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.