The recent connection troubles at this end meant we've missed the opportunity to mark a couple of recent TOTP-related deaths. Jerry Nelson, who died on 25th August aged 78, had worked as part of Jim Henson's company since 1965 and was best known as the voice of Count von Count (he also did Statler for a while and innumerable minor characters), but it's him voicing Robin on Halfway Down The Stairs, the tender AA Milne-penned song that never failed to send Noel into giggles.
More pertinently for Pops, we lost Louise Clarke a couple of weeks short of her 63rd birthday. She wasn't strictly a founder member of Pan's People, joining a year after they were initially set up and not appearing with them on TOTP until May 1968, a month after their debut, but she was there through their imperial phase, leaving after almost exactly six years, the famous Homely Girl routine her swansong, to get married and start a family. Here's a tribute to her work.
Meanwhile, many have noted the letter in this week's Radio Times in response to praise for this series/year that "it has no immediate plans to show the 1978 series, but is keeping that decision under review". The reading from our end: calm down. It doesn't say they're not going to, it says essentially they don't know. BBC4 won't have made any plans for next year (apart from a couple of already announced special seasons, but that's different) by the end of August when RT would have started being put to bed and they didn't announce or start working on '77 until some way into October.
Back to this week. (Well, the week we're up to in 1977, but you know what I mean) Kid's in charge and literally showing his true colours in a red and white lace-up top emblazoned with a maple leaf motif and, in case the subtlety was lost, 'CANADA' in big diagonal letters. We later see '74' is emblazoned on the maple leaf. No idea. The countdown is restored, as is only correct, to the top of the show, and Kid has a countdown of his own to add as Jonathan Richman's Roadrunner is the chart rundown music. Kid then does a voiceover link into the first song, ruining the ever fun element of surprise and anticipation. Or maybe not, in this case.
Showaddywaddy – You Got What It Takes
"Unmistakeably Showaddywaddy" at that, though surely that doesn't take into account all the original rock and roll bands and all the songs they cover, this included. We do at least know the drill now, wherein Dave Bartram and his lush, tumbling, vitality-filled locks attempts to look appealing towards crowd and camera in turn, coupled with the odd bit of visual comedy double take. Very low forms of visual comedy, admittedly, when it constitutes looking quizzically at his open palm for the line "with your money we won't get far". This time the drapes seem to be colour coded by instrument, with the allotted backing singers in canary yellow meaning despite it being mostly hidden by Bartram's head we can kind of get the gist of their middle eight routine involving spinning, kicking and the ever present notion there's got to be more dignified ways to come across on television, as Bartram goes on to glad-hand the front row and plant a smacker on some girl's forehead. Meanwhile Buddy Gask does his single basso profundo vocal and wonders when that supposed joint lead singer role is going to come up again. To close everyone turns their back on the audience as a mystery invisible sax solos away.
Steve Gibbons Band – Tulane
Hard to describe the motion Kid makes into this, a kind of swung arm round towards camera into leg-aided air guitar power chord. Splendidly, with only two to choose from the intended opening close-up on the guitar strings chosen by the director is on the rhythm, which has two notes to play, rather than that playing the distinctive lead riff. A Chuck Berry cover, rock and roll business is conducted by a man who's really tried to look the part - receding pompadour, white shirt and leather trousers, one handed confident mike stance leading to full knee knocking once the mike is in his hand, looks, like Alvin Stardust, far too old for all this. As for his band the bassist is wearing the cap of a stereotypical camp biker - as he is in their countdown photo and was last time we checked in, maybe it was his "thing" - while I still can't work out whether both guitarists have moustaches or not. The audience are into it, at least one young couple jiving as much as what they understand jiving to look like. Even better, one long shot reveals two men in a committed full-on rendition of that shoulder-first routine usually carried out by men in distressed denim jackets at Status Quo gigs or on stage with Mud doing Tiger Feet. Not for the last time tonight, Kid appears alone in the distance, slapping the side of his thigh in time to the beat during the instrumental break. Kid promises more for "the rock fans" later.
Barry Biggs – Three Ring Circus
Repeat. The seated one rather than the ringmaster one, sadly.
The Rods – Do Anything You Wanna Do
Not a mistake, Eddie & The Hot Rods traded under this name for a little while, presumably to make people think they were a hot new young punk band. It seems to have worked on Kid, who goes falsetto by the end of declaiming the title having enthused "this has got to be one of the best rhythm and rock records this year". Rhythm And Rock, for those who don't recall, was the more ostensibly commercial parallel to A Bit Of That Sort Of Rock. Not that the band are hiding anything, Barrie Masters still restlessly stalking and covering every inch of the stage and gurning between occasionally mimed lines in white jeans and an open shirt, occasionally grabbing the above the crotch area of his huge belt. Of course there's a member, the bassist, in dark glasses. Less punk-like, he's also wearing a yellow and black striped headband.
