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.


Steve Does Top of the Pops said...

I did feel it was very lacklustre this week, and far too few songs I recognised.

I'm struggling to think of a highlight. It might've been Twiggy, which probably says it all about tonight's show.

Arthur Nibble said...

One of the weaker early shows in my opinion, not helped by the return of the female Simon May (hi, Twiggy), and lacking some much needed oomph due to the chopping of all the show’s really soulful tracks - Van McCoy, Heatwave, Boz Scaggs – plus Hot Chocolate who, admittedly, we’ll see plenty of in due course. Noel was excruciatingly bad this week, well off form.

Elkie’s group had as many members as Earth, Wind and Fire – and why only 3 mics for the 8 cramped back-up singers? Should have stuck The Ladybirds on stage as well for extra effect. Was it a ‘new song’, Noel? Sounded like a gospel oldie, and a chart turkey at that. Robin (a better singer and mover than Sarstedt) had more steps than Deniece, and I’d have loved that to have been performed in front of a studio audience. The briefest of snippets of Genesis in the first show (still, it was Phil Collins on vocals after all...).

Jesse Green’s titfer and leather waistcoat made him look like the inaugural member of the Kid Creole Fetish Club, and somehow he beat Neil ‘Silver Jubilee’ Innes to the patriotic backdrop. I half expected Jesse to sing "Queen Elizabeth" at the beginning. First excellent ‘old bloke watch’ for 1977 as that ageing bald chap – it wasn’t Terry Nutkins, was it? - does a Moses and walks across screen in the ten yard gap between the punters and Noel. Perfect timing – must have done that for a bet.

Did The Strawbs get an appearance, four years after their final chart entry, because the lyrics mentioned ‘the breakfast show’ (and who was compering tonight, ay, ay?). Awful dull plod and a deserved flop, played by what looked like a village pub’s veteran five-a-side team. Loved the expression of Home Kit Blue and White Alessi after the legendary interview, as he turned to Change Kit Red and White Alessi, as if to say “Was that it? Who’s that guy again?”

Did “The Shuffle” get the most dance routines on the show for a non-chart topper? Talking of whom, with their swimsuits and the lighting effect, Legs & Co’s routine to Marvin Gaye made me feel surprisingly dirty, as if I was sitting in a pub which needed a pole or two on the stage. Why did Sue get as much ‘face time’ as everyone else put together? Had Pauline and Gill in particular annoyed the producer beforehand?

It felt like Frankie Valli had a season ticket to the studio at this time. I needed a Strepsil after the song, as the beardy bass singer’s voice made my throat hurt. I bet The Four Seasons loved Noel taking the piss out of their song beforehand, but at least Frankie Valli had the last laugh as he successfully went from “Vaseline” to “Grease” soon after. Boom boom tish!

Angelo Gravity said...

Even though the song was never played on the show, it's still quite exciting to see the Sex Pistols in the run down - straight in at 11 too - pretty good going for the time.

I don't remember ever hearing the song at the time - probably coz it was banned! - but there was a rumour at school about a song that had lyrics about the queen not being human - this caused us all great amusement - I don't think I heard the song itself until about 1980!

As for the show - the audience's cheers for Elkie's performance was richly deserved.
Also enjoyed seeing Carol again - great song.

Steve Morgan said...

People say Tony Blackburn's jokes are corny but boy! Edmonds' were quite lame and tedious on that edition.
He must have been very cloth-eared as The Four Seasons hit wasn't the only one he mis-heard around that time, I remember him quoting the lyrics to Olivia Newton John's Sam as "you need a shoulder of ham"
As for the Seasons, that wasn't their best hit, or performance really was it! I never really took to that song, I much preferred its follow up, Down The Hall, it's more up tempo than Rhapsody, and from the same album, Helicon, which again, isn't one of their best.
Loved Elkie's show opener, a great, bouncy honky-tonk ragtime number and a great vocal from Elkie, highlight of the show for me.
Which is more than I can say for Twiggy. I love that song, but it's a belter of a song that demands a great vocal, unfortunatley for Twiggy she hasn't got the power or the range in her voice to carry it, I'd imagine someone like Sheila Ferguson could make that a big hit.
Was amused by Jesse Green's dress sense, and not a bad performance either, some of the arrangement though reminded me of a Real Thing hit.
When The Strawbs began singing about union rules I thought we were going to get a re-hash of Part of the Union, fortunately not, but the song proved un-memorable anyway. Old hat, back in the old routine, get 'em off, we need new blood on this show.
Which brings us to Rod, still at number 1, I Don't Wanna Talk About It!
And people say Tony Blackburn's jokes are corny.

