Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Top of the Pops: 28th July, 1977.

Rita Coolidge live and holding a microphone, 2002
Rita Coolidge, 2002
By Seattle Municipal Archives from Seattle,
WA; crop by Jmabel
(Rita Coolidge, 2002Uploaded by Jmabel)
[CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
It's that magical time of week again. And we leap straight into it with Noel Edmonds giving us the incredible Steve Gibbons Band.

No. I don't know who the incredible Steve Gibbons Band are either.

I do though recognise this song, even if it's one I don't know the title of.

Is the singer the eponymous Steve Gibbons? If so, Steve's wearing leather trousers. It takes a certain kind of man to get away with leather trousers. And, fair play to him, I think he might just be managing it.

The guitarist has leather trousers too. How many cows had to die to make this performance possible?

It quickly becomes clear that Steve - if Steve he is - is like a version of Shakin' Stevens from that Star Trek universe where everyone's the opposite of how they are in our universe. This means he's from a universe where Shakin' Stevens is cool.

Noel's back and it turns out the song was either called Too Late or Too Lame. I suspect it was the former.

Now we get the countdown accompanied by Feel the Need in Me.

Somehow, without Whole Lotta Love, the countdown's totally robbed of its power to excite.

Someone who'll never fail to excite are Boney M and, at last, after endless appearances on the play-out, they're finally allowed on the show itself.

My finely-honed senses tell me they're not actually in the Top of the Pops studio but are instead on one of those weird European shows you see clips of on Youtube, ones that usually feature David Bowie or Toyah performing to a totally baffled looking bunch of Bavarians.

This time, the audience don't look baffled but do look anomalously mature beyond their years and have their backs to the act. What kind of director thought having the audience facing away from the entertainment would be a good idea?

But no one with any sense cares about that. All that matters to the connoisseur is Bobby.

And, needless to say, Bobby's getting well and truly stuck into it. You can stuff your ABBA. This was the greatest band of the 1970s.

Not far behind them are Showaddywaddy, the next act on, with You Got What it Takes.

You have to say it, the forces of punk are being well and truly repulsed tonight.

Romeo seems to be nowhere in sight. Have they sacked him?

Oh. No. There he is, off to one side, hiding behind that blue drum kit.

Legs and Co are on next, dancing to Jonathan Richman and Roadrunner.

I'm not sure quite what kind of car that's supposed to be but I'm not sure the wheels are in the right place.

I used to really like this song.

Listening to it now, I'm not sure why.

Neither am I sure that what Legs are doing really constitutes dancing so much as randomly moving around. Was there actually any rehearsal involved in this "routine"?

Bob Marley's back with what feels like his millionth performance of Exxidass.

And a wooden stake is well and truly plunged into the heart of punk with the return of Dana

This is all very pleasant. I always thought she only had one hit. What a fool I was.

But who'd have thought that, within three years of this, Sheena Easton would have so totally doppelganged Dana as to have completely taken her place in our national consciousness?

Emerson Lake and Palmer are back with probably the worst Olympic opening ceremony ever.

And now Rita Coolidge returns, surviving possibly the worst joke even Noel Edmonds has ever cracked.

After all these decades, it's just dawned on me that I actually don't have a clue what this song's about.

I do at least know what Thin Lizzy are on about as they give us Dancing in the Moonlight. This is much better than the song they were doing on their last appearance - the one Noel Edmonds cheerfully admits he thought would reach Number 1.

There's half-hearted dancing going on on the stage - and for once it's not being done by Legs and Co.

For the second week running, I've lost reception during a vital part of the show.

I get it back in time to see a photo of Donna Summer on a giant screen as the Top of the Pops audience dance along to I Feel Love.

Legs and Co are still in their Jonathan Richman car and still looking totally unrehearsed. Despite the track and all the dancing that's going on, it's not exactly wild.

