Wednesday, 29 August 2012

TOTP 28/7/77 (tx 29/8/12) open thread

Hiya. Sorry to do this again, but with broadband down and only able to use a slow computer not near a television on, essentially, dial-up and a browser without Flash or sound it's going to have to be another open thread week. Shame, as it's an intriguing one and not just for harbouring a set of Noel links...

Steve Gibbons Band – Tulane
Boney M – Ma Baker
Showaddywaddy – You Got What It Takes
Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers – Roadrunner
(Legs & Co)
Bob Marley & The Wailers – Exodus
Dana – It's High Time You Put Some Words Together
Emerson Lake & Palmer – Fanfare For The Common Man
Rita Coolidge – We’re All Alone
Thin Lizzy – Dancin' In The Moonlight (It's Caught Me In Its Spotlight)

Donna Summer – I Feel Love

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

TOTP 21/7/77 (tx 22/8/12): everything changes

Last time we were gathered here there was a national sensation lurking. This (thanks to jamesonedin from Popscene) is a scan of a page from The Sex Pistols File by Ray Stevenson, published first in 1978, then in 1982, a scrapbook of a great deal written about the band at the time, the centrepiece of which is a mock-lurid telling of the night's events from Sounds magazine's Giovanni Dadomo, who also wrote for ZigZag and The Face, co-wrote a Damned single and fronted cult punks The Snivelling Shits.

The proper big TOTP news from the week is the appearance of one of the great holy grails of 60s British music - Pink Floyd, Syd inclusive, playback-performing See Emily Play on the Pops broadcast 6th July 1967 (if it's too ragged for you, a homemade remastering has been done) The footage has been known to exist initially in private hands - an unknown rock star's collection, it's said - for three years or so and was shown at Kaleidoscope in January 2010 but this is the first time it's slipped into the public domain.

And so to 1977, where the leonine face of DLT greets us and throws to... a song?

John Miles – Slow Down
Yes, now there's a hit to kick things off rather than the rundown. This changearound lasted one week. Shame, as John came in especially. This week's little things: the bassist wearing a tie with an open shirt, Miles' vocal adlibs being adhered to in miming but unfortunately well off mike, and Miles shutting his eyes as tight as David Parton did when a-talkboxing. Four people rush towards the throng just in time for the track's end, and as the camera pulls away we find DLT in full air guitar mode with the mike cord. "He-hey! Is that magic?" is his ungrammatic question. It's left to him to explain what's happened to the rundown, which he does via a completely wrong rendition of the opening riff that sounds more like the end of the Countdown clock timer, followed by the top 30 plus Tavares. Yes, for the next few years Top Of The Pops had no regular theme tune, just another chart hit jemmied in to accompany all the latest action shots:

Bay City Rollers – You Made Me Believe In Magic
And while we're on the changing of the ways, the Rollers final fling, both in the chart and on TOTP. Neither DLT nor the girls surrounding him, one arm in arm with him, another clearly trying to plant their palm on his bum, two clearly mothers with brilliantly northern stereotypical nan perms and bottle-bottom glasses, can truly summon up the excitement over it. There's not a stitch of tartan anywhere on the stage either, as if to show this is the new, mildly funky Rollers, not the ones you like. It's all looking very grown up until the camera gets to Eric Faulkner, who's chosen a leather jacket, rugby shorts and knee-high hooped socks. Nobody mixes styles that much and hopes to get away with it. There's a weird little tableau off to one side of the front of the stage too, where a man who looks like a burly policeman is looking disconsolately at the floor as everyone else does the side to side shuffle, a similarly catatonic if more attentive girl by both sides. Maybe they heard about the last bassist too.

Brotherhood Of Man – Angelo
"Here's a song that's going to do well in the charts, definitely". It's already number five! What more does DLT want? Repeat, anyway.

The Jam – All Around The World
Ah, this'll be a youth explosion, then. Well, maybe outside. Apart from less jumping around this time, either from Weller, Foxton or two blokes at the back, it's pretty similar to their debut showing, as committed young men in suits play power chords to a largely clueless crowd, still moving around just as they had five minutes earlier. Introducing the ways and means of TOTP directing to the new breed, Foxton's interjections in the middle are matched to a tight close-up of Weller. But there is a difference, as while there are a gaggle of people looking bored at the front stage left they're singing along, one directing it at his friend. He could look at the blokes right in front of him if he's that committed, surely.

