Thursday, 31 May 2012

Top of the Pops: 19th May, 1977.

Rod Stewart sings
Rod Stewart by Helge Øverås (Own work)
[GFDL (,
CC-BY-SA-3.0 (
CC-BY-2.5 (],
via Wikimedia Commons
The Olympic Torch may be wending its way through the streets of this land even as we speak but there's only one beacon to be seen lighting the boulevards of Nostalgia.

And that's this week's TOTP.

Will it burn bright - a symbol of hope for all mankind?

Or will it splutter and die like the dampest of squibs?

Only David “Kid” Jensen can tell us. For it is he who's to guide us through the flaming cul-de-sac that men call, “The Past.”

Straight away, we launch into Suzi Quatro and - inevitably for an opening song - a track that rings no bells with me whatsoever.

It's a performance that can only be labelled, "Relaxed."

But that seems inevitable. Like whatever that single was she was on doing a few weeks back, it's not the most grippingest of tracks. In fact, some might call it positively lukewarm. Suzi really did seem to be treading water at this stage of her career. Still, thanks to hindsight, we at least know better was to come.

The song seems to be called Roxy Roller and, as it finishes, Kid declares it to be, “exciting,” suggesting he's incredibly easily excited.

Now it's Heatwave and Too Hot to Handle.

It's the typical Heatwave performance, them in silly outfits doing a song that sounds like Heatwave.

Now it's time for The Moon And I, sung by Linda Lewis.

I always thought Linda Lewis was a porn star. Assuming she isn't, just who was I mixing her up with?

Three songs into the show, and this is the third track I've never heard of.

But what a sweet little thing she seems.

Was this really written by Gilbert and Sullivan? Why isn't it all short notes and silly words?

Whoever wrote it, in the hands of Linda it's all going a bit Minnie Riperton.

Still, whatever its unlikelihood, I find it strangely intriguing and have the desire to hear it again, if only to find out what I make of it second time round.

Now for the Bay City Rollers with It's a Game.

If this hadn't been on two weeks ago, it would've been tonight's fourth consecutive track I've never heard of.

One solitary audience member waves a scarf. I wonder if she was the only Bay City Rollers fan left in Britain at this stage?

Now it's Carole Bayer Sager and You're Moving Out.

At last, a track I recognise!

I may know the song but I'm not sure I've ever seen her before. On first viewing, it does strike me that she looks like Popeye's Olive Oyl.

Like Barbara Dickson all those weeks ago, while she's making a good go at it, she's somewhat hindered by the invisibility of her backing singers.

I remember seeing Lynda Carter doing a version of this somewhere. It wasn't a patch on Carole's version.

Then again, Carole Bayer Sager'd probably struggle with playing Wonder Woman – especially when it comes to finding her invisible plane.

Joe Tex is at it again.

And now Legs and Co are dancing to Disco Inferno.

You'd think this was a perfect track for them to dance to, as it gives them an excuse to just dance and not have to act out any kind of narrative.

The only problem is that, for no noticeable reason, Flick Colby's ordered hub caps be strapped to their every extremity, meaning that, instead of focusing on their dancing, all you can notice are flashing discs. Flick Colby, a woman who could be relied upon to achieve defeat no matter how much easier it'd be to achieve triumph.

“From the land of a thousand dancers,” declares Kid, it's the Jacksons.

Are there really only a thousand dancers in the United States?

That does seem an unlikely stat.

Actually in the studio, rather than on video, they're doing Let Me Show You. I must admit it's not one of my favourite Jackson tracks, feeling oddly leaden compared to others of that vintage.

Michael seems to be the tallest of the Jacksons, which can't be right, can it?

To be honest, Michael's starting to get on my nerves now, with his random exclamations.

But at last it's the moment we've all been waiting for. Entire musical epochs collapse before our eyes as punk finally hits TOTP, with the debut of the Jam. Admittedly, you could argue the Jam weren't really punk but it's as close as we've got thus far on the show.

Paul seems a little angry. Bruce seems a little angry. It's a contrast from the Jacksons, that's for sure.

And an even bigger contrast is with Rod Stewart who's hit the heady heights of Number 1 with The First Cut is the Deepest.

He's on the TOTP jumbotron. I thought it'd long-since been retired due to the audience's disheartening tendency to stand with their backs to it.

It's that performance from last week.

He's waving his bum again.

As the show draws to a close, Kid signs off by wishing us, “Good love.” Heaven alone knows where he got that one from.

We play out with Boz Scaggs' Lido Shuffle.

This is my favourite Boz Scaggs song, by a mile. It sounds like Rick Davies' efforts for Supertramp. Given that Davies was always overshadowed by Roger Hodgson, that might not seem a good thing but Boz clearly knew how to make that sound work.

So, it was a night when musical differences were stretched almost to breaking point. What other music show could ever have dared give us Gilbert and Sullivan and the Jam in the same broadcast?

But that was the greatness of TOTP. While the BBC's other great 1970s music show The Old Grey Whistle Test had to crunch gears furiously to adjust to the arrival of the "new" music, TOTP's great amoeboid mass simply absorbed and accommodated any sound the charts could throw at it, before rolling on unperturbed.


Kate said...

I'd say that Legs & Co costume had to rank as the daftest ever, and that's saying something.

Steve W. said...

On the plus side, all those insanely flashing lights meant we got to see as little of it as possible. :)

@howardbowden said...

can I claim 10 points for the Heatwave>Rod Temperton>Michael Jackson>Jacksons connection?

and another five for the Rod Stewart outgrown 60s Mod haircut which - technically - is what Paul Weller grew into?

Steve W. said...

Yes you can. And if David "Kid" Jensen tries to stop you taking those points, you tell him, "Steve demands you do it."


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