know if it's a sign that my standards are dropping but I seem to enjoy TOTP1977 more with each week that passes. I even quite enjoyed Brendon - or at least the fact he seemed to have cheered up since his last appearance. I enjoyed the Brotherhood of Man. I enjoyed Smokie. I enjoyed the Dead End Kids. Some sort of madness seems to be coming over me.

Steve Williams said...

The one with the perm from Smokie doesn't half look like my brother-in-law. Er, with a perm.

This was a big night for pointless instruments, there are surely far too many guitarists for Brendon (which judging by the chart picture appears to be the name of the whole band) and the two most prominent instruments, piano and trumpet, are nowhere to be seen. Then someone had to go to the trouble of lugging those tubular bells on stage. It's not even to give him something to do during the instrumental break. Anything to stop that rocking on the spot, I suppose.

At least the other bloke from the Brotherhood of Man finally found something to do with his guitar, which appeared to be plugged in.

Is Sound and Vision the first song to be the playout twice?

Steve Williams said...

Oh, the McCoo and Davis clip looked to have come from the Dutch show Top Pop, there was a logo on the set behind them. This show seems very big on odd staging as on Disco at the BBC the other week that CSO-heavy Hues Corporation performance came from there. Presumably it waas easy enough for Pops to use performances from it as it had the words "Top" and "Pop" in its logo.

McCoo was way out of Davis' league.

Anonymous said...

Elkie Brooks sounding great then , sounding even better today. Still recording and touring.

Arthur Nibble said...

Blimey, Elkie had some front - literally - doing that photo shoot for the cover of her debut album "Rich Man's Woman"!

wilberforce said...

thanks to DLT for explaining the brendon/kc connection - jimmy bo horne who did the original was a client of the kc production team. i know he gets a lot of stick, but i'll stand up and say as a fan of both trivia and prefab sprout his sunday radio show was essential listening for me in the early 90's

i'm sure she doesn't need my sympathy but i always felt a bit sorry for elkie brooks as she tried so hard to be a diva/siren but wasn't really up to the job - i don't know if it's due to the miracles of modern science, but she looks better now than she did back then

steve w is right - marilyn mccoo was obviously blessed with glamourous good looks (unlike plain old elkie for example), and should have gone solo after the fifth dimension finished and would probably have had far greater success as a result

never has a band been so aptly named as the dead end kids with this pointless and redundant cover of the 60's pop hit

marc bolan was making some sheep noises again, but it was far more interesting to watch the antics of bassist herbie flowers - he can't decide to look bored or actually make some effort to perform properly, and at the end leans over to start chatting with the keyboard player

ximeremix said...

I was going to mention Herbie, but the Force that is Wilber got there before me.
It's such a shame that this was the last time we saw Marc, slightly paunchy, but with the Marc shows on the 'other side' coming up, for which he seemed to slim down very quickly, we weren't going to miss him for long.

THX said...

That was no perm on Elkie's pianist, that was a magnificent afro! Must have taken him ages to comb that.

Never liked The Dead End Kids purely for making a plodder out of one of the brightest 60s hits, when you compare that to Joe Meek's production there's no contest.

Not sure staging Legs & Co's routine by hiding it behind the scenery was the best idea. Were they trying to conceal the lack of Gill?

Anonymous said...

Surely the Richard Stilgoe lookalike on Elkie's hit was playing the steel guitar (and tambourine), not keyboards?

Vintage Reading said...

Legs & Co: I like Lulu more and more - she always seems in larky high spirits and doesn't feel obliged to do all the daft pouty stuff.

Bolan in decline but he sings like he means it without all the stoopid grinning at bandmates that all the other bands love to do. Are you listening Smokie??!

Vintage Reading said...

Arthur: "Loved the chink in Marc’s pouting armour when he flashed a huge smile at 24:02. Remember him that way." Yes indeed.

Julie Joanne Bevan said...

Anonymous is right - the Stilgoe lookalike in 'Pearl's A Singer' did indeed play pedal steel and tambourine, not keyboards.

I've just seen the reunited Gallagher and Lyle in concert in Edinburgh; it was a sell-out, with everyone singing along. Benny Gallagher can still hit the high notes in 'I Wanna Stay With You' and can play so many instruments; in one of their folksy numbers, 'Willie', he used a harmonica on a holder. Graham Lyle is my favourite Richard Stilgoe lookalike!

wilberforce said...

expanding on mine and thx's earlier comments on the dead end kids cover, the only thing about the original version that lifted it above the banal was the footstomping beat, so without that feature just what was the point of re-recording it? (if the biopic i saw recently was accurate, joe meek got anyone hanging around his studio at the time of recording to literally footstomp on the floor, giving his hapless landlady downstairs yet another earache!)

oh yes athur, i spotted the dalek too!