Alessi – Oh Lori
"Some people from Ireland, say hello!" DLT's next line, or more precisely the bad accent it's delivered in, is sadly inevitable. Weeks after they participated in an awkward chat the brothers get to perform, and Bobby Alessi gets to show off his little bicycle-riding mime. We've kind of already seen the pair of them performing, albeit on video with one mike and a camera stuck on close-up, and pans, the sight of Bobby giving Billy unreciprocated matey looks and a small audience don't add much to the experience. That doesn't excuse the pair visible at the back of the stage having a chat.

Barry Biggs – Three Ring Circus
"In the same sort of vein", according to DLT. Barry's left his ringmaster gear and his mysterious sidekick at home this time, instead sitting down swaying, thinking that now just the song will do. Given the distance he misses the first note by, this isn't the case.

Smokie – It's Your Life
Perhaps as tired with the usual TOTP routine as the rest of us by now Chris Norman is dressed like a flamboyant flamenco dancer, if flamenco ever lent itself to the colour lemon. Not as tired of repeating themselves, the cameraman gets his bottom-of-a-bottle filter out again for the mid-section and waits for everyone to gather around one mike

Fleetwood Mac – Dreams
In what we shall now call the Supertramp Slot, about a minute and a half of grainy live footage - this, should you be interested - chiefly notable for Mick Fleetwood grimacing at the end of every bar and Stevie fiddling with a piece of material throughout.

The Rah Band – The Crunch
"After a good meal on a Thursday, what do you need? A crunch!" Makes about as much sense as the outfits. Repeat.

Danny Willians – Dancin' Easy
Panning over a phalanx of girls in white jackets we find Williams doing a David Dundas, rewriting an advertising jingle, in this case Martini's Anytime Anyplace Anywhere, for fun and profit. Williams had had a UK number one sixteen years previously (with Moon River) and so can be forgiven for being out of the soul style loop, but Huggy Bear's castoff jacket and big hat is not it. Gill tries to provide a distraction in a familiar looking all electric blue small top and flamenco skirt, which by the look of the punters confuses things even further for people already trying desperately to remember where the tune comes from. In fact, so easily distracted are a number of them that a couple openly wave to camera while a third does poses of largesse.

Queen – Good Old Fashioned Loverboy
Well, Queen weren't going to come back in again for the same song.

Donna Summer – I Feel Love
"I forecast it last week" says DLT, before his usual orgasm. Well, it's not like we can prove it. And now the show has a problem, because I Feel Love looks cemented to that top spot for a while and there's no video and no hope of Donna coming over to perform it, so here comes the first of at least four seperate Legs & Co-centric presentations. One can only hope the others are better reflective of its spacey disco rush than this one, in which the effort put into obtaining a rotating colour filter for mood lighting effects seems to outweigh that put into the routine, in which the girls shake their shoulders and wave the hem of their big long dresses a bit, looking more like they're trying to keep up with the BPM rather than do anything clever. Then they run from side to side a bit. Rosie gyrates her bosom at the camera a bit in a solo spot but coming some way into the routine it's literally a busted flush. The whole thing doesn't really reflect the erotic charge of the record, just when you want them to, catatonic as it may have made DLT. "I can assure you our playout group does not refer to Legs & Co - boney? Mmmm...." Over the credits again? Did Frank Farian have photos, just not quite enough? The designers are busy amusing themselves by using the colour filters against the kaleidoscope lenses. It just resembles a blur.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

TOTP 14/7/77 (tx 8/8/12): there's no point in asking

"The following few are feeling fine, cos they're this week's Top Of The Pops! *air punch*" Even more than Noel and Tony you can tell which presenter that is just from the style written down, can't you?

Last time we'll hear Whole Lotta Love for a while, this - every Christmas, like a confused uncle, then not until a slight return in 1979. Bob Marley has a chair in his photo. The Wailers are either standing up or uncomfortably crouched down. That's the perk of getting your name at the front.

