Sunday, 23 December 2012

Top of the Pops: 15th December, 1977.

John Otway and Wild Willy Barrett on stage in 1981
John Otway and Wild Willy Barrett in 1981
By Canada Jack aka Jeremy Gilbert (Own work)
[CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons
Hooray!  At last, Steve Does Top of the Pops creates its last-ever post. Much have I suffered and far have I been but soon my ordeal will be over.

As though sensing the epoch-makingness of it all, the BBC have raided the piggy bank and brought in a genuine superstar to present it, with the arrival of a startlingly young-looking Elton John.

I'm not sure who's playing over the chart rundown but it does sound suspiciously like Donna Summer. If so, that would suggest she has two singles out at once, though it has to be said this one doesn't sound a patch on Love's Unkind.

Not a patch on Donna Summer are the Dooleys, doing Love Of My Life.

As I roam the streets of Sheffield, I'm often asked, "Steve, have you ever been grabbed the Dooleys?" and I say, "Yes. Often grabbed but rarely gripped."

That could be because this track, surely their greatest achievement, does sound remarkably like it's been culled from a Martini advert.

I really can't help feeling they could have done with some advice in the wardrobe stakes.

Needing no advice at all in the wardrobe stakes - because they're looking rather fetching right now - are Legs and Co who're dancing once more to Jonathan Richman's Egyptian Reggae.

It's that legendary dance routine. One so epic they should have been forced to do it every week, for the whole of eternity.

But you don't hear enough gongs on pop records these days.

Come to think of it, what was the last hit single to have a gong on it? REM's Losing My Religion should have ended with a gong but the Georgian hit-makers clearly lacked my class and didn't realise it.

A man who will never be short of class is Carl Douglas. And he's on next - with a song that's not about Kung Fu. In this case it's something called Run Back.

I don't know. I don't like to hem a man in but he's really not the same without the karate gear and bandana.

Objectively this is a classier song than Kung Fu Fighting but that probably works against it, as its greater sense of taste and dignity means it lacks that song's USP.

In fact, so devoid of USP is it that they could've stuck the words, "Billy Ocean," on the label and I'm not sure how many people would have noticed it wasn't him.

Now Julie Covington comes on to tell us Only Women Bleed, which is clearly not true - as all graphic designers know that artwork bleeds too. Still, if she'd called it Only Women and Artwork Bleed, it'd sound like the title of the worst sitcom David Jason never made.

And whatever this song might be, the one thing it's not is a barrel of laughs.

It really is a humourless, pompous load of cobblers that sounds like it should've been sung by a woman in dungarees.

Although, on the plus-side, is it me or does it have weird and unlikely echoes of Rock and Roll by Status Quo?

Argh! Darts are back with Daddy Cool! Yes, it's a perfectly good record and they all give it plenty of welly but this has to be its twenty sixth appearance on the show.

And now it's Legs and Co's second appearance on tonight's show as they dance to My Way by Elvis Presley.

The Top of the Pops hierarchy have managed to secure the services of Elvis Presley's shadow for the performance. This probably isn't the coup it might initially seem, as I suspect his shadow found work increasingly harder to get after his death.

Needless to say, Legs' dance routine seems to have nothing to do with the song, in either practice or spirit.

Also lacking connectivity to Elvis in both practice and spirit are John Otway and Wild Willy Barrett, with Really Free.

I still remember the sheer bewilderment I and seemingly everyone I knew felt when this first reared its head on Top of the Pops but time has been kind to it and you can't help viewing it as an old and shambolic friend. Not to mention it now feeling like a sort of precursor to the majesty of Jilted John.

That's niftier guitar playing than I remembered.

Now it's the Emotions and I Don't Wanna Lose Your Love.

Maybe it's me but it doesn't seem the most inspired song ever written. In fact, I actually think you'd have to make a conscious effort to write a less inspired song - and still fail in the attempt.

But, Hooray! None of that matters. Why? Because Mull of Kintyre is still Number One.

And, to celebrate, Macca's paid for the whole of Scotland to be reproduced in a studio that I suspect belongs to Mike Yarwood.

In fairness, even though it's a blatant fake, it's an impressive one.

But even Macca can't last forever, and so we play out with the Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band giving us The Floral Dance, which seems to be dragging on an eternity.

Still, at least we've been spared Terry Wogan's attempt at it. That track was my first ever exposure to Wogan and I've still not forgiven him for it.

So there we have it, the end. It probably reflects badly on me that what sticks out most for me about the editions I've covered are the worst or weirdest moments. There was Joy Sarney's happy tribute to domestic violence, Barry Biggs curious resemblance to Henry the 8th, Contempt and their song that no one at all seemed to know anything about. There were Legs and Co's bizarre dance routines and there was the shadow cast over the show by the activities of certain DJs.

Overall it's hard to avoid the feeling that 1977 was not a great year for music - but it did feature hints of golden days to come, with the arrival of various punk, new wave, pub, disco and synth acts, not to mention engagingly poppy material that some might call guilty pleasures but I wouldn't because I feel no guilt.

Whether I should feel guilt or not, thanks for sticking with the blog for this long, and have a Merry Christmas.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Top of the Pops: 8th December, 1977.

Bing Crosby, 1942
Bing Crosby in 1942,
(Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia.
For one whose heart is as hard as mine, Christmas is always horrific. But it's just got worse - because I now have to review two editions in one evening, instead of one.

Needless to say, I shall meet the dread challenge head-on by totally ignoring it and covering the latter episode on some other day.

But what of tonight? What tinselly magic can Tony Blackburn sprinkle upon us as we fire ourselves up for the Festive Season?

The first piece of magic he can weave is turning winter into summer as Donna of that name does the chart countdown with probably my fave track by her; Love's Unkind.

Sadly, we barely get to hear any of it before we meet the night's opening act.

And it's a bunch of people who look suspiciously like Billy Idol and Generation X though I can't claim to have ever heard the song before. In fact, I didn't know they'd ever bothered the chart compilers before about 1980.

You can say what you like about Billy Idol but he really was the new Cliff Richard and, to be honest, this actually manages to make Cliff sound like the voice of youthful rebellion.

Billy keeps saying it's wild but the reality is it's not.

A raised eyebrow from Tony, as it ends, tells us all we need to know about what he thought of it.

Hot Chocolate are back with that song no one remembers and has a title that makes no sense.

I don't care what anyone says, I still like it.

It's mean, moody and magnificent.

According to Tony, the next track's by Chick, though, to my ears, they sound remarkably like Chic.

They're being danced to by Legs and Co who're wearing as little as they can get away with.

They're followed by Manfred Mann's Earth Band, with a song I've never heard before.

It's not hard to see why, as it's not exactly what you could call electrifying.

It'd be easy to say it's why Punk had to happen but, to be honest, it's more like why Bucks Fizz had to happen.

Bonnie Tyler's back with her Hard Egg.

"Love him till your arms break," croaks Bonnie, suggesting she struggles to tell the difference between love and self-destructive lunacy.

The Bee Gees are back for what seems like the millionth time, with How Deep Is Your Love?

And Graham Parker's back with the New York Shuffle. It's amazing how many times he got on the show despite never having had any actual hits.

Although I was a fan of Graham at that time, this song doesn't do anything for me. I do prefer it when he's being contemptuous about things.

Next it's The Banned who fail at the first hurdle by not actually being banned. It would appear the song's called Little Girl, which, with all that's being going on lately, means it's a miracle they've made the final cut.

Are these one of those groups who were famous under another guise - like Yellow Dog were really Fox without Noosha? They have that sort of air about them.

Whoever they are, they're truly dreadful.

But, Hooray! At last Macca's with us, and Mull of Kintyre has claimed its rightful spot as the UK's Number 1.

Paul's still on the fence.

He still scarpers the moment Linda shows up.

The pipers are still on that beach.

And then, with no warning whatsoever, it's all gone Wicker Man on us as everyone in the village gathers for the bonfire.

That's the magic of Macca for you. Just as you think he's being banal, he pulls the rug from under you by setting fire to Edward Woodward.

And, blimey, wouldn't you know it, Boney M are on again with Belfast, on the play-out. Someone at Top of the Pops clearly liked it.

It has to be said, it wasn't a vintage week. In fact, it was rubbish and, if not for Wings and Hot Chocolate, I'd say it had virtually nothing to distinguish it.

And, maybe I wasn't paying enough attention but where exactly was Bing Crosby, as promised in the listings? Did they really cut him out to make way for The Banned?

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Top of the Pops: 8th December, 1977. An Update.

