Thursday, 26 April 2012

Top of the Pops: 14th April, 1977

Jolene Blalock, of Star Trek Enterprise, in Cairo
The same old troubles finding a Free-Use Image of any of tonight's acts, so
here's a shot of ex-Star Trek sexpot Jolene Blalock in Cairo.
Jolene was in  Star Trek Enterprise. Popular music is a form of private
enterprise. Therefore Jolene has many valid links with Top of the Pops.
Photo by Jolene Blalock (Canon Eos)
[GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons
A wise man once demanded we, "Clunk click every trip."

That man was Jimmy Savile.

That man is our host tonight.

And that's good news, because we're on a trip to the past and, on previous TOTP form, the odd clunk can be practically guaranteed.

As always, I have no idea who the first act is, as they and I haven't been formally introduced. By the looks of things, they come with no shortage of frills but will they be equally well-stocked with thrills?

Seemingly not.

It is the first time I've ever heard this, so I may be being premature in my judgement but, so far, it sounds terrible. I would say they have a singing drummer but, to be honest, I'm not sure that, whatever it is those strange noises are that're emanating from his mouth, that they qualify as singing - or any other form of communication known to man. The last time I experienced such sounds coming from a human being, I was reading an HP Lovecraft novel, and a giant space octopus was involved.

I do know though that someone's beautiful.

I know that because the main singer – the one who's not the drummer - keeps saying it, over and over and over again. I think he's after the world record for the most number of times anyone's ever said the word, "beautiful," in one lifetime.

Thankfully Sir Jimmy's back to tell us they were The Brothers, who I seem to remember having been on a few weeks ago, although I'm sure they seemed like a totally different group of people back then.

Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr are back with You Don't Have to be a Star.

It's the same vid as before.

As we've already seen it, I think I can gloss over it all, other than to say the spinning Dalek's still with them and that the pair of them still remind me of the Chanter Sisters, with their moves.

Good grief! It's Brendon again! Who'd have thought he'd get to appear on Top of the Pops quite so many times?

He's playing a guitar! This is what I like about him. He introduces a new element every time he appears. Last time, it was smiling. This time, it's playing an instrument. Who knows what wonders he might unleash on us if allowed a fourth visit?

He does have a look of Stan Boardman about him.

It's a terrible admission for one of my intense musical credibility to make but it's actually starting to grow on me. This is mostly because - God bless him - Brendon's doing everything he can to sell it to us.

David Soul's still at Number 2. And this time we actually get to see him.

He still looks like the kid in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. But, then, he probably feels like the kid in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, with all the records he's selling lately.

Now Jimmy's with a strange looking man in dark glasses. It's not Roy Orbison and it's not the bloke from the Rubettes.

The Stylistics are back and, right from the off, the singer looks startled.

I really have never seen a man look so permanently surprised.

They seem to be dancing a bit faster than they were last time.

I'm starting to realise why. Is it my imagination or is the track accelerating as they go along? Like the tape deck's out of control?

It literally seems to be getting too fast for them to keep up with comfortably. No wonder the main man looks startled. The way it keeps velocitising, it must be all he can do to keep from bursting into flames.

From that oddly frenetic thing, to something far more sedate, as John Williams and Cleo Laine give us Feelings.

Sadly it's not the Star Wars John Williams. It would've been great seeing Cleo Laine trying to sciddly diddly daddly doodlie her way through Darth Vader's march of menace.

To be honest, I think this must've been the part of the show when everyone was expected to go and put the kettle on.

My dad was always a big fan of Cleo Laine but, on her performance here, she seems completely mental. Frankly, she's scaring me - especially when she look straight at the camera. It's like she can see right through the screen and at me. I'm starting to worry she's going to climb out of the TV, crawl across the floor and get me, like that woman in The Ring.

"I wish I'd never met you, boy," she's singing. Personally, I'm glad she's never met me.

This is rotten. I mean, seriously, why's she singing like that? It's like she's some weird form of human theremin.

