Thursday, 26 April 2012

TOTP 14/4/77 (tx 26/4/12): should old acquaintance be forgot

You've read the camera script, right? Good. You've spoilt it for yourself, mind you.

Enter Savile. He's wearing a red, yellow and white curly wig, a paisley patterend jacket and a felt frog over his left shoulder with 'Chief Tadpole' picked out in embroidery. The tone has already been set.

Now, call me a cynic but I don't think this is quite accurate.

The single, I Wanna Get Next To You, was from the film Car Wash, which may explain things, but it's still no Cortina.

The Brothers – Beautiful
Proving that without cod-reggae written by a middle-aged couple from Exeter they might have been easily lost, the Brothers are still running with the matching outfit theme, this time powder blue ruffled shirts under navy blue bolero jackets and matching trousers with bell bottoms one could hide children under. Innovation? Well, the drummer gets to sing a post-chorus section in a strangulated whine and both guitars seem to be playing rhythm, if that all counts. Lots of Union Jack plastic hats in the audience tonight. Perhaps a shipment was expected for Lynsey and Mike the week before last but got delayed.

Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis Jnr – You Don’t Have To Be A Star (To Be In My Show)
Jimmy's managed to find someone new to be in nearly every link with him tonight. Imagine him in that outfit beckoning you towards his part of the stage. You'd have to wonder what was about to happen. In this case it's some girls from Wrexham and a wider shot which reveals Chief Tadpole has a cigar in, as well as a massive breast pocket. Sets it all off nicely, I'm sure you'll agree. Same Top Pop clip as three shows ago.

Brendon – Gimme Some
Ah! Now, if you haven't read the comments you have to, both for 24/3 and last week, as it seems Brendon's bassist Dave Levy, as WeddingSuit, has joined the conversation with his insight into recording, including that script PDF up there. This week he's brought out the big stuff, a double-necked instrument. Brendon's brought his own acoustic with him, slinging it behind his back to begin like a wayfaring stranger, while one of the guitarists is sporting a Rubettes cap. Well, they didn't need them any more. Must be said, while this never got beyond number 14 the crowd are as into it as the producer evidently was, clapping the off-beat throughout and not minding when the cameraman takes several of them down at once judging by the size of the wobble.

David Soul – Going In With My Eyes Open
Jimmy has found two girls in overcoats and flat caps. He claims they're called Bill and Ben. One of them switches between broadly beaming and grimacing vaguely menacingly. In his mind this all makes perfect sense. Those who are playing along with the script at home will spot this isn't Leo Sayer or Mike Nesmith, it seems they assumed this would be number one by now and when it wasn't chose to throw this straightforward singing with occasional overlaid shots from side angles video in here instead.

The Stylistics – 7000 Dollars And You
"A nice single Yorkshire millionaire" is next on the rostrum of chance, one wearing a pinstripe suit and darkened glasses. Back for a second go in the studio Russell Thompkins Jr doesn't seem any less permanently surprised than before but his colleagues, one of whom is sporting not just a tight afro but also mighty mutton chops, seem happy enough with their matching crimson suits and synchronised hoofing. A very wobbly pan to the lights to close.

John Williams & Cleo Laine – Feelings
"It could only happen on Top Of The Pops - it's classical guitar" If you like, Jimmy. "Where could you get such class except Top Of The Pops?" rhetorically asks a man who chose to dress like that. Both parties sit, the crowd stand pensively around the perimeter of a small circular stage I don't think we've ever seen before. It's pretty much what you'd expect Feelings performed by Cleo Laine with John Williams to sound like, a reminder that throughout this decade you'd get stuff well out of the pop loop - the Shadows were regulars well into the 80s - in an attempt to paint the show as inclusive and classy. The response is appropriately Two Ronnies audience-like.

Andrew Gold – Lonely Boy
"I don't know which one to speak into, my tadpole or this microphone". Er, the electric one that's wired up, Jimmy, but he has given Chief Tadpole to one of the latest pair of girls flanking him, which is asking for trouble. Speaking of which... "Legs & Co with Floyd, no less!" Floyd! It's Floyd! Back for... well, he made a few appearances in the couple of years post-Flipper, but rarely would he get a namecheck such as this, or indeed a role such as this. His being the lonely boy in the routine, keen to show off his full repertoire of spins and star jumps, was about as literal as Flick would get this time while still dealing in some respect with the lyrical concern. In a mini-reunion of old ways Patti gets to play lead Leg as the narrator's sister, getting the sort of double act going they never did before as Patti gets variously grabbed from behind and spun right round, leapfrogged, have her pigtails pulled and have general wrestling-like not quite contacting moves performed on her, though she does get to waggle her arse at him as is her wont, which makes someone - Gill, I think - visibly corpse. The rest of the Co kind of flounce around and stand still, this not being their moment. There isn't a feelgood ending rapprochement either, unless you count the fanservice knicker crotch reveals. One close-up reveals Patti's wearing a wedding ring. Don't break it to the kids of 1977 like that!

