Thursday, 27 September 2012

Top of the Pops: 25th August, 1977.

Bob Geldof and the Boomtown Rats at Knotts Berry Farm, 1981
The Boomtown Rats in 1981. Author unknown;
Photo courtesy Orange County Archives
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
A little bird tells me that tonight's show sees the Top of the Pops debuts of two very memorable acts.

Will we get to see them in full? Or will one of them be relegated to a thirty second slot, playing over the chart rundown, while the other gets stuck on the play-out ?

More to the point, will I actually be able to get through an edition without losing my reception?

Only Noel Edmonds can tell us.

And tell us he does - because the rundown music is by no debutante. It's by Donna Summer, with Down Deep Inside. Was this the theme tune to Peter Benchley's The Deep, or am I going completely mad?

Whatever it's from, she's sounding extremely tired as she sings it; loads of moaning, groaning and sighing. I think she needs a good lie down.

Eddie and the Hot Rods certainly don't. Why? Because The Bloke Who Isn't Eddie's full of bounce.

You can tell he's the authentic voice of punk. He keeps getting too close to the camera.

But who can believe it? The audience are actually showing an interest and are actually moving.

Could it be? Could the segment of the nation represented by Top of the Pops finally have embraced the new music that's forced Kid Jensen into endless euphemisms these past few weeks?

A man who forces no euphemisms is the highest new entry. It's Elvis Presley. I bet he was excited when he found out about that.

This doesn't seem to be a very highly regarded song but, as a non-Presley fan, I've always liked it.

But Legs and Co are looking far too cheery to be dancing to a song that's only on the charts because its singer's dead.

And why do they insist on pointing upwards when he sings, "Way on down"?

There's no time to ponder that because it's the first of those memorable acts I mentioned.

It's the Boomtown Rats.

They're doing Looking After Number One.

They don't seem to be taken very seriously these days but, to some of us, they were a breath of fresh air at the time.

First Eddie and the Hot Rods. Now the Boomtown Rats. The Top of the Pops' times really are a-changing.

Like The Bloke Who's Not Called Eddie, Bob keeps getting too close to the camera.

And, as with The Bloke Who's Not Called Eddie, the audience are joining in with Bob.

I'm not. But that's only because I've just lost reception.

What is it? Every week this happens. Are Elkie Brooks fans trying to block transmission to this house in a desperate attempt to stop me posting my always wrong opinions on her?

Whatever the truth of the matter, they won't succeed. I'm determined to inflict my irrelevant drivel on this land, no matter what it takes.

I'm back and the Rats have gone, replaced by a woman whose identity I'm not sure of. Is it Deniece Williams?

Whoever she is, she's wearing my curtains and singing what appears to be That's What Friends Are For.

It is Deniece Williams. My knowledge of pop never ceases to amaze me.

Thin Lizzy never cease to amaze me either. How many times can they be on with the same song?

Like Not Eddie and Bob, Phil's also too close to the camera.

Has he got a black eye or is it just makeup?

Someone must have put something in the audience's coffee tonight because they're even bobbing around to this one, creating an effect strangely redolent of Wings' video to With a Little Luck, only with teenagers instead of children.

Is that John Helliwell from Supertramp on sax?

Look at me. I can even identify sax players. I'm like the new Paul Gambaccini.

Now it's Space and Magic Fly.

I used to have a space helmet like that. I used to pretend it was a portable TV.

Actually, my space helmet was better. It said, "NASA,"on it and had a fake microphone that didn't do anything.

I got mine in 1969, eight years before Space got theirs. Take that, pop stars.

But now it's the second of the memorable acts I mentioned.

It's the Adverts and Gary Gilmore's Eyes.

Gary Gilmore's Eyes and Looking After Number One are the first punk songs the show's featured that I remember from when they came out. I suppose this means this is the week punk's finally arrived for me.

I never noticed before that this sounds like the Monster Mash.

And the audience are bobbing again.

Unlike Gaye Advert who looks suitably disinterested.

The Adverts depart and I miss Noel's intro to the next act, meaning that, so far, I don't have a clue who it is.

It's a strange woman who's borrowed her hair from Rula Lenska and her wardrobe from Suzanne Danielle

Whoever she is, she can't sing.

She looks like someone I used to know at school. Actually, she looks exactly like someone I knew at school.

It's all over and, apparently, she and her equally tone deaf friends were called Page Three.

And just to drag us all down completely from the show's previous highs, the Floaters are somehow at Number 1.

I wonder why luminous blues suits went out of fashion?

As we contemplate that mystery, we play out with Jean Michel Jarre and what I think is Oxygene, meaning we've had two foreign instrumentals in one show - the show in which Noel Edmonds declared it's rare to get instrumentals on the chart.

