Sunday, 23 December 2012

Top of the Pops: 15th December, 1977.

John Otway and Wild Willy Barrett on stage in 1981
John Otway and Wild Willy Barrett in 1981
By Canada Jack aka Jeremy Gilbert (Own work)
[CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons
Hooray!  At last, Steve Does Top of the Pops creates its last-ever post. Much have I suffered and far have I been but soon my ordeal will be over.

As though sensing the epoch-makingness of it all, the BBC have raided the piggy bank and brought in a genuine superstar to present it, with the arrival of a startlingly young-looking Elton John.

I'm not sure who's playing over the chart rundown but it does sound suspiciously like Donna Summer. If so, that would suggest she has two singles out at once, though it has to be said this one doesn't sound a patch on Love's Unkind.

Not a patch on Donna Summer are the Dooleys, doing Love Of My Life.

As I roam the streets of Sheffield, I'm often asked, "Steve, have you ever been grabbed the Dooleys?" and I say, "Yes. Often grabbed but rarely gripped."

That could be because this track, surely their greatest achievement, does sound remarkably like it's been culled from a Martini advert.

I really can't help feeling they could have done with some advice in the wardrobe stakes.

Needing no advice at all in the wardrobe stakes - because they're looking rather fetching right now - are Legs and Co who're dancing once more to Jonathan Richman's Egyptian Reggae.

It's that legendary dance routine. One so epic they should have been forced to do it every week, for the whole of eternity.

But you don't hear enough gongs on pop records these days.

Come to think of it, what was the last hit single to have a gong on it? REM's Losing My Religion should have ended with a gong but the Georgian hit-makers clearly lacked my class and didn't realise it.

A man who will never be short of class is Carl Douglas. And he's on next - with a song that's not about Kung Fu. In this case it's something called Run Back.

I don't know. I don't like to hem a man in but he's really not the same without the karate gear and bandana.

Objectively this is a classier song than Kung Fu Fighting but that probably works against it, as its greater sense of taste and dignity means it lacks that song's USP.

In fact, so devoid of USP is it that they could've stuck the words, "Billy Ocean," on the label and I'm not sure how many people would have noticed it wasn't him.

Now Julie Covington comes on to tell us Only Women Bleed, which is clearly not true - as all graphic designers know that artwork bleeds too. Still, if she'd called it Only Women and Artwork Bleed, it'd sound like the title of the worst sitcom David Jason never made.

And whatever this song might be, the one thing it's not is a barrel of laughs.

It really is a humourless, pompous load of cobblers that sounds like it should've been sung by a woman in dungarees.

Although, on the plus-side, is it me or does it have weird and unlikely echoes of Rock and Roll by Status Quo?

Argh! Darts are back with Daddy Cool! Yes, it's a perfectly good record and they all give it plenty of welly but this has to be its twenty sixth appearance on the show.

And now it's Legs and Co's second appearance on tonight's show as they dance to My Way by Elvis Presley.

The Top of the Pops hierarchy have managed to secure the services of Elvis Presley's shadow for the performance. This probably isn't the coup it might initially seem, as I suspect his shadow found work increasingly harder to get after his death.

Needless to say, Legs' dance routine seems to have nothing to do with the song, in either practice or spirit.

Also lacking connectivity to Elvis in both practice and spirit are John Otway and Wild Willy Barrett, with Really Free.

I still remember the sheer bewilderment I and seemingly everyone I knew felt when this first reared its head on Top of the Pops but time has been kind to it and you can't help viewing it as an old and shambolic friend. Not to mention it now feeling like a sort of precursor to the majesty of Jilted John.

That's niftier guitar playing than I remembered.

Now it's the Emotions and I Don't Wanna Lose Your Love.

Maybe it's me but it doesn't seem the most inspired song ever written. In fact, I actually think you'd have to make a conscious effort to write a less inspired song - and still fail in the attempt.

But, Hooray! None of that matters. Why? Because Mull of Kintyre is still Number One.

And, to celebrate, Macca's paid for the whole of Scotland to be reproduced in a studio that I suspect belongs to Mike Yarwood.

In fairness, even though it's a blatant fake, it's an impressive one.

But even Macca can't last forever, and so we play out with the Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band giving us The Floral Dance, which seems to be dragging on an eternity.

Still, at least we've been spared Terry Wogan's attempt at it. That track was my first ever exposure to Wogan and I've still not forgiven him for it.