Bing Crosby, 1942
Bing Crosby in 1942,
(Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia.
Christmas is currently working its magic at Chez Steve - and that means that, thanks to real-life holiday goings-on getting in the way, this week's post shall be a little delayed. I'll get it done as soon as I can. Thanks for your patience, and see you soon.


Thursday, 13 December 2012

Top of the Pops: 24th November, 1977.

Mull of Kintyre lighthouse
Mull of Kintyre lighthouse by Steve Partridge
[CC-BY-SA-2.0],  via Wikimedia Commons

This is it. I have my bagpipes plugged in, my sporran in my hand and I'm all revved up for what I believe is set to be a historic show.

It certainly is - because we kick off with Boney M single-handedly sorting out Northern Ireland for what seems to be the ninth week running. I do like to feel Bobby was hoping to dance the IRA into submission.

Sadly, we don't get to see him do so, as we only get to hear The M over the chart rundown.

That done with, it's some people who've been watching too much Bay City Rollers and listening to too much Beach Boys, trying to cash in what I assume was the skateboard craze.

Whoever they are, I do get the feeling the skateboard craze has arrived five years too late for their hopes of stardom. They look like they've been locked in a cupboard since 1974 and have only just escaped it.

Hold on a moment! That drummer's not the bloke who used to be in Flintlock and The Tomorrow People is it? Mike Holoway, was he called? If it is him, suddenly, whoever these people, are my feelings towards them have warmed instantly and I hope they have many chart hits for years to come. I can wish nothing but good to a Tomorrow Person.

From a Tomorrow Person to the Yesterday man. Because - hooray! - it's Wings. It's that song. It's that video. It's that farmhouse.

I don't care how uncool it is to say so, I'll admit it right here and now. I love this song. It's one of the greatest melodies ever written, it wipes the floor with 99% of punk records and I'm tempted to whip out my guitar and join in.

Linda's appeared from the farmhouse and Paul's suddenly doing a runner. Stop running away from Linda, Paul. She might have a veggie burger for you.

The pipe band have appeared. On the beach. Forget Bohemian Rhapsody. This is the greatest video in history.

"Sweep through the heather." Don't mention heather, Paul.

Disgracefully, Macca's faded-out long before we get to hear his shouty bit - and we're off from Scotland to Wales.

That's because it's Bonnie Tyler with It's A Hard Egg.

I'm getting a bit bored with it now. I want Wings back.

Instead I get Darts, with Daddy Cool. It's all very energetic but this is the millionth time they've been on doing it. I'm starting to want a new song from them.

Kid's back.

He's trying to strangle a female audience member.

Leo Sayer's on with a song I have no recollection of.

It seems to be called There Isn't Anything.

This is quite pleasant. It's exactly like you'd expect a Leo Sayer song to sound. And it's got exactly the video you'd expect a Leo Sayer song to have. Was this from his TV show? It has the air of something that would be.

Leo's gone and Legs and Co are with us, dancing to Jonathan Richman's Egyptian Reggae, which isn't actually reggae at all, is it?

However you classify it, it's giving Flick Colby the chance to hit new heights of choreographic literalism, with everyone dressed up Cleopatra style.

And now we get the full power of Flick's genius as, for no good reason, a panto camel appears.

What a mighty beast that is. No wonder it can survive for weeks in the desert.

Was this song the inspiration for Fleetwood Mac's Tusk? There are noticeable similarities between the two tracks.

Flick's flung herself fully into madness, as the camel launches into a tap-dance.

Having seen that performance, I do feel all women should be forced to dress like Cleopatra and all men should be forced to dress as a camel.

Hot Chocolate are back, with Put Your Love In Me.

This is another one I've not heard of.

I didn't think it was possible to not have heard of a 1970s Hot Chocolate single.

Interesting chord change.

Actually, it's turned out I have heard this before. I just didn't recognise it till it hit the chorus. This is all rather fabby and disco and vaguely Cerrone.

Speaking of fabby disco groovers, it's another helping of the Bee Gees and How Deep Is Your Love?

And next it's someone called Larry Gomez with Santa Esmeralda doing Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood. Fair play to him, he's doing his best, whoever he is but, sadly, I fear the total uselessness of both him and his dancers means his efforts will prove to be in vain.

ABBA are still Number 1 with Name of the Game.

And we play out with the Jacksons and Going Places. A Jacksons song I recognise. Will wonders never cease?

It's going on a bit. Were they running short this week?

So that's it. The edition when we first saw the future biggest-selling single in British history. I have to say I didn't feel the show as a whole caught light this week. There were two many tracks we've heard before, acts we'd never hear from again, and Mull of Kintyre was cut short. Still, we did at least get to see the moment when Flick Colby's brain finally sprung a leak and undiluted madness poured out. Let's be honest if you don't want to see that from Top of the Pops, what do you want to see?

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Top of the Pops: 10th November, 1977.

Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music, 1973
Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music.
By AVRO (Beeld En Geluid Wiki - Gallerie: Toppop 1973)
[CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
This week, to avoid the reception difficulties that so plague me whenever I do this, I'm leaping into the 21st Century in a way that only 1977 can make you do, and watching online.

Needless to say, almost the moment the show starts, I lose my connection.

When I get it back, we've already missed the intro and I'm confronted by what I assume to be the Jacksons over the chart countdown.

If it is them, it's a song I've never heard before - unless it's the song they did the other week, that I'd also not heard before.

A song I mostly definitely have heard before is on next, as Tom Robinson's back.

And there's still something about it that doesn't quite work for me. I love the record but this performance feels too pub for my liking. It's 1977. I'm going through an awkward phase. I'm having strange feelings I've never had before. Mostly involving my internet connection going down. I need some proper punk rebellion.

Meanwhile, the camera man's hanging from the ceiling.

I suppose that might count as punk rebellion.

That guitarist's got very untidy strings. I shouldn't be annoyed by that but, somehow, I am.

But now Tom's gone, and Noel claims that both Donna Summer and Ruby Winters used to be in the Four Seasons. I suspect that may not be true

What is true is that Ruby's on next, doing I Will.

Didn't the White Guardian have a chair like that in Dr Who? If he didn't, he should have.

She seems a bit confused in her movements, like she doesn't know where to look.

But who can blame her? Adrift in a sea of whiteness, it's much she's not got snow-blindness.

She needs to watch out. I once knew someone who insisted that, when a polar bear attacks, it puts one paw over its black nose and thus becomes invisible against the polar ice, meaning there could be one stood right in front of you and you'd never know it.

Something for Ruby to think about there as she rambles around the set.

Roxy Music are on with their brand new hit; Virginia Plain.

I wonder if Bryan Ferry was ever young? No matter how old the footage, he always looks middle-aged.

I've just realised, after all these years, I don't have the slightest clue what Bryan Ferry's singing about.

Oops, connection's gone again.

It turns out I've not missed much, as we're back with Boney M still solving all of Northern Ireland's problems by wearing silly costumes and dancing around a bit.

Elvis Costello's back with Watching The Detectives, the song that first brought him to my eagle-eyed attention when he appeared on the Mavis Nicholson show.

Now it's Legs and Company dancing to How Deep is Your Love? by the Bee Gees. A lot deeper than your voices, that's for sure.

For some reason, "Company" seem to be recreating Dick Van Dyke's legendary turn in Mary Poppins.

I don't have the slightest clue why.

But now it's one from left field because we're given Kenny Everett and Captain Kremmen.

I have no memory of this at all.

Obviously I remember Captain Kremmen and I remember Kenny Everett. So elephantine is my memory that I can even remember both of them at the same time but the record itself means nothing to me.

I have to say, it isn't the most thrilling song I've ever heard.

Or the most interesting video.

Now Noel's with two baffling looking women.

And now it's Santana in a video that seems to have been filmed on a mobile phone, which is quite an achievement in 1977.

Then again there's that infamous footage that seems to show a woman using a mobile phone in the 1920s, or whenever it was, so all things are possible.

I still don't have a clue who the singer is. My Steve Senses tell me it's probably not Colin Blunstone, despite what I thought last week.

Have we actually seen Santana yet?

But yes! Hooray! At last we get to see him, fuzzily, just in time for him to be faded out. Poor old Santana. Not even allowed to star in his own videos.

Not needing a video - because she's here in person - it's Tina Charles who, according to Noel, has a Love Bug. What an unfortunate link that is.

Darts are back.

And Daddy Cool's still playing his piano machine. I wonder what exactly a piano machine actually does?

Den's still looking far too inhibited.