Chris Barratt said...

I thought Kenny Everett (or rather 'Brother Lee Love') was about to come in waving his massive hands around when the Elkie song first began! Entertaining though, which is more than can be said for a lot of the edited show - unlike some recent weeks, whoever made the decisions to 'chop chop' last night seem to have been determined to laser all the best songs out - why chop Van McCoy/Legs & Co (AGAIN!! - it was a massive #4 hit), the mighty Boz Scaggs & Toto doing the fantastic 'Lido Shuffle' and Hot Chocolate's future #1 when they are all cracking uptempo tunes and yet leave in lacklustre flops? I suppose we should be grateful they didn't chop Marvin too!
As far as 'Top Of The Flops' went, I enjoyed The Four Seasons' performance - interesting though isn't it how quickly they fell from having hit paydirt in 75/76 to this fairly leaden effort? - Jesse Green dressed as a pimp & The Strawbs (pleasant enough but such a long way from the mighty 'Lay Down'). Noel was on top (or bottom) 'smug prat' form, no wonder he stopped UK Gold repeating these in 1993!
I wait for my "Sex Pistols chart rundown screengrab" till next week when they're number 2!

Steve Williams said...

Noel Pops do seem to have more than their fair share of flops, this might have topped the Sunfighter/Glamourpuss episode from last summer, though I didn't think it was all that bad. It's been mentioned but I like how Noel makes the songs into a story, especially when it doesn't quite work like Carole Bayer Sager.

The studio seemed a little bigger this week though they were wasting a load of space with grand pianos, especially with the Four Seasons where you can barely see it and they may as well have used an upright. And Elkie Brooks' choir were really crammed in though much of that seemed to be the bloke in the glasses not deciding what mike he wanted to use and swapping throughout.

Presumably the bassist of The Four Seasons said that if the drummer was going to get to sing then he was as well. He really got into the uptempo bit at the end which was ten times better than the rest of the song.

Anonymous said...

Elkie Brooks was quite, er, revealing wasn't she?

Must have been cold in the studio...

Arthur Nibble said...

Ever seen the cover for Elkie's album "Rich Man's Woman"? Now that really is revealing! Google it and see for yourself.

wilberforce said...

wasn't elkie's backing singer in the shades george chandler of gonzalez, olympic runners and doing the soul stuff on cheapo copycat "top of the pops"-style LP's fame?

that four seasons effort had the same overblown cod-epic feel as john miles' "music", but was 10 times worse... which is really saying something! one of the most dire things i've ever heard...

noel: i can see the link between van mccoy's "the shuffle" and boz scaggs' "lido shuffle" (it's the word "shuffle")... but i fail to see the connection between those two and heatwave's "too hot to handle"! (or maybe you're just too clever for me...)

Steamer said...

Well, no one else has said it after all these weeks, but Bono nicked every look, gesture, move (except the arse waggling) and hairstyle from Rod Stewart. Even the way he handles a guitar. Okay, I might be the last person in Britain to notice, but I felt it should be said.

charlie cook said...

I liked the Boz Scaggs video - a real live recording rather than mimed over performance footage

Simon said...

And the rest is completed.

THX said...

According to David Icke The Queen really isn't a human being, she's a lizard person - could Dave have been strongly influenced by ver Pistols?

We're gradually getting to the stage where I start to remember bits of TOTP, I definitely recall seeing Robin halfway up those stairs. Although my memory of the Pistols on the show was their top 30 photo, which I have in mind as a picture of a stained glass window. No idea where I got that from, but I'm hoping the repeats continue so I can find out.