Billy Ocean – Red Light Spells Danger
"These ladies have just come up from Upminster, would you believe!" As Jimmy embarks on some elbow-led dancing this appears to be a new orchestra-led Ladybirds far too high in the mix version with Billy richly singing live. Suit: purple. Cuffs: white, huge. Collar: wings. Just as things seem to have gone well Ocean gets faded out too early, giving it plenty to very little audible effect before someone realises almost too late.

ABBA – Knowing Me Knowing You
"High speed cameras and things, goodness gracious!" No idea where the two blokes surrounding Jimmy now are from but he says they're DJs, "taking the bread out of my mouth". One of them is wearing a T-shirt reading 'DON'T SHOOT ME, I'm only the DEE-JAY". The other one is wearing a suit, bears a resemblance to the singer from Young Knives and, credit to Bob Stanley with this not least as he's got a book and column to write and an impending album to promote yet is still taking the jeweller's eyepiece to this thing every week, is wearing a safety pin attached to another safety pin through his earlobe. It almost constitutes a watershed, that. The scowling plays out again before Boney M, again, finish a show featuring six new entries, none featured, and five songs in the top ten. Back to shows longer than thirty minutes on original screening next week. I think this tableau from the closing link about sums this week up...

Thursday, 19 April 2012

TOTP 7/4/77 (tx 19/4/12): boxing clever

"Time to come alive with some hit music and jive!" You have to give Kid Jensen this credit, without resorting to props or idiocy he comes up with something new to open every show. There is, however and sad to say, little jive about the show. Just in time for their final week in the top 30 the show has updated its Rubettes picture, the old five piece in the caps and suits gone in favour of what looks more like the cast of a dropped after one series northern based down at heel ITV detective series, except for the one wearing a pilot's uniform with cap.

Dead End Kids – Have I The Right
We also get a first look at their chart rundown photo this week, which is an awkward pose chiefly for Robbie Gray pointing at us with one index finger and the bandmate his chin is resting on the shoulder of with the other. It's a several tiered performance space this week with the guitarist pulling some classic rock poses unbecoming his band's style. Gray has his braces on as before and his tubular bells in place, but he's playing them far too casually and misses the last one, or at least the last hit before he's supposed to break off. Meanwhile one camera pull-in shot from behind the drummer not only exposes how few people are there but also gives the cameraman opposite a clear focus, as well as... is that some sort of boxing ring set up behind him? Hey, maybe they'll be using that later or something.

Deniece Williams – Free
Kid makes great play of the fact there's two clips from the venerable Soul Train on the show this week, maybe something he shouldn't have promoted too much given it shows up the paucity of new songs in the studio, and for that matter the classy simplicity of the Soul Train studio, a bare wall, a lit performer, an ostentatiously branded glitterball and an audience who seem into it. Plus not even Billy Ocean would think of pulling off a light blue dress liberally equipped with sequins and matching skull cap. As for an in-house dance troupe, theirs are pushed off to the sides and unselfconscious, one couple hand in hand, certainly nothing planned out. And it's the original recording being used as backing. No wonder Johnny Pearson's boys were often made out to be a culture shock to Pops visitors.

Showaddywaddy – When
Speaking of which, from sleek sophisticated soul we emerge quickly and sharply enough to lead to a nasty case of the bends in the synesthesiac shape of a set of brightly coloured jackets, a honking sax and some comically boss-eyed bass vocal interjections. There's something very pinch mouthed about Dave Bartram's face when singing, isn't there?

Elkie Brooks – Pearl's A Singer
Described by Kid as "a regular joint", one he's been playing on his Saturday morning radio show at that, the set designers are determined to add some class to the joint to go with the bands' suits and Elkie's swish dress, this time with a big plastic tree behind the piano player - who, for the record, looks a bit like John Lennon during the bed-in, in the same way the guitarist looks a bit like Denis Law and the drummer looks more than a bit like Kevin Godley. As before, when required the Ladybirds appear and disappear on requirement.

Cliff Richard – My Kinda Life
"This face really needs no introduction" indeed. You'd think Cliff would be readily available when he had a hit around but this seems to be the same performance as last time, complete with opening lively disco lights, hopeful bopping and break air guitar.

