03/05/2013

Top of the Pops 1978: 20.04.78



Originally broadcast on 20/4/78

As watched by Chris Arnsby on BBC4


Peter Powell, “hi everyone and welcome to another edition of Top Of The Pops! Here's the chart run down and it's Raydio!.”
Chart music: Raydio, Jack And Jill [48]



Squeeze: Take Me I'm Yours [22]. Rightfully promoted to the opening track of the show, Squeeze are back with their performance enhanced by the vision mixer who is allowed a go on the Quantel digital effects box for the first time in three weeks. This week's feature, picture in picture in picture in picture in picture, etc. Like two mirrors placed in front of each other the main camera output is somehow fed back on itself, and recedes into the distance inside a box in the lower left hand corner of the screen. But, that's not all! During the instrumental the infinity box moves across the screen from the top left to bottom right; maximum power! Take Me I'm Yours still sounds fantastic and it's the first song of the 1978 repeats I've bought; if Jools Holland noticed an extra 6p in his bank account this week it came from me. 

Dan Hill: Sometimes When We Touch [13]. Canada's entry in the international Demis Roussos lookalike contest (spoiler: and we'll be seeing the real deal later on this edition). The BBC's getting value for money from Dan's one appearance on Top Of The Pops, this is the third outing for this clip.

Bee Gees: Night Fever [2]. It's Legs & Co wearing baby doll nighties (night fever, do you see?). Last week dancing in front of the audience worked so well they've done it again, but bigger. Legs & Co strut their stuff on a catwalk with an angled mirror at the far end making it recede into the distance. Occasionally we cut to a fisheye lens mounted on the camera crane and it makes the studio look huge.




Wings: With A Little Luck [5]. Along with Take Me I'm Yours, this is the second song which made its Top Of The Pops début on the 6th April edition. Of course Paul McCartney isn't going to be coming down to the studio so the promo video is shown again.



Bryan Ferry: What Goes On [NEW]. A boring song but the Quantel's brought back into play, and really given a chance to show what it can do. With the screen split vertically into five bars the vision mixer starts going to town with the available effects. First we get a reduced frame rate, then the brightness of the left hand bar is cranked up and the over saturated effect cycles over to the right hand side of the screen. The picture quality in each bar gets noticeably worse from left to right which must be some legacy of the technology used. At the end of the song as the camera zooms out the frame rate is really dialled back, and this gives a strobe effect to the movement; an effect I remember from shows in the 80s.

Sheila B. Devotion: Singin' In The Rain (part 1) [11]. A third song from 6th April edition. This performance of the terrible disco version of Gene Kelly's song is played in on video from a show called Top Pop. Shelia and her backing singers frantically windmill their arms, grin inanely, and thrust their hips in a set which resembles a disco rock pool. The static presentation demonstrates just how much better BBC cameramen were at making performances come to life. Here we cut randomly between a mid-shot, a wide shot, and two cameras set at stage left and right. The only real flourish comes right at the start as Sheila B. and her dancers caper in long raincoats before freezing in position so roll back and mix can make their coats magically fade to disco gear.

Graham Parker & The Rumour: Hey Lord, Don't Ask Me Questions [46]. BBC4 thought highly enough of Graham Parker to show a documentary about him recently; he does nothing for me. Still, compare the camera work to that seen on the Sheila B. Devotion video. Even something as simple as the opening track in across the studio audience adds atmosphere to the performance. Instead of cutting randomly between a limited selection of angles the director keeps the camera moving, and the choice of shots is always well thought through. For example on the chorus we go from a wide shot of the band on the, “hey lord,” to a big close up of Graham Parker for, “don't ask me questions.”



Andrew Gold: Never Let Her Slip Away [6]. Funniest moment of this promo video comes during a close up of Andrew when a saxophone suddenly enters the shot from the left as if Andrew is about to be attacked by one of the band.


Boomtown Rats: She's So Modern [19]. I was a bit dismissive of this track when it was first played two weeks ago (yep, this is the fourth song from the April 6th show) but it's grown on me. You'd have to have a heart of stone not to enjoy this hyperactive performance. Best bit, right at the end when the band all leap in the air and are freeze-framed like the end of a John Hughes movie.

Demis Roussos: Life In A City [NEW]. Demis is resplendent in a silver and black mumu. At one point during a low angled shot Demis holds his arms out and it makes him look like a giant bat about to swoop down on the audience.

In his spare time, Demis modelled curtains

Michael Zager Band: Let's All Chant [20]. Legs & Co are back and this time they're mostly wearing two brightly coloured feathered boas, one around their chest and the other round their hips. I've not heard this song all the way through before, there's a very odd bit in the middle where it suddenly goes all Rites Of Spring.



Richard Denton & Martin Cook: Theme From Hong Kong Beat [42]. A promotional film and instrumental. My first reaction was that it looks like the opening to a television programme, and it turns out it is; Hong Kong Beat was a nine episode documentary about the Hong Kong Police shown between 1/3/78 and 26/3/78. The scratchy and faded film makes Hong Kong look impossibly far away and exotic. Still in 1978 I thought Scarborough was impossibly far away and exotic (they had a cafe on the seafront which did a great knickerbocker glory).

Co-Co: The Bad Old Days [39]. “How come this lot are gonna do so well on Saturday?” asks Peter in his introduction to our 1978 song for Europe. Oh well, I'm sure they all had a lovely time in Paris.

Number 1: Brian And Michael, Matchstalk Men And Matchstalk Cats And Dogs. A repeat of the telegraph pole set performance. On stage with Brian and Michael (after all these weeks I still don't know who is who) is a chorus of twelve girls who all have very 1970s hair except for one with a pixie cut, who looks uncannily like a young Judy Dench.


Closing titles: Elton John, Ego [35]

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