I thought Elkie was great, see Twiggy? That's the way you sell a song. Still don't know what the body part is at the start of the Heatwave video is, though. Great to see the Boz Scaggs video, which I don't think was even on YouTube.

I must be the only person laughing at Noel's jokes judging by the reaction here, not because they're good but because they're so bad. The intro to Jesse Green was highly amusing because the camera was backing away from Noel as if to say, "No! Don't go there! It's not too late to turn back!"

Legs & Co deserved a warning to the strobe-prone viewers, might have sounded a good idea in theory, but very distracting in practice. Though nice to see the new member of The Strawbs making his debut on the show: a fly.

80sBlokeInThe70s said...

I thought last week was bad but I think this was worse! not the whole show but the cropped I-Player version I get to see.

Who is the person doing the edits and is he taking the piss? - as has been said he cut nearly all the best tunes and left all the 'Seaside Special' stuff in. Van McCoy (now cut three times!), Hot Chocolate, Heatwave and unbelievably Boz Scaggs which unlike Heatwave and Hot Chocolate I'm not sure even gets shown on Iplayer.

Surely this week must have beaten the record for the most absolute flops on one edition.

Olivia Newton-John last week and Frankie Valli this week quite a coincidence a year before 'Grease' was released.

Four Seasons - not one of their best and I noticed the drummer who a year ago was sporting one of the first properly short haircuts in pop since before the Beatles is now halfway to typical 70s longhair like everyone else on the show.

Never heard the Genesis song before - they need biggin' up for knowing their football when it wasn't trendy unlike all the awful artists in the 90s who pretended to be into it.

And Noel Edmunds - bloody hell he really is straying into so bad it's good territory on this performance.

It's weird how I watched TOTP from the age of 7 at the end of 1972 and remember performances from the first few years (probably because the wild outrageousness of the glam rock acts was appealing to young children) but by this time although I was still watching it most of it just passed me by. And it's not going to be until the time when I get to the age when you get into music properly (around 14-15) that I think I'm going to remember many of the performances again.To be honest I don't know what I got out of the programme around this time.

Elsterpie said...

80s: thats because the shows of the sixties and early 70s were more exciting althpugh the music on totp (a year on from 77 as totp was still showcasing crap none of us were interested in in 77). Away from Totp it really was getting excitng. I had just passed my driving test and was able to drive to see a lot of bands: buzzcocks (sadly not the one with the pistols) the damned and the adverts (pre garys eyes) .....and i had slobbered all over leeds uni floor to see the runaways the october before.

We wrote to jim'll fix it ' dear jim , could you fix it for 'top of the pops, urh urh huh urg, now then,' to stop playing crap that not even our dads listen to(the martin ford och being the last straw). Whilst you are at it, please kill our A level physics teacher'. Never got an answer.

Still couldnt stop watching it though. However, This run is confirming my memory that 1977 totp was even worse than 1976

Arthur Nibble said...

80sbloke, this edition contained three non-chart records (Elkie, Twiggy and The Strawbs). "Vaseline" scraped to number 37 while Jesse's effort peaked at 29. From memory, we've had one show on this re-run which had no less than four new releases which failed to chart. I might try and research that to confirm it a bit later.

Elsterpie in conspiracy theory mode said...

Arthur, its almost as if they were trying to promote safe music in an attempt to flood the charts to prevent the oiks getting in

Simon said...

Well, really up to this point there's not a lot of punk singles they could have played - the Pistols were banned, the Clash refused, the Damned were presumably though too loose cannons, the Americans were... in America (and not in the business of making videos), most others were on too small labels - the first unquestionably punk bands to appear on Pops, who are a few weeks away yet, were on major labels. As for this week's examples Elkie was following up a huge hit, Twiggy was a big media presence and the Strawbs were... available?

The four non-charting songs show was 28/4 - Contempt, Rags, Kiki Dee and Uriah Heep.

Arthur Nibble (again) said...