ABBA are still Number 1.

And we go out with Rod.

When I say, "Go out," I of course don't mean that in the Rod Stewart sense of the phrase. Despite rumours to the contrary, I'm not, after all, a statuesque Scandinavian blonde.

I have to say this week's show wasn't really up there with last week's blockbuster epic but it did at least give us Darts, Roxy Music and the Bee Gees - and what I'll always regard as Elvis Costello's first Top of the Pops appearance even though it wasn't.

In some ways, tonight's edition was ahead of its time, with mobile phone recorded videos, and in some ways it was behind its time, with a revived classic from 1972. But I suppose that sums up this time of year for you, when we look both forward at what's to come and backwards at what's already been. In that sense, perhaps it captured the quintessence of the pre-festive season. Then again, maybe I'm just desperately trying to think up some philosophical point with which to end this post.

Blimey! Look at that! I've managed it!

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Top of the Pops: 3rd November 1977.

The Carpenters, 1972
The Carpenters in 1972.
White House photo by Knudsen, Robert L.
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
A new face joins us for this week's show. It's Perky Peter Powell, surely the world's cheeriest living human. Will he be able to maintain that cheeriness through half an hour of 1977's finest music, or will he be left a bitter twisted husk of a man vowing never again to work in British television?

Only the next thirty minutes can tell us.

But it's ELO over the rundown, doing Turn To Stone. And that can only mean one thing; we're off to a flying start and Peter's sanity won't be crushed just yet.

Nor will it be even now because we're suddenly served up the Jam with The Modern World.

To be honest, it's not one of my favourite Jam tracks, being blessed with a tune I can never in any way, shape or form remember but it's still the Jam; and bad Jam is better than no Jam.

As if to prove it, Peter's back, with sanity resolutely uncrushed.

I'm not totally sure I can say the same for the Carpenters, who join us for their legendary cover of Klaatu's Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft.

You can tell the Star Wars/CE3K sci-fi boom's starting to hit big. And was that Meco I spotted in the chart rundown?

But the special effects budget for this video must have been epic. It's a wonder Steven Spielberg wasn't straight on the phone to them to get them to redo the SFX on Close Encounters Of The Third Kind for him.

Well, aliens might be coming for us but, more importantly, so is Christmas. And that can only mean a visit from the band who only seemed to exist when there was tinsel in the air. It's the Barron Knights with Live In Trouble.

They're doing the impossible and sending up the Floaters who themselves went so far into the realms of self-parody that they came right back out the other end.

I'm not sure I'm enjoying any of this but the the Barron Knights clearly are.

Someone I'm bound to enjoy more are Queen giving us We Are The Champions

I've always remembered the first time I saw this video on Top of the Pops - mostly because Freddie's half black and half white in it, like that bloke in Star Trek.

Unlike that bloke in Star Trek, Freddie doesn't go mad and start trying to strangle himself.

But who's that on bass? Is it the bloke who normally played bass for Queen? As you can see, I have an encyclopedic knowledge of the band and its membership.

Sadly, an encyclopedic knowledge of Dorothy Moore is something I gravely lack. And so, as Legs and Co come on, dancing to her track I Believe You, I must confess it's a song I'm not familiar with. Its style is, however, highly familiar.

As for Legs, they seem to be wearing their shower curtains - and not in a good way.

But, hooray! It's Status Quo and Rocking All Over the World.

It's easy to knock the Quo - and just calling them that has suddenly made me sound like Les Battersby - but no one does empty-headed knees-up music quite like them.

As for Peter, he's getting bouncier as it goes along. I actually think he's filled with helium and only held tethered to the ground by a piece of string.

And now! At last! It's David Bowie! After all these months, they've finally let him on the show!

Then again, maybe they shouldn't have. He's doing Heroes and, to be honest, this is rubbish compared to the record.

The wall of sound seems to have been replaced by a desultory attempt at light hedging that's been hit by a half-hearted stab at topiary

Is this the Top of the Pops band playing? I can't help feel they lack a certain bite.

After a complacent sounding start, David's starting to give it some but, without an equal level of some-givingness by his band, I fear it's all doomed to do a classic record poor justice.

These days, I actually can't see David Bowie without seeing Ricky Gervais in my head. That can't be a good thing, can it?

But what's on next is definitely a good thing.

It's Showaddywaddy, with Dancing Party.

It's a radical departure from their usual sound.

Well, OK, it's not. It's exactly the same song they always have hits with.

But they're getting stuck in - the extraneous members, especially, demonstrating how to turn extraneity into a crowd-pleasing asset.

Dare one suggest they're giving David Bowie a lesson in how to do the show?

A band who don't need any lessons in how to do the show - mostly because they never bother appearing on it - are ABBA, and they're Number 1 with Name of the Game.

But, meanwhile, is that Smokie I hear on the play-out?

I do believe it is.

To be honest, whatever mood I come to this show in, I often find myself having to bury rather than praise it.

But, this time, resistance is futile. Tonight's edition was packed with great songs - and at least one great performance from the band they don't call The Wadd. And, if the Jam and David Bowie weren't at their very best, at least they were there.

I can only credit Peter Powell who must have somehow worked his smiley, bouncy magic to lift the show to undreamed of heights. Well done, Peter. Long may you reign over us. Now please don't get arrested before your next appearance.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Top of the Pops: 27th October, 1977.

David Bowie, live on stage, wearing an eyepatch and playing a guitar in 1974
David Bowie was supposed to be on tonight's show but,
thanks to the Dave Lee Travis thing, wasn't.
Poor David. He must be wondering if he'll ever get to appear
on Top of the Pops.
Meanwhile, here is is in 1974, by AVRO
(Beeld En Geluid Wiki - Gallerie: Toppop 1974)
[CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Well, it's all been a right old kerfuffle, with tonight's planned edition being pulled, thanks to the Dave Lee Travis arrest.

But, undeterred by such shocks and surprises, I'm here and raring to go.

Can David Kid Jensen pull off a coup and be the first Top of the Pops presenter not to get arrested at an inconvenient moment?

Only the next half hour can tell.

 And we kick off with Santana doing She's Not There.

Who's doing the singing on this? I assume it's not Carlos.

Is it Colin Blunstone? It sounds like him.

And this week's obligatory Rock and Roll revivalists are...

...Slade!

But not looking or sounding like Slade.

Noddy of course still sounds like Noddy. Even in these days of the much-lauded New Rock, some things don't change.

They seem to be doing My Baby Left Me. That's All Right.

They're doing it competently enough but is this really what we want to hear from our favourite Wolverhampton foot-stompers?

Dave's gone bald. Is this an attempt to jump on that New Music bandwagon that's sweeping the land?

Definitely not trying to jump on that bandwagon is Mary Mason who's here to treat us to her version of Any Way That You Want Me.

She doesn't look very happy.

Was this from a musical?

Whatever it's from, it's not grabbing me.

It's turned into Angel Of The Morning but I'm still not getting into it.

Massive eyelashes cast humongous shadows across her face, like the legs of giant, eyeball-eating spiders.

And now it's all gone Cilla Black.

Learning nothing from recent scandals, Kid's with a zillion young girls.

And now Darts are here with Daddy Cool.

I did always feel Darts should have been the cast of Blake's 7. Somehow you could see them pulling it off.

A man's playing a guitar solo on his saxophone, which takes some doing.

And now Den Heggarty's getting stuck in.

He still looks like Beaker from the Muppets.

But forget Muppets - because Ram Jam are back, and being danced to by Legs and Co.

Incited by such wild music, they're going for it, the brazen hussies.

Lots of hair flinging.

Fists in your face from one of them

And now Kid's back, with yet more young girls.

Possibly, I think, singing about the more mature woman, it's Rod Stewart and You're In My Heart.

What a lovely song this is - one of those tracks, like Nobody Does It Better, that you could only imagine coming out in 1977.

And he's, so far, resisted the urge to ruin it by waving his bum in our face.

But who was the big bosomed lady with the Dutch accent? It can't have been Britt Ekland. That wouldn't make any sense at all.

And just what are Celtic United?

You have to hand it to him, only Rod Stewart could do a tender love song that massed ranks could wave their scarves along to.

Now it's Boney M and Belfast.

I do always feel this track was somewhat of a mistake.

Leaving aside the fact it's got to be one of the dullest hits they ever had - and its optimism for the city proved hopelessly premature - does anyone really want to see Boney M tackling social politics of the day?

And, speaking of people who should be in Blake's 7, what on Earth are they wearing? Let's be honest, nothing says, "The Troubles," more than dressing up like something from Star Maidens From Outer Space.

