Friday, 29 June 2012

TOTP 9/6/77 (tx 28/6/12): we love our queen, god save

Tony greets us in his usual slicky cold way, and we're off in Jubilee week. Keep that detail in mind. The Eagles on their way down marks up one of the great inconsistencies of entirely living 1977 through these repeats, in that we've almost completely skipped the presence of one of the great rock classics were it not for Legs & Co's Spanish interpretation. Now here's some stout manly MEN:

SPOILER: the Sex Pistols aren't number one here either.

Osibisa – The Warrior
Always going to be a tricky sell when a show begins on a close-up of a bongo which reveals its player seems to be wearing a small child's toy on a necklace. It's energetic Afrobeat, which means a smiling drummer and someone wearing a headband and cape but no shirt employed to play a huge shaker when he's not manfully miming a trumpet part. The Ladybirds are complete fish out of water attempting to add vocal chorale light and shade. The bongo player's more of a worry, all sticking out elbowy in his actions, never going to get proper force downwards like that. At the end our extraneous friend picks up a clarinet, with which he seems to be making the sound of a recorder. Tony comes on laughing, as always.

Electric Light Orchestra – Telephone Line
"Let's keep the holiday atmosphere going" urges a post-bank holiday Tony. With a ballad. Video repeat.

Berni Flint – Southern Comfort
"It's even better, it's going to go even higher (than his first hit)" beams Tony. Obviously, it didn't. This isn't that surprising, not being a touching folk ballad but a jaunty strum with an unfortunate touch of the Richard Digance about getting it together in the country that seems about a decade out of time in 1977. The second verse is about himself - "they put me on a programme and the votes came flooding in, and they told me you're a winner, you're a star" - with a conclusion that suggests he doesn't want any part of the fame really. The record buying public concurred. Be careful what you wish for.

Frankie Miller's Full House – Be Good To Yourself
Frankie belts it out once more, still not getting over the suspicion they've watched the Faces a bit too much given their stage positions, his craft and the general choogling undertow.

The Wurzels – Farmer Bill's Cowman
Not before time, they literally face down Tony. The problem with Farmer Bill's Cowman - well, apart from the obvious - is following Brand New Key and Una Paloma Blanca it's based on a song with no lyrics and thus no vocal melody to rearrange, I Was Kaiser Bill's Batman by Whistling Jack Smith (and incidentally, if any of you are looking to adopt a new dance style...) All the mugging in the world - cockerel impressions, looks to side camera of disgust donning a top hat, referencing Burlington Bertie - isn't going to convince the audience that these people are doing anything useful any more, quite some change from the days people would fight each other with balloons to get in shot with them. To their credit they're singing live; to nobody's credit one of them puts the mike out to various audience members and is met by stony silence. They're all wearing election-style rosettes. They lost their deposits.

Gladys Knight & The Pips – Baby Don’t Change Your Mind
Horrible 1977 edit at the start of this, cutting without warning from Tony to a shot of some sort of disc a young Knight had been awarded at some undisclosed time. The amateur hour at the VT suite feel carries on through the video, which features the Pips rehearsing moves in their own clothes in what could either be someone's oversized studio flat or a provincial leisure centre, being watched by Gladys wearing her own band's T-shirt. Then there's Knight and band recording their vocals seemingly without studio facilities but with bright orange plastic-seeming headphones, which they're all holding under their chins. Surely eventually someone would realise there's an inbuilt way they could keep them on while freeing a hand or two. Eventually we get some cursory shots of a balding man at a soundboard, but for someone attempting to record four lead vocal takes at once he seems very relaxed.

Neil Innes – Silver Jubilee
"You're probably wondering what this little bit of string is here" enthuses Tony, next to a piece of string that hasn't been seen before and you may not have spotted until Tony predicted you'd be wondering about. It's to set off a load of balloons on top of... oh my. Neil Innes, second in command of the Bonzo Dog Band, author of the Rutles, most plausible seventh Python candidate, man behind the long-demanded-for-DVD-release series The Innes Book Of Records, auteur of The Raggy Dolls. Him. He turns out to be the anti-Rotten. Imagine if this was the only thing you now knew about him. Now, his real intentions are kept straightfaced as to potential subversiveness and, presumably after being tweeted at by half the viewers, he claimed this morning "Jubilee song was a dare", but there's precious little irony inherent when you're standing under a flotilla of balloons entirely surrounded by young people waving Union Jacks singing "sailing in the yacht Britannia, nowhere in the world would ban ya" to a frankly reggaefied backing track that makes Paul Nicholas sound like King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown. Then there's his conduct during the short break, which in its jauntily skipping to the back of the stage, picking up a flag and waving it to either side isn't too far from the David Parton model. Top marks for working the word "highfalutin" in, mind.