The Real Thing – Love's Such A Wonderful Thing
Even by his own standards Eddie Amoo has one-upped the fashion stakes right out of the block. Not for him the sensible waistcoats of the two in the middle, albeit one pairing them with shiny light blue trousers. No, there are times when only a gold off-one-shoulder singlet and trousers that aren't so much tight as vaccuum packed, given that extra bit of pizzazz by what seems to be a choker made out of china. Chris, guitar returned, is no slouch either in an all-gold affair presumably made from the same bit of material fashioned into a barely workable workman's overalls effect, if you knew any workmen with braided hair. The one not specifically mentioned above knows his place, like Ronnie Corbett, except his place when not harmonising is to clap and click half-heartedly and generally look like nobody told him he'd be joint third banana when the day came. At the back of the audience, and thus front of shot, a couple slow dance arm in arm to a slower tempo than provided. In the spirit of the song, but maybe not the occasion. Then they realise they're on telly and, perhaps thinking of how he looks in his bow tie, the bloke begins bobbing around and says something to his partner, who by then is watching the band anyway. What a complex relationship that may turn into.

Rita Coolidge – We're All Alone
"Here's a girl who knows a lot about love". And a lot about cactus welfare, judging by the massive size of the plant on the windowsill where she sits in her top embroidered with an outline of a moth. Moths and cacti aren't usually signifiers of true love, but each to their own. The video continues with her wandering through the garden outside and resting contentedly in a hammock, seemingly perfectly content on her own for now. You wait until she drops the window key behind the plant pot, though.

The Saints – This Perfect Day
A bit of that sort of rock, part one. Kid's exclaiming, he likes this one. There's a school of thought that says this might be the first proper punk band on TOTP, taking the Jam as mods and the Stranglers as pub rockers on the chance. They almost certainly aren't the sort of punk band TOTP expected either, playing it straight faced and deadpan, never once acknowledging a camera. Guitarist Ed Kuepper spends a good part of the song staring into the monitors. One kid right at the front kind of jumps about a bit but for the most part this is a nonplussed audience. Perhaps even more so when Chris Bailey rests his wrist on the mic holder, watches it come off in his hand and examines the cord, miming regardless all the while. Before they're off camera Bailey is already wandering off grinning. Still, can't imagine there'll be anything more ABOTSOR-like on this week...

The Commodores – Easy
Oh, the lights have gone funny on Legs & Co again. It's another trip back from the fabric shredder for the costumier, both top (with glittery tube top underneath), skirts, bit in the middle and what looks like an extra bit up the back full-on fringed. The routine is nothing to write home about, just lots of sashaying on a stage with people on three sides in mood lighting. It's just unfortunate the first two audience members picked out by the crane camera are looking away from the stage. Just as the whole team begin faux-headbanging to the guitar solo it's time to leave.

Dave Edmunds – I Knew The Bride
"Something for everyone" says Kid. Rockpile in all but credited artist name, and Nick Lowe in his shaggy dog pudding bowl haircut and sporting what seems to be a picture of Graham Parker on a badge is clearly hogging it for all it's worth, standing further forward than the credited artist this week, so much so the camerman can't keep Edmunds in focus over Lowe's headstock. A number of audience members literally hop from foot to foot.

Jigsaw – If I Have To Go Away
"If you've been wondering what happened to Jigsaw..." No, Kid, nobody thought that, much as Sky High was popular. "...they've been putting it all together again." Oh, I see, it's an elaborate comedy intro. So everyone's in blue satin shirts apart from the frontman in dazzling white and GOOD GOD that's a level of falsetto from Dave Beech we haven't heard even this year. He's already dressed like a Bee Gee, why not copy their vocal style indeed. There doesn't appear to be a drummer. That's presumably why they disappeared.

Supertramp – Give A Little Bit
That Kid introduces this video standing in front of a man with a Union Jack top hat and shit-eating grin is more interesting than the clip. It's nearly longer too, cut to ninety seconds in the early edit and I'm not sure it's much longer in the full length version.

Cilla Black – I Wanted To Call It Off
A girl on each arm like a Canadian love god with a regulation shaggy 'do, and neither of them seems any more sure than you might about how this is going to fit in. Good keeping up appearances, though, as even after his part of the stage has had the lights faded on it the three remain in that tableau until comfortably off screen. Our Cilla hadn't (and hasn't) had a top 50 hit in nearly three and a half years and her BBC and ITV vehicles had ground to a halt, a career flatlining that remained until a Wogan appearance in 1983 was spotted by Alan Boyd, in the process of creating Blind Date at the time. As for now that bloke still has that grin and that hat, and now we see his polo shirt has a cross of St George emblem on, while Cilla stands like a waxwork in front of some of the orchestra, wraps her pink scarf securely around her neck and oversings directly to us. By halfway some people are having a chat, watching the monitors, not entirely taking in the stately pace and showstopper ambition of Cilla's routine. As we pull away at the end Hat Bloke is dancing to something much faster in his own head.