The truth is, I'm getting bored listening to it, and I can't usually say that about Boney M.

No reason to be bored next - because it's Tom Robinson, making his debut with 2-4-6-8 Motorway.

Is it my imagination? The show's volume seems to have dropped noticeably for Tom.

I must admit, despite my liking for the record, this seems a workmanlike performance and he's coming across like an English teacher trying to convince his class he's a punk star.

People who didn't need to convince anyone of anything are on next, as ABBA give us The Name of The Game.

I love this song. I love this video. When it comes to ABBA, they're both the virtual definition of quintessential.

Is that Ludo they're playing? You don't get enough Ludo in modern pop.

And now it's Smokey Robinson with what Kid tells us is the theme from The Big Time.

He doesn't mean that Esther Rantzen show, does he? The one that discovered Sheena Easton?

It's not very interesting, whatever it is.

The audience looking riveted by Smokey's performance.

He's brought his band with him but he seems to have forgotten to bring a song with him.

Kid's back with more girls.

Kid's flirting with one of them.

And Baccara are somehow at Number 1.

It's that same terrible performance we seem to have had inflicted on us every week for months now.

Is it me or is the drummer not quite in time?

Then again I once read a thing in a newspaper, where a Classical musicologist said the secret of the Beatles' greatness was Ringo never quite drumming in time, so perhaps Baccara were shrewder than we might have thought.

Oh my God, it's Peter Powell, Radio 1's newest recruit!

Oh my God, it's the Sex Pistols and Holidays In The Sun!

Like the sneakiest of sneaky devils, the show leaves its two big dramatic reveals till right at the end!

What a mixed bag that all was, with probably the least memorable record Slade ever unleashed on the 1970s public, Tom Robinson's debut and the shock arrival of Peter Powell and the Sex Pistols. Overall, despite Mary Mason, Smokey Robinson and Baccara, I generally approved of it.

And no one got arrested. Which, let's face it, these days, is the most important thing on a music show.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Top of the Pops: 6th October, 1977.

Yes, live in concert, 1977
Yes in concert, in 1977 by Rick Dikeman (Own work)
[GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Those who follow me on Twitter know that, over the last few days, I've become increasingly obsessed with the back-catalogue of David Essex.

So, it's clear my musical taste's in fine fettle for the task ahead.

Also no doubt in fine fettle is Noel Edmonds who kicks it all off by making a baffling comment about things being black.

At first I assume its because the first few artists pictured on the chart rundown are all black. Why Noel should seek to draw attention to this, I don't know.

But then it then becomes apparent that Noel hasn't joined the Ku Klux Klan since we last saw him. He was merely referring to the track that's playing over the rundown.

Sadly, so bad is my memory as I enter old age that I can't remember who it's by even though they were only on last week.

But even my crumbling memory can't forget Smokie - mostly because they seem to be on every edition.

And so it is that they return, with Needles and Pins which Noel declares to be a classic.

Next it's the Emotions with Best of My Love.

Is that the Soul Train set I detect?

It is. Which means there's going to be plenty of dancing, not least from the Emotions who have a peculiarly jerky dance style that's somewhat shown up by the much cooler groovings of the audience.

As always, each member of the audience only has one actual dance move, which he/she repeats endlessly as though powered by clockwork.

Now it's Danny Mirror.

At first I make the fool's mistake of thinking I've never heard of him...

...but then he opens his mouth and I realise at once that I have heard of him.

For it is he who inflicted the song I Remember Elvis Presley on us.

As Elvis Presley was Number 1 only last week, it's not that great a feat of recall on Danny's part - but then I can't remember the names of acts who were on last week, so maybe I should cut him some slack.

But it does show how the mind plays tricks on one. I always remembered this as having been done by Les Gray of Mud.

"He's just a golden mammary," sings Danny. And, with his attempts to replicate The King's voice and random chunks of his hits, Danny's clearly determined to milk that mammary for all it's worth.

I hated this song at the time and I hate it now.

And now it's Legs and Co dancing to something.

It sounds suspiciously like the hirsute man the world in 1977 knows only as Giorgio.

And it is, with From Here to Eternity. It might be a million years old now but it's still a stunningly cool record.

Legs are waving lots of tin foil around. No doubt in the hopes of thwarting the radar of any World War Two bombers that might still be around.

Thwarting none but the forces of punk are Yes who are on with Wonderous Stories.

This song is the first I ever heard of Yes and it's one of those tracks I most strongly associate with 1977.

As we quickly see, Yes meet the challenge of punk head-on by completely ignoring it.

Someone else paying no lip service at all to punk is Deniece Williams, back with a song which seems to be called Baby Baby My Love's All For You, with which I've been previously unfamiliar. That's a shame as it seems quite pleasant but possibly no more than workwomanlike.

The Stranglers are back with No More Heroes.

And now Baccara are Bacc. They're as breathy as ever and they're still what can only be labelled, "Vocally challenged."

And now Steve Gibbons is back with a song in the same vein as his last hit.

As always, he's got his tightest leather trousers on but, frankly, this is a bit rubbish. Despite Steve's best efforts, it has no oomph to it at all.

Not that David Soul cares about oomph. Although displaying a total lack of that quality, he's at Number 1 with you-know-what song. He's still in that video and he's still not cheered up.

But now Noel's with a woman and doing a link that's got me totally baffled. It seems her name's Kim and she has a record out but he doesn't say what it is or let her speak. It seems to be some sort of in-joke but I'm oblivious to its in-ness.

We play out with Leo Sayer who's still got thunder in his heart.

In retrospect, I can't help feeling this week's show struggled to get going. I appreciated the Stranglers of course, as I always do, but it was a performance we've already seen before and I can't think of anything else that grabbed me. Even Smokie failed to work the magic they so often have.

In the end, the totally Zeitgeist deficient Yes were probably my highlight, which says it all about the strange failure of the edition to fully grip the handles of my nostalgia.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Top of the Pops: 29th September, 1977.

Golden Earring, 1974
Golden Earring in 1974 By AVRO
(Beeld En Geluid Wiki - Gallerie: Toppop 1974)
[CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
For  the most part, today's proven to be a battle with the madness of modern technology for me.

But will that deter me from tangling with yet more technology in order to sample the finest music the 1970s can offer?

Of course it won't.

And I'm not the only one, because Ed Stewart too is braving the latest hi-tech, in the form of a tiny spaceship that all my sci-fi geek instincts tell me has Mat Irvine's fingerprints all over it.

And it's not the only Space Age thing Ed brings with him, because, straight away, he launches us into Jean Michel Jarre, for the countdown.

And what do you know? Jean Michel works much better as countdown music than most records have lately.

But how futuristic the future sounded in the late 1970s.

I don't have a clue who the next act are but there's plenty of them and they've got the funk. Whoever they are, they're putting Honky in their place - and that's not a phrase I say every day.

Ed's back and he tells us it was Rose Royce, which gives some hint of the level of musical knowledge I have.

And this is David Soul.

Lots of meaningful looks from David.

I am really disappointed that, when the camera pulls back, it turns out the thing he's riding around on so moodily isn't a Raleigh Chopper. Just how great would that have been?

If he'd had any style, he'd have followed that up by whipping out a pair of Clackers.

But, now, not a Clacker in sight, he's out on the street, doing something that vaguely resembles the purchasement of druggage.

But David's cut off barely before he's begun, to make way for Legs and Co dancing to Bob Marley's I Don't Wanna Wait in Vain For Your love.

Needless to say, they've dressed appropriately for reggae by wrapping themselves in their local boarding house's net curtains.

Old Flick did like plenty of skirt waggling, didn't she?

You have to hand it to her, there's not many choreographers could come up with something quite this inane at such short notice.

But now Ed's back, and staying well away from females. After weeks of you-know-what, it is quite striking to be confronted by a presenter who shows no interest at all in the audience members around him. At the time, it must have seemed very stand-offish. No wonder he hardly ever got the gig.

And now it's the man who gave us the cover of Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.

That's right; it's Peter Blake.

He's changed a lot since then, hasn't he? In fact, he's practically unrecognisable.

Hold on a minute. Is that Kirk St Moritz?

Whether he is or not, it does seem like there was a union rule at the time that every edition had to include a Rock and Roll revivalist with what looked like roadkill on his head.

In fairness, it may be hokey old rubbish but he's giving it a go.

And now it's Ram Jam with Black Betty.