Rita Coolidge – We're All Alone
Well, this is quite rum. "The mood is mellow" maybe but not so literally, surely. For one thing, surely it's a late replacement given we've seen the video twice, but it's not clear what it might have replaced. Tavares' One Step Away seems most likely as it had been hovering around a central position before suddenly falling right out of the top 30, while Mink DeVille's Spanish Stroll had entered the top 50 the week before but hadn't quite yet made the rundown. Danny Williams' Dancin' Easy, surprisingly sticking at 32? The Ramones' Swallow My Pride, which entered at 36 the previous week but fell? We can but ponder and create unlikely mental images. Anyway, We're All Alone it is. The troupe, in non-fetching shades of electric blue/mauve and orange dresses with matching legwarmers, start lying on their backs and kind of stay there. Not just like that, obviously, even Flick would be called into question were it a tableau rather than routine no matter how clearly properly undanceable for slowness reasons the song is. No, from there is carved out a succession of seated positions, Oops Upside Your Head-recalling bends and lunges, rolls, crawls and just about every combination of arm and leg bending and swinging, closing with an extreme close-up on... well, I can rarely get them right when their faces are the right way up, but I think it's Gill... whoever, she's making something akin to devil eyes at us, perhaps hoping for something upbeat soon. It's more like a gymnastic floor exercise routine-cum-keep fit video on 2x fast forward and for all we know might have constituted an ongoing sit-down protest following Roadrunner's seated delivery. And not a cacti in sight either.
Thin Lizzy – Dancin' In The Moonlight (It's Caught Me In It’s Spotlight)
"From some delightful Lizzies..." Eh? I double checked, he does say "Lizzies". As seems traditional with Lizzy - and that's what Kid calls them at the end so it's an official diminutive - it's a repeat, slow dancers and all. Perhaps inspired by the Rods, Kid calls them just "Lizzy".
Delegation – You've Been Doing Me Wrong
Delegation were soul's own Liverpool Express, clearly. In very Seventies ruffled white suits over paisley patterned shirts and huge bow ties and embarking on choreographed knee lifting, they can't quite disguise that they've just slowed You To Me Are Everything down a bit, or that the first verse is clearly supposed to be in three part harmony but the Willie Thorne one either has been written out of the part at late notice or can't be bothered to lift the mike to his mouth but is gamely miming along anyway. After that he's always just slightly out of the movement routine, glancing across more out of blind hope than checking, sometimes affecting a half turn to make it seem more noticeable. The main singer isn't well served by shooting from below either given it means we can see the gap in the front of his teeth all the clearer. When the camera pans back to Kid he's swaying gently sat in the lotus position grinning to himself, as if in the midst of a pleasant flashback.
Fleetwood Mac – Dreams
A few more seconds than last time of the live clip, I reckon. "Isn't that fabulous?" Kid says. Maybe if we saw more of it.
J.A.L.N. Band – I Got To Sing
"Back to the disco scene", apparently. Apart from the keyboard player in grey slacks hoping we won't notice because of his instrument, more white suits all round. Was there someone unscrupulous going round the dressing rooms? Plausible given the horn section, who so clearly aren't regular members of the band they should have had their own caption. If the singer gets any closer to the edge of the stage for the verses he'll be dragged in, and he can't say he wasn't warned. Maybe that's why he's not concentrating on his miming, missing half a line at one point. Or maybe he's just terrible at it, not clear in his own mind whether vocals are lead or backing by the end. He's completely disrespecting the title of his own band's song in that.
Donna Summer – I Feel Love
Week four of four atop, and evidently not a moment too soon for the show. Obviously we don't know what they did in week three, but given week two involved slides and seated lunges you'd have put good money on a kaleidoscopic image of a potter's wheel or similar by now. Instead once Kid has symbolically clutched at his heart it's the escape hatch once more, but with a twist - Donna's passport photos on Toppotron™ once more, awkward dancing in semi-darkness again, but in the distance five sixths of Legs & Co swish their long dresses about in strict formation - shimmy, dip left shoulder, shimmy shoulders, dip right shoulder. In other words, a standing version of the routine they developed from within RoadRunner, and just as then most people aren't paying the blindest bit of attention. Five, though? Sue's the odd one out as she faces off and shimmies on a raised corner of the set with... Floyd! The man for all emergencies. Sue's still wearing her outfit from earlier, from which we must assume her colleagues are too, and we now see a bit of netting on the front, which we see the rest moving around a bit during the chorus. The little details lost on the big stages. To fully cap this mise-en-scene of disco shaking, visible in his colours right in front of the Legs & Co quorum is Kid. He's dancing. Or so the intention seems anyway, his style developing over time from some awkward rhythmic (but not rockist) finger clicking to full-on shifting from side to side in an approximation of getting down with the groove, apparently not only completely unaware and out of time with what's immediately behind him but with everyone else too. We're allowed just the 1:50 this week before Kid, still shifting in one spot with a little arm movement too, delivers the coup de grace before resuming with even more gusto as the song continues to play us out: "from me, Kid Jensen, it's goodbye and good love!" Yep, the full version. It's been a while.
By the time Pops returned the following week, there'd been a death in the family.