The Stranglers – Go Buddy Go
"We're gonna change tempo a little bit now", although that is at least rather jaunty and not too far from this sort of pace. Then it becomes clear Tony cannot actually physically say the magic word (or two, right Kid?) yet in this Pistolian of all weeks: "a bit of that sort of, er, a bit of rock now". Same as two weeks ago. A royal tribute followed by this? That's got to have been deliberate.

Demis Roussos - Kyrila
"We'll conjure up the lovely island of Demis" promises Tony, which seems a bit personal. It's the fulcrum of a thought about people going on holiday, because he's Greek, see. This clearly hasn't been filmed at the same time as everything else as the blue smocked Demis is in front of a big off-white wall like it's Pebble Mill or something, no sign given of the usual Pops studio sets, with a wind machine to one side and, to denote the luxury holiday content, two potted plastic trees in front of him, not so much carefully arranged to give the impression of far off desert islands as grabbed out of reception and hoping for the best.

Honky – Join The Party
"I've got two ladies here, you come from Blackburn, aren't you? What a sensible place to come from!" So there you have it - Blackburn, says namesake, is "sensible". Such positivity. Odd that this repeat made the early edit when two new songs and a third that hasn't been on at 7.30 before, but we're long past the stage of second guessing the editing intentions.

The Jacksons – Show You The Way To Go
Tony recalls seeing the Osmonds in Vegas "who were sensational" and spotting the Jacksons in the audience. See, the jet set lifestyle. This seems to be the same set as Demis, with a single line of the backs of people's heads in front of the stage, some of whom are wandering about throughout, but somehow with a setting sun projection behind them the trees look just a little more convincing. The blue slit dresses don't fit the routine that seems generic and half-arsed as it is, as if this was one of those late replacement song weeks and they had the set built so they may as well kill two birds with one stone.

Bob Marley & The Wailers – Exodus
Well, this is no Neil Innes. Tony impresses on us that "wherever you go they've had smash hits", this being Marley's debut (and penultimate) appearance in the studio. Just for that it's something of a landmark and the moment clearly gets to the director, who halfway through cuts to some lights for too long, then very briefly to the bassist with his mouth open, then back to the I-Threes where he started before finding Bob again. Even more jarringly, it takes ages for the audience to get into it - there's plenty of strutting at the back from the well dressed older kids but down the front the best they can manage is some half hearted Union Jack waving, which shorn of context seems almost adversorial. Also note that just like any band unwilling to cart a full backline around they're kit sharing, sharing stage space and an organ with Osibisa

Rod Stewart – The First Cut Is The Deepest
One more week of waggling from the rear and emoting with the forehead. (Alright, stop that, we all know the story by now). Tony hopes we join him for Seaside Special and over the aforesnowed Emerson Lake & Palmer there's the rare sound of a fulsome round of applause over the start of the credits. They're supposed to be dancing, right?

Monday, 25 June 2012

Those who also entertained

The common thread about Top Of The Pops down the years was that you could only get on if you had a hit record - indeed the latter day profilerance of exclusives on the show led many to suggest ducking away from the chart boundaries was what was making it unpopular.

This, as we've continually seen throughout these reruns, is rubbish. Every week it seems there's a record, whether by an established name or someone entirely new, that failed to trouble the scorers and hadn't been heard from that day to this. Whether through major label payola or taking a chance on a likely hit, these as yet unreleased songs seem to take up most of each episode.

The most latterly famous among the instantly forgotten are of course Contempt, our post about whom having become, with the aid of The Word and doyouremember not to mention their complete lack of web presence prior to that reshowing, this blog's most viewed post ever. But what about the others? Here's a handful of those flop makers that have been memorable for largely wrong reasons, only two of whom ever made the UK top 50 singles chart but all of whom had a place on the nation's number one pop TV show:

LAURIE ANDREW & ZERO – I'll Never Love Anyone Anymore (1/4/76)
Plausible Laurie didn't get anywhere due to Tony getting his name wrong. Andrew, whose relation to his band was in the style of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, was in fact Laurie Forsey who would go on to write music for Flashdance and The Breakfast Club, and whose brother Keith was Giorgio Moroder's drummer and produced Generation X, Billy Idol, the Psychedelic Furs, Donna Summer and Simple Minds.