Quite frankly, I've never really known what to make of either Ram Jam or Black Betty. I don't like to judge people on appearances but they do look like very dodgy people and it does seem a somewhat mean-spirited song. On top of that, it has one of the most ludicrously out-of-place guitar solos in history...

...which we don't get to hear, as Top of the Pops fades it just as we're about to receive its full glory.

David Essex is back and he's still Cool Out Tonight, a phrase that has as much chance of catching on as Kid Jensen's, "Good Love."

"Bump bad a boo boo," declares David, clearly out to capture the eternal angst of the human spirit.

Orville's back! with I Plead Guilty.

I wonder if he looked that permanently surprised in real life.

I wonder why bright yellow suits never caught on.

I wonder why this one sounds exactly the same as their last one.

Their bolt well and truly shot, they make way for a woman about whom you could never make that accusation. It's Donna Summer with I Remember Yesterday. Let's be honest, it's not that great an achievement. Most people do. After all, it was only a few hours ago.

It's not the greatest video I've ever seen either. In fact, a far crueler man than I might label it, "terrible," as Donna prannies around dressed like a bad magician who's lost a fight with a bottle of bleach.

And her hat doesn't fit.

And it's a totally pointless song.

Now it's Golden Earring and Radar Love, one of those records I've heard mentioned plenty of times without ever having encountered.

If it's to win me over, the singer has to make an effort to bear less resemblance to Bono than he currently does.

This is getting worryingly close to heavy metal for my enjoyment.

Nope. I've decided I don't like it.

Someone who doesn't care what I like is Elvis. After five weeks, he's still dead and still at Number 1. Sadly, the latter of those two facts is likely to change sooner than the former.

Legs and Co are still dancing to him. They must be completely knackered by now.

Here's a turn-up. We've just had the Number 1 but, instead of the play-out that we'd normally get, Ed's joined by a man in the Steve Wright envelope. Ed introduces him as, "Giorgio," a no-doubt obscure personage from Italy.

Apparently, he's the man behind a song called, From Here to Eternity.

And then, it's dawned on me.

It's Giorgio Moroder!

That's right, Top of the Pops has sandwiched Giorgio Moroder in as some sort of afterthought and not even bothered telling us his surname.

To be honest, up until now it'd never occurred to me that Giorgio Moroder actually existed. I'd sort of had the notion he only existed in anecdotes, like Gloria Swanson. It's a bit of a shock to see there's actually a man behind the legend. In this sense I should probably thank Top of the Pops but, in another, I should probably curse them for destroying my fantasies.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Top of the Pops: 22nd September, 1977.

Bob Geldof 1981
The Boomtown Rats' Bob Geldof
by Helge Øverås (Own work)
[CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Thanks to circumstances in the dim and distant future, the show may have hit rocky waters in recent weeks - but never fear, because Dave Lee Travis is here to keep things wholesome.

Straight away we're hit with the inevitable Magic Fly. In fact, I do believe the song was actually re-titled The Inevitable Magic Fly halfway through its chart run, to take its Top of the Pops ubiquity into account.

All sensible human beings love the record, of course but I am starting to wonder if someone in the band was related to the Director General. This has to be the eleventeenth week running they've been on.

From a band we know so well, to one I've never heard of. And if I had I'm sure I'd remember, as they go by the unwieldy but distinctive title of Hank the Knife and the Jets.

I don't like to be cruel but, so far, it's reminding me of Russ Abbott's attempts at rock and roll on his comedy show.

It also sounds like they're trying to jump on the Mud bandwagon three years after it left town.

There's some interesting Duane Eddyness on guitar.

There's some more Duane Eddyness on guitar.

In fact, I'd be so bold as to say there's too much Duane Eddyness for the good of a single record.

It's all over and, despite Hank and his guitarist's best efforts, I have to give it a thumbs-down I'm afraid.

DLT's back, accompanied by two young females. It's strange how everything that happens on the show seems to take on an oddly sinister air now.

Someone no one could ever label sinister are on next because it's La Belle Epoque and Black Is Black.

This is more like it. You can't beat a good bit of Boney M style Euro disco.

Well, as it turns out, you can. It's all pleasant but somehow lacks the M's magic. It also, for some reason, makes me think of Eruption and how much better than this their big hit was.

Packing more spirit than you can shake a stick at are the Stranglers, back with what has to be their greatest achievement - and one of the late 1970s' greatest records - No More Heroes.

It's a much more focused performance than their Go Buddy one. None of that messing around for them this time, just unalloyed stroppiness.

Showing no stroppiness at all, Legs and Co arrive to accompany The Best Of My Love by someone. DLT did tell us who it was but I missed it.

Is it me or are those tops dangerously see-through?

And yet, strangely, you can't see through them.

And I say that as someone who's sat three inches away from the screen.

It's almost over, and DLT's joined them on stage.

He's chasing one of them.

Oh dear. He's not doing the show's reputation any favours right now.

Leo Sayer's back with Thunder In My Heart. According to Dave, I'm going to love it.

I suspect I might not.

Still, I like to be nothing if not open-minded, and so I shan't pass judgement until it's over.

Leo's roaming around a seaside resort that I don't recognise. I'm going to assume it's either Brighton or Margate but have no reason whatsoever to think it's either.

Wherever he is, Leo really does sound like he's being strangled.

A helter skelter! Helter skelters are looming large in my life right now, for reasons I can't go into.

But Leo's gone and I can confirm that I did indeed not enjoy it..

DLT probably doesn't care about that.

Why?

Because he's back  with another young woman.

And now there's two more young women, as Baccara appear, with Yes Sir, I can Boogie.

They're borrowing Donna Summer's groaning.

Frankly, this is terrible. It'd be nice to say it has a kitsch charm but it doesn't. It's just dull, thinly sung and pointless.

Dave's back with two more young women.

The Boomtown Rats are back - without young women - and still Looking After Number 1.

Bob does look surprisingly neat and tidy for this performance.

I spot pogo-ing in the audience. This gives me great pleasure.

Dave's back.

With another young woman.

And another young woman appears. It's Meri Wilson doing her novelty hit Telephone Man.

I always wanted a phone like that. I wonder if you can still get them?

I hated this song at the time and I hate it now. It really is is dreary.

In fact, I'm bored already.

But, suddenly, we get a shock.

Because Dave Lee Travis isn't with a young woman.

He introduces us to Stardust, yet another act I've never heard of.

The singer seems to be a cross between Stan Boardman and a jar of marmalade.

They might be Swedish and therefore could be cruelly labelled the band that ABBA could have been if no one had liked them but they actually sound more like that lot who were on last week - the ones who'd been in the Strawbs.

Just to up the ante dramatically, Dave Lee Travis is back with four young women.

Elvis Presley doesn't care about that. He's still dead and still at Number 1 - two things that tend to make one oblivious to scandal.

And we play out with a track by Stevie Wonder that I'm totally incapable of identifying. Whatever it is, it sounds quite appealing. And I say that as someone who's not a natural fan of Stevie.

To be honest, tonight's show wasn't what could be called a cracker.

In fact, it was pretty sub-par, with the highlight being the Stranglers and the low-light being Stardust. Too many acts had a tired, dated or over-familiar feel to them. And, yet, too many felt deservedly unfamiliar. The warming ray of light cast upon us a couple of weeks ago feels already like a false dawn and we can only hope things liven up next week.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Top of the Pops: 1st September, 1977.

Yvonne Elliman 1975
Yvonne Elliman in 1975; by Matt Gibbons
(http://www.flickr.com/photos/ultomatt/120599196/)
 [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Last week brought something of a conceptual break-through into our musical lives. Will this week see the trend continue or will it be back to the mould we all hoped had been broken for good?

Like a herald of the new age, Tony Blackburn welcomes us through the airwaves.

And we leap straight into it with Meri Wilson and her legendary track Telephone Man playing over the chart countdown.

I may be a dirty old man but I think I spotted a momentary moment of subtle innuendo in the lyrics there.

Sadly, the innuendo doesn't last long, as we very quickly launch into... ...erm, someone.

Whoever they are, they sound lively.

This is all very funky. I approve of this.

It has a hint of John Miles, the Bee Gees and ELO about it.

Despite the seeming banality of its lyrics, this is threatening to be my favourite track ever by an opening act I've never heard of.

Apparently it was by Hudson Ford. I don't even know if Hudson Ford's the singer or the band.

According to Tony, it's Noel Edmonds' record of the week. No wonder I've never heard of it.

But now it's someone whose career even Noel Edmonds wouldn't be able to sink because it's Yvonne Elliman with a song that's not by the Bee Gees.