So, there we have it, the week when Boney M finally got the chance to prove themselves supreme, and Legs and Co got to prove themselves not supreme. It wasn't a vintage week but I enjoyed all the acts you're not supposed to and I discovered I didn't like one act you are supposed to. I suppose this counts as surprise - and surprise is a good thing. Therefore, despite its general lack of excitement, I give this week's edition a cautious thumbs up.

I do pray, though, for the return of CCS. It's simply not Top of the Pops without them.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Top of the Pops: 21st July, 1977.

In the absence of any decent Free-Use images of any of tonight's acts, here's
a lovely picture of Stonehenge, which has no doubt been the venue for
much rock music over the years.
By Guenter Wieschendahl  (own work--eigene Aufnahme)
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
It's raining so hard outside I can barely hear my television.

Will this reduce my enjoyment of tonight's show?

Like heck it will. I like to think that even total deafness couldn't put a dent in my appreciation of what's about to transpire.

And I like to think that, were he here, Dave Lee Travis would agree with me too.

But he's not here.

He's too busy guiding us through the puddles of history.

Those puddles produce their first splash with John Miles bringing his tubetastic brand of groovetasm into our living rooms, for one more spin.

By the looks of him, he's still celebrating the release of Keith Lemon's new movie but I don't care about no dirty stinking movies. I don't need to, not when I have John Miles.

Now John's finished and, in a shock development, Dave tells us the chart rundown's been delayed.

It's just been delayed even more because, in an even shocker development, I've lost my signal.

Can our hero get it back before he misses the entire show?

Too right he can because it's back already.

But I've missed the entire rundown and am confronted by the Brotherhood of Man doing Angelo for what feels like the sixteenth week running.

Suddenly the Man are gone and the Jam are back and as angry as ever.

I don't think I've ever heard this song before but it seems, from what they're singing, that it might be called All Round The World.

Paul and Bruce are trading vocals. It's easy to forget how much more prominent Bruce was in the group's early days than he became later.

It might not have been one of the Jam's more played hits but it certainly livened things up a bit.

Alessi are back.

Seeing them follow the Jam is like watching one of those old public information films where they used to put out a chip pan fire by throwing a damp dishcloth over it.

It suddenly strikes me that they bear an unlikely resemblance to Henry Winkler.

The trouble is, with their tendency to keep glancing across at each other as they sing, it does give the impression they're singing a love song to each other, which is a very strange effect, especially when the main Alessi starts going on about making love together.

A group who never needed a second invitation to make love to each other are Fleetwood Mac who appear as if from nowhere with a song whose title I can't remember.

It's all very pleasant, and undoubtedly quality music, but I could never really get into Fleetwood Mac. I just always wanted them to shout a bit or smash their instruments or just do anything that'd suggest they were fully conscious while playing.

The Rah Band are back.

It's hard to believe that look never caught on.

But now it's Danny Williams with another look I won't be copying down the disco on Friday night.

His name seems to be a composite of ex-Barnsley Football Club manager Danny Wilson and ex-Barnsley comedian Charlie Williams. Clearly the force of Barnsley is strong in this one.

Not that you'd know it, as he seems to have acquired his outfit by mugging Huggy Bear and stealing his clothes.

My razor-sharp senses detect that this is the old Martini advert music.

Queen are back with Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy.

Much more excitingly than that, Donna Summer's powered her way to Number 1.

But she's not in the studio. Instead we get Legs and Co doing their best to capture the untrammelled eroticism that got I Feel Love banned from many a radio station.

To be honest, I'm not sure they're succeeding. There's a limit to how erotic you can seem by flapping a bit of your skirt around in a state of staccato chasteness.

Argh! No! It's tear-your-hair-out-time again, as for the zillionth occasion, Boney M are relegated to the play-out slot.

What was it with the producer never letting the M onto the show? Had Bobby run over his cat or something?

The BBC of 1977 have been warned, if the M aren't allowed on next week's show, quite frankly, I'm not sure I can be held accountable for my actions.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Top of the Pops: 14th July, 1977.