So it's all over and you can't get away from it, it was a show in which the bracing wind of modernity was unmissable. Instead of the usual rubbish, we got not one but three songs that could be called punk. We got two euro synth instrumentals. We got Thin Lizzy who were hardly new music but certainly weren't traditional Top of the Pops fare and we got Donna Summer.

Page Three and the Floaters aside, it has to represent a jolting leap into what was then the present, a reminder that the 1970s were nearing their end and a whole new musical age was inescapably looming into view.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Top of the Pops: 18th August, 1977.

I can't find a decent Free-Use pic of any of tonight's acts,
so here's a lovely photo of Fingal's Cave in Staffa, Scotland.
By Velela (Public Domain).
Never  one to waste time, Dave Lee Travis flings us straight into it with the chart countdown and the Stranglers doing Something Better Change.

What with Jonathan Richman last week and the Stranglers this, the BBC have clearly decided the countdown is the best place to put the "challenging" songs.

But, for the serious music lover, nothing could be more challenging than the Dooleys - and they're up next, with something or other.

I must admit my memories of the Dooleys are vague. While I have strongish recall of the music, in terms of what they looked like I think I may have spent the last thirty-odd years mixing them up with Liquid Gold.

Upon re-acquaintance with them, they're not the most glamorous outfit I've ever seen.

Nor are they wearing the most glamorous outfits I've ever seen.

But the Dooleys depart and - hooray - it's the act some of us have been waiting all year for.

It's the Floaters - and Float On.

Has there ever been a band with a more unfortunate name? Has there ever been a band whose only hit was more lampoonable?

And, for that matter, how exactly does one, "Float on?"

Charles likes a woman who's quiet.

Paul's fussy. He likes all the women of the world.

While Larry - funny how he's the one who's lingered longest in the memory - likes a woman who loves everyone and everybody.

What a desperate bunch of men they turned out to be.

I wonder if Elkie Brooks would've been impressed by Larry? She's on now, doing Since You Went Away.

All respect to Elkie, who we established several months ago is a seething volcano of female sexuality but I'm already starting to get bored with her.

Now it's Mink DeVille. For some reason I always get them mixed up with the aforementioned Jonathan Richman.

I've never seen them before and they don't look like I expected. I always thought they'd look like the Cars.

Actually, this does sound more like My Best Friend's Girl than I ever noticed before. In fact, I think you can sing My Best Friend's Girl right over the top of it.

Meanwhile, the singer seems to be in a different group from the rest of the band.

Despite all their best efforts, I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion this is rubbish.

What's on next certainly isn't.


Because it's Carly Simon and my favouritest ever James Bond theme. Who can listen to this song without at once being transported back to a magical time of cars that turn into submarines, and giants with metal teeth? And how many songs can you say that about?

Not so hooray! Carly's being danced to by Legs and Co.

Those are interesting outfits they're wearing. They look like Dale Arden in full-on Mongo gear.

In fact, if Hela - the goddess of death from Thor - joined Legs and Co, that's exactly the look she'd go for.

As Hela's a bit of a role model of mine, that realisation quickly convinces me this is a good look.

I would say I really don't have a clue what the dance has to do with the song but I say that every week, so I won't. But I can say their aimless physical meanderings have managed the seemingly impossible and drained away all my enthusiasm for the song.

We're back to Dave Lee Travis and he's with a woman whose top proclaims the word, "Midge." Is she an Ultravox fan who's got to the studio too early or a Slik fan who's got there too late?

Danny Williams is back, with the Martini music.

He still looks like someone who'd sell you something dodgy on a street corner - although I'm sure he's not really.

The Rah Band are back for what seems like the millionth time, and still failing to convince me that balaclavas are a good look for a pop star.

I've lost reception again. Why does this happen every week at this time? It's like someone's trying to jam my signal in an effort to ruin my enjoyment.

I'm back in time for a woman singing the Bee Gees' Nights on Broadway. My finely tuned knowledge of popular music tells me she might be Candi Staton.

But I've lost my reception again...

...and suddenly I'm confronted by the Jam and All Around the World, leading me to conclude that Candi can't have been on for long.

I've come to the decision that this isn't one of the Jam's best, but they are at least doing their best to liven up what's been a somewhat moribund edition.

Someone you could never call moribund are the Brotherhood of Man. They even manage to make Mexican suicides sound like fun. Not only that but they're suddenly at Number 1, with Angelo.

But, hold on a moment. Hasn't this been out for months and months and months? They must've been on Top of the Pops at least a million times doing it already. Just how long did it take to reach the top spot?

No doubt lacking all interest in such conundra, Space play us out with Magic Fly. Or is it Magic Fly playing us out with Space? I was never sure which it was but, whatever it's called and whoever it's by, like Nobody Does it Better, this is one of the tracks I most strongly associate with 1977.