Admittedly, when I say it's not by the Bee Gees, I don't have a clue if it is or not but I'm assuming it isn't as it lacks their usual drama.

Also lacking drama is the video, which isn't the most imaginative I've ever seen, even by the standards of its day. It's basically Yvonne motionless as the camera points at her upper half.

It would seem the song's called I Can't Get You Out Of My Mind and I'm trying to work out if you can sing Tommy Steele's Little White Bull over it.

I decide I'm not sure if you can.

But a man who could rarely be confused with Tommy Steele is Elvis Costello who's singing (The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes on what I believe to be his first Top of the Pops appearance.

This makes me happy, as I was a very big fan of Elvis at the time and had been ever since I'd first seen him on TV one afternoon being interviewed by Mavis Nicholson.

It's Legs and Co dancing to Silver Lady - my favourite David Soul track.

It took me many years to realise it but this is about the Virgin Mary, isn't it?

Admittedly he does call her, "Baby," at one point but David's a big star and big stars do things differently from the rest of us. He probably calls Jesus, "Dude," as well.

This is exactly the sort of track Legs and Co should be dancing to. It's hard for even them to mess it up.

We've got to the chorus. I'm singing along with it. The neighbourhood cats are no doubt suitably impressed. They accept me as one of their own.

The acceptance of cats means more to me than life itself.

Just as I say that, I lose reception again. Those dagnabbit cats. It's them. It must be. They're trying to cut me off in my prime. But, damn their vertically pupiled eyes, they won't succeed.

I defeat the local cats in time for the Steve Gibbons Band to return. Is this the third time they've been on?

Now it's the Jacksons and a track with which I'm unfamiliar. This is strange, as I would've thought all Jacksons singles from this era would be famous enough to grant instant recognition. It seems to be called Dreamer and bears some lyrical resemblances to the Supertramp song of the same name.

But didn't there used to be more of the Jacksons?

To be honest, this is rubbish. It's in the same league as the Floaters - and Michael's moving around too much for such a mellow song. He's starting to get on my nerves.

Mink DeVille are back. After all these years, I still don't know what the Spanish bit of this song means.

According to Tony; on Tuesday, David Essex starts the first of his new series. I shall be watching.

Actually, I really shall. In our house, we used to watch the David Essex show and all those other programmes hosted by pop stars like Leo Sayer, Lulu and Cilla Black. I wonder if we'll ever see those days return, with the likes of Adele and Jessie J hosting middle-of-the-road TV for an audience of a certain age?

The track he's doing right now seems to be called Cool Out Tonight.

To be honest I'm not a David Essex fan. Even I can spot his twinkly eyed-charm but his records always seem so wooden to me. Rock On was of course the exception. A genuine classic.

This presumably isn't a classic, as I've never heard it played on the radio ever.

Tempo change. It's all gone a bit Beatles.

And now it's all gone a bit David Essex again.

That guitar solo's very Pilot.

But what does this song remind me of? It's driving me up the wall.

It's time to pass me my Union Jack parachute because we now get Carly Simon and Legs and Co.

To the surprise of no one, Elvis Presley's Number 1 with Way Down.

Legs and Co are getting a good work-out tonight, because they're back, doing a continuation of their earlier David Soul routine. Their sheer energy gives me great pleasure although too many of their moves seem to have been taught them by a chicken.

Some less than flattering photos of Elvis appear on the giant screen, one or two of which give the impression he was inflated with a bicycle pump before the photographer showed up.

But enough of Elvis because we play out with Magic Fly.

Well, apart from Elvis Costello making his debut, it was definitely a return to type for Top of the Pops but I did feel that, despite the anonymous nature of many of its songs, it did get away with it.

And how ironic that Elvis Costello should make his first appearance just as the other Elvis was checking out.

A better man than me would be able to find symbolism in that.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Top of the Pops: 25th August, 1977.

Bob Geldof and the Boomtown Rats at Knotts Berry Farm, 1981
The Boomtown Rats in 1981. Author unknown;
Photo courtesy Orange County Archives
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
A little bird tells me that tonight's show sees the Top of the Pops debuts of two very memorable acts.

Will we get to see them in full? Or will one of them be relegated to a thirty second slot, playing over the chart rundown, while the other gets stuck on the play-out ?

More to the point, will I actually be able to get through an edition without losing my reception?

Only Noel Edmonds can tell us.

And tell us he does - because the rundown music is by no debutante. It's by Donna Summer, with Down Deep Inside. Was this the theme tune to Peter Benchley's The Deep, or am I going completely mad?

Whatever it's from, she's sounding extremely tired as she sings it; loads of moaning, groaning and sighing. I think she needs a good lie down.

Eddie and the Hot Rods certainly don't. Why? Because The Bloke Who Isn't Eddie's full of bounce.

You can tell he's the authentic voice of punk. He keeps getting too close to the camera.

But who can believe it? The audience are actually showing an interest and are actually moving.

Could it be? Could the segment of the nation represented by Top of the Pops finally have embraced the new music that's forced Kid Jensen into endless euphemisms these past few weeks?

A man who forces no euphemisms is the highest new entry. It's Elvis Presley. I bet he was excited when he found out about that.

This doesn't seem to be a very highly regarded song but, as a non-Presley fan, I've always liked it.

But Legs and Co are looking far too cheery to be dancing to a song that's only on the charts because its singer's dead.

And why do they insist on pointing upwards when he sings, "Way on down"?

There's no time to ponder that because it's the first of those memorable acts I mentioned.

It's the Boomtown Rats.

They're doing Looking After Number One.

They don't seem to be taken very seriously these days but, to some of us, they were a breath of fresh air at the time.

First Eddie and the Hot Rods. Now the Boomtown Rats. The Top of the Pops' times really are a-changing.

Like The Bloke Who's Not Called Eddie, Bob keeps getting too close to the camera.

And, as with The Bloke Who's Not Called Eddie, the audience are joining in with Bob.

I'm not. But that's only because I've just lost reception.

What is it? Every week this happens. Are Elkie Brooks fans trying to block transmission to this house in a desperate attempt to stop me posting my always wrong opinions on her?

Whatever the truth of the matter, they won't succeed. I'm determined to inflict my irrelevant drivel on this land, no matter what it takes.

I'm back and the Rats have gone, replaced by a woman whose identity I'm not sure of. Is it Deniece Williams?

Whoever she is, she's wearing my curtains and singing what appears to be That's What Friends Are For.

It is Deniece Williams. My knowledge of pop never ceases to amaze me.

Thin Lizzy never cease to amaze me either. How many times can they be on with the same song?

Like Not Eddie and Bob, Phil's also too close to the camera.

Has he got a black eye or is it just makeup?

Someone must have put something in the audience's coffee tonight because they're even bobbing around to this one, creating an effect strangely redolent of Wings' video to With a Little Luck, only with teenagers instead of children.

Is that John Helliwell from Supertramp on sax?

Look at me. I can even identify sax players. I'm like the new Paul Gambaccini.

Now it's Space and Magic Fly.

I used to have a space helmet like that. I used to pretend it was a portable TV.

Actually, my space helmet was better. It said, "NASA,"on it and had a fake microphone that didn't do anything.

I got mine in 1969, eight years before Space got theirs. Take that, pop stars.

But now it's the second of the memorable acts I mentioned.

It's the Adverts and Gary Gilmore's Eyes.

Gary Gilmore's Eyes and Looking After Number One are the first punk songs the show's featured that I remember from when they came out. I suppose this means this is the week punk's finally arrived for me.

I never noticed before that this sounds like the Monster Mash.

And the audience are bobbing again.

Unlike Gaye Advert who looks suitably disinterested.

The Adverts depart and I miss Noel's intro to the next act, meaning that, so far, I don't have a clue who it is.

It's a strange woman who's borrowed her hair from Rula Lenska and her wardrobe from Suzanne Danielle

Whoever she is, she can't sing.

She looks like someone I used to know at school. Actually, she looks exactly like someone I knew at school.

It's all over and, apparently, she and her equally tone deaf friends were called Page Three.

And just to drag us all down completely from the show's previous highs, the Floaters are somehow at Number 1.

I wonder why luminous blues suits went out of fashion?

As we contemplate that mystery, we play out with Jean Michel Jarre and what I think is Oxygene, meaning we've had two foreign instrumentals in one show - the show in which Noel Edmonds declared it's rare to get instrumentals on the chart.

