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.


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
 [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.


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