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.


Dougie said...

Steve, I plan to tweet all the way through ToTP78. I believe you would have wanted it that way.

Steve W. said...

I don't only want it. I demand it.

Arthur Nibble says ta... said...

Steve, thanks for being the amusing sidekick to Yes It's Number One. I've read and enjoyed the two blogs in tandem, and this sad but expected news has made me feel sanguine this Christmas Eve, so I'll need to open another can of lager and look for Glamourpuss or Page Three on YouTube. Thanks again, and have a merry Christmas and happy New Year. Cheers, Eddie, aka Arthur.

Steve W. said...

Thanks, Arthur, and merry Christmas to you too.

wilberforce said...

steve, sorry to see you go but thanks for your efforts over the last few months - i was certainly laughing out loud at times!

hopefully you'll keep watching totp 78 and make some contributions to the chris retro site that's being set up to continue "yes it's number one"'s good work (you're going down like ninepins!)

PaullM said...

Loved the blog. Will miss it Steve.

PaulM said...


Wasn't Only Women Bleed the inspiration to Oasis 'All Around The World'? Standing on the shoulder of giants indeed

Steve W. said...

Paul, thanks for the praise. I wasn't aware of the Oasis/Julie Covington link but, thinking about it, it really is the same tune. Oh well - makes a change from Noel stealing his tunes from the New Seekers, I suppose.

Wilberforce, thanks for sticking around all this time. It is weird the way both blogs have folded at the same time. It only shows the power of 1977 to wear a man down.

Anonymous said...


Just seen first episode from 1978. We need you now more than ever!

Steve W. said...

I'm very flattered, Anon, but I suspect the world will survive without me. There's always which'll be blogging on TOTP 1978.


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