20/03/2013

Top of the Pops 1978: 9/3/78

As watched by Chris ArnsbyOriginally broadcast 9/3/78
Tony Blackburn, “hello and welcome to another edition of Top of the Pops, and right now here comes that brand new top 30.”
Chart music: Free, All Right Now [11]

Generation X: Ready Steady Go [49]. Generic punk group with a lead singer who looks like a young Billy Idol *consults Wikipedia*, oh it is a young Billy Idol. It's a nice enough song but although a few people in the audience bop along enthusiastically it's noticeable that no one joins in with the taped applause at the end.

Elkie Brooks: Lilac Wine [22]. Elkie's vignetted by flowers, presumably lilacs, as she bellows her way through this song. Taking a cue from the lyrics (“I cannot see clearly,” “why is everything so hazy”) director Stanley Appel gets the camera to defocus a couple of times and the effect is appropriately hangover inducing when combined with the floral border which remains in focus.



Elkie Brooks bellowing

Hot Chocolate: Every 1's A Winner [27].  A terrific song played in as a video rather than performed in the studio. It's a slicker performance than might be captured in the Top of the Pops studio, and the contrast has been tweaked (or my television needs adjusting) so the band's white suits have never looked whiter and seem to flare out of the screen.

Tina Charles: I'll Go Where Your Music Takes Me [43]. Tina's doing her best, and the audience are more animated than they were for Generation X but this is a bland song with a few dotty lyrics, “like a bee needs a hive/I need your love to keep me alive” to hold the interest. Towards the end there's a funky solo from that most pop of instruments the xylophone.

Brian And Michael: Matchstalk Men And Matchstalk Cats And Dogs [18]. Yes, that song about the artist Lowry. As a result of Brian And Michael's one-hit-wonder status, and the presence of the St Winifred's School Choir who would later inflict their own horrors on the chart, it's become something of a joke single but I liked it at the time. It was a popular song in the playground when playing Swap Shop (see below for an explanation of the rules for playing Swap Shop).

Blondie: Denis [5]. This edition's second video. Debbie Harry is wearing what seems to be a perfectly respectable, if really amazingly short, striped dress under a jacket but because the jacket hangs further down her legs than the dress it has the effect of making her look far more naked than she is in reality. There was a song and a band as well.

Andy Cameron: Ally's Tartan Army [21]. Oh crap! It's a novelty song. Oh crap! It's a novelty song about football. Andy's confident Scotland will win the 1978 World Cup but you'll be better putting your money on Argentina. The audience have been given tartan scarves and the result looks like a Bay City Rollers reunion.

Eruption: I Can't Stand The Rain [7]. Against a cloudy background, plus overlaid rain, Legs & Co dance while carrying transparent plastic umbrellas and wearing what I'm going to be forced to describe as peekaboo sowesters. In a challenge to modern Heath and Safety culture the studio has been dangerously flooded with two inches of water. No doubt there was a queue of people waiting to administer CPR in the event of water and electricity mixing. It's easy, and fair, to mock Legs & Co's sometimes overly literal routines but they are often better when there is an obvious theme, and this is more fun than some of their generic dance routines.

The Jam: News Of The World [38]. The director, vision mixer, and cameramen do a very good job of capturing the energy of The Jam's performance. Bruce Foxton and Paul Weller both appear to be chewing gum in-between singing/miming.

Number 1: Kate Bush, Wuthering Heights. A repeat of Kate's first appearance on Top of the Pops. So while we are missing the grand piano from the previous edition we do get the “let me in at your window,” pushing hand gesture.

Closing titles: Nottingham Forest F.C. We've Got The Whole World In Our Hands. Oh crap! It's another novelty football song. Not really notable apart from some light casual swearing (“we've got the best damn team...”). The kaleidoscopic pan around the studio lights is augmented with what looks like a soft-focus close up of one of those fibre optic lamps. It pulses disturbingly.

*Playing Swap Shop in the playground: the rules. One person is Noel Edmonds. He introduces a song and then everyone else pretends to be the band. Matchstalk Men And Matchstalk Cats And Dogs was popular because it already had kids singing on it, and as a group we could produce a noise which at least sounded similar. In the playground the song did lead to arguments about whether it was matchSTALK or matchSTICK men.

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