HEAVY METAL KIDS – She's No Angel (27/5/76)
Apart from that bloke ducking down, the main thing you may have noticed is the presence out front of the late Gary Holton, Wayne from Auf Wiedersehen Pet, who had clearly heard a couple of Alice Cooper records in his life. Discovered by Dave Dee, they made their first album in 1974 and by this time were onto their third, a shot at the big time through the auspices of the great glam label RAK, whose Mickie Most was producer. After its failure the band went quiet until 2002, when they made a critically acclaimed album, Hit The Right Button. A shifting lineup, including John Altman as singer for a couple of years, has kept the name going ever since, supporting UFO on tour earlier this year. Who'd like to see Joe Elliot of Def Leppard singing the near-hit with Altman last April?

THE SURPRISE SISTERS – Got To Get You Into My Life (10/6/76)
These did have a hit, but everyone remembers this performance so they're in. Presumably with nothing better to do between The Idiot and Low, Tony Visconti took it upon himself to discover and produce this four sister act, Ellen, Linda, Patricia and Susan Sutcliffe - he says in his autobiography he envisaged them as a British Labelle. Raised in Adelaide, Barry Gibb saw them in Sydney and suggested they move to England. A cover of Andy Fairweather Low's La Booga Rooga made number 36. This notoriously ragged Pops performance didn't help their second cover do likewise. "They were especially popular in Europe" it says here.

SUNFIGHTER – Drag Race Queen (15/7/76)
Or Story Of The Drag Race Queen as many places list it, the song so obscure now everyone taking Noel's word for it. Or just Queen, as that's who they take after and it was produced by Roy Thomas Baker to boot. They made three singles before calling it a day in 1978. Singer Rikki Peebles, who had briefly been in Marmalade, was the UK's Eurovision contestant in 1987, finishing 13th; guitarist John Hardman is the estranged father of Girls Aloud's Sarah Harding.

GLAMOURPUSS – Superman (15/7/76)
Right. Well, your guess is as good as mine here. Supposedly they were five beauty queens; it's said one member was Stephanie Lawrence, who went on to take the West End lead in Evita, win a Variety Club Best Stage Actress award for the lead in Marilyn! The Musical, play Pearl in the original London production of Starlight Express and be nominated for a Tony Award for her role in the original London and Broadway productions of Blood Brothers before dying of liver disease in 1990. And even that's not confirmed. Beyond that, nothing.
UPDATE (9/7/12): thanks to comments regular Arthur Nibble, who went above and beyond the call of duty in contacting the song's label (Bus Stop, who made stars of Paper Lace) and writers, we now know as much as pretty much ever will about Glamourpuss. They were created by the songwriters Chris Arnold, David Martin and Geoff Morrow (who had a 1970 top 20 single as Butterscotch, and Martin wrote Can't Smile Without You), who had created Guys'n'Dolls to some success and decided to give an all-female group a go. According to Morrow "the act got really good PR, partly because of a photo shoot we did with the girls in white t-shirts (and little else!) coming out of the sea". And Martin has confirmed Stephanie Lawrence was indeed a member.
(16/7/12): and another one! Arnold (via Morrow) passes on that another member, the straight haired one in the middle, was one Zena Clifton, who went on to Carry On bit-parts and a Play Your Cards Right Dolly Dealer. More identities if/when they develop.

1776 – Oh Susannah (22/7/76)
That's not the violent prisoner Charles Bronson on lead, it is in fact one Jacques Mercier. His previous psych-funk band Dynastie Crisis are acknowledged as one of the most important French groups of the early 70s, their track Faust 72 appearing on the Ocean's Twelve soundtrack and later becoming backing band for the successful singer-songwriter Michel Polnareff. 1776 was a one-off project to mark the American bicentenary, after which Mercier continued in various guises into the 00s.

RAGS – Promises Promises (28/4/77)
If this A Song For Europe losing favourite's brand of perky pop seems a few years ahead of its time that's because it was in a way. Jill Shirley, the crop haired female, went on to manage Bucks Fizz while Nichola Martin, the other female, co-wrote a number of their songs including My Camera Never Lies and Now Those Days Are Gone (Mike Nolan was brought into ver Fizz as a mate of theirs) Reputedly, had A Song For Europe not been confined to the radio due to industrial action, their routine would have included the female members' long skirts being ripped away to reveal shorter garments beneath. Everything comes around.

TRINIDAD OIL COMPANY – The Calendar Song (12/5/77)
"Ooh, the Trinidad Oil Company!" indeed. The Wolves-outfitted overmanned collective, for some reason signed to prog label Harvest and bizarrely rumoured at the time to have involved Marc Bolan, had previously been known by the giveaway name the Dutch Rhythm Steel & Showband, formed in 1969 from Surinamese descendents and still active, were later to work with James Brown, James Last, Boney M and Charles Aznavour. The accompanying album, confusingly also The Calendar Song, includes covers of the theme from Shaft and Jesus Christ Superstar.