The Sex Pistols – Pretty Vacant
"By way of contrast..." Yeah, you could say that. And now imagine Tony or DLT introducing it. So, a bit of that sort of rock, part two. And indeed ground zero, surely many people's introduction to what this band they've read about actually look, act and sound like, for good or ill. So much of this video, directed by Mike Mansfield only three months after his production/direction/link man job for LWT's Supersonic ended, is part of punk iconography - Johnny's ginger hair, practised sneer and ribbon mike stances, Sid's gormless expression and rock'n'roll textbook stance, Steve Jones' knotted hanky. Then there's all the period stuff, like the overzealous red lighting, the feather cut Paul Cook throwing something to the floor immediately before starting and the hugeness of Rotten/Lydon's sleeve cuffs. And now you can stop waiting for punk to happen. In a further development on the joy of juxtapostion, having already gone from Cilla to Pistols we now jump to Kenny Rogers, subject of this week's Awkward Pre-Number One Stilted Chat. We learn Kenny is on holiday after two weeks' work in Saudi Arabia - we can only speculate what - and announces a UK tour in November.

Hot Chocolate – So You Win Again
One of two songs out of ten we've seen already and three artists who's been on this repeat run before. Talk about new brooms. (Er, ignore the next show in that working) Kid gets Kenny to introduce it, perhaps mindful of what happened last time. A repeat from last week, Kid wishes us good love and we're out to horrible green font credits, a camera lens wrapped in tin foil and Fanfare For The Common Man, just to demonstrate the punks don't quite have it all their own way yet.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

TOTP 7/7/77 (tx 1/8/12): when the two sevens clash

The Jimmy Savile auction took place in Leeds on Monday, to an apparently crammed auction house. The whole thing took the best part of thirteen hours and raised £320,000 or so for Jimmy's own charitable trust, £130,000 of which went on Jimmy's rare silver Rolls Royce Corniche convertible. As you'd expect there were some extraordinary lots among the 549 put up for sale, so before we start here's the Yes It's Number One big top ten, judged on oddness and over-estimate price:

  • A standard 'JIM FIXED IT FOR ME' aluminium badge - £2,000
  • The magic chair from the first two series of Jim'll Fix It - £8,500 (under the 10K estimate)
  • A blow-up of a newspaper's TV viewing figures column from February 1980, Jim'll Fix It at number one with 19.15m viewers - £65
  • A two-piece suit with an all-over print of Superman cartoon images, plus a pair of white leather platform shoes, worn when Jimmy met Prince Charles, Spike Milligan and Harry Secombe at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst - £1,600
  • A 60cm long machete on a green canvas belt - £140. SIR JIMMY SAVILE OWNED A MACHETE.
  • A crystal ball - £280
  • A Metropolitan Police helmet with 'To Jimmy Saville from Marylebone Police Station' written inside in ballpoint - £240
  • Four seperate sketches of Jimmy by Rolf Harris, two drawn in a TV canteen - total of £7,950
  • A mounted pebble with the engraved dedication 'By The People Of Keswick For Conquering Latrigg Fell' - £110.
  • This:

    That's an actual Brazil nut, it says here. Not from the people of Keswick, that one. In fact, from one man. A Broadmoor patient - £150

    Back in the real, linear world... well, that's a matter of opinion, really, as it's Tony presenting this week. Shot from below at the start, as he seemed to be most of the time.

    The RAH Band – The Crunch
    Now, this is how you start a pop programme, somewhere far beyond mere description. Spoiler alert for the start of this clip. Everything else alert for the rest. Even the drummer's in an open purple shirt and massive flares.

    Look in the background at the start of the performance, there's three people getting down with their own selves away from the throng and next to someone else's drumkit. But really. Imagine in 1977 seeing this, hitherto unheard and certainly unseen, as the first song on, with no intro, on this great unifying family show, and eventually clocking how everyone else was turning out too. You'd wonder what the hell was going on. You'd likely wonder that in 2012. Tony openly admires the combined balaclava/gimp mask. "I must get one of those for David Hamilton". Aah, it's been a long time.

    Olivia Newton-John – Sam
    Aaaand back down to earth. This performance has been in this slot on three occasions and has never failed to bring down the mood.

