So this isn't a vintage run of TOTP2, but given the show numbers limit and the seeming demand to keep it fairly populist I'm not sure we'd have expected much more. Worth it for the universal horror at Claire & Friends and surely KWS' first visual media mention in nearly two decades, though.
Jimmy Savile in restrained mood. For now. And if you thought last week was cryptic...
Answers on a postcard or the back of a sealed envelope.
Honky – Join The Party
It's 1977. They called white disco-funk bands Honky without prejudice back then. They have an analogue synth, a three-man brass section in polyester plus-fours who like marching up and down, and the rest of the band are clad in white bell bottoms, and I can't work out just from that whether they're behind or ahead of the times. The instruments, mike and mike stand are all covered in tinsel and bits of party popper, as if they'd accidentally started their stage I'm-on-telly party before the floor manager had given them the go-ahead. They have a lot of stickers, which crop up on people's backs throughout the rest of the evening. The singer's trying, bless him, in his open sailor shirt and American accented baritone ad-libs, but nobody's ever going to confuse them for an American band, just another British band hoping nobody asks them where they're from. The guitarist, who 'plays' his solo without changing chord or strumming motion, and bassist both looking like they got into white funk because they didn't get into 10cc doesn't help their cause in that respect. By the ending breakdown they've got audience members to throw streamers at them, but as with all recent shows they seem to apathetic to really join in. Most of them don't so much as brush the bell bottoms. Jimmy refers to them as being "all the way from Southampton" as if that were glamour itself. "They're gonna get to number one, definitely!" he states confidently. SPOILER: they didn't.
Barbra Streisand – Love Theme From A Star Is Born (Evergreen)
"A cool-off, straight away". And back to her acting all coy and that at Kristofferson around a ribbon mike.
Blue – I'm Gonna Capture Your Heart
"A disc jockey from Leeds", one with a broad West Indies accent, is dragged on to do Jimmy's job for him. Blue seem to have been stuck away in a corner and the singer-pianist has to find the most low down angles from which his rheumy eyes can meet the camera's glare. He's already on a lower level than his bandmates. The bassist tries to make mad staring eyes on his close-up on the final go-round, but it's partly lost as he's staring out the monitor. Only audience members can make that sort of assumptive mistake, sir. A couple of big wobbles on static shots follow, perhaps old audience members returning to beat up the camera operators who ran them over last year. Or maybe it's bad workmanship, as then it seems the actual stage wobbles. Can't get the chippies these (those) days.
Trinidad Oil Company – The Calendar Song
Over without a throw back to Jim in vision, and... steel band calypso! Innumerable men in Wolverhampton Wanderers colours, half of whom don't actually seem to do anything - there's only five sets of percussion - but move from side to side and sing backing vocals, like a Trinidadian Showaddywaddy. They're even wearing drapes. And they weren't even Trinidadian, they were Dutch. With no set rhythm they have to amuse themselves, one man with a hedge of hair above a Borg headband choosing a moment on screen to get down with his bad self, twirling and shoulder shimmying just to amuse the bloke next to him. He'd make a far more convincing frontman than the actual frontman, who may well have got the job on the basis of his fine set of teeth. Surprisingly, only one stick drop is recorded.
Piero Umiliani – Mah Na Mah Na
It's at this point that television goes into a tailspin for two and a half minutes. Firstly Jim emerges in a suit and brown wig, announcing "Jimmy's had to disappear, this is his twin brother Percy". Maybe Percy's still alive. This of course is the mysterious one (who actually had quite a career if you look it up, even the bloke on lead 'vocals' was a session guitarist who played the riff on the theme to The Good, The Bad And The Ugly), but unable to make the obvious Muppets/Benny Hill connections Flick went with... um... well... oh, just watch it.
She may well be doing all the heavy lifting routine-wise, but what BBC4 really needed at this exact moment was a picture-in-picture live feed from the home of Sue's children. Surely the highlight of this triumph of the art of CSO - and one wonders whether Sue was given strict direction or just flash notes - is the facial work of the other five from 1:53, caught between smiling for the camera and absolute terror. Apart from Lulu, who spoils it by looking at the monitor rather than the camera.
Simon May – We'll Gather Lilacs
Year of punk and all that, granted, but even TOTP acknowledges how out of contemporary pop mores this is by placing May, his piano and the surrounding leaves Elkie Brooks left behind in an oval sepia fringe for the intro. Maybe it's to make his performance seem more tolerable by the nostalgia filter. No man can look that smug and miss that many notes flat. Maybe it's the influence of the open wine bottle on the piano with glass, but on long notes he's ululating all over the shop. No wonder he gets cut off early, and apparently foreshortened in the midway solo too. It's possible they never told him.
10cc – Good Morning Judge
"How am I doing for a beginner?" The video in all its overlaid, braless, bewigged finery.