Thanks for saving me the research, Simon! I think we've also had at least one show with four non-chart songs where a couple of the singles eventually made the top 50 but not the top 30 (the edition with Sailor's last performance seems to ring a bell) but that doesn't need clarification, to be honest.

Interesting that, at this time, Frankie Valli was 'doing a Les Gray' and had a solo contract with a different label to his group - Frankie was on Private Stock (by coincidence, the label Mud had just left for oblivion) while the Four Seasons were on Warner Brothers (who'd released Les Gray's version of "Groovy Kind Of Love").

Very tenuous Twickenham link towards the end of the show - The Strawbs came from neighbouring village Strawberry Hill - surely one of the poshest places to provide a chart act - while I seem to recall Long John Baldry discovered a squiffy Rod Stewart singing on a platform at Twickenham railway station.

Next week sees the very last chart rundown picture for the Rollers - very much the end of an era whether we wish to celebrate it or not.

Anonymous said...

Was that the original of 'Woman in Love'? Never knew the Three Degress version wasn't the original.

Arthur Nibble said...

Wikipedia says Twiggy's version was indeed the original. Sounded a bit faster than the Three Degrees' version to me.

Noax said...

Things I didn't expect to see on the Pops No.137 - Elkie Brooks doing gospel!
Perhaps I was just in the mood for it, but that was brilliant I thought, and I'm not a huge Elkie fan.

The Muppets - Awwww...I nearly had a little tear. No, I did! This took me right back to being 5 when I loved this song (and The Muppets in general)
Even the carpet pattern is burned onto my brain.

The Four Seasons and their crapsody - well, who told beardy that he could sing? A truly dreary song, which only a year (I think?) on from 'The Night' is really quite shocking. Frankie Valli looks embarassed to be there.

Heatwave - They cut this at EXACTLY the same point as last time! I want to see the Kung-Fu moves in full!

Twiggy tries to look like Olivia Newton-John. Olivia wins. Tries to sing like Dolly Parton. Dolly wins and has a couple of other good points in her favour too (oh come on, this is the 70s, I'm allowed to be bawdy) and basically I'm glad we'll never see her again. Except on bloody M&S ads of course.

Boz Scaggs - Well, this is...a bit shambolic, but endearingly so. I presume the 'oh, I've missed the first word' bit at the start was deliberate, but the fluffed line at the concert can't have been surely?

And I can't have been the only one who half-expected the shaggy haired lorry driver to turn round with an 'I'm mad me' look to camera and reveal himself as DLT?

Jesse Green - I did like the way the spotlight went out on Noel at exactly the same point that his latest joke died a death. Apparently Jesse did a song after that, can't say I remember much about it.

Hot Chocolate - Good song, but judging by the band's demeanour they don't like it very much. Is it one of those where they say 'oh, we never wanted it to be a single' or something?

The Strawbs - I'm tempted to think that the song was a self-aware commentary on their (lack of) career given its title and the mention of unions early doors. But that would be doing it immense credit.
In actual fact it's just some dreary old nonsense taking the place of (say) Genesis who if they'd been there in person would no doubt have decked the studio with scarves and footballs instead. Ooh, and rattles!

Vintage Reading said...

Elkie and Twiggy: Wasn't crazy about the songs but fabulous hair. They really ought to bring heated rollers back.

Noel: Rhapsody doesn't sound ANYTHING like vaseline.

Marvin Gaye: Great song by great soul singer and great routine from Leqs&Co. Pauline was left out a bit, though. I'm fascinated by her, I believe she came from Burma.

Not Arthur again, please.... said...

Indeed she did. Note to 80sbloke - next week's show contains no less than FIVE non-chart hits, of which only one made the top 30 and two completely bombed.

Sleazy Martinez said...

God, the Pops Orchestra trampled all over Carole Bayer Sager, didn't they? That's one of the worst remakes I've heard them do. No wonder Noel got the title wrong twice. I truly believe the Pops Orchestra to be singly responsible for the onset of punk.

One of the main benefits of these repeats is that I'm
finally able to name songs that have laid dormant in my head for 35 years. In this case, Van McCoy, Boz Scaggs and that Marvin Gaye one.