MARTYN FORD ORCHESTRA – Let Your Body Go Downtown (12/5/77)
Perhaps most notorious for Jimmy actually introducing them as being at number 48, giving away the weakness in depth that week. Written by Lynsey de Paul and Mike Moran, this vague attempt at British disco peaked at 38. The impression of his wild 'conducting' does his actual reputation no favours - he founded the New Sinfonia orchestra, as it then was, and took them to the Royal Albert Hall in 1971. A much in demand arranger, conductor and record producer, his credits include Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, Bob Marley, David Bowie, Kate Bush, Queen, Led Zeppelin, Elton John, Cliff Richard, Phil Collins, Bryan Ferry, Lou Reed, the Grateful Dead and ELO. He conducted and arranged the successful Classic Rock albums with the London Symphony Orchestra, arranged for the films Tommy and Live And Let Die and the original soundtrack album of Jesus Christ Superstar, twice conducted the Eurovision Song Contest orchestra and has plenty of musical director, opera, soundtrack and commercial credits otherwise.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

TOTP 2/6/77 (tx 21/6/12): it's time to play the music

TV Cream alerted its world last week to the fact there's a full Late Late Breakfast Show (that's part one of four, follow the sidebar for the others) from October 1986, which turned out to be the third last show before Michael Lush's death brought the series to a sudden close. It's very disjointed for event television, only held together by the veneer of what looks like quite a dangerous Whirly Wheel stunt, proof that modern BBC LE hasn't really dumbed down, full of hubris, overmateyness, weird moments (Cyndi Lauper's not even listed as a guest in the credits, did she just turn up on the offchance?), "the top forty" as a glamorous star prize and jokes that don't make sense. Not to mention Mike Smith's pronunciation of 'slalom' when reading out the address in part two.

Back in '77, speaking of not making sense... "if I could borrow your cheeky bits I'd be very grateful actually, because we do have a rather splendid Top Of The Pops". It's as if he started his comedy stream of consciousness too early and just barrelled on regardless of how it sounded.

Alright, let's at least acknowledge it...

Because there were people wondering whether it was so much as given a photo caption. Don't get excited, it's still banned in the past. It came out on a Friday, which explains its surely premature appearance.

Elkie Brooks – Saved
After the feathered elegance of Pearl's A Singer a spot of honky-tonk ragtime to open, via a spinning crane shot from above, is a jolt, but not as much as when we see a whole mass of people on Elkie's stage. Eight backing vocalists, one with an audible tambourine, and while whoever did her hair and makeup didn't get the message this is Elkie in shoes kicked off good time boogie and let's sing a Leiber & Stoller song mode, something she, well, didn't really do at any other time in her career. Suits her, though, grinning through and with her backing eight an exuberant gospel chorus. Her bassist has risked shades indoors. Her drummer has made the more bravura moves of adopting a droopy handlebar moustache and perm and indicating the point where the key change should have come with a load of rogue cymbal crashes. The audience, conversely, are increasingly less willing to invest their own energy as time passes. Nevertheless, at the end under Noel's simpering ("she's really brought a fresh flavour to the charts recently") you can hear, and Noel is distracted by, everyone cheering and applauding themselves. Unless that's on the record, in which case playing it in as such volume is hubristic beyond means.

The Muppets – Halfway Down The Stairs
Why do we always come here? I really don't know. It's like a kind of torture to have to watch the show. "From Jim Henson's Muppet Show, we've got Jerry Nelson and the story of what goes on halfway down the stairs". Where to start? There's the ungainly tagging of the show title. There's naming Robin's voice/puppeteer even though he's not credited on the song. There's a return to one of Noel's habits, tagging "the story of..." onto a title. And it's not about what goes on there, it's about the state therein. It's glaring that this ATV-produced series has infiltrated the BBC when Rock Follies (number ten this week) won't, but who can resist a sad eyed, AA Milne-quoting piece of softhearted bathos? Well, Noel and his heart of stone can, as he's openly laughing upon our returning to him. "A number written by AA Milne and RAC Services" he ruins it.

The Four Seasons – Rhapsody
"If you listen to this one very closely, the sound of the Four Seasons" - that old identifier again, it gets round the lot of them - you'll realise it's not called Rhapsody, it's called Vaseline". And thus a whole nation's attention is diverted. (Because, well, sometimes it does) Unlike last year Frankie Valli is back with his band but his attentions must still be elsewhere as he's the only one not in a powder blue suit. We know this to be the case, of course, because Valli was on the show three weeks earlier, something also given away by the two girls holding a large 'SEXY ERIC + MOEY' banner in tartan behind the band, as the Rollers were also on that show, and three young women at the front holding large clumps of balloons, presumably straight from disassembling the stage after Joy Sarney had done her business that same week. The pianist has attacked one balloon to his white baby grand, giving him the look of a wedding band member who got lost. Valli's not even on lead vocals, yet they've still stuck him out front and centre without so much as a covering tambourine while the bassist who looks like he failed the 10cc audition takes the lead. Also the stage setup exposes how small Valli is, not quite Graham Parker dimensions but definitely a notable shortage. It's not until the very late entrance of an organ and bass sax, both invisible, that the song takes off and becomes ersatz funk for a bit, which given the orchestrated nature of the rest of the song suggests that wedding band got a bit confused with a late request. The edit out is incredibly jarring, cutting off a coda extra chorus and straight back to Noel without any audience effects.