The Manhattans – It's You
After a fade edit that proves it's not just BBC4 who can be cackhanded at that sort of thing, it's another well drilled soul outfit, this time with backup singers indulging in a lot of pointing. One to the left, then once to the right, always over everyone's heads for that less than personal touch. Not quite sure how to approach this, the middle youth sections of the audience, who by today's standards look about 35, try to look enthusiastic by shifting from side to side indifferently.

Maxine Nightingale – Love Hit Me
And so Legs & Co are in a mock ring in singlets and shorts - with their names on the right cheek! Surely meant for single use, those - with boxing gloves on. It's another Flick Colby literalism triumph. And it is a triumph, partly because it's not complex dresses and moving round in circles again, but because while no sparring move or comedy punched face - aye aye, Lulu - is left spare it's lovingly worked out. And let's face it, where thrown punches are involved the timing has to be pretty good. Eventually Lulu knocks everyone out in turn - Rosie sells it best, but Patti's side grin to camera immediately before being KO'd is a winner - then celebrates before turning to find Gill waiting with a decisive right 'ander. As everyone gets back up and boogies to an unsatisfactory general climax the camera shot pulling away reveals that of all the people gathered around Kid, young, old, male, female, the only one watching the routine is a bald middle aged man. Ah, walking cliche.

O.C. Smith – Together
Back to the Soul Mass Transit System and Smith, in a brown suit from the remainders at Debenhams, completely missing miming his spoken first line until after it's been and gone. He doesn't get a lot better at it, especially when joined by an invisible female singer. Maybe it's Barbra Dickson. After that it's Kid's call to duty in the new Short Awkward Chat Before The Number One, this week Elkie Brooks making sure to call Kid "Kid".

ABBA – Knowing Me Knowing You
Kid describes this to Elkie as being in "a position we'd all like to see you in in a few weeks' time", a phrase loaded with double meaning. Elkie at least remembers what it's called, unlike some people, and accompanies it with a local radio DJ point at camera. Kid adds it's "week number two for week number one. Number one. Or something." Retake, surely? Video again, Smokie to end, and between Kid gets his own catchphrase wrong. "From me it's good love, have a great week". Goodbye and good love, Kid! *Goodbye* and good love! Tch.

Friday, 13 April 2012

TOTP 31/3/77 (tx 12/4/12): and they said it would never happen

Oh, quickly before we start - Monday sees the start of an all-new (and just nineteen years after the first series) ten part run of Sounds Of The Seventies at 10pm, including that Jean Genie.

This was David Hamilton's final Pops - he upgraded from Radio 1 to Radio 2 in November and with him only having done the show thirteen times and Kid's introduction proving successful I imagine the thought was someone had to give way. Don't ask Diddy why, his Killing Of Georgie Fame anecdote suggests he still thinks his last show was six months earlier. But that's not the reason, tempting as it is, why this week in particular has attracted so much attention. Nobody really knows whether it's true BBC4 were going to skip this show for playback quality reasons - the initial schedules missed it out, but then initial schedules did that twice in 1976/2011. This is one of four shows, the others from before the BBC4 run started, that were wiped but recovered in 2009 from Diddy's personal collection, taped to Philips N1500. Essentially it's given the show a visual Instagram filter, the slightly off-perfect look of an old video recording but on proper telly, adding a whole new layer of nostalgia.

Also adding a layer of nostalgia, Diddy's choice of a red zip-up top. Leather or tracksuit. Can't tell. And with one last facile punching of the air at the very end of his intro link we're away.

Blue – I’m Gonna Capture Your Heart
Obviously not *that* Bl...what a pointless statement that is. Actually, yes, despite none of their members being born this early it's that same Blue scratching an AM radio MOR itch before they turned into a boy band. Happy? It turns out the pianist with the unnerving grin is the singer, and he's clearly been at the forefront of some band squabbling as he has the overhead lights all on him and the guitarist, singer of prominent backing vocals and wearer of a tie over a lime green shirt is at the far end of the stage in near complete shade for a line or two. Later on, finding himself in profile close-up, he starts miming out of the side of his mouth before reverting to attempting to sing while broadly smiling, walking a thin line between jovial and threatening. As was common the drummer is at the front despite looking like he failed the 10cc auditions and is wearing a poor Hawaiian shirt.

Billy Ocean – Red Light Spells Danger
"A red light, and the man who's really switched it on!" The key difference in fashion waywardness between Billy and any old Amoo is Ocean liked an outfit that was predominantly one colour and looked stylish in all the right lines and ways but coupled with something horribly clashing visible underneath. This week the smart buttoned up suit is crimson, the shirt is lemon and the cuffs folded back well over the jacket sleeves could easily act as emergency buoyancy aids.

