Thursday, 29 November 2012

Top of the Pops: 10th November, 1977.

Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music, 1973
Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music.
By AVRO (Beeld En Geluid Wiki - Gallerie: Toppop 1973)
[CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
This week, to avoid the reception difficulties that so plague me whenever I do this, I'm leaping into the 21st Century in a way that only 1977 can make you do, and watching online.

Needless to say, almost the moment the show starts, I lose my connection.

When I get it back, we've already missed the intro and I'm confronted by what I assume to be the Jacksons over the chart countdown.

If it is them, it's a song I've never heard before - unless it's the song they did the other week, that I'd also not heard before.

A song I mostly definitely have heard before is on next, as Tom Robinson's back.

And there's still something about it that doesn't quite work for me. I love the record but this performance feels too pub for my liking. It's 1977. I'm going through an awkward phase. I'm having strange feelings I've never had before. Mostly involving my internet connection going down. I need some proper punk rebellion.

Meanwhile, the camera man's hanging from the ceiling.

I suppose that might count as punk rebellion.

That guitarist's got very untidy strings. I shouldn't be annoyed by that but, somehow, I am.

But now Tom's gone, and Noel claims that both Donna Summer and Ruby Winters used to be in the Four Seasons. I suspect that may not be true

What is true is that Ruby's on next, doing I Will.

Didn't the White Guardian have a chair like that in Dr Who? If he didn't, he should have.

She seems a bit confused in her movements, like she doesn't know where to look.

But who can blame her? Adrift in a sea of whiteness, it's much she's not got snow-blindness.

She needs to watch out. I once knew someone who insisted that, when a polar bear attacks, it puts one paw over its black nose and thus becomes invisible against the polar ice, meaning there could be one stood right in front of you and you'd never know it.

Something for Ruby to think about there as she rambles around the set.

Roxy Music are on with their brand new hit; Virginia Plain.

I wonder if Bryan Ferry was ever young? No matter how old the footage, he always looks middle-aged.

I've just realised, after all these years, I don't have the slightest clue what Bryan Ferry's singing about.

Oops, connection's gone again.

It turns out I've not missed much, as we're back with Boney M still solving all of Northern Ireland's problems by wearing silly costumes and dancing around a bit.

Elvis Costello's back with Watching The Detectives, the song that first brought him to my eagle-eyed attention when he appeared on the Mavis Nicholson show.

Now it's Legs and Company dancing to How Deep is Your Love? by the Bee Gees. A lot deeper than your voices, that's for sure.

For some reason, "Company" seem to be recreating Dick Van Dyke's legendary turn in Mary Poppins.

I don't have the slightest clue why.

But now it's one from left field because we're given Kenny Everett and Captain Kremmen.

I have no memory of this at all.

Obviously I remember Captain Kremmen and I remember Kenny Everett. So elephantine is my memory that I can even remember both of them at the same time but the record itself means nothing to me.

I have to say, it isn't the most thrilling song I've ever heard.

Or the most interesting video.

Now Noel's with two baffling looking women.

And now it's Santana in a video that seems to have been filmed on a mobile phone, which is quite an achievement in 1977.

Then again there's that infamous footage that seems to show a woman using a mobile phone in the 1920s, or whenever it was, so all things are possible.

I still don't have a clue who the singer is. My Steve Senses tell me it's probably not Colin Blunstone, despite what I thought last week.

Have we actually seen Santana yet?

But yes! Hooray! At last we get to see him, fuzzily, just in time for him to be faded out. Poor old Santana. Not even allowed to star in his own videos.

Not needing a video - because she's here in person - it's Tina Charles who, according to Noel, has a Love Bug. What an unfortunate link that is.

Darts are back.

And Daddy Cool's still playing his piano machine. I wonder what exactly a piano machine actually does?

Den's still looking far too inhibited.

ABBA are still Number 1.

And we go out with Rod.

When I say, "Go out," I of course don't mean that in the Rod Stewart sense of the phrase. Despite rumours to the contrary, I'm not, after all, a statuesque Scandinavian blonde.

I have to say this week's show wasn't really up there with last week's blockbuster epic but it did at least give us Darts, Roxy Music and the Bee Gees - and what I'll always regard as Elvis Costello's first Top of the Pops appearance even though it wasn't.

In some ways, tonight's edition was ahead of its time, with mobile phone recorded videos, and in some ways it was behind its time, with a revived classic from 1972. But I suppose that sums up this time of year for you, when we look both forward at what's to come and backwards at what's already been. In that sense, perhaps it captured the quintessence of the pre-festive season. Then again, maybe I'm just desperately trying to think up some philosophical point with which to end this post.