So it's all over and you can't get away from it, it was a show in which the bracing wind of modernity was unmissable. Instead of the usual rubbish, we got not one but three songs that could be called punk. We got two euro synth instrumentals. We got Thin Lizzy who were hardly new music but certainly weren't traditional Top of the Pops fare and we got Donna Summer.

Page Three and the Floaters aside, it has to represent a jolting leap into what was then the present, a reminder that the 1970s were nearing their end and a whole new musical age was inescapably looming into view.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Top of the Pops: 18th August, 1977.

I can't find a decent Free-Use pic of any of tonight's acts,
so here's a lovely photo of Fingal's Cave in Staffa, Scotland.
By Velela (Public Domain).
Never  one to waste time, Dave Lee Travis flings us straight into it with the chart countdown and the Stranglers doing Something Better Change.

What with Jonathan Richman last week and the Stranglers this, the BBC have clearly decided the countdown is the best place to put the "challenging" songs.

But, for the serious music lover, nothing could be more challenging than the Dooleys - and they're up next, with something or other.

I must admit my memories of the Dooleys are vague. While I have strongish recall of the music, in terms of what they looked like I think I may have spent the last thirty-odd years mixing them up with Liquid Gold.

Upon re-acquaintance with them, they're not the most glamorous outfit I've ever seen.

Nor are they wearing the most glamorous outfits I've ever seen.

But the Dooleys depart and - hooray - it's the act some of us have been waiting all year for.

It's the Floaters - and Float On.

Has there ever been a band with a more unfortunate name? Has there ever been a band whose only hit was more lampoonable?

And, for that matter, how exactly does one, "Float on?"

Charles likes a woman who's quiet.

Paul's fussy. He likes all the women of the world.

While Larry - funny how he's the one who's lingered longest in the memory - likes a woman who loves everyone and everybody.

What a desperate bunch of men they turned out to be.

I wonder if Elkie Brooks would've been impressed by Larry? She's on now, doing Since You Went Away.

All respect to Elkie, who we established several months ago is a seething volcano of female sexuality but I'm already starting to get bored with her.

Now it's Mink DeVille. For some reason I always get them mixed up with the aforementioned Jonathan Richman.

I've never seen them before and they don't look like I expected. I always thought they'd look like the Cars.

Actually, this does sound more like My Best Friend's Girl than I ever noticed before. In fact, I think you can sing My Best Friend's Girl right over the top of it.

Meanwhile, the singer seems to be in a different group from the rest of the band.

Despite all their best efforts, I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion this is rubbish.

What's on next certainly isn't.

Why?

Because it's Carly Simon and my favouritest ever James Bond theme. Who can listen to this song without at once being transported back to a magical time of cars that turn into submarines, and giants with metal teeth? And how many songs can you say that about?

Not so hooray! Carly's being danced to by Legs and Co.

Those are interesting outfits they're wearing. They look like Dale Arden in full-on Mongo gear.

In fact, if Hela - the goddess of death from Thor - joined Legs and Co, that's exactly the look she'd go for.

As Hela's a bit of a role model of mine, that realisation quickly convinces me this is a good look.

I would say I really don't have a clue what the dance has to do with the song but I say that every week, so I won't. But I can say their aimless physical meanderings have managed the seemingly impossible and drained away all my enthusiasm for the song.

We're back to Dave Lee Travis and he's with a woman whose top proclaims the word, "Midge." Is she an Ultravox fan who's got to the studio too early or a Slik fan who's got there too late?

Danny Williams is back, with the Martini music.

He still looks like someone who'd sell you something dodgy on a street corner - although I'm sure he's not really.

The Rah Band are back for what seems like the millionth time, and still failing to convince me that balaclavas are a good look for a pop star.

I've lost reception again. Why does this happen every week at this time? It's like someone's trying to jam my signal in an effort to ruin my enjoyment.

I'm back in time for a woman singing the Bee Gees' Nights on Broadway. My finely tuned knowledge of popular music tells me she might be Candi Staton.

But I've lost my reception again...

...and suddenly I'm confronted by the Jam and All Around the World, leading me to conclude that Candi can't have been on for long.

I've come to the decision that this isn't one of the Jam's best, but they are at least doing their best to liven up what's been a somewhat moribund edition.

Someone you could never call moribund are the Brotherhood of Man. They even manage to make Mexican suicides sound like fun. Not only that but they're suddenly at Number 1, with Angelo.

But, hold on a moment. Hasn't this been out for months and months and months? They must've been on Top of the Pops at least a million times doing it already. Just how long did it take to reach the top spot?

No doubt lacking all interest in such conundra, Space play us out with Magic Fly. Or is it Magic Fly playing us out with Space? I was never sure which it was but, whatever it's called and whoever it's by, like Nobody Does it Better, this is one of the tracks I most strongly associate with 1977.

It was an oddly disjointed show, veering awkwardly between the likes of the Jam and the Stranglers and the likes of the Floaters and the Dooleys. If any show demonstrates that 1977 saw a nation musically divided then it has to have been this one.

It'd be nice to say the contrast was invigorating but it proved to be more frustrating, as the serious groups drained all fun from proceedings, as the sillier groups drained all gravitas from them. Could this be the fate of British music from now on? To be hopelessly fractured beyond consolidation?

Only time - and possibly 1978 - will be able to tell us.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Top of the Pops: 11th August, 1977.

Phil Lynott, Thin Lizzy playing live on stage, 1980
Thin Lizzy's Phil Lynott; by Helge Øverås (Own work)
[CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
As the nights start to draw in and we begin to say goodbye to the summer, we plunge straight into the sunset with Kid Jensen who introduces us to Jonathan Richman and his Modern Lovers.

Sadly, Jonathan's not able to be with us tonight and so we just get to hear him played over the countdown.

I don't care how time-saving such a move may be, it's still not right to hear anything that's not a theme tune performing such a function.

Not only that but its use as the intro music means we don't even get to hear the whole of the song, even though Kid tells us it's this week's highest climber.

I have no doubt we will however get to hear the whole of Showaddywaddy.

This is a good thing, as they might not be musical heavyweights but they do know how to do Top of the Pops. In fact, I'd go so far as to say they're the quintessential Top of the Pops group.

Are Dave's flies undone?

That's definitely not Quintessential Top of the Pops.

Neither are the Steve Gibbons Band. Assuming, as always, that the singer's the eponymous Steve, he looks to have been round the block a few times too many for that.

Kid clearly doesn't care. He's happily dancing along in the background.

I wonder if Status Quo ever did a cover of this? You could imagine they would have.

Barry Biggs is back, what seems like months since his last appearance, but still doing the same song as before.

But now hooray! It's Eddie and the Hot Rods with Do Anything You Wanna Do - even though Kid seems to think they're just called The Rods.

This has to be one of the greatest pop songs of the late 1970s; the closest Britain's ever produced to its own version of Born to Run. Quite frankly, anyone who doesn't like this has to have something wrong with them.

They're getting close to the spirit of punk, even if they have see-through drums.

Not getting anywhere near to punk are Legs and Co who're on next, dancing to Rita Coolidge.

They seem to be doing some sort of corrupted Gap Band type dance. I hope everyone at home's joining in with it. I know I am even though I'm on my own.

I really don't know what this dance has to do with the song, and I'm missing Rita's cactus.

A band who're so good they can get by even without the aid of a cactus are Thin Lizzy who're still dancing in the moonlight.

As always, halfway through the show, I've lost my reception.

When it comes back, as always I'm confronted by someone I don't recognise.

Whoever he is, he seems to be in the Labi Siffre envelope, though I say that as someone who doesn't have a clue what the Labi Siffre envelope is.

No problems of recognition with the next act. It's Fleetwood Mac doing Dreams.

This isn't good news, as the only Fleetwood Mac song I like is Tusk.

Don't get me wrong. It's not that I actively dislike any of their other tracks. It's just that, pleasant though they are, they just make me start to nod off after a minute or so.

On the plus side, Stevie Nicks is looking nice.

John McVie's looking like that impressionist, the one with the long nose who does all the sports people but never looks like any of them.

Lindsey Buckingham's looking like Jeff Lynne.

Between them they could start their own lookalikes agency. Admittedly Stevie Nicks would have to work as a Stevie Nicks lookalike but I like to feel she could pull it off.  She really does look remarkably like herself.

But I do wish they'd liven themselves up a bit. Does this song actually go anywhere? It just seems to meander endlessly, like someone doing the feather dusting.

Now it's another act I've never heard of - JALN.

The intro sounds like Diamonds On The Soles Of  Her Shoes. Could it be that Paul Simon wasn't being as original as we thought when he did Graceland?

