Thursday, 22 March 2012

Top of the Pops: 17th March, 1977.

pop star Billy Ocean sings on stage in New York, in a stripy jacket
Billy Ocean sings live, by Ronzoni (Own work)
[CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons
Christmas may come just once a year but – bouts of Patrick Moore aside - Top of the Pops is with us every week.

And that's why Top of the Pops 1977 is 52 times better than Christmas.

So, what thrills, spills and ills will 1977 bring us?

Only Tony Blackburn can tell us; for it is he who's to guide us through tonight's Nephilim Fields of Nostalgia in which may lurk untold menace – and the Rubettes.

With no need for an introduction – which is a good thing because she didn't get one – it's Suzi Quatro with that not-altogether-classic song that I don't know the title of.

She's ditched the leather and changed her bass. She's giving us strange purple-y effects. I wonder what it's meant to signify?

Whatever it's meant to signify, it's failing to make the song seem any more exciting than it did last time.

“Don't talk to me about Louisiana Sue,” says Suzi. And, if I ever meet the bass-tastic Miss Q, I won't.

“Coz she can't do the things I can do.” For a start, she probably can't make everything go all purple-y. It's not a generally prized quality in a woman.

There's a man with a corked hat in the audience!

Up next it's Keith Flint's dad Berni. I seem to recall him winning Opportunity Knocks for eighty five million weeks running. In fact, for all I know he might be winning it every week still.

But what an engaging song I Don't Want To Put A Hold On You is. It's the sort of thing you could imagine David Soul doing but drowning it in treacle.

Berni doesn't make that mistake. As a seasoned Opp Knocks veteran, he keeps it as gloop-free as possible.

He seems an amiable cove. I wonder what happened to him? I hope he's still with us. I wouldn't want to think of bad things happening to Berni Flint.

ABBA are at Number 2.

It's Knowing Me Knowing You; A-ha. In which they claim to know about a 1980s' Norwegian pop trio that doesn't even exist yet.

This has to be the quintessential ABBA video; all freeze-framed hugging and meaningful looks. Though watching it does make you try to remember which one was married to which. I think all of them were married to all of them at one point. Even they probably lost track of who they were spliced to.

But this is why ABBA were better than the Brotherhood of Man; all that Nordic angst. The Brotherhood never got it. They aped the catchy tunes but forgot to include the misery.

Now it's Cliff and something called My Kind of Love. I don't know this one.

He's as wild and rebellious as ever.

He's reached the chorus and I suddenly realise I have it heard it before, though I don't know where.

Is that a Nashville guitar that man's playing? Despite being the world's greatest living guitarist, I couldn't claim to be an expert on such things.

As for the track, it's no We Don't Talk Any More and it's already starting to outstay its welcome.

Now there's two of him. Two Cliffs, like the ones Neptune pushed aside in Ray Harryhausen's Jason and the Argonauts.

From the British Elvis to the American original, as we get The Pelvis's Moody Blue danced to by Legs and Co. Those outfits are a bit revealing for this time of night; the strumpets. It's just a shame they have nothing much to reveal.

They're dressed like Princess Ardala in Buck Rogers.

I always preferred Princess Ardala to Wilma Deering. Wilma had the spray-on spacesuits but she was always a bit too wholesome for me to feel she could be entirely trusted. With Princess Ardala you always knew where you were – in trouble. Still, you could always win her round with a bit of impromptu disco dancing.

Now we get Barclay James Harvest.

I don't know much about them. My sister had one of their albums when I was younger. It wasn't what you'd call exciting. It featured a strange song made up entirely of lyrical phrases from old Beatles songs – and that was the highlight!

The world hasn't seen so much facial hair since Sasquatch lost his razor.

It's a bit like watching that bit in Spinal Tap when we see them before they became a heavy metal act.

You know you've landed in the 1970s when you see a double-barrelled guitar.

Maxine Nightingale. This is more like it, something a bit lively. And it's not the one you expect it to be - although it sounds noticeably like the one you'd expect it to be.

This is my favourite so far tonight.

No doubt she'll be eclipsed by Showaddywaddy later on.

And now, as promised, it is Showaddywaddy.

They've got different coloured jackets on from each other. Is it a sign of terrible splits in the camp or just a statement that they always wanted to be a packet of Opal Fruits?

The singer of Showaddywaddy always reminded me of Roy North.

When Will You Be Mine, it appears to be called.

As expected, with their slick ways, Showaddywaddy are proving to be the highlight of the show for me, so far. And who'd have thought, when we first watched this broadcast all those decades ago, we'd be saying that 35 years later? It's funny what does and doesn't stand the test of time.

Billy Ocean.

Red light.

He's looking cool and relaxed.

Like Debbie Harry, his head's disproportionately large for his body but I don't care. He's already eclipsing even the great Showaddywaddy in tonight's fame-packed firmament. Even the normally apathetic TOTP audience are moving to it – although in a way that suggests they can't hear it, so uncoordinated to the music are they.

At last it's number 1 time.

It's Manhattan Transfer and their nipples. It's the same nipples as last week.

I can't deny I may have been singing this in the last week. But that doesn't mean I actually wanted to hear it again.

Who're we playing out with? Tony Blackburn's not told us.

Hold on. Is this Boney M? For a moment I thought its intro sounded like Happy House by Siouxsie and the Banshees which didn't seem right for 1977.

Still no sign of Ken Morse. In the absence of Ken, my Top of the Pops experience feels, as always, incomplete.

I don't feel I learned much from this week's show. In fact I don't feel I learned anything.

But perhaps learning is overrated. Perhaps it's better by far to dwell in a cesspit of one's own ignorance. Perhaps, when it comes down to it, that's the lesson to be learned from this week's Top of the Pops. It's a lesson I decide I like.


wilberforce said...

other than frank sidebottom, the best example i can think of of a pop star with oversized-head-to-body-ratio is bill wyman (oh, and ian dury too, but he had an excuse...)

Steve W. said...

I know that Mark Radcliffe always claims that, when you meet them, most pop stars have disproportionately large heads for their bodies. Sadly I've never met a pop star and so can't confirm whether he's right or not.


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