Martyn Ford Orchestra – Let Your Body Go Downtown
One assumes Martyn Ford and Johnny Pearson had a dust-up in the car park after hours. Jimmy makes sure to mention this is at number 48, which doesn't quite seem the positive he might have intended. Ford is one of the great pop arrangers and could get the De Paul/Moran axis to write this for him - unrecorded whether they did so on facing synths - but given a live group to work with, and it's unclear whether these middle aged men in matching orange jumpers are the in-house collective or Ford's mates, it all falls flat as an in-house orchestra on limited time attempting disco would, though well done to the saxophonist standing up for his solo. He knows his etiquette. Ford is wearing a white suit with a musical note brooch and huge glasses, not so much conducting as experiencing the unfortunate onset of St Vitus' dance. The floor manager has to duck out of shot at one point. And check those backing singers, possibly chosen to visually represent every facet of mid-70s pre-disco/punk night out fashion:
When we next saw them they were trying out some half-synchronised moves. The one on the left (that's not Moran, is it?) appeared not to have received that memo.
Kenny Rogers – Lucille
From behind a drumkit and surrounded by girls, proving Jim's talents for wandering and attracting run in the family, Percy introduces a video of Rogers, who we'll be seeing quite a bit of, sitting louchely sideways on a chair.
Marvin Gaye – Got To Give It Up (Pt 1)
Unusual to get two Legs & Co routines in one edit, introduced here by Percy pretending to play May's piano, but maybe it needed to be proved that Legs & Co could dance properly. Pretty standard fare for Legs '77, restored to full capacity - and isn't Patti glad she came back just in time for that first one - in visions of aquamarine, bras, ruffled shoulder pads and party dresses with cutaway fronts all the better to swing around. The routine ends with a slow zoom into Patti's crotch. "Just a little present for the lads in the pit there" Percy leers. At least be subtle about it, director.
Mud – Slow Talkin' Boy
Say this for Mud, once they got the glam explosion out of their system they never stuck to one formula for long. Rob's bought an electric mandolin and someone's found Hot Butter's synth, represented visually by Les and Ray, sporting a pink jumper and a huge acoustic bass, playing air pong. That's to mark the synthesised pips on the off-beat, each one met by a flash of the cobweb of lights above the stage. Good reaction times, techie. Les gets an uncontrollable and quite sweet fit of the giggles just by briefly tipping his darkened shades before he and Ray have more fun with alternate arm swinging and stare-out. Somewhere along the line Dave has grown a fake tache. Makes up for how underwrung the song is. Again, one assumes this is genuinely unedited from original showing but it does fade out early.
Billy Paul – Let 'Em In
The Pauline Quirke lookalike standing next to Percy with her tracksuit top-warmed arms stoutly folded may not have seemed to impressed with the prospect, neither the hordes of people looking hopefully up at the camera crane who don't notice until almost too late that Paul's actually behind them if they care at all, but soul business picks right up. The man in the big purple floppy felt hat and big overcoat is covering the Wings hit from 1976, replacing the namechecks for Paul's mates and heroes with references to civil rights activists and African American heroes. Pops in turn replaces Ruby Flipper looking coquettishly through novelty doors with Paul with, well, an audience member right in the centre of shot looking away into the middle distance and finding something or other amusing. The record features samples from Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, but with the orchestral requirement he has to recreate them himself. The BBC's supposed to have the world's largest sound archive or something, couldn't they have put some extra research hours in? In any case, what led a downtrodden sector of US society to rise up and get behind the civil rights movement a decade earlier merely bemuses a group of pasty British teenage girls. Paul's added Great Britain to the "bloodless revolution" bit, what else could he have done? Nothing of this is really his fault, he's coursing and occasionally belting his way through it without aforethought.
Dr Feelgood – Lights Out
And round about the other end of the subtlety spectrum... just four albums, one a live number one, into their career and having already lost their talismanic guitarist, Canvey Island's own make their TOTP debut with something not far from that mythical beast punk, albeit through a cover of a 1958 US rock'n'roll hit that was actually a B-side (Wilko Johnson, for it had been he, had written the A-side, Sneakin' Suspicion - who's trying to deny him performance rights royalties now?) Lee Brilleaux stalks the stage, ducking to the floor when the director's least expecting it, sweating like a man even though it's only two minutes long, in a suit jacket that could charitably be described as off-cream, looking constantly like he's about to offer everyone out. Bassist John B Sparks, with his walrus tache, open waistcoat and distressed jeans, looks ever more like a truck driver. The audience react with pretty much absolute neutrality/boredom, one man side of stage seemingly sitting down, so the director cuts to some flashing green lights instead.
Deniece Williams – Free
Our Leodensian friend gets to introduces that staircased performance again. Jimmy takes back over for the final link with a conspicuous lack of people around him. Kaleidovision plays us out with Joe Tex and the sight of precisely three people dancing.