Van McCoy – The Shuffle
This, in its two Legs & Co versions, has now been edited out of the early version three times. Is it deemed offensive or something? Is it the flute? This is the Sue and Lulu only version shown first off.

Heatwave – Too Hot To Handle
Noel tries to make a link between McCoy, the forthcoming Scaggs (fine so far) and the title of this, again shown via video. Maybe he's not been in a lido and thinks it's like a sauna.

Twiggy – A Woman In Love
"Come over here! Come and look at Twiggy!" Well, by the nature of the director's work we would anyway, but thanks for the invitation to find out "what happenes when a woman falls in love", like she's MOR pop's own Barbara Cartland. Dressed like the lead in a very cheap school theatre production of Robin Hood, Twiggy grips the mike cord with her left hand, stands on a hexagonal stage and tries not to look too nervous and not stray too far from the correct key. An advancement on her last appearance, of sorts.

Boz Scaggs – Lido Shuffle
We find Boz and band, with just the one drummer this time, in the studio pretending to be recording the song, interspersed with clips of the crew and gear arriving and setting up at some enormodome plus Boz making a lot of enigmatic phone calls. Then it turns into a straightforward live video, so we get to see the huge carnation in the pianist's suit jacket lapel.

Jesse Green – Come With Me
Noel riffs on pretending he can't pronounce his name as "your Jess is as good as mine". Since when has the last e in Jesse ever been silent? Come on, Noel, shape up. Jesse Green's third appearance sees him take Billy Paul's wardrobe advice and extend it, a huge ranger's hat offsetting the big scarf, crimson plastic-reflective tabard, lurid red trousers and pencil moustache. He's also performing in front of a Union Flag with lights around the sides. That's meant for next week's silver jubilee, surely. Don't curry favours with us that way, Jesse. Battling parping brass he may be but he's got everyone around the tiny little circular stage he's using swaying from side to side in unison, a kind of collective nervously ungainly bop. Meanwhile in the background someone sets up useless wiring around Hot Chocolate's keyboard and bongos. The bridge features a prominent comb and toilet paper. Wonder who Johnny assigned that job too.

Marvin Gaye – Got To Give It Up
Noel thinks the most notable thing about this record is the party sounds in the background, or as he puts it "all those people making a lot of noise like they're (fake laugh) being very silly indeed". Another reason not to go to his parties if those are his standards. Nobody ever play him Dylan's Rainy Day Women, alright? Legs & Co have a second go at this, shuffling on the spot in swimsuits on a raised stage they seem to have just found somewhere, which the director gives his latest version of added spice to with a light show. Individual members flash in and out of silhouette at disorientating rhythm, which doesn't always hide the lapses in choreography, though given they surely couldn't see each other very well in that lighting and while standing in a line it's forgiveable. Certainly, beyond arm waving and turning round on the spot in instalments it doesn't seem to have much to do with the melody as much as the direction had to flushing out latent epileptics.

Hot Chocolate – So You Win Again
Like a stopped clock Noel, the man who told us 1977 was going to be marvellous for John Christie, gets one right, but he's now so wary of his predictive powers he has to foist it upon the subject themselves, making them seem far too presumptious. "I was speaking to half a dozen people who said Hot Chocolate are bound to have an enormous smash with their new single. In fact the six people were Hot Chocolate. And do you know, they're right." Just after that someone, and we can take a guess who given the logic of being miked up, makes a peculiar squawking noise, accompanied by the sound of something being slapped. Something wrong with that, Noel? Errol has stopped messing about with the mike stand but this leaves him even more rooted to the spot than Twiggy, only the power of his visual simper helping. In fact all the band are quite laissez-faire, the bongo player not seemingly putting the most effort in no matter how often he appears in the forefront of the shot. Afterwards Noel is still reluctant to convey the courage of his convictions as he sits next to a female audience member - "we were just discussing the merits of that number, we've agreed it's going to be enormous". This red hot pop chat has visibly bored the girl's companion, who is resting his/her (can't tell) chin on his/her palm, only to perk up and grin in Noel's direction when he begins his link. We still saw you.