Blimey! Look at that! I've managed it!

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Top of the Pops: 3rd November 1977.

The Carpenters, 1972
The Carpenters in 1972.
White House photo by Knudsen, Robert L.
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
A new face joins us for this week's show. It's Perky Peter Powell, surely the world's cheeriest living human. Will he be able to maintain that cheeriness through half an hour of 1977's finest music, or will he be left a bitter twisted husk of a man vowing never again to work in British television?

Only the next thirty minutes can tell us.

But it's ELO over the rundown, doing Turn To Stone. And that can only mean one thing; we're off to a flying start and Peter's sanity won't be crushed just yet.

Nor will it be even now because we're suddenly served up the Jam with The Modern World.

To be honest, it's not one of my favourite Jam tracks, being blessed with a tune I can never in any way, shape or form remember but it's still the Jam; and bad Jam is better than no Jam.

As if to prove it, Peter's back, with sanity resolutely uncrushed.

I'm not totally sure I can say the same for the Carpenters, who join us for their legendary cover of Klaatu's Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft.

You can tell the Star Wars/CE3K sci-fi boom's starting to hit big. And was that Meco I spotted in the chart rundown?

But the special effects budget for this video must have been epic. It's a wonder Steven Spielberg wasn't straight on the phone to them to get them to redo the SFX on Close Encounters Of The Third Kind for him.

Well, aliens might be coming for us but, more importantly, so is Christmas. And that can only mean a visit from the band who only seemed to exist when there was tinsel in the air. It's the Barron Knights with Live In Trouble.

They're doing the impossible and sending up the Floaters who themselves went so far into the realms of self-parody that they came right back out the other end.

I'm not sure I'm enjoying any of this but the the Barron Knights clearly are.

Someone I'm bound to enjoy more are Queen giving us We Are The Champions

I've always remembered the first time I saw this video on Top of the Pops - mostly because Freddie's half black and half white in it, like that bloke in Star Trek.

Unlike that bloke in Star Trek, Freddie doesn't go mad and start trying to strangle himself.

But who's that on bass? Is it the bloke who normally played bass for Queen? As you can see, I have an encyclopedic knowledge of the band and its membership.

Sadly, an encyclopedic knowledge of Dorothy Moore is something I gravely lack. And so, as Legs and Co come on, dancing to her track I Believe You, I must confess it's a song I'm not familiar with. Its style is, however, highly familiar.

As for Legs, they seem to be wearing their shower curtains - and not in a good way.

But, hooray! It's Status Quo and Rocking All Over the World.

It's easy to knock the Quo - and just calling them that has suddenly made me sound like Les Battersby - but no one does empty-headed knees-up music quite like them.

As for Peter, he's getting bouncier as it goes along. I actually think he's filled with helium and only held tethered to the ground by a piece of string.

And now! At last! It's David Bowie! After all these months, they've finally let him on the show!

Then again, maybe they shouldn't have. He's doing Heroes and, to be honest, this is rubbish compared to the record.

The wall of sound seems to have been replaced by a desultory attempt at light hedging that's been hit by a half-hearted stab at topiary

Is this the Top of the Pops band playing? I can't help feel they lack a certain bite.

After a complacent sounding start, David's starting to give it some but, without an equal level of some-givingness by his band, I fear it's all doomed to do a classic record poor justice.

These days, I actually can't see David Bowie without seeing Ricky Gervais in my head. That can't be a good thing, can it?

But what's on next is definitely a good thing.

It's Showaddywaddy, with Dancing Party.

It's a radical departure from their usual sound.

Well, OK, it's not. It's exactly the same song they always have hits with.

But they're getting stuck in - the extraneous members, especially, demonstrating how to turn extraneity into a crowd-pleasing asset.

Dare one suggest they're giving David Bowie a lesson in how to do the show?

A band who don't need any lessons in how to do the show - mostly because they never bother appearing on it - are ABBA, and they're Number 1 with Name of the Game.

But, meanwhile, is that Smokie I hear on the play-out?

I do believe it is.

To be honest, whatever mood I come to this show in, I often find myself having to bury rather than praise it.

But, this time, resistance is futile. Tonight's edition was packed with great songs - and at least one great performance from the band they don't call The Wadd. And, if the Jam and David Bowie weren't at their very best, at least they were there.

I can only credit Peter Powell who must have somehow worked his smiley, bouncy magic to lift the show to undreamed of heights. Well done, Peter. Long may you reign over us. Now please don't get arrested before your next appearance.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Top of the Pops: 27th October, 1977.