This is more like it. It's Andrew Gold with Lonely Boy. He may never have been fashionable but Goldy knew how to bang out a catchy tune. Of course, he is currently suffering the handicap of being danced to by Legs and Co.

I really don't see what this cheery routine has to do with a song about loneliness.

Now it's all gone a bit, "At the Hop."

It's like, in their heads, they're dancing to a totally different track from the one we're hearing.

Billy Ocean's back. It's the performance from a couple of weeks ago, which means there's no new developments on the collars-and-cuffs front. But it's a great song and a great performance. If only all acts on TOTP had Billy's gusto.

ABBA are still Number 1. It's still that video. You'd think they'd have got cold by now and decided to go somewhere warm.

I've just realised, the bloke in ABBA who doesn't have a beard reminds me of Bill Mumy who had a sort of hit with the magnificently bizarre Fish Heads and played an alien in Babylon-5. I think he was also Will Robinson in Lost in Space but don't quote me on that.

I wonder if anyone else in ABBA reminds me of anyone?


They don't.

That game didn't last long. :(

They're playing out with Boney M and Sunny. I love Boney M. I love Sunny. This means that, as far as I'm concerned, the show's going out on a high.

Regardless of whatever musical highs and lows it may have had, the thing that most sticks in my mind about tonight's show is a feeling of dread.

Dread at the disturbing tour de force of madness that was Cleo Laine. But also at the audience members Sir Jimmy was hanging around with throughout the show, who seemed to get more and more menacing as it went along. If the past really is a foreign land, it seems it's a foreign land we must sometimes mark with just three words.

"Here be dragons."

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Top of the Pops: 7th April, 1977.

Emma Stone, holds a microphone while wearing a blue dress that looks like an explosion in a Christmas cracker factory
Yet again I couldn't find a decent Free Use image of any
of tonight's acts, so here's a pic of Spider-Man sexpot
Emma Stone looking like an explosion in a Christmas
cracker factory.
As well as playing Gwen Stacy in the new movie, Emma
was a founding member of The Family Stone and is thus
massively relevant to Top of the Pops.
By Mark Kari (Emma Stone)
via Wikimedia Commons.
It's a case of, "Phasers on stunned,” as we once more beam down to the year that Mankind knows as 1977. What hideous nightmare creatures'll await us when we get there?

And what unlikely allies?

It's David “Kid” Jensen injecting a bit of energy into proceedings with his intro. It's a long way from the deliberate cheesiness of Tony Blackburn.

But who'll be the first band on - the one cursed to never be introduced, leaving the audience perpetually baffled as to who it is they've just seen?

It's the Dead End Kids, socking it to us with their own unique brand of anarchy, by reliving the glory days of proto-punk outfit the Bay City Rollers.

I don't want to harp on about it but that really is an epic quantity of hair the singer's got. I do swear that if he fell off a cliff and landed on his head he'd simply bounce on it for several yards before coming to a peaceful and serene halt.

He's banging his chimes.

And they still carry on playing after he turns his back on them. Being able to play chimes without touching them's a rare gift too few modern pop stars possess.

Now it's Deniece Williams and Free. Not that I didn't like the Dead End Kids, but this is more like it.

Actually it isn't. Despite my initial enthusiasm, I'm getting a bit bored with it now. Like They Shoot Horses Don't They? it's a song that sounds better in your memory than it does in reality. It's all very nice but it could do with livening up a bit.

If only Deniece had the Dead End Kids' chimes to fall back on.

Not literally, of course. Falling onto a set of chimes would make a terrible racket and be against the spirit of Disco.

Deniece has gone and it's Showaddywaddy. They're still wearing the multi-coloured outfits.

I do find it worrying that I always seem to like the naff acts more than the classy ones.

Is it just me or are there more of them than ever? As with Boz Scaggs' band, they seem to multiply like Tribbles every time you look away from the screen.

Kid's just told us he has a Saturday morning show. Does this mean Fearne “Kid” Cotton's been given the push to make way for him? If so I must make a note to tune in.