David Soul – Going In With My Eyes Open
Diddy, flanked by two girls one of whom was surely a teenage Tilda Swinton, introduces Legs & "Company" in a comedy northern accent. Well, last chance and all that. Nobody's quite sure what to do with this so it ends up a mish-mash all round, long fluffy ballet skirts matched with criss-crossed straps for bras, ballet's graceful movements followed by the usual running round in a circle. Luckily things get more interesting for them in the coming weeks. The odd flicker and audio warp reminds us Mrs Hamilton must have been sitting directly in front of the set, fingers poised over the tracking buttons. Let's think of her this long week.

David Dundas – Another Funny Honeymoon
Ah, the long cruel winter of the one hit wonder (this did actually make the top 30, just, but do you remember it?) Doing away with his trusty piano he seems really quite unsure what to do, opening with some jigging-cum-jogging on the spot. It doesn't help that the orchestra have interpreted the recorded version's mixed down wah-wah rhythm guitar as a prominent chicken-squawk and removed most of the jug band bits copied off In The Summertime and The Pushbike Song, but Dundas could have done his bit by singing in the same octave as usual rather than a slightly deeper timbre. His backdrop reminds us that The Sky At Night was on last week.

Lynsey De Paul & Mike Moran – Rock Bottom
Now, it's Diddy's last TOTP, surely there's some sort of running motif with his presenting that they could squeeze one more out of... and sure enough two girls turn up wearing T-shirts which appear to depict a stylised drawing of Arnold and a radio dial and the legend underneath 'thanks to the TONY BLACKBURN SHOW'. So yes of course they're the Tony Blackburn fan club who've "just had their annual meeting in the phone box round the corner", introducing "Tony's theme song". Never fails us, Diddy. Then they join him in pointing off into the imagined stage distance! At this point Diddy became self-aware and had to go. De Paul and Moran's Eurovision song was last time performed back to back. This week a neat overhead shot revealed the two grand pianos almost slotting into Tetris-like place with the players facing each other, De Paul reading her 'ROCK BOTTOM' headlined newspaper. She's working confused gesticulations with which to start too, as the director hurredly switches between a camera behind both protagonists. De Paul then throws the paper over her shoulder only for it to apologetically fall right behind her, something that she apparently finds so hilarious she nearly corpses through her next two lines. Retake, surely? Meanwhile whatever the crowd are dancing to has a progressively faster pace. Two of them occasionally wave Union Jack flags. Two of them. Put the effort in, floor manager.

Berni Flint – I Don’t Want To Put A Hold On You
"...apart from the half nelson" Diddy appends, demonstrating one on himself somehow. Repeat.

The Stylistics – 7000 Dollars And You
"Looking good" Diddy makes sure to appraise, even though they look like snooker players and are completely aesthetically wrongly arranged, the two much taller members, one of whom is singing lead, to the right with the two shortarses immediately to their right, meaning they're the ones in the middle. It looks about as just-wrong as the film, actually, as their moves aren't quite drilled into dead-on choreography and Russell Thompkins Jr, for it is he, looks like he's wearing false eyebrows to go with his tight perm and, perhaps not unconnctedly, more often than not looks startled. At least they're all standing up this time.

Bonnie Tyler – More Than A Lover
"That cheeky girl, I'll give her three weeks to change her mind!" Is that an offer of no-strings sex, Diddy? Wow. Maybe that's why it was his last one. The picture quality, while giving parts of the show a not unattractive Vaseline lens smeared effect, really comes into its mushy own here as Tyler is surrounded by very bright red and green spotlights that cast flares on the camera, which combined with the set's homage to the Warner Bros Looney Tunes logo, the back of which seems to be both reflective and made out of black bin bags, give it the effect of the set of a mooted knockoff German disco programme called something like Club Disco 77. Meanwhile a very young looking Bonnie emotes gravelly, unconcerned by it all. Afterwards Diddy has a guest, a deeply bearded and confused looking Mike Nesmith, promoting his "great single" Rio. Diddy asks him what it's about. "Hollywood movies" is Mike's quite direct answer, upon which apparently he "went bananas". Diddy, evidently not having been listening to that answer: "Have you ever been there?" Nesmith: "To bananas or Hollywood movies?" Diddy: "No, have you ever been to Rio?" Nesmith: "Oh, er,, I never have, except in Hollywood movies". They could have carried on like that all night.