Dave Edmunds 1980
Dave Edmunds by Canada Jack aka Jeremy Gilbert
(Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0
or GFDL (],
via Wikimedia Commons
Like Usain Bolt on speed, the nation's favourite music show flings itself into action and we launch straight into it with Kid Jensen giving us an intro I didn't understand, before we get the first act of the evening.

Is it the Real Thing?

It doesn't seem to be.

There seems to be one too few of them.


Hold on.

I think it is the Real Thing. I 'd recognise that nipple-bearing dress-sense anywhere.

Although now convinced it is indeed the Real Thing, I sadly don't recognise the song. My guess, from what they keep singing, is it's called Love's Such A Wonderful Thing.

Someone who'd no doubt concur is Rita Coolidge and what Kid tells us is the Boz Scaggs song We're All Alone.

It's weird that, up until now, I never even knew what this track was called but it's one of a handful of songs I automatically associate with 1977, along with Magic Fly and Nobody Does It Better.

Now it's the Saints, from Australia, and This Perfect Day. It's punk but from the wrong side of the world.

How weird that the first genuinely punky sounding thing to ever appear on Top of the Pops is by an unknown Australian band who don't even look like punks.

As if to celebrate this conceptual breakthrough, there's someone in the audience sort of pogoing.

Now it's Legs and Co dancing to Easy Like Sunday Morning by the Commodores. I always thought this came out a couple of years later.

Dave Edmunds is back with I Knew The Bride When She used To Rock And Roll. Nick Lowe looking vaguely like a Ramone.

“If you were wondering what happened to Jigsaw,” says Kid. I know I was. I've not been able to sleep at night for worrying about it.

In fact I wasn't. I've never heard of them but, whoever they are, they're back again.

It quickly becomes clear just what happened to them. They were busy visiting their singer in hospital after he got his nadgers destroyed by an industrial-strength vice. It's the only possible explanation for that singing voice. He manages to make the Bee Gees sound like Barry White.

On reflection, did Jigsaw do that song that goes, "You've blown it all sky high," or was that someone else?

Whatever the case, with their New Faces manner, they do seem strangely like a band out of time.

Then again, so did Supertramp and that didn't stop them having their greatest commercial successes at a time when they should have been at their least fashionable. This time they're on with Give A Little Bit which is one of my Supertramp favourites.

Roger Hodgson still looks like Jesus and still sounds like Roddy McDowall.

Argh! They didn't play the ending. I love the ending.

But now the unexpected's hit me between the eyes because it's Cilla Black.

Without having yet heard it I suspect that, like the Supertramp song, my favourite bit of this is going to be the end – though not necessarily for the same reasons.

But it is bizarre to see Cilla Black on Top of the Pops in the late 1970s, especially as the song sounds like it was recorded in the 1960s.

A band who could only have been from the 1970s are the Sex Pistols, making their debut with Pretty Vacant, the song they wrote for the Olympic opening ceremony. How angry will they be when they realise they were beaten onto Top of the Pops by the Saints? I bet John Lydon's still bitter to this very day.

It's weird that, after all this time, they seem strangely like a boy band.

So now Top of the Pops does the obvious segue from the Sex Pistols to Kenny Rogers, giving us one of the show's legendary blink-and-you'll-miss-it interviews. It's a noticeably longer interview than we're used to and tells us more about our hero than usual but not anything that's likely to change our lives.

Seemingly not having had their lives changed at all since last week, Hot Chocolate are still Number 1 with So You Win Again, and Errol's still wearing his amulet of power.

Kid gives us his, “Good Love,” sign-off and we play out with Emerson Lake and Palmer.

So, I think we learned two valuable lessons from tonight's show. 1, that Australia was the true heartland of punk and, 2, that Kid Jensen won't give up on it until the entire nation's saying, "Good Love," to each other.

Somehow I suspect he's going to have a very long wait.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Top of the Pops: 7th July, 1977.

Boney M, 1981
Boney M by TROS
(Beeld en Geluidwiki - Gallery: Showbizzquiz)
via Wikimedia Commons
Last Friday night's Olympic opening ceremony magnificently proved to me the UK has a musical heritage to be proud of.