David Bowie, live on stage, wearing an eyepatch and playing a guitar in 1974
David Bowie was supposed to be on tonight's show but,
thanks to the Dave Lee Travis thing, wasn't.
Poor David. He must be wondering if he'll ever get to appear
on Top of the Pops.
Meanwhile, here is is in 1974, by AVRO
(Beeld En Geluid Wiki - Gallerie: Toppop 1974)
[CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Well, it's all been a right old kerfuffle, with tonight's planned edition being pulled, thanks to the Dave Lee Travis arrest.

But, undeterred by such shocks and surprises, I'm here and raring to go.

Can David Kid Jensen pull off a coup and be the first Top of the Pops presenter not to get arrested at an inconvenient moment?

Only the next half hour can tell.

 And we kick off with Santana doing She's Not There.

Who's doing the singing on this? I assume it's not Carlos.

Is it Colin Blunstone? It sounds like him.

And this week's obligatory Rock and Roll revivalists are...


But not looking or sounding like Slade.

Noddy of course still sounds like Noddy. Even in these days of the much-lauded New Rock, some things don't change.

They seem to be doing My Baby Left Me. That's All Right.

They're doing it competently enough but is this really what we want to hear from our favourite Wolverhampton foot-stompers?

Dave's gone bald. Is this an attempt to jump on that New Music bandwagon that's sweeping the land?

Definitely not trying to jump on that bandwagon is Mary Mason who's here to treat us to her version of Any Way That You Want Me.

She doesn't look very happy.

Was this from a musical?

Whatever it's from, it's not grabbing me.

It's turned into Angel Of The Morning but I'm still not getting into it.

Massive eyelashes cast humongous shadows across her face, like the legs of giant, eyeball-eating spiders.

And now it's all gone Cilla Black.

Learning nothing from recent scandals, Kid's with a zillion young girls.

And now Darts are here with Daddy Cool.

I did always feel Darts should have been the cast of Blake's 7. Somehow you could see them pulling it off.

A man's playing a guitar solo on his saxophone, which takes some doing.

And now Den Heggarty's getting stuck in.

He still looks like Beaker from the Muppets.

But forget Muppets - because Ram Jam are back, and being danced to by Legs and Co.

Incited by such wild music, they're going for it, the brazen hussies.

Lots of hair flinging.

Fists in your face from one of them

And now Kid's back, with yet more young girls.

Possibly, I think, singing about the more mature woman, it's Rod Stewart and You're In My Heart.

What a lovely song this is - one of those tracks, like Nobody Does It Better, that you could only imagine coming out in 1977.

And he's, so far, resisted the urge to ruin it by waving his bum in our face.

But who was the big bosomed lady with the Dutch accent? It can't have been Britt Ekland. That wouldn't make any sense at all.

And just what are Celtic United?

You have to hand it to him, only Rod Stewart could do a tender love song that massed ranks could wave their scarves along to.

Now it's Boney M and Belfast.

I do always feel this track was somewhat of a mistake.

Leaving aside the fact it's got to be one of the dullest hits they ever had - and its optimism for the city proved hopelessly premature - does anyone really want to see Boney M tackling social politics of the day?

And, speaking of people who should be in Blake's 7, what on Earth are they wearing? Let's be honest, nothing says, "The Troubles," more than dressing up like something from Star Maidens From Outer Space.

The truth is, I'm getting bored listening to it, and I can't usually say that about Boney M.

No reason to be bored next - because it's Tom Robinson, making his debut with 2-4-6-8 Motorway.

Is it my imagination? The show's volume seems to have dropped noticeably for Tom.

I must admit, despite my liking for the record, this seems a workmanlike performance and he's coming across like an English teacher trying to convince his class he's a punk star.

People who didn't need to convince anyone of anything are on next, as ABBA give us The Name of The Game.

I love this song. I love this video. When it comes to ABBA, they're both the virtual definition of quintessential.

Is that Ludo they're playing? You don't get enough Ludo in modern pop.

And now it's Smokey Robinson with what Kid tells us is the theme from The Big Time.

He doesn't mean that Esther Rantzen show, does he? The one that discovered Sheena Easton?

It's not very interesting, whatever it is.

The audience looking riveted by Smokey's performance.

He's brought his band with him but he seems to have forgotten to bring a song with him.

Kid's back with more girls.

Kid's flirting with one of them.

And Baccara are somehow at Number 1.

It's that same terrible performance we seem to have had inflicted on us every week for months now.

Is it me or is the drummer not quite in time?

Then again I once read a thing in a newspaper, where a Classical musicologist said the secret of the Beatles' greatness was Ringo never quite drumming in time, so perhaps Baccara were shrewder than we might have thought.