So there we have it, the end. It probably reflects badly on me that what sticks out most for me about the editions I've covered are the worst or weirdest moments. There was Joy Sarney's happy tribute to domestic violence, Barry Biggs curious resemblance to Henry the 8th, Contempt and their song that no one at all seemed to know anything about. There were Legs and Co's bizarre dance routines and there was the shadow cast over the show by the activities of certain DJs.

Overall it's hard to avoid the feeling that 1977 was not a great year for music - but it did feature hints of golden days to come, with the arrival of various punk, new wave, pub, disco and synth acts, not to mention engagingly poppy material that some might call guilty pleasures but I wouldn't because I feel no guilt.

Whether I should feel guilt or not, thanks for sticking with the blog for this long, and have a Merry Christmas.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Top of the Pops: 8th December, 1977.

Bing Crosby, 1942
Bing Crosby in 1942,
(Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia.
For one whose heart is as hard as mine, Christmas is always horrific. But it's just got worse - because I now have to review two editions in one evening, instead of one.

Needless to say, I shall meet the dread challenge head-on by totally ignoring it and covering the latter episode on some other day.

But what of tonight? What tinselly magic can Tony Blackburn sprinkle upon us as we fire ourselves up for the Festive Season?

The first piece of magic he can weave is turning winter into summer as Donna of that name does the chart countdown with probably my fave track by her; Love's Unkind.

Sadly, we barely get to hear any of it before we meet the night's opening act.

And it's a bunch of people who look suspiciously like Billy Idol and Generation X though I can't claim to have ever heard the song before. In fact, I didn't know they'd ever bothered the chart compilers before about 1980.

You can say what you like about Billy Idol but he really was the new Cliff Richard and, to be honest, this actually manages to make Cliff sound like the voice of youthful rebellion.

Billy keeps saying it's wild but the reality is it's not.

A raised eyebrow from Tony, as it ends, tells us all we need to know about what he thought of it.

Hot Chocolate are back with that song no one remembers and has a title that makes no sense.

I don't care what anyone says, I still like it.

It's mean, moody and magnificent.

According to Tony, the next track's by Chick, though, to my ears, they sound remarkably like Chic.

They're being danced to by Legs and Co who're wearing as little as they can get away with.

They're followed by Manfred Mann's Earth Band, with a song I've never heard before.

It's not hard to see why, as it's not exactly what you could call electrifying.

It'd be easy to say it's why Punk had to happen but, to be honest, it's more like why Bucks Fizz had to happen.

Bonnie Tyler's back with her Hard Egg.

"Love him till your arms break," croaks Bonnie, suggesting she struggles to tell the difference between love and self-destructive lunacy.

The Bee Gees are back for what seems like the millionth time, with How Deep Is Your Love?

And Graham Parker's back with the New York Shuffle. It's amazing how many times he got on the show despite never having had any actual hits.

Although I was a fan of Graham at that time, this song doesn't do anything for me. I do prefer it when he's being contemptuous about things.

Next it's The Banned who fail at the first hurdle by not actually being banned. It would appear the song's called Little Girl, which, with all that's being going on lately, means it's a miracle they've made the final cut.

Are these one of those groups who were famous under another guise - like Yellow Dog were really Fox without Noosha? They have that sort of air about them.

Whoever they are, they're truly dreadful.

But, Hooray! At last Macca's with us, and Mull of Kintyre has claimed its rightful spot as the UK's Number 1.

Paul's still on the fence.

He still scarpers the moment Linda shows up.

The pipers are still on that beach.

And then, with no warning whatsoever, it's all gone Wicker Man on us as everyone in the village gathers for the bonfire.

That's the magic of Macca for you. Just as you think he's being banal, he pulls the rug from under you by setting fire to Edward Woodward.

And, blimey, wouldn't you know it, Boney M are on again with Belfast, on the play-out. Someone at Top of the Pops clearly liked it.

It has to be said, it wasn't a vintage week. In fact, it was rubbish and, if not for Wings and Hot Chocolate, I'd say it had virtually nothing to distinguish it.

And, maybe I wasn't paying enough attention but where exactly was Bing Crosby, as promised in the listings? Did they really cut him out to make way for The Banned?

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Top of the Pops: 8th December, 1977. An Update.

Bing Crosby, 1942
Bing Crosby in 1942,
(Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia.
Christmas is currently working its magic at Chez Steve - and that means that, thanks to real-life holiday goings-on getting in the way, this week's post shall be a little delayed. I'll get it done as soon as I can. Thanks for your patience, and see you soon.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Top of the Pops: 24th November, 1977.