Dory said...

I really enjoyed the video by Billy Davis Jr & Marilyn McCoo.
It was a regular occurrance in the seventies that a husband & wife team would make the charts, such as Peaches & Herb, Captain & Tenille, Kris Kristofferson & Rita Coolidge to name but a few.
Billy and Marilyn on this week's show really knew how to get our attention, and love is deep, as the video showed.
I'm just pleased that they'll be on again next month on Jimmy Saville's show! These performances are gems in an era where we will never see it's like again in the pop charts. Billy & Marilyn are now around 70 in age and still happily married for over 40 years.
They still play nowadays in venues in America I believe.....

wilberforce said...

can anyone think of any "couple" acts from the seventies other than those mentioned already?
the only ones that come to mind immediately are r & j stone...

seekenee said...

This edition flowed really well, I enjoyed the repeated songs so much more - must be the mood I'm in - but it is getting better right?
Does Brendon's drummer have the shortest haircut of the re-runs so far?***Elkie - great to get a glimpse of the Ladybirds!****Was Brotherhood of Man on the left interpreting DLT's faint as a pisstake?, looked like it***Marliyn McCoo was a joy***I wonder did the Dead End Kids cover influence the inclusion of Have I the Right on K-Tel's 40 No.1 Hits comp released in 77 or should I think of something useful like what to give the kids for breakfast****Smokie are smug and professional and i'm starting to like them for it***great dance/outfits from Legs and Co -is Patti taking the lead?***loved Marc tonight, he was the real deal no question any year***it has to be said DLT appears to have prepared his links/interviews and his drooling when introducing Legs and Co is no more ridiculous than his colleagues' more relaxed approach to such routines.......***ooooh it's gettin good. Happy Birthday, Simon!

Noax said...

I'm a bit late to the party as I've been away since Thursday celebrating my 40th birthday. Time now for me to dust off a pipe and start listening to Robin Sarstedt CDs then. Or not.

Brendon - Never mind the Kevin Keegan perm, there are enough people there for a whole football team! That would have been good on Grandstand - Partick Thistle 3 Brendon 1

Elkie Brooks - I've never really liked her, I must say. I mean, clearly she's a good enough singer, but the songs always seemed a bit B-list to me.

Brotherhood of Man - Hmmm, (mostly) white suits, singing at 90 degrees to the audience then turning backs on each other, who else does that? No, it's gone.

Graham Parker - Was it 73 seconds on the late night full version as well? It didn't seem like it when I was fast forwarding through it. If so, maybe they genuinely DID have it as a late replacement for David Soul, though it seems likely that his appearance was a lie. Perhaps some overenthusiastic Radio Times hack had put it in the blurb for the show or something.

Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis Jnr - The name of the act is clearly much more exciting than the song. Speaking of which...

Dead End Kids - Bloody hell, this is dreadful. I absolutely LOVE the original (Joe Meek can do little wrong in my opinion) and if you're going to impersonate the Bay City Rollers, why not do it when they're popular?

Boney M - I'm really disappointed that DLT didn't go the whole hog and do the 'bend at the elbow, other hand between upper and lower arm' PHWOOOAARRR action. Incidentally, I liked DLT's late 80s/early 90s Sunday morning shows too - they helped me get through my A-level homework very nicely. Ironic that he was got rid of when doing his best stuff!

Intermission (Captain & Tennille) - This is a bit weird isn't it, was David Soul supposed to be doing this bit as well? I'm trying to think what the equivalent would be about 10 years later. I imagine it would be Bruno Brookes saying "Look who's just dropped in, it's Roman Holliday!"

David Bowie - This was cut off on the late night showing too, in case it hasn't been mentioned.

Dory said...

It was yet another show that failed to get David Soul into the studio. DLT's mention in this episode that he had to leave Britain suddenly for the USA just before being due to appear on Top of The Pops was preparing us for the fact that we were never likely to see him on the show.

WeddingSuit said...

I'm the yoof in the wedding suit which you are correct was purchased for my cousins wedding the year before. When an 18 year old gets the call to do totp and all he has in the wardrobe are flared patched jeans and a led zep tee shirt you have to make a decision fast. BTW the record companies in those days gave no guidance or advice. The Kasuga bass was a big embarrassment but I did meet Marc Bolan which made my day. Also I was the youngest guy on the show.