Elsterpie pulled down a peg said...

Simon, If they could find space for some of the crap on this edition ( watching it now as it happens...though boz scaggs and heatwave films rather wonderful i thought but oh dear , the 4 seasons must have been having a bet.)

Granted about the Pistols and the clash but the damned remark rather proves the point
Records that had been come and gone by this stage
Damned new rose, buzzcocks breakdown, adverts one chord wonders, vibrators baby baby, saints im stranded.....still classics

Elsterpie said...

Seeing that rod video again reminds me to watch monster with charlize theron again ( serial killer aileen wuornos who modelled her look on rod in this video)

80sBlokeInThe70s said...

I was using the "not even made the Top 50" formula re talking about complete flops because we then get into the realms of "why the hell did they pick that?" records that at least made the Top 50 at least had a type of legitimacy in that at least a fair few people were buying them.

They're not my cup of tea but I should imagine TOTP thought they had quite a scoop with The Strawbs as aside from their 2 or 3 hit singles they'd been well-respected on the folk scene for years (they still are in 2012)and probably thought they were too big to turn down

Regarding punk singles that had been released - why should every punk single that had been released been featured? Some of us think they're crap now and no more worthy of being on a peak viewing show than the non-hit light entertainment rubbish that we're criticising.
The Sex Pistols aside (which were a massive phenomenon with all the attendant free publicity and would have probably been big if they had been the only "punk" band)and the Stranglers (who were never really punk and therefore eagerly snapped up by traditional rock fans) punk never really interested the mass of the public in 1977 - or even the majority of rock fans (qv the fact that the biggest of the pre-punk rock bands kept on having massive albums for years after).
If those punk singles which didn't sell enough to get in the Top 50 should have been on why not all the "obscure" disco/funk or Northern soul singles that were selling in at least as large numbers - probably larger numbers due to many being bought in specialist non-chart return shops?

80sBlokeInThe70s said...

Having said that maybe the Sex Pistols SHOULD have been featured on the show of 9/12/76 or 16/12/76 as they'd just entered the charts with "Anarchy In The UK" and were after the Bill Grundy incident known about by everyone from primary school kids like me to OAPs.
But the problem was the country was genuinely outraged (eg only 3 councils in the country where they'd had dates on their tour hadn't banned them) and it would have been an extremely brave/suicidal decision career-wise by anyone who decided to give them a TOTP slot.

Tyrone Jenkins said...

The Strawbs may well have been highly respected on the British folk scene but surely they were untypical in not being on the left of the political spectrum (vis the arguments over the meaning of 'Part of the union').Conversely, the fact that they hail from "...surely one of the poshest places to provide a chart act" Had some bearing on their apparently anti-union stance?

Elsterpie with different musical tastes to rest of forum it seems said...

I chose records which still get listened to today and not just any old punk record. The reasoning seems to be that if a punk record was good, it cant have been punk. The point was they were all getting ignored and you are quite right about Northern soul and other genres: same thing happened largely. At least at our school , people were into punk or northern soul or genesisyesuriahheepledzepetc and or (esp soon) disco. No one but no one but no one wanted or sought out or cared about chanter sis, martyn ford, strawbs (hudson ford maybe), contempt, surprise sisters and so on. totp claimed to simply follow the charts and trends....and at that time, it just did not seem to be the case.

Still watched it virtually every week though

Simon said...

I don't know if the BBC banned Anarchy In The UK - as you may have seen on Sounds Of The 70s they appeared on Nationwide three weeks before Grundy as the primary UK pioneers of this new underground scene, but presumably they were far too hot button after Today. Certainly EMI weren't keen on promoting them after that and dropped them over Christmas.

My secondary point about why no punk was on was a lot of those early releases were released on what were then small operations - the Buzzcocks were having trouble pressing up Spiral Scratch, it's not like they could afford to plug it to TOTP too. Of course the sales and reputation of those early singles helped the same labels get their bands onto TOTP later in 1977 (a couple of Stiff releases appear in August/September). The Jam were on Polydor, the Stranglers United Artists, the next punk band (no spoilers, but it's not who you may think) EMI.