Carol Bayer Sager – You’re Moving Out Today
As Noel riffs on triple barrelled names, only one of which is a name as opposed to a thing, the producer has late in the day spotted a problem. It's a repeat showing, but it only cuts directly to the stage when Bayer Sager starts singing, the intro taken up by Kid's camera ride. What to do? Well, simply run the right half of the screen on split screen, hoping nobody notices everyone looking round, and fade the rest in when Jensen's image has left the picture. What this means in practice is an awkward few seconds of Noel watching an offscreen monitor in half interest. And still no clue as to what 'he' does with bread.

The Strawbs – Back In The Old Routine
An awkward fade edit from Bayer Sager to this is the best reason why Hot Chocolate lost out in the early edit, but it's still quite glaring given some of the material left in. The singer, who would do well in a Noel Edmonds Without The Beard Lookalike Contest if such things ever existed, is fighting a pitched battle with his own band's mix and with audience interest, most turning round to look for the camera well before it's anywhere near them, though admirably not the person at the front in a top hat. Having mentioned "union rules" in the first verse - oh, give the old canard a rest - it's a simple folk-country tale involving lots of drinking, the wife in her negligee watching a horror film - that might be routine where he's from, let's be fair - and dreaming of winning the pools so he can "sail away for a year with Susan George for company". Of its time, shall we say. Speaking of which, it's the grand return of The Awkward Interview With A Non-Performing American Star Just Before The Number One. Noel has the Alessi Brothers with him, obligingly in a red and white hooped top and a blue and white hooped top. "They've got a hit single, Oh Lori" says Noel, correct in prediction for once as it entered the charts the following week. What they don't have is charisma, as one of them just lists people who've recorded their songs with the emotion of a phone messaging service. Noel doesn't even allow them to introduce the number one...

Rod Stewart – The First Cut Is The Deepest
...which is this again. Noel hopes we can join him on the breakfast show, promises "the very best in music" next week and plays out the second song this show after the Strawbs to lyrically lionise the weekend football programming, Genesis' Match of The Day. This never happened with The Big Match. The camera operating the kaleidoscope shot gets to have his own fun this week, starting with a close-up on the piano and ending with the Union Flag in full central shot seven times over. Next week it's the silver jubilee (the recap for which will be up on Friday, by the way, let's put that in type right now) Don't forget to get your bunting up and the trestle tables out in the streets for next Thursday evening.

Friday, 15 June 2012

TOTP 26/5/77 (tx 14/6/12): Japan to France via Cornwell

I really hope BBC Four have some sort of strategy for this run, we're a good few weeks behind now with only two wiped shows for the remainder of the year and The Sky At Night remaining in that monthly slot, with that double from last month seemingly a one-off.

DLT, sitting behind a drumkit, introduces with his usual verve a chart remarkable for the breadth of its many new entries. There's the Muppets, who'll we'll see on the show soon enough, and the Ramones, who we won't, plus...

They're no oil paintings, haw haw haw. One can only assume their handlers decided actually seeing a photo yet would be somehow transgressive. They could have at least paid more attention to their big printout of the chart. They wouldn't even appear on the show until Jeffrey Daniel walked against the wind five years later (that's coming up very soon on On This TOTP Day, for what it's worth)

We'll come back to what this was, but the focus has not been tampered with in any way. Is that Emlyn Hughes and Kevin Keegan bottom left? It's hard to tell. Clearly what Liverpool had in prestige and silverware they lacked in photographic ability and string. Nice wallpaper.

Rule Lenska, more successful in her acting career than her sisters Eraser and Protractor. This of course is Little Ladies of ITV's, and presumably thus BBC LE verboten, Rock Follies Of '77, with OK, featured on the show literally the week before release. Then half the series got delayed til November due to industrial action, so that was that nipped in the bud. Bob Stanley tells us he bought this very 7" last week for 25p. The B-side is called B-Side.

Blue – I'm Gonna Capture Your Heart
You again. Not often a song gets to open the show twice, much less that it's one with as undynamic an opening as this. This time the piano is so far forward on the stage someone could easily pull at it and bring the whole thing crashing to the floor, though note that would be quite dangerous and all told I'm glad they don't. Already before we're seconds in modernity is making a mockery of studio soft rock, as someone self-consciously jigs about at three times the speed of the song before sharing a laugh with his friend right in front of camera. The bassist is pulling rock poses, the drummer looks like a lost member of Gabriel-era Genesis and Hugh Nicholson begins giggling two thirds of the way through at apparently nothing but a very private joke with the bassist.

