Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Top of the Pops: 30th June, 1977.

Brian May of Queen playing guitar live
Brian May of Queen.
By Thomas Steffan by using Olympus Camedia C700 (Own work)
[GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC-BY-SA-2.5], via Wikimedia Commons
Yet again the BBC fails in its attempts to confuse me with scheduling chaos. And I find myself facing Noel Edmonds; a man so resolutely un-punk, in this heyday of the genre, that it's almost a punk statement in its own right. Could it be that Noel Edmonds was, in fact, in 1977, actually the most punk individual in the whole of the British Isles?

Someone who's definitely not punk is the opening act.

Who they are, I have no idea, as the show's back to its policy of opening with a turn I've never heard of.

Whoever they are, they're in a very 1970s' looking video.

But just look at that audience go! We must be back with Soul Train! If only we'd ever see that kind of life from a Top of the Pops audience.

But wait a minute! Something's wrong here! We're not on Soul Train at all!

That's the Top of the Pops studio and, miracle of miracles, it's the Top of the Pops audience who're frugging like their lives depend on it. Have the producers, shamed by the antics of Soul Train, finally snapped and threatened to shoot them if they don't move?

Frankly, not all of them look happy to be doing so, and some look positively reluctant. I can't help but think of those chickens that're made to dance by being stood on a hot metal plate.

Personally, I don't care how it was achieved, I'm happy just to see it happen.

At its climax, Noel appears on screen but he looks like he's been superimposed on the studio in much the same way as he seemed to have been superimposed on the 1970s' music scene.

Gladys Knight's back with that video.

This really is the silliest dance I've ever seen grown men do.

Keith Lemon John Miles is back with Slow Down.

And he's gained a pair of sunglasses since his last visit.

Interesting that Peter Frampton's tube's still world famous, while John Miles's is totally forgotten.

Noel tips it to get to Number 1, which I assume means it dropped off the chart the following week never to be heard of again.

Jesse Green's with us. Has he been on before? The name rings a bell but I don't recognise the face.

Either way, he's the living embodiment of White Suit Man.

This all seems a bit Sheffield Fiesta.

Not only that but it all sounds very familiar; like they've got the chord sequence of well-known song and played it backwards to disguise where it's come from.

Queen are back with Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy and the video we saw a couple of weeks ago.

Having already given the kiss of death to John Miles, Noel returns, with his record of the week.

It's by Cliff Richard and it shows how unsinkable Cliff's career is that it even managed to survive the endorsement of Edmonds.

Although I have to say I don't know this song at all.

I'm starting to realise why. On first hearing, it sounds like a meandering mess and has, “Flop,” written all over it.

Not that you could tell that to Noel who reappears at its conclusion to rave about how wonderful it is.

“When twelve legs get together, and a few other bits,” declares Noel. That's right, it's Legs and Co and their other bits, this time dancing to Feel The Need In Me by whoever it is.

Legs have been far too sensible lately.

And they continue that trend with a dance that seems to owe nothing in its execution to the lyrical content of the song they're dancing to.

Apparently the track was by the Detroit Emeralds.

But now it's Emerson, Lake and Palmer, with Fanfare For The Common Man, though the conceit of playing it in an empty Montreal Olympic stadium can't disguise the sheer silliness of the track.

A band who were rarely silly – except when they were singing about flying saucers - have grabbed the Number 1 slot.

It's Hot Chocolate, and it's their first ever chart topper, with So You Win Again.

For such a granny pleasing band, they were remarkably miserable. This was probably all for the best, as Errol really did have a wonderfully dry, glacial and downbeat voice.

But we finish with a burst of frustration, as we play out with Boney M and Ma Baker. It's not fair - Boney M always seem to be relegated to the play-out. Will we never get to see Bobby dancing?

To be honest, I do prefer the show when there's someone truly dreadful on it. In the absence of such an act, the show can seem terribly beige. For me, the ideal Top of the Pops has a nightmarish act, a stone-cold classic, a bit of punk, an ELO video and Jimmy Savile. Tonight's edition had none of the above. And so I can't help feeling - for all its solidity and the producer's attempts to liven up the audience - that, like John Miles's tube, it shall fade from the memory almost as soon as it's departed.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Top of the Pops: 23rd June, 1977.

Brotherhood of Man, 1976 Eurovision Song Contest rehearsals
The Brotherhood of Man - Nationaal Archief, Den Haag, Rijksfotoarchief:
Fotocollectie Algemeen Nederlands Fotopersbureau (ANEFO),
1945-1989 - negatiefstroken zwart/wit, nummer toegang,
bestanddeelnummer 928-4930 (Nationaal Archief)
[CC-BY-SA-3.0 (],
via Wikimedia Commons
Despite its best efforts to do so, BBC 4 has pitifully failed to catch me out, and this Wednesday evening finds me all rared up and ready to go.

I'm not the only one - because Jimmy Savile too has failed to be caught out and, by the sounds of him, is as full of vim and vigour as ever.