What is notable is we now don't get anything - punk, new wave, whatever - until July '77, perhaps reflective of the widespread anti-Pistols/punks publicity.

Arthur Nibble said...

Glad to get back on this site - last night and this morning, this and Sweeping The Nation were classified as corruptable files by my PC protection software and I couldn't get in. Anyway, notes to three of you...

80sbloke: Fully agree and understand. I also regarded hits at that time as singles making the top 50 as per the chart compilers, although we know that, on average, five records that had dropped into the 41-50 positions were 'disqualified' each week and replaced by climbers which may or not have made the top 50 otherwise. I just thought I'd give both options of number of current non-hits and number of actual non-hits in a show for comparison. That reminds me, how big is the chart these days? I thought it was a top 75 but the chart compilers list the top 100 which, if it's the case, means that you can sell about 2,000 copies to a population of 60 million and have a hit. Ludicrous if you ask me.

Elsterpie: you're not swimming against the tide in my opinion. It's a broad church, room for almost anyone or anything, if we all liked the same thing it would be a pretty boring and homogenised world - though I watched TOTP2 with my wife last night and we couldn't understand why so many people bought Claire and Friends and propelled it that high up the chart.

Simon: certainly agree that, at the start, many punk bands were on small and / or DIY labels with next to no money and no chance of major distribution or advertising, thus probably couldn't promote their singles fully. I also find it intriguing that one of the best bands of the genre, Siouxsie and the Banshees, couldn't get signed for love or money by anyone and were virtually the last turkey in the shop before signing to the major label clout of Polydor. Also, are the lines "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 your Muppets critique part of a song? if not, they should be, and I think you could use them as the strapline for this blog.

Noax said...

What has struck me about this punk debate is that it really does seem very silly to me now that The Clash snubbed Pops.

For one thing, they would have been pretty awesome on it.

For another, they wouldn't have had to endure the Legs & Co routines that accompanied their songs (the best clearly being the girls with their 'Swag' bags for Bankrobber)

And also, being on the show may have actually got one of their songs in the Top 10 at the time instead of having to wait until the very rock'n'roll moment of selling out to Levis.

wilberforce said...

having just watched the italians run rings around the limited english yeomen in euro 2012, this debate about why we keep watching these totp's when we know a lot of the time it's complete rubbish has come at a most appropriate time - in both cases we live in the eternal (if rarely fulfilled) hope that they will be brilliant...

Three Lions Nibble said...

Agree, Wilberforce. I'd planned on watching this week's TOTP77 much later in the evening than usual. Bugger!

Simon said...

Arthur: it's a top 100, with a semi-official 101-200 extension. Also, those lines are Statler and Waldorf's contribution to the full Muppet Show theme, except for the bit I got wrong as I did it from memory.

Noax: it's certainly an interesting alternate reality thought, though as far as I can think Bank Robber was the only Clash song Legs & Co did. Suspect they weren't alone either - if Gang Of Four could be invited then it's surprising Wire, who were on EMI's once-prog outlet Harvest, never (publicly) were, for instance. I suppose the ultimate thing about punk on Pops in these years is the mythos of the genre is so ingrained people have been going "where's the punk?" since the reruns started, ie well before there were any punk singles to be considered. Beyond the Pistols infamy punk was still very much a tentative music press (and fanzine culture) thing at heart, maybe something that didn't mix well with the bright lights and prime-time LE of TOTP at the time.

mick ronsons 72 haircut said...

This epi' was awful! The best things on it were legs & co plus lovely pauline, & jessie green minus the pimp gear! good song. pop 77 eh?

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
John G said...

Hello, I'm a long time lurker on this excellent blog, but a first time contributor.

The various comments on The Strawbs have led me to break my silence. It's interesting that the general view here is that "Part of the Union" is anti-Union (a view I hold myself) but that was not how many perceived it at the time. TUC leaders seem to have regarded the song as supportive, and used it at the time for a recruitment drive; I believe Dave Cousins was also invited to a photo opportunity by Union baron Vic Feather!