My god, this is bad.

It sounds like something from a children's show.

Meanwhile, Donna Summer's photo's still Number 1.

Kid, give up on the whole, "Good Love," thing. I can say this as someone living thirty five years in the future, it's just never going to work.

More importantly, there's no play-out this week - and that means no Boney M. For a seasoned fan of The M, like me, that's almost enough grounds to throw my TV out the window.

So it's all over, and there's no doubt about it, Eddie and the Hot Rods bestrode the show like colossi. So much so that I'm straight off to Youtube to listen to them all over again.

The Jam didn't manage to make me do that, the Stranglers didn't manage to make me do that, Showaddywaddy didn't manage to make me do that but Eddie - and Eddie alone - has. If that doesn't prove the Hot Rods deserve a place in music history, I don't know what would.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Top of the Pops: 28th July, 1977.

Rita Coolidge live and holding a microphone, 2002
Rita Coolidge, 2002
By Seattle Municipal Archives from Seattle,
WA; crop by Jmabel
(Rita Coolidge, 2002Uploaded by Jmabel)
[CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
It's that magical time of week again. And we leap straight into it with Noel Edmonds giving us the incredible Steve Gibbons Band.

No. I don't know who the incredible Steve Gibbons Band are either.

I do though recognise this song, even if it's one I don't know the title of.

Is the singer the eponymous Steve Gibbons? If so, Steve's wearing leather trousers. It takes a certain kind of man to get away with leather trousers. And, fair play to him, I think he might just be managing it.

The guitarist has leather trousers too. How many cows had to die to make this performance possible?

It quickly becomes clear that Steve - if Steve he is - is like a version of Shakin' Stevens from that Star Trek universe where everyone's the opposite of how they are in our universe. This means he's from a universe where Shakin' Stevens is cool.

Noel's back and it turns out the song was either called Too Late or Too Lame. I suspect it was the former.

Now we get the countdown accompanied by Feel the Need in Me.

Somehow, without Whole Lotta Love, the countdown's totally robbed of its power to excite.

Someone who'll never fail to excite are Boney M and, at last, after endless appearances on the play-out, they're finally allowed on the show itself.

My finely-honed senses tell me they're not actually in the Top of the Pops studio but are instead on one of those weird European shows you see clips of on Youtube, ones that usually feature David Bowie or Toyah performing to a totally baffled looking bunch of Bavarians.

This time, the audience don't look baffled but do look anomalously mature beyond their years and have their backs to the act. What kind of director thought having the audience facing away from the entertainment would be a good idea?

But no one with any sense cares about that. All that matters to the connoisseur is Bobby.

And, needless to say, Bobby's getting well and truly stuck into it. You can stuff your ABBA. This was the greatest band of the 1970s.

Not far behind them are Showaddywaddy, the next act on, with You Got What it Takes.

You have to say it, the forces of punk are being well and truly repulsed tonight.

Romeo seems to be nowhere in sight. Have they sacked him?

Oh. No. There he is, off to one side, hiding behind that blue drum kit.

Legs and Co are on next, dancing to Jonathan Richman and Roadrunner.

I'm not sure quite what kind of car that's supposed to be but I'm not sure the wheels are in the right place.

I used to really like this song.

Listening to it now, I'm not sure why.

Neither am I sure that what Legs are doing really constitutes dancing so much as randomly moving around. Was there actually any rehearsal involved in this "routine"?

Bob Marley's back with what feels like his millionth performance of Exxidass.

And a wooden stake is well and truly plunged into the heart of punk with the return of Dana

This is all very pleasant. I always thought she only had one hit. What a fool I was.

But who'd have thought that, within three years of this, Sheena Easton would have so totally doppelganged Dana as to have completely taken her place in our national consciousness?

Emerson Lake and Palmer are back with probably the worst Olympic opening ceremony ever.

And now Rita Coolidge returns, surviving possibly the worst joke even Noel Edmonds has ever cracked.

After all these decades, it's just dawned on me that I actually don't have a clue what this song's about.

I do at least know what Thin Lizzy are on about as they give us Dancing in the Moonlight. This is much better than the song they were doing on their last appearance - the one Noel Edmonds cheerfully admits he thought would reach Number 1.

There's half-hearted dancing going on on the stage - and for once it's not being done by Legs and Co.

For the second week running, I've lost reception during a vital part of the show.

I get it back in time to see a photo of Donna Summer on a giant screen as the Top of the Pops audience dance along to I Feel Love.

Legs and Co are still in their Jonathan Richman car and still looking totally unrehearsed. Despite the track and all the dancing that's going on, it's not exactly wild.

So, there we have it, the week when Boney M finally got the chance to prove themselves supreme, and Legs and Co got to prove themselves not supreme. It wasn't a vintage week but I enjoyed all the acts you're not supposed to and I discovered I didn't like one act you are supposed to. I suppose this counts as surprise - and surprise is a good thing. Therefore, despite its general lack of excitement, I give this week's edition a cautious thumbs up.

I do pray, though, for the return of CCS. It's simply not Top of the Pops without them.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Top of the Pops: 21st July, 1977.

In the absence of any decent Free-Use images of any of tonight's acts, here's
a lovely picture of Stonehenge, which has no doubt been the venue for
much rock music over the years.
By Guenter Wieschendahl  (own work--eigene Aufnahme)
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
It's raining so hard outside I can barely hear my television.

Will this reduce my enjoyment of tonight's show?

Like heck it will. I like to think that even total deafness couldn't put a dent in my appreciation of what's about to transpire.

And I like to think that, were he here, Dave Lee Travis would agree with me too.

But he's not here.

He's too busy guiding us through the puddles of history.

Those puddles produce their first splash with John Miles bringing his tubetastic brand of groovetasm into our living rooms, for one more spin.

By the looks of him, he's still celebrating the release of Keith Lemon's new movie but I don't care about no dirty stinking movies. I don't need to, not when I have John Miles.

Now John's finished and, in a shock development, Dave tells us the chart rundown's been delayed.

It's just been delayed even more because, in an even shocker development, I've lost my signal.

Can our hero get it back before he misses the entire show?

Too right he can because it's back already.

But I've missed the entire rundown and am confronted by the Brotherhood of Man doing Angelo for what feels like the sixteenth week running.

Suddenly the Man are gone and the Jam are back and as angry as ever.

I don't think I've ever heard this song before but it seems, from what they're singing, that it might be called All Round The World.

Paul and Bruce are trading vocals. It's easy to forget how much more prominent Bruce was in the group's early days than he became later.

It might not have been one of the Jam's more played hits but it certainly livened things up a bit.

Alessi are back.

Seeing them follow the Jam is like watching one of those old public information films where they used to put out a chip pan fire by throwing a damp dishcloth over it.

It suddenly strikes me that they bear an unlikely resemblance to Henry Winkler.

The trouble is, with their tendency to keep glancing across at each other as they sing, it does give the impression they're singing a love song to each other, which is a very strange effect, especially when the main Alessi starts going on about making love together.

A group who never needed a second invitation to make love to each other are Fleetwood Mac who appear as if from nowhere with a song whose title I can't remember.

It's all very pleasant, and undoubtedly quality music, but I could never really get into Fleetwood Mac. I just always wanted them to shout a bit or smash their instruments or just do anything that'd suggest they were fully conscious while playing.

The Rah Band are back.

It's hard to believe that look never caught on.

But now it's Danny Williams with another look I won't be copying down the disco on Friday night.

His name seems to be a composite of ex-Barnsley Football Club manager Danny Wilson and ex-Barnsley comedian Charlie Williams. Clearly the force of Barnsley is strong in this one.

Not that you'd know it, as he seems to have acquired his outfit by mugging Huggy Bear and stealing his clothes.

My razor-sharp senses detect that this is the old Martini advert music.

Queen are back with Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy.

Much more excitingly than that, Donna Summer's powered her way to Number 1.

But she's not in the studio. Instead we get Legs and Co doing their best to capture the untrammelled eroticism that got I Feel Love banned from many a radio station.

To be honest, I'm not sure they're succeeding. There's a limit to how erotic you can seem by flapping a bit of your skirt around in a state of staccato chasteness.

Argh! No! It's tear-your-hair-out-time again, as for the zillionth occasion, Boney M are relegated to the play-out slot.

What was it with the producer never letting the M onto the show? Had Bobby run over his cat or something?

The BBC of 1977 have been warned, if the M aren't allowed on next week's show, quite frankly, I'm not sure I can be held accountable for my actions.

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