But first we kick off with a miracle, as, for possibly the first time ever, I recognise both the opening act and their song.

It's Dave Edmunds and his Rockpile, with I Knew The Bride When She Used To Rock and Roll.

In retrospect, what an odd outfit Dave Edmunds' Rockpile were, somehow managing to feel like they were riding on a New Wave bandwagon despite being as much a 1950s throwback as Shakin' Stevens ever was.

Nick Lowe still looks like he should've been the fifth Beatle though.

Jimmy Savile's back and as well dressed as ever, in a tracksuit covered in crudely sewn-on flags of the British Isles.

Now it's Tony Etoria.

They've saved the act I've never heard of for second on the bill! Can the show survive such a drastic format change?

This seems to be cheerful tune sung from the perspective of a mad stalker.

Sadly for Tony and his oddly creepy song, the audience're clearly more interested in watching the cameramen than in watching him.

Speaking of creepy, Gary Glitter's back.

And it's a lot livelier than his last appearance, which was just plain disturbing.

This is more like the Gary we were familiar with - although you can't help feeling it's a song calling out for a bigger production.

My razor-sharp Steve Senses tell me he might be miming.

Overall you have to say it's one of music's great tragedies that a man who, like Jimmy Savile, could make you smile just upon the mention of his name, had to end up enmeshed in such scandal,  robbing us forever of a small piece of innocent fun in our lives.

Next up, it's Carole Bayer Sager. He still hasn't moved out and she still hasn't got her hands out of her pockets.

Carole's gone and Jimmy's returned. He's back to his old trick of introducing us to strange acquaintances of his. God only knows where he finds his endless supply of discomfiting people.

It's ABBA the Brotherhood Of Man, with Angelo. This is more like it. How could anyone not like the Brotherhood Of Man?

Angelo's resemblance to Fernando is obvious but I'd never noticed before that they've also stolen the piano from Dancing Queen.

There's no two ways about it, this has to be the cheeriest song about suicide ever written.

Now we're back with another of Jimmy's friends who all look weirdly familiar, like they should be someone famous. This time it's a man called Dennis, and the famous person he should be is Mick Fleetwood.

The famous people the Stranglers should have been are the Stranglers and that's the cue for them to give us another airing of Go Buddy Go.

You have to give Top Of The Pops credit. How many other music shows could have gone seamlessly from the Brotherhood Of Man to the Stranglers with nothing to separate them but Jimmy Savile?

Now it's Johnny Nash. I don't know the song but, whatever it is, it's taking its time getting going.

I must admit I know very little of the oeuvre of Johnny Nash but this seems quite nice, with a hint of Otis Redding's Try A Little Tenderness.

Legs and Co are back, dressed as Little Bo Peep and dancing to Oh Lori.

I do feel they should have dancers on Jools Holland's Later to fill in for any acts who can't be bothered to turn up.

I bet Paul Nicholas would never be not bothered to turn up for a TV show. I bet Paul Nicholas would never be not bothered to turn up for for the opening of an envelope. Never have I seen a man of Paul Nicholas's enthusiasm. And we get a chance to experience it all over again as the man who gave us seminal rock classic Grandma's Party is back, doing Heaven on the 7th Floor.

There's a harmonica. For a moment I'm hoping it turns out to be being played by Stevie Wonder.

Sadly it doesn't. But what meeting of the talents that would've been.

I do feel Paul Nicolas was what Brendon could've been if he'd played his cards right.

Jimmy has another friend with him. This time the famous person he should be is Peter Frampton because it is Peter Frampton, popping in to show off his bare chest and say nothing much in particular. Sadly, his tube is notable by its absence. It would've been a wonderful moment in pop history if, in the time since his previous appearance on the show, Peter Frampton had gone so mad he'd taken to talking through his tube as well.

At Number 1, it's the Jacksons with Show You The Way To Go.

I must confess it's not one of my favourite Jacksons tracks.

To be honest not many Jacksons tracks are.

Despite me being a renowned king of Disco, I only ever liked Blame It On The Boogie and Can You Feel It?

What's this show they're on? I don't think it's Soul Train, the studio and stage layout don't look right. Nor do the audience, who seem more of a mixed racial bag than Soul Train's audience ever were.

Whatever show it is, the canned audience seem to be getting well into it.

Sadly, for me, it seems to be dragging on forever.

Jimmy's strangling a woman as we go into a track I don't recognise that's acting as the show's play-out. For a moment it sounds like Cliff Richard then suddenly sounds like Jamiroquai. I brilliantly conclude it's neither of them but don't conclude who it actually is and can therefore only watch in cluelessness as the show fades out.

Well that all flew by. All in all, I think that was one of my favourite editions of the show so far. I don't think I disliked anything aside from from the Jacksons and, apart from it dragging on too long, I don't actively mind that one either. Some people might say I should have disliked the Botherhood of Man and Paul Nicholas but they're always so smiley and glad to be there, how could I ever hope to take against them?

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Top of the Pops: 16th June, 1977.

