BBC4: Top of the Pops 1979 25/10/79
Reviewed by Chris Arnsby
Peter Powell, "Hello! It's the chart show on tv! And on your radio select hit 26! It's Top of the Pops!"
Chart music: The Selector: On My Radio . The Specials feat. Rico: A Message To You Rudy. The Specials (feat. Rico) do their best but it all goes to waste in front of the thunderous gaze of the Top of the Pops audience. The mood of the crowd can be judged from the opening pan around the stage. Nearly everyone seems to be standing still with their arms folded; determined not to have a good time. Did The Specials make an offensive gesture at the crowd just before recording began?
Viola Wills: Gonna Get Along Without You Now . The audience have warmed up a bit. They're all bopping along to Viola Wills. Midway through the performance there's a brilliant shot which almost gives a performers eye view of the studio, there's the curve of the stage, the audience, the lighting grid, and a couple of cameras looming above the crowd.
Queen: Crazy Little Thing Called Love . There's a real effort tonight to make Top of the Pops seem like a continuous live performance. Peter Powell's link from The Specials to Voila Wills was followed by a wide studio shot which showed Peter Powell in the background; still surrounded by the bevy of lovely girls that Top of the Pops insists on using as props to surround the presenter. Now, as Viola Wills comes to the end of her song there's another well handled tracking shot which moves above the audience before dipping down to Peter Powell who begins his link as Viola Wills is still singing in the background. Then we're onto video because Queen don't do Top of the Pops. I really like the opening shot of the video where Freddie Mercury stalks away down the catwalk before spinning and throwing his cap under the camera. I wonder how many takes that took?
Cats UK: Luton Airport . Another lengthy tracking shot from Peter Powell into Cats UK. Nice camera move, shame about the song. The audience have turned surly again. Cats UK don't dare meet their gaze, if they did there would be a flash and nothing but four pairs of smoking boots on the stage.
Charlie Daniels Band: The Devil Went Down To Georgia . Back on to video for this song. The keyboard player has his arm in a sling, and he looks really sweaty and unwell. I hope he's okay. Go to Youtube and listen to The Muppets version of this song, it's really good. Avoid the Rednex version.
Chic: My Forbidden Lover . One of Legs & Co's more boring routines. Notable only for their shiny trousers; presumably made of lurex, or spandex, or something ending in ...ex.
Dr. Hook: When You’re In Love With A Beautiful Woman . The Mrs. Slocombe's pussy of songs. "When you're in love with a beautiful woman it's hard," Mr. Humphries, "well that's not been my experience."
Iris Williams: He Was Beautiful. The camera lens has been slathered in Vaseline except for a strip down the middle where Iris Williams stands. Is it to make the Top of the Pops studio look more magical or to obscure the audience? Either way poor Iris Williams isn't helped by boring presentation, her performance is captured on a single camera which zooms in, and out, and in again, and moves left, and moves out, and zzzzzzzz...
The Dooleys: The Chosen Few . Ozard muck.
Janet Brown: The Iron Lady [NEW]. What the? A very good impression of Margaret Thatcher, but is this meant to be a tribute, or a spoof, or something else? Stripped of all context this is bizarre, possibly the weirdest intrusion into the Top of the Pops studio since Guy Marks and Loving You Has Made Me Bananas. Wikipedia reveals a surprising array of talent behind the scenes of this single; Private Eye's John Wells, and producer John Lloyd. Bet we don't see this again in the charts.
|"Yes, Geoffrey, press that red button there would you."|
Errol Dunkley: O.K. Fred. Between the black background and a corner at the rear of the stage there's a bloke who stands motionless for the whole of Errol Dunkley's performance. The height of the stage means only his head and shoulders can be seen. Who is he? What is he doing there? Spotting him is a little like seeing Pipes from Ghostwatch.
Number 1: Lene Martell, One Day At A Time. For a moment the camera blocking looks like a return to the dull in a bit... out a bit... style used for Iris Williams, but fortunately common sense prevails and the camera moves become at least more interesting than the song. Lene Martell has been positioned in front of the Top of the Pops orchestra so conductor Johnny Pearson keeps turning and leering into the camera; as he always does.
Closing titles: Abba, Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight) .
Performance of the week. The Specials feat. Rico: A Message To You Rudy.