Top of the Pops 78: 07/09/78

Originally broadcast on 07/09/78
Watched by Chris Arnsby on BBC4

Peter Powell. “Hello! As ever you're very welcome to Top of the Pops and here's the chart run down with just a slap of grease!”
Chart music: Frankie Valli: Grease [24]
This week there's chart fun when back-to-back pictures of Renaissance [20], and Exile [19] look like they could be photos of the same group.

The Jam: David Watts [26]. “All the energy exploding on Top of the Pops!” gushes Peter Powell after The Jam finish. The Jam put in a good performance, and the audience bop along enthusiastically, but for me this song just doesn't do anything. Somehow this feels inappropriate. It's The Jam, an iconic band of the time, but I can't muster anything other than a shrug.
The Jam: It's a little known fact that David Watts recorded a single called `I Wish I Could Be In The Jam`

Leo Sayer: I Can’t Stop Loving You (Though I Try) [NEW]. Uh-oh. Now we're two for two. If The Jam really were exploding energy into the studio then Leo Sayer sucks it all up, at least to judge by the audience who stand around having their own private conversations while he performs. For myself all I can do is observe that for a tiny man Leo Sayer seems to have an enormous mouth; he looks like the Mouth of Sauron. Maybe his perm covers up most of his head, making his normal sized bonce look smaller?

Boney M: Brown Girl In The Ring [2]. Hooray it's Boney M! Boney M will save us from ennui! And they do. Boney M are brilliant even played in on videotape from an edition of terrible old variety show Seaside Special. They are of course relentlessly uncool but, in the words of comedian Richard Herring, they are so uncool they go all the way round past infinity and become cool again. If Boney M are in the UK for Seaside Special then surely a live appearance on Top of the Pops can't be far off; fingers crossed.

The Motors: Forget About You [13]. The audience really like The Motors. Myself I'm less keen.

Dee D. Jackson: Meteor Man [65].Hooray it's Dee D. Jackson! Dee D. Jackson and her fabulous robot who were responsible for the song Automatic Lover back in March; a song which got in my head to the extent that I caught myself absent mindedly singing “I-am-your-automatic-lover-automatic-lover” at work. The performance starts brilliantly with some 1978 state of the art computer effects, and there's Dee D. Jackson all decked out in her best Blake's 7 cosplay gear but... where's the robot? It rapidly becomes clear that Dee D. Jackson and the robot have split, and the song while pretty good is no Automatic Lover. One minor mystery of this performance is where was it filmed? It looks like the Top of the Pops studio but there's no audience, and a couple of video effects are used which aren't standard for Top of the Pops (the spinning grid thing, and an overlaid shot where the output of several different cameras are faintly mixed over the main shot). Two explanations offer themselves. One; it was recorded in the Top of the Pops studio earlier in the day which allowed slightly more time to experiment with video effects. Two; it's a promo video recorded to look like Top of the Pops, like the promo video for Hong Kong Garden last week.

David Essex: Oh What A Circus [5]. I find it difficult to watch this promo film featuring David Essex as a detached third-party observer commenting on the ostentatious grief of a nation, and not compare it to the week between the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, and her funeral. “We've all gone crazy, mourning all day and mourning all night, falling over ourselves to get all of the misery right.”

Herbie Hancock: I Thought It Was You [25]. It's time for Legs and Co. They're dancing round the same cube set as last week, but it has been stripped of its glittery foil covering.  It's not one of Legs & Co's better routines. The lighting is too murky to see the routine properly.

Sylvester: You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) [30]. Top of the Pops has made a clunking edit about 2 minutes 50 seconds into this promo video, and a trip to Youtube to watch the original reveals additional cuts to the introduction. My initial suspicion was that cuts were made because the original film was too libidinous for the 1978 Thursday evening BBC1 set but it quickly becomes clear that the purpose of the edits is to keep Sylvester on screen as much as possible while reducing the length of the song by cutting out the instrumentals. The editing of this promo film acts almost as a mission statement for Top of the Pops; it's never about the music, or the song, it's about the performance from the lead singer.

Manhattan Transfer: Where Did Our Love Go [NEW]. A cover of The Supreme's song. It's not bad but it feels out of step with the rest of the songs in this edition of Top of the Pops. The best moment comes when the lead singer decides to go the full John Travolta, and then starts singing directly to a young woman in the front row; to the amusement of the audience around her.

Hi-Tension: British Hustle [9].A third outing for this song, although disappointingly it's a repeat of Hi-Tension's second performance; complete with Kid Jensen briefly dancing in the first wide shot.

Arthur Mullard & Hilda Baker: You’re The One That I Want [50]. From the sublime to the ridiculous. Arthur Mullard and Hilda Baker's sparsely rehearsed cover of the Grease hit is one of those performances which crops up whenever someone wants to do a compilation of disastrous Top of the Pops appearances. Let's just say it's no Funky Moped, and leave it at that. Incidentally, as I'm never going to find anywhere else to mention this, track down Jasper Carrott's performance on Top of the Pops (28/8/75) and then watch John Peel's Rock Bottom segment from the 1992 TV Hell night. It's the same performance but the TV Hell clip starts with Jasper Carrott standing awkwardly on stage waiting for a cue. After a couple of seconds he pretends to use his microphone as an electric razor before the music cuts in and he starts miming. The microphone/razor gag must come from the studio master tape. I just find it amazing that, in 1992 at least, these tapes still existed at the BBC. Incidentally looking up the TV Hell clip will expose you to trace amounts of D*v* L** Tr*v*s and Paul Burnett's execrable song Convoy UK. Sorry.

Number One: The Commodores, Three Times A Lady. There's a running gag in the comedy series Arrested Development (bear with me this is going somewhere) that whenever George Michael Bluth mentions his bland girlfriend Ann Veal someone goes, “her?” That's pretty much how I feel about Three Times A Lady. It's inoffesive but every time I realise it's the song which knocked  You’re The One That I Want off the number one spot my reaction is, “this?”

Closing titles: Crown Heights Affair, Galaxy Of Love  [29]. This week's credit update. Vocal backing is now by the Maggie Stredder Singers instead of The Ladybirds. After two weeks Mike Jefferies has been taken off Lighting and replaced by John Farr, which explains why the lighting seems more generic this week. There's no Director listed but Robin Nash is bumped back up to Executive Producer, and Stanley Appel is Producer. Got that? Good.

Performance of the week: It was going to be Boney M, then it was going to be David Essex (another example of a song which has grown on me on a week by week basis), but actually it's Sylvester.

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