Guest Post: Chris Arnsby
BBC4: Top of the Pops 1979 6/12/79
Simon Bates, "Welcome to Top of the Pops with Que Sera Mi Vida and The Gibson Brothers."
Simon Bates gets his first go on Top of the Pops. He's been working for Radio 1 since 1975 but this is his first appearance on television. It's not clear why its taken him four years to make the leap from radio to television but until August 1979 he presented the Sunday chart countdown on Radio 1; maybe the BBC didn't want him to become associated with both chart programmes?
Chart music: The Gibson Brothers: Que Sera Mi Vida (If You Should Go) .
Darts: Reet Petite . Of course an alternative explanation for Simon Bates' long absence from Top of the Pops might be that no one thought he was any good. Maybe it's first night nerves but he's awkward and uncharismatic and he's wearing a terrible jumper. Mistake number one of the night comes when he describes Darts' unremarkable cover as being "Little Richards' Reet Petite." Surely any fule kno that Jackie Wilson sang Reet Petite?
Dollar: I Wanna Hold Your Hand . Mistake number two of the night. Simon Bates is clumsily grasping two women while introducing Dollar. There's a long tradition of treating female audience members as props for the host but this needs to be seen to be believed. Simon Bates has the one on the left in a neck lock, presumably to stop her from escaping, while he subjects the one on the right to what appears to be a modified Vulcan nerve pinch. As for the song, I still wouldn't buy that for a dollar (etc.).
UK Subs: She’s Not There . Terrible cover number three of the night. This is shaping up to be the worst edition of Top of the Pops for some time.
The Three Degrees: My Simple Heart . Simon Bates' mistakes: number three. "Here's a song which is very much of the seventies, it's My Simple Height... or My Simple Heart from The Three Degrees." The Three Degree's appear courtesy of a performance which looks like it has been borrowed from another light entertainment show. BBC Genome tells me they were on The Basil Brush show on 1/12/79 so I'd guess that's where the clip originated.
M: Moonlight And Muzak . The best thing about this song turns out to be an introduction which sounds like the theme to The Magic Roundabout. M's Pop Muzik was a brilliant song but this low key disappointment adds to the mounting suspicion that this could be 1979's worst Top of the Pops.
The Stranglers: Don’t Bring Harry . Oh god, even The Stranglers have been affected by the malaise spreading through tonight's Top of the Pops. All the energy is being sucked out of the room. I can't breathe.
Michael Jackson: Off The Wall . Could Legs & Co prove to be the turning point in tonight’s absolute zero of a show? They caper around adequately in front of the studio audience although I am mildly creeped out by a bloke in a red jumper who claps and leers with a degree of enthusiasm which is unnerving.
The Sugar Hill Gang: Rapper’s Delight . Bates' mistakes: four. Calling the song The Rapper, rather than it's given name of Rapper's Delight. Still regardless of the title this is a terrific song. The imported footage from the US show Soap Factory gives me the chance to gawp at some vile red and white bell-bottomed jumpsuits and mock the fashions of yesterday.
The Damned: I Just Can’t Be Happy Today . Captain Sensible is at the back of the stage doing some inspired clowning around with his microphone stand, but it's all for nothing as the camera angles don't favour him at all. Drummer Rat Scabies also makes love to the camera. At one point he pushes a cymbal over when he realises it's getting between him and the audience at home.
|The Damned: Obviously the name Captain Sensible is ironic|
Storm: It’s My House .Creepy red jumper bloke is back in front of the stage. Thankfully he seems to have calmed down a bit now that Legs & Co have left the studio.
Motörhead: Bomber . Captain Sensible rocks out at the side of the stage as he catches Motörhead's performance. During the instrumental a hand held camera is used brilliantly to bring the viewers on stage with the band and get some good, energetic close-ups; the first time I've noticed this technique being used.
Marianne Faithfull: The Ballad Of Lucy Jordan . Bates' mistakes: five. When back announcing this song he calls it "The Eyes Of Lucy Jordan." At least he didn't call the song The Ballard Of Laura Mars.
Number 1: The Police, Walking On The Moon. This week Top of the Pops allows the Walking On The Moon promo film to run long enough for me to see that it does actually contain a brief clip of Neil Armstrong walking on the moon, among all the other Cape Canaveral and low orbit stock footage.
Closing titles: Pink Floyd, Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2) .
Performance of the week. The Damned: I Just Can’t Be Happy Today, not so much for the song as all the mucking around on stage.