Mull of Kintyre lighthouse
Mull of Kintyre lighthouse by Steve Partridge
[CC-BY-SA-2.0],  via Wikimedia Commons

This is it. I have my bagpipes plugged in, my sporran in my hand and I'm all revved up for what I believe is set to be a historic show.

It certainly is - because we kick off with Boney M single-handedly sorting out Northern Ireland for what seems to be the ninth week running. I do like to feel Bobby was hoping to dance the IRA into submission.

Sadly, we don't get to see him do so, as we only get to hear The M over the chart rundown.

That done with, it's some people who've been watching too much Bay City Rollers and listening to too much Beach Boys, trying to cash in what I assume was the skateboard craze.

Whoever they are, I do get the feeling the skateboard craze has arrived five years too late for their hopes of stardom. They look like they've been locked in a cupboard since 1974 and have only just escaped it.

Hold on a moment! That drummer's not the bloke who used to be in Flintlock and The Tomorrow People is it? Mike Holoway, was he called? If it is him, suddenly, whoever these people, are my feelings towards them have warmed instantly and I hope they have many chart hits for years to come. I can wish nothing but good to a Tomorrow Person.

From a Tomorrow Person to the Yesterday man. Because - hooray! - it's Wings. It's that song. It's that video. It's that farmhouse.

I don't care how uncool it is to say so, I'll admit it right here and now. I love this song. It's one of the greatest melodies ever written, it wipes the floor with 99% of punk records and I'm tempted to whip out my guitar and join in.

Linda's appeared from the farmhouse and Paul's suddenly doing a runner. Stop running away from Linda, Paul. She might have a veggie burger for you.

The pipe band have appeared. On the beach. Forget Bohemian Rhapsody. This is the greatest video in history.

"Sweep through the heather." Don't mention heather, Paul.

Disgracefully, Macca's faded-out long before we get to hear his shouty bit - and we're off from Scotland to Wales.

That's because it's Bonnie Tyler with It's A Hard Egg.

I'm getting a bit bored with it now. I want Wings back.

Instead I get Darts, with Daddy Cool. It's all very energetic but this is the millionth time they've been on doing it. I'm starting to want a new song from them.

Kid's back.

He's trying to strangle a female audience member.

Leo Sayer's on with a song I have no recollection of.

It seems to be called There Isn't Anything.

This is quite pleasant. It's exactly like you'd expect a Leo Sayer song to sound. And it's got exactly the video you'd expect a Leo Sayer song to have. Was this from his TV show? It has the air of something that would be.

Leo's gone and Legs and Co are with us, dancing to Jonathan Richman's Egyptian Reggae, which isn't actually reggae at all, is it?

However you classify it, it's giving Flick Colby the chance to hit new heights of choreographic literalism, with everyone dressed up Cleopatra style.

And now we get the full power of Flick's genius as, for no good reason, a panto camel appears.

What a mighty beast that is. No wonder it can survive for weeks in the desert.

Was this song the inspiration for Fleetwood Mac's Tusk? There are noticeable similarities between the two tracks.

Flick's flung herself fully into madness, as the camel launches into a tap-dance.

Having seen that performance, I do feel all women should be forced to dress like Cleopatra and all men should be forced to dress as a camel.

Hot Chocolate are back, with Put Your Love In Me.

This is another one I've not heard of.

I didn't think it was possible to not have heard of a 1970s Hot Chocolate single.

Interesting chord change.

Actually, it's turned out I have heard this before. I just didn't recognise it till it hit the chorus. This is all rather fabby and disco and vaguely Cerrone.

Speaking of fabby disco groovers, it's another helping of the Bee Gees and How Deep Is Your Love?

And next it's someone called Larry Gomez with Santa Esmeralda doing Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood. Fair play to him, he's doing his best, whoever he is but, sadly, I fear the total uselessness of both him and his dancers means his efforts will prove to be in vain.

ABBA are still Number 1 with Name of the Game.

And we play out with the Jacksons and Going Places. A Jacksons song I recognise. Will wonders never cease?

It's going on a bit. Were they running short this week?

So that's it. The edition when we first saw the future biggest-selling single in British history. I have to say I didn't feel the show as a whole caught light this week. There were two many tracks we've heard before, acts we'd never hear from again, and Mull of Kintyre was cut short. Still, we did at least get to see the moment when Flick Colby's brain finally sprung a leak and undiluted madness poured out. Let's be honest if you don't want to see that from Top of the Pops, what do you want to see?


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