08/04/2013

Top of the Pops 78: 30/03/78



as watched by Chris Arnsby on BBC4
Originally broadcast 30/3/78

Kid Jensen, “welcome to the music behind the numbers on this week's Top of the Pops, and to help us with the countdown this is Gerry Rafferty.”
Chart music: Baker Street, Gerry Rafferty [3]

Mud: Cut Across Shorty [NEW]. Someone's bought the vision mixer a new toy; possibly a Quantel DPE 5000 digital effects system. During the introduction to Cut Across Shorty the vision mixer freeze frames the picture in a way which ironically now looks like a faulty hard disc recording, and made me think my box had gone wrong. Then, just when you think the tech demo has finished, the vision mixer finds a new button; picture in picture! First in the top right corner, then in the top left, we get an overlaid close-up of the band complete with reduced frame rate effect. The electronic effects used on Top of the Pops have become more complicated recently we're starting to see the programme move towards the visual look which I remember from the early 1980s. As for the song, it's good fun. A nice slice of rock and roll, presumably Mud were hoping to cash in on the 50s nostalgia which peaked in 1978 with the summer of Grease.

As Mud's career waned they tried to sneak items out of Television Centre


 

Tina Charles: I'll Go Where Your Music Takes Me [28]. Tina's back with a new performance of the song with the ice hot xylophone solo. In the far corner of the set an audience member amuses his mate as he pogos frantically to the sound of the xylophone.

Elvis Costello & The Attractions: I Don't Want To Go To Chelsea [17]. Wait a minute didn't we get this song last week? Well yes. Sort of. BBC4 has skipped the 23rd March edition of Top of the Pops because it was presented by The Hairy Cornflake Dave Lee Travis. So we get Elvis two weeks in a row. Second time round, this song is starting to grow on me.

Richard Myhill: It Takes Two To Tango [49]. Richard's sitting at a white grand piano, wearing a white suit, white gloves, and white bow-tie. He's joined on stage by a mannequin all dolled up in blonde wig, dress, and make-up. Unfortunately the doll is awkwardly propped up behind the piano and the first camera angle makes it look like an inflatable sex toy. The purpose of the doll becomes clear when Richard picks it up and croons at it, before standing and posing Tango style. Unfortunately when Richard needs to sit down again he chucks the doll away and it is left slumped across the open inside of the piano. In the wide shots it now looks like a corpse. Presumably not the effect Richard had in mind. Meanwhile the vision mixer has found a third button which cuts between shots by sliding the image off screen.

Tavares: The Ghost Of Love [29]. Danced by Legs & Co. For this performance the set designer and costumer are talking to each other and they've gone for a spooky motif. Legs & Co are dressed with flowing muslin-like wings which they waft around and they dance inside a giant tent style spiders web which makes the routine look like it's being broadcast live from Shelob's lair.

Dan Hill: Sometimes When We Touch [26]. The singing librarian's back in a second repeat from last week's BBC4 edition.

Suzi Quatro: If You Can't Give Me Love [10] And a third song from BBC4 last week. At least this is a new performance, and Suzi is infinitely more fun than Dan. Obviously given a choice between skipping editions of Top of the Pops (ie those presented by Jimmy Saville, or Dave Lee Travis) or dropping the repeats I would much rather have skipped editions. However it is frustrating when the skipped editions result in a log jam of repeat performances, as is happening this week.

Andy Cameron: Ally's Tartan Army [6]. Number 6? Really everyone in 1978? Wouldn't you have rather spent your pocket money on something else? 2000AD prog 57 was on sale, and it only cost 9p. Why not buy that instead? Andy says of Scotland, “and we'll really shake them up when we win the World Cup.” Let us know how that works out for you Andy.

Don Williams: I've Got A Winner In You [NEW]. A pleasant enough Country and Western song. Harry Bradley, the lighting director, must have got jealous of all the fun the vision  mixer is having with his new toy because now Harry starts messing around with the lighting. For the verses of this song he fades the lights down on the band, leaving only Don visible on stage lit by a single spotlight. On the chorus he brings all the stage lights up.

Number 1: Kate Bush, Wuthering Heights. A third outing for the repeat of Kate's debut Top of the Pops appearance. Here's the frustrating thing about skipping difficult editions of Top of the Pops, the modern audience is missing out on some unique performances. Last week, that is 23rd March 1978, Kate was back in the studio to record a new appearance which went out slathered in the video feedback howl-round effect Bernard Lodge used to create the first three Doctor Who title sequences.

Closing titles: Is This Love? Bob Marley & The Wailers [9]. One unusual thing about these BBC4 repeats is that they often last longer than the broadcast would have done in 1978. The closing song/pan around the lighting grid always runs longer than the programme credits because the director needs to give the continuity announcer space to fade the programme out, and also to fill a programme slot which changed length from week to week; one week it might be 30 minutes and 20 seconds, the next 29 minutes 53 seconds. BBC4 on the other hand lets the programme play out completely and so the viewer of the repeats gets to see stuff which on the original broadcast might have been faded out after the producer's credit. It's relevant here because after talking about the howl-round effect added to Kate Bush we get to see some applied to the studio lighting grid pan, as if the vision mixer is playing around with his buttons again. The howl-round adds some psychedelic effects to the Bob Marley track it is accompanying.



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