Monday, 7 May 2012

European union

You've never quite heard a song without the fullest orchestration, have you?



Nice bit of in-character work, Ronnie. That of course is the omega performance of a recent TOTP77 favourite and the song the UK sent forward 35 years ago today to defend the Eurovision title Brotherhood Of Man had won a year earlier. It finished second, not that everyone hoped it would come that close - documents released in 2009 revealed BBC governor meeting minutes which noted "when it seemed that the UK would win the contest (and have to pay for it again in 1978) BBC faces at Wembley had grown longer and longer, but they had cheered up when L'Oiseau Et L'Enfant won the prize."

Some sign of what was to come came on the night of A Song For Europe when a technicians' strike meant coverage of the nomination process was limited to Radio 2. The self-penned Rock Bottom beat among others The Foundations, Lyn Paul of the New Seekers, Carl Wayne ex of The Move, Mary Mason who we'll see soon anyway and Opportunity Knocks winner Tony Monopoly, not to mention pre-show favourite Promises Promises by Rags, which I only mention due to the routine the group had planned which would see the two female members' skirts being ripped off mid-song to reveal shorter garments underneath. Four years later one of those girls, Nichola Martin, co-founded Bucks Fizz and the other, Jill Shirley, became their manager, so at least the idea didn't go to waste.

Instead Rock Bottom, an evocation of more straitened times complete with Lionel Blair choregraphy, was chosen by the people to go forward to the Wembley final on April 2nd. Except it didn't, as another BBC strike, this time cameramen, delayed it to May. Then when it did take place there were a different set of technical snafus. Let host Angela Rippon explain. More directly, let producer Stewart Morris' talkback take up the story (NSFW):



That roller has never been cued in quite the same way again to this day. For the record this won despite receiving half as many twelve pointers as our man and woman, while some TOTP77 alumni finished sixth despite their Morse code sessioneer's sterling work.

7 comments:

Arthur Nibble said...

Absolutely fascinating stuff by Stewart Morris - exasperation, fury, resignation, despair and dark humour rolled into a song and a half. What must the whole programme have been like! It reminded me of a Benny Hill sketch where Benny's the out-of-screen director telling the cameras where to go during a young musician's concert, and, much to Stewart's...er, Benny's fury, they focus on some stocking tops, Jenny Lee Wright's cleavage, Bob Todd picking his nose and the top of Jackie Wright's bald head.

We may get to see that Rags routine in full. Their Euro entry didn't quite make the top 50 but did well enough to make TOTP, and a snippet of their song was shown on the 1977 documentary at the start of the year. Their record label ballsed the sleeve up, showing Eire as part of the United Kingdom, so it probably wasn't just Stewart who lost his rag..boom boom tish!

THX said...

A bit echo-y, but Mike and Lynsey did us proud that night, the French entry which won was nowhere near as memorable. Plus Lynsey didn't start laughing halfway through, so all the Pops appearances were good for something.

As for Silver Convention, was the sticking point the increased number of lyrics they had to learn instead of their usual three line chorus and no verses affair?

Simon said...

"The full story as I remember it is as follows. Stewart did not trust rollers. To make sure he had a running roller at the end of the show he had two. About the time the roller was due he screams run REVOLVE (the scenery on stage), both [the camera operators, one of whom relays this story] hear it as rollers, and cue our ops to run the roller - notice no talkback for the operators, we have to cue them ourselves! When the mistake is realised [camera 8's] op reverses the roller and manages to reset it, [camera 6] I think gives up. On the second cue [8's] roller refuses to start, faulty forward/reverse switch - hence the second failure. Notice however that when Stewart realises that he had been misheard by two separate people he immediately calms down and (grudgingly perhaps) accepts that he caused the problem. I did dozens of shows with him before I joined OBs and they were never boring. You may have hated his guts at times, but looking back his output was prodigious. Often 2 1 hour shows a week. His staff was 1 assistant producer and a couple of production secretaries. Compare that with today. He was always eager to try any new equipment, and any new effects available. Television needed, and still does need people to push the boundaries, even if you only realise it 30 years later! I have a good deal of respect for the old b*****r!"

(from this page of Stewart Morris recollections)

Simon said...

And here he is coping with the 1986 Commonwealth Games opening ceremony

wilberforce said...

in the silver convention video the guy on morse code machine keeps looking like he's thinking about having another go as his finger hovers over the button, then changes his mind at the last second... still, it's a good idea if a novelty item - it reminds me of that track by the penguin cafe orchestra that was built around a telephone dialling tone...

Arthur Nibble said...

The morse code groove wasn't entirely new. Anyone else remember "Sending Out An S.O.S." by Retta Young from a couple of years earlier? Shame her TOTP appearance didn't escape the wipers - a comparison would have been fab.

The Man said...

France's last win...