Olivia Newton-John – Sam
Grease being a year (to this week, in fact) away, it's easy to forget how long before then Neutron-Bomb had spent performing doe-eyed ballads while seated, in this case on some steps left over outside the prop cupboard from Deneice Williams' visit. DLT, flanked by two girls wearing T-shirt bearing the legend 'DESERT', calls it "lovely" and the orchestra seem on safeish ground with a country lament, but it's been a rather crowded field for this sort of thing of late.

Piero Umiliani – Mah Na Mah Na
Those who've been fearing how DLT might introduce this, luckily he restrained himself to inviting a call and response. Again, have to ask whether Sue was choreographed individually or just told to do whatever the suit allowed in the overlaid single shots.

Frankie Miller's Full House – Be Good To Yourself
"Sensational number", no less. Well, clearly the work of people au fait with the Faces, as much with their positioning and stance as their rollicking rock'n'roll strut. Clearly over time the audience has learnt, as by now when the camera charges through the middle of them towards the stage they get out of the way sharpish. "Was that fantastic or was that fantastic?" DLT enthuses.

Kenny Rogers – Lucille
"Stop pushing! I get nervous, I tell yer!" warns DLT before referring to this not by name but as being "one of my favourites at the moment". After the reception he gave the last one? Seems like damning with faint praise even more. Same video as last time.

Liverpool Express – Dreamin'
"It's going right up there" DLT confidently predicts, and sure enough it stalled at 40. This would be the last we'd see of the 76-77 hardy perennials with the mid-tempo locked down, all with their Richard Beckinsale hair. In what may constitute an attempt at forging an image Billy Kinsley, looking more and more like an exact scientific cross between Eric Idle and Jasper Carrott, has a very thin and ragged looking scarf on, while the guitarist has brought his motorbike jacket and the keyboard player has gone for the white suit jacket and Dave Hill hair combination. None of this makes it sound less country-Rubettes-could-have-this-any-day like. There's a fading away fish-eye lens shot to end, and then DLT wanders onstage. "Just one thing, I want to apologise for the fact Manchester United whacked your team on Saturday" he offers, in reference to the FA Cup final. Then the band make to beat him up. This they do by having one of them growl and two grab lightly hold of his arms.

Bryan Ferry – Tokyo Joe
Legs & Co, under some Chinese lampshades - well, close enough geographically - struggle here only because the lighting is only on the back of the stage so they spend almost all the routine in elusive shadow. Because this is the era of Mind Your Language everyone (bar an absent Lulu) is in too short kimonos with at least one set of permanently visible knickers, doing a bit of bowing and a lot of that shuffling-with-hands-clasped thing, and everyone has their hair in buns or side ponytails. In fact pretty much the entire routine is based around the prayer gesture, with few exceptions including a wide swinging running motif on which one member is noticeably leading with a different arm to her colleagues. "That was not Legs & Co, that was Legs Ah So" remarks DLT, laughing at his own joke. At least he didn't do the slitty eyes.

The Stranglers – Go Buddy Go
"Watch out for this lot coming in the charts next week" DLT says with some confidence in front of a man wearing a fez, before growling something like "they are supremmmmmme!" like that means anything to anyone, most of all himself. So, more of this new music called New Wave. Or something. Taking the glam band adage of three out of work bricklayers and their hard looking mate and pushing it into new frontiers, Hugh Cornwell and Jean-Jacques Burnel are, frankly, having a bit of a lark. Cornwell is playing his riffs on Burnel's bass, while Burnel 'plays' attack rhythm on a guitar sans strings. Burnel, wearing a T-shirt with the Triumph motorbikes logo in the Ford style, is leaning forward like he wants to chin someone, anyone, but as we've seen on this show on pre-punk occasion it's more straightforward rock'n'roll than anything too far ahead, especially when the overjaunty pub piano solo kicks in. The audience are, as last week, stunned into silence. One man looks directly at the camera, glances back as if in late realisation, then decides that's enough of that and resumes looking back. The two people right at the front between the lead two are having a conversation during Cornwell's vocal part. Burnel just gives up pretending long before the end, which clearly comes long after he'd anticipated, ending up gathering up his guitar cord.

Marie Miriam – The Bird And The Child
"Something completely different, as they say in musical circles, for you now". No, DLT, that's Python you're thinking of. This was the French entrant that beat out Rock Bottom at Eurovision, presented here in a typically Eurovision Second Language translation which in its open line refers to its singer as "a child of creation" as opposed to a couple of lines later "a bird flying in motion", presumably as opposed to flying by osmosis. Miriam, decked out in varying shades of brown, including a scarf with a massive knot, can only try in getting it across, helped by the orchestra having a whale of a time building up the brass fanfares and getting a big showbiz finish, much as the Ladybirds try to take over the thing. Miriam then just neglects to sing the last bit, standing back and admiring a relatively lively crowd. "Ooh la la!" says DLT, of course.