Grease and Xanadu star Olivia Newton-John smiling, 1988
Olivia Newton-John by Larry D. Moore
(Nv8200p on en.wikipedia) using a Minolta SRT-101
(© 1988 Larry D. Moore)
[GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
This week there's been much talk of Olympic lanes on the roads of London, wherein the VIPs of that event can drive around the streets of our capital, unhindered by the masses who actually pay for it all. But who'll be speeding along tonight's highway to glory? And who'll be driving straight up pop's cul-de-sac before hitting the bollards of obscurity?

Only David "Kid" Jensen can tell us. For it is he who is to be our guide around the spiritual spaghetti junction that is the music scene of 1977.

And of course, we kick off with the obligatory act I don't recognise.

I do vaguely know the tune though, even if I don't have a clue what it's called.

If it wasn't 35 years old, I could think it's being sung by Keith Lemon.

It sounds a bit like Disco Duck but my finely-honed Steve-Senses tell me it's probably not Rick Dees and his Cast of Idiots.

Whoever he is, he's stolen Peter Frampton's tube and is clearly determined to use it. It's all very funky but, to my untutored ears, he lacks the style of the man they don't know as Frampto.

Now it's all over, Kid tells us it was John Miles with Slow Down.

This is a total shock to me, as I never knew John Miles looked like that. For some reason, I always thought he was bald but I might be mixing him up with the then-popular snooker player Graham Miles.

Now it's someone I could never mix up with a snooker player.

It's Olivia Newton-John, with Sam.

It does strike me that she has a much stronger and more passionate voice than she's sometimes given credit for but, right now, I'm more concerned with what I'm seeing rather than hearing because, for some reason, the picture's square instead of rectangular. Is this how it was transmitted at the time? If so it's a strange artistic choice. It creates the impression we're seeing every act through a hole cut in a sheet of black cardboard. Either that or it's like I've just cut a hole in Olivia Newton-John's living room wall and am now perving at her.

And now I'm perving at Hot Chocolate with So You Win Again.

I do believe it's physically impossible to dislike Hot Chocolate.

If only I could say the same for Queen who're on next with Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy.

When I was a youth, a strange thing happened. After Bohemian Rhapsody, Queen completely disappeared off my radar until they released We Are The Champions - and, listening to this, I can see why. It's all very clever but, like 10cc at their worst, seems to be an adventure in futile and gratuitous creativity.

Now it's somebody whose name I didn't catch and a song that seems to be called Everybody Have a Good Time.

They seem to be OK but the truth is there's an act like this on every week and, after a few months, they all sort of blur into one.

Their dance moves are somewhat limited.

In fact they only seem to have one, which involves groinal thrusting. They somehow manage to make groinal thrusting seem less sexual than it should be. Not like that bloke from Honky who managed to make it far too sexual for comfort.

Towards the end, the singer mentions that they're on Soul Train, which seems rather undiplomatic of him.

Now Legs and Co are dancing to You're Gonna Get Next To Me by yet another act whose name I've missed.

Men seem to have appeared from nowhere to dance with Legs and Co but most of them don't seem to want to dance with Legs and Co, which is rather odd, as they look rather attractive this week.

That over and done with, it's the Foster Brothers.

Kid tells us we'll be hearing a lot more of them in the future. Maybe I've not been paying enough attention but I don't recall ever hearing anything of them ever.

If you've ever wondered what Kirsten Dunst would look like with a moustache, here's your chance to find out because the singer's resemblance to her really is quite striking – and distracting.

Then again it's not as distracting as his constant energetic bobbing around which has rapidly become annoying.

The song itself seems OK but not remarkable.

I still can't get over how much he looks like Kirsten Dunst. I genuinely think it'll haunt me for years.

Argh! It's Kermit's nephew!

In Germany, they have a well-publicised problem with exploding frogs. I wish Top of the Pops did.

Fair play to it, after 35 years it can still make me feel as nauseous as ever.

And I still don't think it's fair that that frog has nicer banisters than I do. I'm genuinely tempted to go out right now and start carving them into the same shape. Only technical incompetence and a fear that my banisters aren't made from real wood, stands between me and my ambition.

From out of the blue (as far as I'm concerned), it's Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. I'd always assumed they were one of those acts who'd never been on Top of the Pops.

So far it's sounding like Status Quo on sleeping pills.

It's not great.

In fact, some might say it's terrible.

Then again, maybe it's good. I'm having trouble making my mind up.

Kenny Rogers is Number 1 with Lucille. How could anyone not warm to Kenny Rogers?

That's not to say the song's succeeding in holding my attention in any way shape or form but there's something about Kenny Rogers I can't help but approve of, no matter how boring the song.

My expert knowledge of counting to three tells me it's a waltz. I wonder how many waltzes have made Number 1 on the UK charts?

If this was a proper website, I'd probably be able to tell you but that sort of competence, insight and expertise'd go against the spirit of the enterprise, so I'll just sit here adrift on a sea of ignorance and tell you that we play out with the Jacksons doing Show You The Way To Go.


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