It was an oddly disjointed show, veering awkwardly between the likes of the Jam and the Stranglers and the likes of the Floaters and the Dooleys. If any show demonstrates that 1977 saw a nation musically divided then it has to have been this one.

It'd be nice to say the contrast was invigorating but it proved to be more frustrating, as the serious groups drained all fun from proceedings, as the sillier groups drained all gravitas from them. Could this be the fate of British music from now on? To be hopelessly fractured beyond consolidation?

Only time - and possibly 1978 - will be able to tell us.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Top of the Pops: 11th August, 1977.

Phil Lynott, Thin Lizzy playing live on stage, 1980
Thin Lizzy's Phil Lynott; by Helge Øverås (Own work)
[CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
As the nights start to draw in and we begin to say goodbye to the summer, we plunge straight into the sunset with Kid Jensen who introduces us to Jonathan Richman and his Modern Lovers.

Sadly, Jonathan's not able to be with us tonight and so we just get to hear him played over the countdown.

I don't care how time-saving such a move may be, it's still not right to hear anything that's not a theme tune performing such a function.

Not only that but its use as the intro music means we don't even get to hear the whole of the song, even though Kid tells us it's this week's highest climber.

I have no doubt we will however get to hear the whole of Showaddywaddy.

This is a good thing, as they might not be musical heavyweights but they do know how to do Top of the Pops. In fact, I'd go so far as to say they're the quintessential Top of the Pops group.

Are Dave's flies undone?

That's definitely not Quintessential Top of the Pops.

Neither are the Steve Gibbons Band. Assuming, as always, that the singer's the eponymous Steve, he looks to have been round the block a few times too many for that.

Kid clearly doesn't care. He's happily dancing along in the background.

I wonder if Status Quo ever did a cover of this? You could imagine they would have.

Barry Biggs is back, what seems like months since his last appearance, but still doing the same song as before.

But now hooray! It's Eddie and the Hot Rods with Do Anything You Wanna Do - even though Kid seems to think they're just called The Rods.

This has to be one of the greatest pop songs of the late 1970s; the closest Britain's ever produced to its own version of Born to Run. Quite frankly, anyone who doesn't like this has to have something wrong with them.

They're getting close to the spirit of punk, even if they have see-through drums.

Not getting anywhere near to punk are Legs and Co who're on next, dancing to Rita Coolidge.

They seem to be doing some sort of corrupted Gap Band type dance. I hope everyone at home's joining in with it. I know I am even though I'm on my own.

I really don't know what this dance has to do with the song, and I'm missing Rita's cactus.

A band who're so good they can get by even without the aid of a cactus are Thin Lizzy who're still dancing in the moonlight.

As always, halfway through the show, I've lost my reception.

When it comes back, as always I'm confronted by someone I don't recognise.

Whoever he is, he seems to be in the Labi Siffre envelope, though I say that as someone who doesn't have a clue what the Labi Siffre envelope is.

No problems of recognition with the next act. It's Fleetwood Mac doing Dreams.

This isn't good news, as the only Fleetwood Mac song I like is Tusk.

Don't get me wrong. It's not that I actively dislike any of their other tracks. It's just that, pleasant though they are, they just make me start to nod off after a minute or so.

On the plus side, Stevie Nicks is looking nice.

John McVie's looking like that impressionist, the one with the long nose who does all the sports people but never looks like any of them.

Lindsey Buckingham's looking like Jeff Lynne.

Between them they could start their own lookalikes agency. Admittedly Stevie Nicks would have to work as a Stevie Nicks lookalike but I like to feel she could pull it off.  She really does look remarkably like herself.

But I do wish they'd liven themselves up a bit. Does this song actually go anywhere? It just seems to meander endlessly, like someone doing the feather dusting.

Now it's another act I've never heard of - JALN.

The intro sounds like Diamonds On The Soles Of  Her Shoes. Could it be that Paul Simon wasn't being as original as we thought when he did Graceland?

My god, this is bad.

It sounds like something from a children's show.

Meanwhile, Donna Summer's photo's still Number 1.

Kid, give up on the whole, "Good Love," thing. I can say this as someone living thirty five years in the future, it's just never going to work.

More importantly, there's no play-out this week - and that means no Boney M. For a seasoned fan of The M, like me, that's almost enough grounds to throw my TV out the window.

So it's all over, and there's no doubt about it, Eddie and the Hot Rods bestrode the show like colossi. So much so that I'm straight off to Youtube to listen to them all over again.

The Jam didn't manage to make me do that, the Stranglers didn't manage to make me do that, Showaddywaddy didn't manage to make me do that but Eddie - and Eddie alone - has. If that doesn't prove the Hot Rods deserve a place in music history, I don't know what would.


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