Now it's Elkie Brooks again. Not only is she doing the whole retro-thing like Manhattan Transfer but, like the singer of that combo, she's wearing a thin dress with no supporting garment beneath. She's not rampantly nipple-tastic like the singer of Manhattan Transfer but she is more jigglesome. This goes against all I've ever held dear, as I've never thought of Elkie Brooks as sexy before, seeing her as a sexless matriarchal figure like the mother in the OXO ads.

Cliff Richard's back, with My Kind of Life. He's giving it plenty of effort but neither he nor his faceless guitarist can disguise the fact it's not one of his classics.

No offence to Cliff but I've taken to looking out the window while I wait for him to finish. Despite us being in the middle of the worst drought since the year before this show was first broadcast, it's bucketing it down out there.

The Manhattans. My expert musical knowledge tells me they're no relation to the aforementioned Manhattan Transfer – though, by the way the record starts, they might be some relation to Barry White.

Suddenly they're all pointing. I don't know why.

They certainly have slicker and livelier moves than the Stylistics did last week.

More pointing!

They've got more pointing than my gables.

Now they're spinning!

You can tell they've been rehearsing. I don't know if the song's any good – there doesn't really seem to be one - but I like the choreography.,

The audience are shuffling around, clueless as ever. Wherever did they find so many young people with no sense of rhythm whatsoever?

Kid's surrounded by female boxers!

What am I on about? It's not just any female boxers. It's Legs and Co, done up as pulchritudinous pugilists in order to dance to Maxine Nightingale's Love Hit Me. At last, after weeks of sensible and restrained performances, Flick Colby's returned to her insanity of old.

This is so absurd it can only be labelled genius. Why isn't this as famous as her Disco Duck routine?


But, sadly, no pointing.

This is the first time I've ever thought of Legs and Co as sexy.

OC Smith and a track called Together. I could lie right now and say I have knowledge of OC Smith that'd intimidate even Wikipedia but the truth is I'm completely unfamiliar with both he and the song.

I do know he's another one with big hair.

Its not as big as the bloke from the Dead End Kids but he too need have no fear of mountain tops.

Was this filmed at the same time as the Deniece Williams video? It seems to have the same dancing members of the public in it.

Like Deniece Williams, it's struggling to hold my attention.

He looks like Phil Lynott's dad.

I wonder if he is?

After what seems like an aimless eternity, OC's finally finished, and now Elkie's with Kid.

Isn't she petite?

“A position I would like to see her in,” says Kid of Elkie. I just bet you would, you naughty boy.

ABBA are Number 1 and still trapped in that video.

I'm in trouble now. How can I possibly find anything new to say about it?

I can't.

So I might as well just watch it.

And we're playing out with Smokie. As we should. It wouldn't be TOTP without them.

The producer's giving them a good old play. None of that early fade-out stuff for them. Early fade-outs are reserved for lesser acts, like David Bowie and Elvis Presley.

I must say this week's edition did drag badly in places, especially whenever videos shot on one particular set reared their slow-tempo head, and there was little on it that we haven't seen before in recent weeks.

But I did learn much in this week's show. I learned that Deniece Williams is a thing best left to nostalgia and that, despite being named after a giant ungulate, Elkie Brooks is somehow daintier than I thought.

I also discovered the burgeoning sexuality of both Elkie Brooks and Legs and Co, meaning that, at last, at the age of 48, I'm going through a strange kind of surrogate puberty on their behalf. Well, that at least was certainly worth tuning in for.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Top of the Pops: 31st March, 1977.

Lynsey De Paul, 1973
Lynsey De Paul by AVRO
(Beeld En Geluid Wiki - Gallerie: Toppop 1973)
[CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
A week; it's a long time in politics but nothing compared to a fortnight in popular music. What massive changes'll have swept through British musical culture in the two weeks since the last edition of everyone's favourite music show? What new musical empires'll have risen, and which will have fallen?

Only Diddy David Hamilton can tell us. For it is he who's to guide us tonight through the brave new world of pop we're set to encounter.