I have faith that this week's Top of the Pops 1977 will do its level best to prove we don't.

Not that Tony Blackburn cares about that. He's too busy introducing us to this week's chart.

What he doesn't introduce us to is the opening act.

Fortunately I don't need him to. With my vast knowledge of popular music, I know the act to be someone with a keyboard.

When the director shows us who's actually playing that keyboard, that's when I'm in trouble because, as always with the first act of each edition, I don't have a clue who it is.

It's all a bit glam rock.

It's all a bit Goldfrapp.

Whoever it is, they look like the world's worst-dressed terrorist organisation.

I take it the keyboard player's a producer pretending to be a group. And I'm not at all convinced that any of the others are really playing those instruments.

Tony finally comes to my rescue and tells me it's the Rah Band. Were they the people who did Clouds Across the Moon?

Olivia Newton-John's back.

Sadly for her, Sam's not. She's still sat there pining for him. “Sam, Sam, you know where I am,” she bemoans.

Of course he does, woman. You never move. You've been sat there for weeks. That's probably why he left you.

Smokie are on next with It's Your Life. I don't think I recognise this.

They've gone a bit reggae - in the Paul Nicholas sense of the word.

It might be reggae but it's the same song they always have hits with.

This is strange. For no noticeable reason, it's suddenly changed tempo and turned into Baby You're a Rich Man.

And suddenly it's turning back into reggae again. Frankly I don't have a clue what's going on. It's all a bit daring and experimental by Smokie standards.

All it needs is for Suzi Quatro to appear and it's had everything.

Sadly Suzi doesn't put in an appearance.

Happily, The Brotherhood of Man do.

Seeing the looks on their faces as they sing of suicide does remind me of when Westlife appeared on Top of the Pops and grinned their way through every moment of their cover of Seasons in the Sun.

But I like to think this is where Steve Nieve stole the piano sound for Oliver's Army from.

Bob Marley's back with Ecksidass. You really do think someone should've told him he was saying it wrong.

It doesn't matter how hard he tries, he'll never be able to do reggae like Smokie can.

It's the Alessi Brothers with Oh Lori. I assume they're no relation to the Alessi Sisters from Neighbours, even though they too were twins.

To be honest, it's not one of my favourite songs, being the musical equivalent of candy floss. And, for some reason it's giving me the urge to stand in a lift.

But forget the Alessi Brothers! We don't need them any more.


Because we've got the return of Barry Biggs!

God alone knows what he's dressed as. He seems to be auditioning for the part of Harry Secombe's stand-in in the worst-ever version of Oliver.

Showing the level of daring that even Smokie could only dream of, he's singing Life is a Three-Ringed Circus, clearly not at all sticking to the format that gave us Sideshow. Personally I've always found life to be a three-ringed lemur.

Does it say bad things about me that I'm quite enjoying this?

I think I'll be singing this in bed tonight.

And now Legs and Co are dancing to Boney M and Ma Baker.

This is driving me up the wall. When are we actually going to be allowed to see the band the world knows as The M? I want to see Bobby dance, not these bums.

I really don't understand what's going on. There's a granny dancing on the screen while the rest of them're sat rogering chairs. What does any of this have to do with a female Chicago gangster?

It's Andy Gibb.

This is very Bee Gees. Did they write it for him?

Hot Chocolate are still at Number 1 - which means they've won again.

Errol shows his class by managing to sing the last line with his mouth shut.

And we play out with Donna Summer and I Feel Love.

This pleases me because I do recall watching this play-out upon first broadcast all those years ago, making it one of the few moments since I started watching these repeats that I actually remember seeing at the time.

So, as predicted, Top of the Pops did indeed fail to play any of Britain's rich musical heritage. Instead it gave us a tale of the familiar with the odd surprise.

I'm not sure if it reflects worst on the show or on me that the act I missed most on tonight's show was Boney M and the one I enjoyed most was Barry Biggs. If only they'd let me choose the soundtrack to that opening ceremony, what a show it would've been.


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