    Smokie – It's Your Life
    The warmup man must have really been on it this week, the audience are moving more than we've seen then in months to these first two studio acts tonight. Quite the effort that seems too, as surely never mind Rorschach tests, the psyche would receive a good going over were candidates shown Smokie doing cod-reggae while two girls in zebra patterned plastic top hats look on. One man in shades and a leather jacket really isn't planning on moving when the camera sweeps past him, mind. Then the song takes a weird detour as a phasing effect leads not into a psychedelia section but a slow synth-led ballad middle eight by way of 10cc and seemingly shot through a pint glass. Did they think they really had to use that bit somewhere, never mind its context in the rest of the track? After that it's open season on keeping it together as three members, including bassist Terry Uttley looking like a perm/hippy haired Chris Barrie, gather by Chris Norman's position even though they all had perfectly good mikes of their own. Alan Silson, in a smart suit, puts one hand in his pocket - brazenly, the pocket towards camera - and the other on the back of Norman's neck. Then they start openly giggling for no good reason. Heady days.

    Brotherhood Of Man – Angelo
    Tony refers to BoM winning Eurovision "a couple of years back". It's as if he just doesn't care. As hardened Brotherhood watchers will know the moves don't change from performance to performance, but there is a telling moment when Nicky joins Sandra where they're nearly standing at right angles to each other. But this isn't like Abba at all, remember. Well, with the girls in pink golfing pullovers and the boys in gold jackets over black waistcoats it's not like they were aiming for a sartorial match. One man stands alone near the front in not moving, and while on camera looks across in the opposite direction, just in case. He's still there, immoveable as an Easter Island head, a chorus later. "One of those songs where you hear it and you just keep singing it over and over again" reckons Tony.

    Bob Marley & The Wailers – Exodus
    They're no Smokie. Repeat, on this of all days of Rasta/reggae importance.

    Alessi – Oh Lori
    "My very favourite record" says Tony, and we are accordingly prepared. A soft focus video, the brothers in close shot around one mike.

    Barry Biggs – Three Ring Circus
    Oh my. Barry, of course, we remember from his pink working men's club entertainer shirt from Sideshow, and now with the upgrade in travelling show he's graduated to the full ringmaster uniform. Big bow, stripy cummerbund, top hat, he's gone the whole hog. Coupled with his familiar striding back and forth stage style and his familiar light reggae beat it looks faintly unnerving, never mind uninviting. It's only on rewatching that things become weirder - like a spectral presence, a Pops Pipes, there's someone in a full leopard suit and spotted make-up sitting on the stage behind him. The camera never focuses on them or catches them in a full stage still shot, you just see them in passing two or three times, never clear enough even to work out a gender. What a liva bamba aie indeed.

    Boney M – Ma Baker
    I'm sure after Noel's mix-up last week Tony calls them "Bernie M". Legs & Co's go, and so soon after Mah Na Mah Na Sue gets the short straw again for the first in the group's occasional historical characters through disco-pop series, dolled up in decorative hat, big dress, grey wig and every so often swinging a handbag for all she's worth before heading into calisthenic dudgeon, the full jaunty pearly queen without the outfit routine high kicking, hands on hips, bravura expression. Do you reckon she had to get thoroughly pissed before recording to carry it off, a professional ballet-trained dancer like herself? I do. (Lawyer's note: I don't.) We see precious little of her indignity, as it's projected onto the back of a set they can't get to appear in shot whenever there's a close-up on what's happening in front of it. What's in front of it? The rest of Legs & Co in colour-coded jackets and big crinolene skirts thrusting, swaying and kicking over the back of chairs. It looks a little like a late replacement, in truth, what with very similar routines for each verse. Maybe Sue was having to make a 'mother dancing' routine up on the spot. That would be the respectful explanation.

    Andy Gibb – I Just Wanna Be Your Everything
    Gibb the younger with his rhythm guitar, his co-opted falsetto and his Radio 1 Roadshow bomber jacket again.

    Hot Chocolate – So You Win Again
    They do seem to be available a lot. Errol shows a little sign of movement to the groove this week, while sporting a medallion large enough to display in a museum and pass off as a Roman era discovery. Is that an extra member on keyboard pushed off to the side this week? Cutting the number one off literally on the first line of the last verse, evidently it getting even that far a surprise to Errol as he has his mouth shut and his mike far away from it, Tony invites us to join him on Summertime Special come Saturday and out pretty much in the same ballpark as we began, with a sound of the future that must have confused plenty at the time, Donna Summer's I Feel Love.

    Next week's show... well, that's a story in itself.