Oh my God, it's Peter Powell, Radio 1's newest recruit!

Oh my God, it's the Sex Pistols and Holidays In The Sun!

Like the sneakiest of sneaky devils, the show leaves its two big dramatic reveals till right at the end!

What a mixed bag that all was, with probably the least memorable record Slade ever unleashed on the 1970s public, Tom Robinson's debut and the shock arrival of Peter Powell and the Sex Pistols. Overall, despite Mary Mason, Smokey Robinson and Baccara, I generally approved of it.

And no one got arrested. Which, let's face it, these days, is the most important thing on a music show.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Top of the Pops: 6th October, 1977.

Yes, live in concert, 1977
Yes in concert, in 1977 by Rick Dikeman (Own work)
[GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Those who follow me on Twitter know that, over the last few days, I've become increasingly obsessed with the back-catalogue of David Essex.

So, it's clear my musical taste's in fine fettle for the task ahead.

Also no doubt in fine fettle is Noel Edmonds who kicks it all off by making a baffling comment about things being black.

At first I assume its because the first few artists pictured on the chart rundown are all black. Why Noel should seek to draw attention to this, I don't know.

But then it then becomes apparent that Noel hasn't joined the Ku Klux Klan since we last saw him. He was merely referring to the track that's playing over the rundown.

Sadly, so bad is my memory as I enter old age that I can't remember who it's by even though they were only on last week.

But even my crumbling memory can't forget Smokie - mostly because they seem to be on every edition.

And so it is that they return, with Needles and Pins which Noel declares to be a classic.

Next it's the Emotions with Best of My Love.

Is that the Soul Train set I detect?

It is. Which means there's going to be plenty of dancing, not least from the Emotions who have a peculiarly jerky dance style that's somewhat shown up by the much cooler groovings of the audience.

As always, each member of the audience only has one actual dance move, which he/she repeats endlessly as though powered by clockwork.

Now it's Danny Mirror.

At first I make the fool's mistake of thinking I've never heard of him...

...but then he opens his mouth and I realise at once that I have heard of him.

For it is he who inflicted the song I Remember Elvis Presley on us.

As Elvis Presley was Number 1 only last week, it's not that great a feat of recall on Danny's part - but then I can't remember the names of acts who were on last week, so maybe I should cut him some slack.

But it does show how the mind plays tricks on one. I always remembered this as having been done by Les Gray of Mud.

"He's just a golden mammary," sings Danny. And, with his attempts to replicate The King's voice and random chunks of his hits, Danny's clearly determined to milk that mammary for all it's worth.

I hated this song at the time and I hate it now.

And now it's Legs and Co dancing to something.

It sounds suspiciously like the hirsute man the world in 1977 knows only as Giorgio.

And it is, with From Here to Eternity. It might be a million years old now but it's still a stunningly cool record.

Legs are waving lots of tin foil around. No doubt in the hopes of thwarting the radar of any World War Two bombers that might still be around.

Thwarting none but the forces of punk are Yes who are on with Wonderous Stories.

This song is the first I ever heard of Yes and it's one of those tracks I most strongly associate with 1977.

As we quickly see, Yes meet the challenge of punk head-on by completely ignoring it.

Someone else paying no lip service at all to punk is Deniece Williams, back with a song which seems to be called Baby Baby My Love's All For You, with which I've been previously unfamiliar. That's a shame as it seems quite pleasant but possibly no more than workwomanlike.

The Stranglers are back with No More Heroes.

And now Baccara are Bacc. They're as breathy as ever and they're still what can only be labelled, "Vocally challenged."

And now Steve Gibbons is back with a song in the same vein as his last hit.

As always, he's got his tightest leather trousers on but, frankly, this is a bit rubbish. Despite Steve's best efforts, it has no oomph to it at all.

Not that David Soul cares about oomph. Although displaying a total lack of that quality, he's at Number 1 with you-know-what song. He's still in that video and he's still not cheered up.

But now Noel's with a woman and doing a link that's got me totally baffled. It seems her name's Kim and she has a record out but he doesn't say what it is or let her speak. It seems to be some sort of in-joke but I'm oblivious to its in-ness.

We play out with Leo Sayer who's still got thunder in his heart.

In retrospect, I can't help feeling this week's show struggled to get going. I appreciated the Stranglers of course, as I always do, but it was a performance we've already seen before and I can't think of anything else that grabbed me. Even Smokie failed to work the magic they so often have.

In the end, the totally Zeitgeist deficient Yes were probably my highlight, which says it all about the strange failure of the edition to fully grip the handles of my nostalgia.


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