Electric Light Orchestra – Telephone Line
"That famous Yorkshire group", with comedy pronunciation, are on video, all second hand half washed out colours, slightly dry iced string section and meaningful close-ups.

Brendon – Rock Me
"And now we have a few words from our sponsor... he's been eating at the BBC canteen!"

I'm not even going to try. It looks slightly blurred because DLT is bouncing both and his croak-emitting friend up and down in time to the intro. Surely this is what friend WeddingSuit, this time all in white, meant by "an unexpected intro"; presumably it isn't Brendon and band leading the the audience in a clapalong to begin this Abba B-side cover, as he did that last time to similar acclaim, and almost throughout hands clapping, unclear whether superimposed or reflection, appear in silhouette on the big round set design screen next to the stage. See, punks, look and learn. Looks like Brendon's got the same denim shirt on too. See, Liverpool Express, that's how you go about building a lasting image. (Not that it worked, this is his last appearance on the show too, but nevertheless) That all said, despite visuals this clearly isn't a three guitar song, though by the second verse one of them, in a Rubettes cap, seems to be 'playing' the brass section instead. "A bit of fun music" is the best DLT can come up with.

Rod Stewart – The First Cut Is The Deepest
And back to Rod's guitar soloing gluteus maximus. For once the last link and credits song are really quite interesting, as is DLT's body language: "We must add from all the team here on Top Of The Pops our congratulations to Liverpool (thumb up) for winning the (screws face up) European Cup (makes funny circular hand gesture) final!" That final was played on Wednesday night, so during the recording of this show. One assumes two endings were recorded, one with a straightforward goodnight message followed by Good Morning Judge. What we get instead is We Can Do It, Liverpool's Cup final song, a lyrical rewrite of a Rubettes song ("do you remember '65, we really had the place alive!") to charging glam riffs. Now that's who should have been performing in the studio next week. (Apart from that the single immediately started dropping down the chart, but you know what I mean)

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Live from Television Centre

So we've had the presenters, what about the bands? Ekeing out those who officially quote inflated numbers as they'd like us to count brief video clips and playouts (hello, Quo; evening, Shaky), here's a YouTube-heavy (sorry) top forty of studio performances:

(recalculated as of 17/6/12)

36= Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich (25 appearances)

36= Gilbert O'Sullivan (25)
36= Steps (25)
36= Suzi Quatro (25)
36= T.Rex (25)
33= Billy Ocean (26)
33= East 17 (26)
33= Westlife (26)
30= Boyzone (27 appearances)
30= Take That (27)
30= The Tremeloes (27)
27= Dusty Springfield (28)
27= Herman's Hermits (28)
27= Smokie (28)
22= Bee Gees (29)
22= David Essex (29)
22= Depeche Mode (29)
22= Erasure (29)
22= Marmalade (29)
21 Gary Glitter (30)
20 The Sweet (31)
18= Cilla Black (33)
18= Pet Shop Boys (33)

17 Wet Wet Wet (36)
14= Elton John (37)
14= The Kinks (37)
14= Tom Jones (37)
13 Manfred Mann (38)
12 Showaddywaddy (38)
10= Kylie Minogue (40)
10= Robbie Williams (40)

9 Status Quo (41)
8 Sandie Shaw (42)

7 Lulu (43)
5= Mud (44)
5= Shakin' Stevens (44)
4 Hot Chocolate (45)
3 The Hollies (51)

2 Slade (56)

1 Cliff Richard (75)

Monday, 4 June 2012

Mike controllers

Here's something to while away part of another blank midweek. Who were the most prolific Pops hosts in the show's history? Here's the top thirty rundown:

30 Ed Stewart (30 appearances)
29 Gail Porter (36)
28 Tim Kash (38)
27 Richard Skinner (40)
26 Nicky Campbell (41)
25 David Jacobs (44)
24 Mark Goodier (47)

23 Bruno Brookes (48)
22 John Peel (49)

21 Simon Mayo (55)
20 Steve Wright (56)
19 Tony Dortie (57)
18 Jayne Middlemiss (58)
17 Mark Franklin (59)
16 Janice Long (62)
15 Mike Read (66)
13= Mike Smith (69)
13= David Jensen (69)
11= Reggie Yates (73)
11= Noel Edmonds (73)

10 Simon Bates (78)
9 Alan Freeman (94)
8 Jamie Theakston (99)
7 Pete Murray (101)

6 Dave Lee Travis (104)

5 Fearne Cotton (113)
4 Peter Powell (114)

3 Gary Davies (117)
2 Tony Blackburn (148)
1 Jimmy Savile (279)