In any case, I'm a big fan of The Strawbs. I think they are one of the best folk-rock outfits Britain has produced, and Dave Cousins is one of our best lyricists. I didn't know this particular song, but still quite enjoyed it and was amazed to see the band on TOTP as late as '77! If you want to hear them at their peak, have a listen to their classic 1972 album Grave New World - it's a masterpiece. Their very early work with Sandy Denny is also well worth a listen.

Anyway, that's enough rambling from me. Keep up the good work Simon!

Noax said...

Ooh, the memory obviously cheats re Legs & Co doing The Clash as I thought they did I Fought The Law as well at least.

For Rock the Casbah they presumably showed the video thought that could have been an interesting interpretation...

@howardbowden said...

I want to start a blog called "1977 is going to be marvellous for John Christie". Or get it tatooed on my neck, or something.

Old Applejack said...

I liked this (unedited) episode. Some great tunes from Scaggs, Sager and Hot Chocolate, and even the flops are simply interesting of themselves. Hell, by this criteria, I enjoy every episode, even if the quality goes up and down.

It took me a long time to become familiar with So You Win Again. I was coming 2 when it was a hit, and I never heard it as I was growing up. It was one of those Number One entries in British Hit Singles that remained a mystery to me for a long time (see also Baby Jump, Double Barrel, Forever and Ever). I heard it for the first time on A Question of Sport. The boys in the backroom used it to back a montage of sporting highlights from 1977. Good job editing job they did on it too. Red Rum 'winning again', Kevin Keegan 'leaving any day'. Can't remember who was standing again as the loser...

Not sure if we've had the debate here, but in Another Place, there's been much championing of Bette Midler's version of You're Moving Out Today. Didn't know such a thing existed, but a quick YouTube hunt firmly places me in the Carole camp, I think.

Noax said...

I think Baby Jump was definitely one of those 'mystery Number Ones' for me when growing up. Then I heard it and wondered how on earth it even got in the Top 10.

Which Forever and Ever did you not know - Slik or Demis Roussos?

And I can't imagine any Bette Midler cover of anything being any good, having heard lots of other things she's sung. One of the most over-rated singers ever.

80sBlokeInThe70s said...

The Strawbs have always insisted that "Part Of The Union" was a tribute to the trade union movement something that ties in with John G's comment that the union movement also looked on it this way.

And this fits in with the Strawbs having the "expected" political views of a group who were such an important constituent part of the British folk boom of the 1960s and early 70s.
Maybe our idea that it IS anti-union is because we see the song through the prism of the strong anti-trade union feeling held by many across all classes in the 1970s with all the jokes about British Leyland etc

Incidentally The Strawbs were no more posh than anyone else in that boom and probably a good deal less posh than some (they just rehearsed in Strawberry Hill for a bit) and actually hailed from far less salubrious climes such as Hounslow and Tottenham.

wilberforce said...

following up noax's comment on mungo jerry - it's funny that everybody knows/remembers "in the summertime", but nobody knows/remembers "baby jump" that also got to number one (including me)... my guess is that the latter reached the top purely through the knock-on effect of the popularity of the former...?

talking of mungo jerry, i can't remember if i've related this tale before, but anyway about 10 years ago i was visiting bournemouth and spotted a notice for a garage sale in westbourne (one of bmth's most affluent areas... and that's saying something!) so i took a look, and as i was leaving the elderly house occupant excitedly informed me that "mungo jerry lives over the road!"

Tyrone Jenkins said...

Thank you 80sBlokeinThe70s for the info on The Strawbs. The time-honoured argument about the pro or anti-unions sentiment of 'Part of the union' has always struck me as being a bit odd; a right-wing folk group seems a bit of an oxymoron. Having said this, I'm sure there have been quite a few 'back to the earth' neo-nazi folkies!
Does anyone know of any bona fide right wing or Thatcherite folk bands?

Old Applejack said...

That one that was on Phoenix Nights!

The Forever and Ever that I never heard was the Slik one. Demis infiltrated our house somehow!

Also, I didn't realise this, but Bette Midler actually co-wrote YMOT with Carole and Bruce Roberts. So I guess it's fair enough that she has a crack at it. See what you think at

Erithian said...