Abba – Knowing Me Knowing You
...except there's a number one to introduce. "Do you know what it is?" "Yes." Pause. "What is it?" "It's a song by Abba." "What's it called?" "I haven't a clue". As I say, this was the last Top Of The Pops Diddy ever did, and probably the last Nesmith ever did come to that. Off into the glaring in the snow, Elvis' Moody Blue plays us out, and in between the two Diddy waves us goodbye with a bellowed "BYE-BYE!" And don't forget to pull the tab out.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Longform history

As is occasionally the case when there's no better ideas, a look at the album chart from this week in 1977:

1 Frank Sinatra - Portrait Of Sinatra
Subtitled Forty Songs From The Life Of A Man, even though he wasn't dead yet. 40 tracks long, possibly UK only.

2 ABBA - Arrival
Released in November 1976, it had one week at the top in January, dipped out of the top ten and then had a sudden resurgence off the back of Knowing Me Knowing You and had another nine weeks atop, not falling out of the top 40 until May 1978. Is the cover meant to represent a jetset lifestyle or an unusual method of hostage taking?

3 The Shadows - 20 Golden Greats
No sooner had they split up then EMI put out a hits collection so successful it forced their hand into reformation. You'll see the Shadows quite a bit when we get to the early 80s.

4 The Hollies - Hollies Live Hits
Not just the hits, the hits played live! Recorded in Christchurch Town Hall, New Zealand too. Sounds more like a hopeful budget release than a top five album.

5 Various Artists - Heartbreakers
Another one off the K-Tel production line, 20 already superannuated weepies.

6 Leo Sayer - Endless Flight

7 Pink Floyd - Animals
Battersea Power Station iconising, Richard Wright annoying, Johnny Rotten hated.

8 Cliff Richard - Every Face Tells A Story
As you'll know from his last T-shirt.

9 John Denver - Best Of John Denver Vol.2

10 ABBA - Greatest Hits
You can get this on CD, surely rather pointlessly given the Gold franchise.

11 Status Quo - Live

12 The Manhattan Transfer - Coming Out
"The group downplayed the "nostalgic" tenor of their previous breakthrough album in favor of more contemporary songs". What must they have been like before, then? Ringo Starr and Dr John feature on one song.

13 Fleetwood Mac - Rumours
As we meet this leviathan for the first time it's, well, not doing so well, out of the top ten after six weeks. It'll take until September to break into the top three and January 1978 to go top. Just the 471 weeks in the top 100 to go.

14 Peter Gabriel - Peter Gabriel
His solo debut. Clearly.

15 David Soul - David Soul

16 Bryan Ferry - In Your Mind
His first solo album of original material, featuring what looks like someone else's hurredly reprinted album cover.

17 Studio Cast - Evita

18 David Bowie - Low
Entered at 2, basically fell like a stone.

19 Electric Light Orchestra - A New World Record

20 Glenn Miller - The Unforgettable Glenn Miller

21 Showaddywaddy - Greatest Hits
After only three albums, one of which peaked at 41.

22 Emerson Lake & Palmer - Works

23 Bad Company - Burnin' Sky

24 Eagles - Hotel California
The forthcoming release of the title track would take it back up to number two.

25 Lena Martell - The Best Of Lena Martell

26 T.Rex - Dandy In The Underworld
Their last album, out of the top 75 within three weeks. Steve Harley and The Dream Academy's Nick Laird-Clowes feature on backing vocals.

27 Stevie Wonder - Songs In The Key Of Life

28 Eagles - Their Greatest Hits 1971-75
Sells in famously ridiculous numbers in America, but even here it didn't leave the top 50 between March '76 and November '77.

29 Original Soundtrack - A Star Is Born
The Streisand/Kristofferson version, which would eventually spend two weeks on top.

30 Iggy Pop - The Idiot
A new entry that immediately fell out of the published chart, of course, but Bowie's reputation still had some leeway.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Top Of The Pops' least successful dance troupe

From 30th September 1982 here's how Pops chose to celebrate Radio 1's fifteenth birthday. Note that Jimmy introduces "my colleagues" while pointing across the studio, followed by a cut to the other stage with Jimmy at the front of the pack.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

One year on

My, hasn't it flown? The first Top Of The Pops 1976 went out, thirty five years on to the day, a year ago today and was given its precis here (posted on the 9th, but let's not split hairs) I'm still embarking on finding a voice, as you can tell. Not that many people were interested back then so with the benefit of hindsight let's discuss this landmark afresh, with the aid of this handy reminder.

And before that went out, the reliably useless Story Of 1976 documentary. If BBC4 get to 1978 can we not have Sue Perkins, please?