I do feel sorry for the first act on each week because they never get an introduction. It must've been hugely frustrating; you get your big break, appearing on TOTP, excited about the huge boost it's going to lend your career, and then no one has a clue who you are because you weren't introduced.

This week has to be a perfect case in point because I don't have a Scooby who the opening act are. They seem quite easy-going - a bit Smokie but without their charisma, or the self-confidence that comes from having been on virtually every week since the dawn of time.

Whoever they are, their song seems to be called Capture Your Heart and, lack of introduction aside, they seem quite pleased to be there.

But why do I have a feeling they were to never be there again?

Apparently they were Blue. Amazing to think that Blue were around back in the 1970s - though Antony Costa's clearly changed a lot since then.

Now it's Billy Ocean and Red Light Spells Danger. He seems to be going for the world record for the size of collars and cuffs a man can support before the sheer weight of them renders him immobile.

Legs and Co are on next, dancing to David Soul and This Time I'm Going In With My Eyes Open.

The last time I saw skirts like that they were on one of those dolls that boarding house landladies used to use to cover up toilet rolls.

In a shock twist, David Dundas is back, out to prove he had more than one hit in him.

He has a very strange look on his face,

On the strength of this and his last one, I do get the feeling he was the Mungo Jerry of his day.

It's all quite Eurovision.

Which leads us perfectly into Lynsey De Paul and Mike Moran, flying the flag for Blighty, with Rock Bottom. It can't be easy having a rock bottom - especially if you have Dave Edmunds' rock piles.

But it shows how the memory plays tricks on you. I remember talking about this in the playground at primary school, which is impossible as it didn't come out until I was in secondary school.

I know people love her and she has the most popular mole outside of Wind In The Willows but I always felt there was something vaguely sinister about Lynsey de Paul, a feeling that refuses to go away.

I would say there's something sinister about Mike Moran but there isn't.

This always reminds me of a Bill Oddie song that often got played during silent scenes in The Goodies.

Berni Flint's back.

And now he's gone, replaced by The Stylistics - looking weirdly like Gerry Anderson puppets. This is the third song on this week's show that I have no memory of.

Their dancing can only be called half-hearted.

Their singer has a weird look of permanent startledness on his face.

And their dancing's still half-hearted.

The last few minutes have led me to conclude The Stylistics are a band best heard and never seen.

Bonnie Tyler's More Than A Lover is the fourth song on this week's show that I have no memory of. Can it be? Can our hero be going senile?

Argkh! That first note was a bit rough. Frankly, if a bloke on your local building site came out with it, you'd send him off for a packet of Strepsils.

Though, in fairness to her, she's looking better than I remember.

What does this tune sound like?

Is it When Doves Cry? Or is it Time to Hide by Wings? Or is it something else altogether?

Whatever it sounds like, I quite like it. It has a vague unconventionality about it.

Now Mike Nesmith's on, talking to David Hamilton and plugging his song Rio.

He has a beard!

Did he ever talk in The Monkees? I don't remember

Whatever, he wasn't with David for long.

ABBA are at Number 1, with Knowing Me, Knowing You: A-Haaaaa.

It's still that video. They're still freeze-framing and looking through each other. I still prefer the one who's not blonde. She looks cheeky. The blonde one never looked cheeky.

We play out with Elvis and Blue Bayou.

I do feel sorry for David Bowie though. He's now at Number 5, having been on the chart for what seems like months, and still can't get on the show. I only hope it doesn't finish his career.

In summary, I do feel this week's show was a let-down after the upturn in quality we got a fortnight ago, full of songs that made so little impression on me at the time that I had no memory of them, mostly mid-tempo and resolutely unchallenging. The fact that – ABBA aside - a Bonnie Tyler song I've never heard before in my entire life was the highlight can't be taken as a good sign.

Still, the good thing about TOTP is that no matter how disappointing an edition might be, there's always the hope that next week's will be better.

And that David Bowie might finally be allowed on.


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