Back then I was quite a fan of Noel Edmonds, enjoyed the “Golden Guillotine” awful puns and daily visits from Flynn the milkman, but 35 years on he seems pretty insufferable. I managed to miss the full show this week, sadly (would have liked Van and Boz), but watching the shorter version on iPlayer I fell to counting the number of times Noel announced the song title properly:
Elkie – yes, although he called it a new song (written by Leiber and Stoller in 1961). Definitely the highlight of the show though.
Muppets – yes, although the “AA Milne and RAC Services” gag didn’t help.
Four Seasons – well we all heard what he did with that one.
Twiggy – “When A Woman Falls In Love”? I turned over to the football when that came on last Thursday, so didn’t even realise it was the Three Degrees song until I read this site. (Oh, and that vocal! - what Autotune was invented for.)
Jesse Green – no, he was too interested in the “your Jess” line. And unlike the Four Seasons, who as Simon pointed out were in a clip from three weeks ago, Jesse was there on the stage having to perform with that pisspoor gag ringing in his ears.
Marvin Gaye – just about, as an afterthought.
Carole Bayer Sager – “You’re Leaving Home Again”?? And “You’re Leaving Home” to back-announce it? There’s a story that John Peel once went to Noel’s house for dinner and after a tour of the premises realized there were no records in the house at all. When asked why, Edmonds allegedly said "I don't bring my work home with me". He evidently couldn’t be arsed to learn the title of this song properly.
Strawbs – “Fairly Routine”? OK, that was another pisspoor gag. At least we didn’t get his misheard-lyric version which was “Back In The Ovaltine”.
Rod – “…and this is fabulous”. Nope.
Genesis – Nope.
Three out of ten – must do better.

In other news, the weekend before this TOTP was originally shown was one of the best of my life – I went to Bingley Hall in Stafford to see Queen. This was the gig Brian May often cites as a landmark – when instead of just calling for an encore the crowd began to sing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” (the Liverpool European Cup effect, no doubt), that was the inspiration behind the writing of both “We Are The Champions” and “We Will Rock You”. And I’ve never got any royalties from them.

wilberforce said...

erithian's comments on this week's host allows me to bring up a second consecutive half century at the crack of dawn by compiling a totp host league table of unctuousness of those who've appeared thus far (from least to most - don't think i've left anyone out):

1 - kid jensen (by some distance)
2 - paul burnett
3 - jimmy savile
4 - david hamilton
5 - dave lee travis
6 - ed stewart
7 - tony blackburn
8 - noel edmunds can now begin to see why noel got revisionistic and tried to sweep the past under the carpet. still don't worry, as soon as slimy bates appears he'll go straight to the bottom of the list and stay there, regardless of how noel performs in the future...

Elsterpie said...

Wilberforce and others. The reason why Baby Jump got to number was because it was (is) simply fantastic. Old Ray produced quite a few goodies: long legged woman dressed in black, drussed in black, dressed in black black black'. Or lady Rose or Alright alright alright.

And Magnificently He wrote this ( enjoy kelly marie doing that alcoholic 50 year old prostitute dance)

wilberforce said...

i always thought "alright alright alright" was alright (i think "mungo" may have been going for the guinness book of records with the most times the same word was sung in a chart hit - sadly he was eclipsed by bill withers' "lovely day")... but "it feels like i'm in love" is a contender for the worst disco record of all time!

Arthur Nibble said...

Nah..."Ring My Bell" with that awful Lyndrum.

If anyone wonders how Mungo Jerry got his stage name, it goes something like this...

Ray Dorset had a white dad and a black mum and, back in the pre-"Love Thy Neighbour" days, a half-caste person would be referred to round our way as a 'mungo'. Also, people used to get Ray's surname mixed up with 'Jerry' Dorsey (aka Englebert Humperdinck), so he jokingly adopted Englebert's nickname. Ray's co-patron of his (and my) hometown football club and, having seen him on the terraces at a game, I can confirm he's a good lad with a real ear-to-ear grin.