03/07/2013

Top of the Pops 1978: 06/07/78



Originally broadcast 06/07/78
Watched by Chris Arnsby on BBC4


Peter Powell, “Smurfs away, and you're very welcome to another edition of Top of the Pops! Here's the chart run down!”
Chart music: Father Abraham & The Smurfs, The Smurf Song [2].

Buzzcocks: Love You More [NEW]. Fast cutting, crash zooms, and a few dutch angles  make the perfect visual accompaniment to this nippy little song. Take a close look during the rapid cutting. It's more complex than simply switching between the output of two cameras. If you take the cameras as being numbered 1,2,3, and 4 the sequence of cuts at the start of the performance goes roughly; 1,2,1,2,3,2,3,2,4,2,4,2,1,2,1,2 before cutting with perfect timing to the lead singer for the opening line of the song. The vision mixer is such an important part of the look of Top of the Pops and it's astonishing that they are not credited in the closing titles. There's more studio cleverness with the abrupt ending to the song. On the “till the razor cuts,” line the studio lights are faded down and we cut to Peter Powell, with the band in the background, and the lights on the Buzzcocks' stage still fading. Very nice.
"It's my beard!" "No, I think you'll find it's my beard!"

 

Marshall Hain: Dancing in the City [5]. This promo video starts with the female singer of the duo (let's call her Marshall because I can't be bothered to do any research) posed in front of a window with a black cat on her lap. The black cat is a very reluctant star and tries to bolt several times forcing Marshall to tighten her grip on the poor creature. Finally during the second verse it makes a successful getaway and is not seen again. For the chorus we see Marshall, and Hain, walking around various neon signs which give the video a transatlantic ambiance; “dance” reads one, “city” another, “hamburgers” a third, “clubs” a fourth, and more bathetically one that reads “kebab.”

Showaddywaddy: A Little Bit Of Soap [11]. Wisely Showaddywaddy have ditched the black ensemble and are back to their multicoloured suit look. Last time they appeared a single bubble machine provided the hook to the title of the song, this time someone has pushed the boat out and there are three bubble machines on stage. Either Top of the Pops was predicting great things for this song and thought two extra bubble machines were worth the investment, or Showaddywaddy have brought their own machines in from home.

A Taste of Honey: Boogie Oogie Oogie [22]. Remember those terrible April days when Sheila B. Devotion was stinking up the charts with a disco version of Singin' in the Rain? At the time I unflatteringly compared the camera work of TV show Top Pop with that seen on Top of the Pops. Well, even Top of the Pops can have an off day. Where the production team pulled out all the stops to make the Buzzcocks look brilliant, they are content to record this Legs & Co routine in the most boring manner possible. Using a single camera crane which occasionally zooms in and out a bit, and sometimes moves up and down; woo! The result is that one of Legs & Co's better dance routines comes across as a bit bland.

Electric Light Orchestra: Wild West Hero [24]. This is an odd video, a mixture of animation and concert footage. Cartoons on Top of the Pops! I'd have loved this as a seven year old and even now it's a disappointment when the animation fades to be replaced by hairy bearded men in extreme close-up. At one point in the cartoon section the ELO logo/spaceship-thingy flies over showing that someone was paying far too much attention to Close Encounters of the Third Kind, released in the UK in March 1978. The animated segments remind me of the promos for Bright Eyes by Art Garfunkel and Another Brick In The Wall by Pink Floyd which both feature in 1979. Hopefully we'll see those next year on BBC4. If not you'll be denied my priceless memories of being freaked out by Pink Floyd's goose stepping hammers while my father sat tutting with disapproval at the message of the song.

San Jose & Rodriguez Argentina: Argentine Melody [14]. Despite being the most famous person on stage Andrew Lloyd Webber doesn't get any close-ups. Those are all reserved for the bloke on the keyboard at the back of the stage. Some of the audience have been issued with Sombreros and at one point a moving camera appears to catch one and it ends up lodged on the side of the camera; mostly off screen. It's kind of hard to tell but judging from the audience response to the camera during a pan round the studio the rogue hat keeps bumping people on the back.

Clout: Substitute [25]. Talking of Top Pop, this performance looks like it might come from that show. I recognise the odd disco-rockpool set from the aforementioned Shelia B. Devotion abomination. Unlike that song, this one is great with a really catchy chorus.

Steel Pulse: Prodigal Son [64]. A good mix of songs on tonight's edition. Steel Pulse are a reggae band and this is a good song although it's not always well served by the presentation. There's an attempt to CSO some flickering lights onto the ceiling, which just looks messy. A camera positioned at the back of the stage at one point gives a great performers eye view of the Top of the Pops studio, with a camera crane looming in the foreground. Later the vision mixer combines the main camera picture with the image from the backstage camera, and it's possible to see Peter Powell bopping away on the opposite stage waiting to perform his next link; bless him, he's having a whale of a time.

City Boy: 5-7-0-5 [59]. “5-7-0-5! But there's no reply!” City Boy's appearance is augmented with a mystery blonde, although not the same mystery blonde who appeared briefly in the middle of Davy’s On The Road Again by Manfred Mann's Earth Band. The mystery blonde's job is to hold a telephone and look bored; a job she accomplishes with aplomb.

Justin Hayward: Forever Autumn [68]. From Jeff Wayne's version of The War of the Worlds. The album came out in September but some marketing genius obviously felt July was the ideal time to release a song called Forever Autumn. War of the Worlds made quite a splash on my consciousness when it was released. Swap Shop showed an animated promo video for The Eve of the War featuring Martian war machines marching on London (it's not on Youtube, but you can find a taster on a video called “War of the Worlds by Jeff Wayne – 1978 promo reel”, the 1989 video for the Ben Liebrand remix seems to use the same footage). Swap Shop must also have showed David Essex singing Brave New World, “with just a handful of men/we'll start all over again,” because I remember Noel Edmonds later reading out a viewer's letter pointing out that if David Essex really wanted to build a new world from the ashes of the past he'd also need a handful of women.

John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John, You’re The One That I Want [1]. It's... Floyd and Legs & Co? Again? I'm calling shenanigans on these repeats. I clearly remember Top of the Pops using the Grease footage because I didn't understand a) how these grizzled adults were meant to be just leaving school, and b)why I didn't get to go to a school which had a fun fair on its playing field.  You’re The One That I Want has been number one for four weeks now (we skipped two presented by J**** S***** and D*v* L** Tr*v*s) and the question is; if someone has snipped out the film footage and replaced it with Legs & Co, why? The answer presumably is financial. It must be cheaper to chuck Floyd and Gill, Patti, Lulu, Pauline, Rosemary, and Sue a few residuals than to pay whatever Paramount asks. In terms of mysteries it's no Murder on the Orient Express, but it doesn't bode well for the future. Plenty of songs from Grease got into the charts in 1978; Summer Nights, Sandy, and Greased Lightning. Will they be culled by the phantom editor? Stay tuned to find out.

Closing titles: Bob Marley & The Wailers, Satisfy My Soul [29]. The designer of this week's edition is Andrew Howe Davies. He'll go on to work on The Goodies, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and Doctor Who.

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