Top of the Pops 1978: 25/05/78

As watched by Chris Arnsby on BBC4
Originally broadcast 25/5/78

Tony Blackburn, “Hello. Welcome to Top of the Pops and right now here's a run down of the brand new top thirty.
Chart music: Yvonne Elliman, If I Can't Have You [4].

The Real Thing: Let's Go Disco [NEW]. As The Real Thing perform the first song of the programme Legs & Co are dancing live on the studio floor. It never quite works because the camera angles tend to favour the band and audience, so Legs & Co get a little bit lost in the frame. Still, more important than that, Floyd's back! For those of you unaware, Floyd was one of the male dancers with Legs & Co's predecessor Ruby Flipper, themselves a replacement for Pan's People. Ruby Flipper never caught on and the all female Legs & Co (the BBC held a competition and got viewers to suggest names) were introduced October 1976; Ruby Flipper had lasted eight months with both Lulu and Patti making the leap from Ruby Flipper to Legs & Co. Floyd used to specialise in pulling stupid faces and wearing ridiculous costumes (both well demonstrated in his performance of Disco Duck by Rick Dees And His Cast Of Idiots), and when Ruby Flipper were given the finger I became concerned for Floyd. I could imagine him sitting at home watching Top of the Pops enviously, and sobbing whenever Legs & Co dressed up as bees, or housewives, or pantomime camels. Fortunately, Flick Colby kept Floyd's number and he occasionally reappears.

Blondie's keyboard player spots a large bread roll

Blondie: (I'm Always Touched By Your) Presence Dear [10]. In 1981 my parents bought a colour television with a remote control that included buttons to adjust the brightness, contrast, and colour. Watching Top of the Pops I would often feel the image wasn't vivid enough so I would boost the colour and contrast to make the picture resemble the disco of my imagination. Three years before I even picked up that remote control someone has done the same thing for this promo video; proving that there is no such thing as an original idea. Debbie Harry and the band are surrounded by blaring colours and the video, also enhanced by a simple but effective split-screen mirror effect, looks stunning. It stands out from the rest of the programme and looks like it's being broadcast from some even more glamorous and exotic parallel reality.

Heatwave: Mind Blowing Decisions [NEW]. Heatwave are wearing identical black jumpers with the word Heatwave knitted into the front. Presumably Heatwave's nan made them so they'd look nice on that Top of the Pops programme. We never get a close up of the drummer, which makes me wonder if he was given the one jumper nan got wrong. The one that accidentally reads Hatwave.

Izhar Cohen & The Alpha-Beta: A-Ba-Ni-Bi [21]. Here's a mystery. The Top of the Pops listings on the website Popscene show a video for the 1978 Eurovision Song Contest winners Izhar Cohen & The Alpha-Beta slotted in here between Heatwave and James Galway.  It's seamlessly excised from the late night unedited BBC4 repeat. Tape damage? Music clearance problems? Swallowed by that crack in time from Doctor Who three years ago? Who knows.

James Galway: Annie's Song [51]. An instrumental version of the 1974 John Denver song. A sweet little tune which isn't well served visually by boring presentation. James Galway sits in the middle of the Top of the Pops orchestra and the whole song is recorded on one crane camera which slowly zooms in and out a couple of times. The edge of the camera lens has been smeared with vaseline so the Top of the Pops orchestra (yes, we're still in the days when the Musician's Union could demand the presence of a live orchestra in studio) are consigned to the blurry fringes of the screen.

Thin Lizzy: Rosalie [29]. A repeat performance, albeit one not seen on BBC4 as it was in the 11/5/78 show presented by D*v* L** Tr*v*s. There's a fantastic moment about halfway through where the camera is positioned exactly right to catch the studio lights reflecting off Phil Lynott's guitar, and as the screen flares the director holds the shot for a few seconds.

Tavares: More Than a Woman [7]. A slightly blurry NTSC promo video. The big visual gimmick is a screen divided into four mirrored images; sometimes the backing singers and sometimes a dancing lady. This results in an unintentionally funny moment at the beginning. The lady dances through the introduction then as the vocals start footage of the Tavares lead singer is abruptly faded over her image. It looks as if Taveres interrupt her before she can start singing.

Black Sabbath: Never Say Die [NEW]. I never expected to see Ozzy on Top of the Pops. He's all glammed up and if he straightened out his hair he'd look like Rick Wakeman. The drummer has dumped his drums at the front of the stage and refused to move, and he's taken his shirt off to compensate for Ozzy's less than heavy metal look. The song itself keeps sounding like it's going to turn into a cover of Thin Lizzy's The Boys Are Back In Town. Still, the audience really like the song. At the front of the stage a bloke in a white cardigan jives away in a world of his own.

John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John: You're The One That I Want [23]. And so begins the summer of Grease. My main memory of Top of the Pops in 1978 is this song being at number one for what seemed like forever. This time round Legs & Co are dancing along with Floyd; so that's why they called him into the studio. On the right of the screen stand a couple of blokes with their arms folded. One wearing a yellow shirt, the other in a white Sham 69 t-shirt, jeans, braces, and sunglasses. Both clearly think they're too cool for all this. At one point the white t-shirted lad bends forwards and waves his arms backwards and forwards for a few seconds, before turning to another mate and grinning at his parody of Legs & Co. The jokes on him though, because he's a Sham 69 fan.

Ian Dury & The Blockheads: What A Waste [14]. A second song from the unrepeated 11/5/78 edition. It's a startling performance by Ian Dury who spends most of his time standing at the microphone with his eyes closed. He's clearly put a lot of thought into the image he wants to project, and it works. Frustratingly the song is cut short just as the instrumental begins.

Cilla Black: Silly Boy [NEW]. Cilla tries her hand at disco, and the result is a bland track. In the wide shots at the top left of the screen Black Sabbath can be seen propping up the wall and watching the crowd.

Sham 69: Angels With Dirty Faces [24]. I'm not a Sham 69 fan. I was too young at the time (my delicate 1978 Boney M/Brian and Michael loving 7 year old self would have found shouting Jimmy Pursey scary) and now I find Jimmy's Rick-from-the-Young-Ones “hey kids stop snogging and pay attention to me” shtick intolerable. Still, Jimmy throws everything into this performance and it's at least possible to see why a lot of people did like him. Sweetly the knot of Sham 69 fans have made their way right to the front of the stage but even in the presence of their hero they remain too cool to do anything more than nod their heads appreciatively.

Number 1: Boney M, By The Rivers Of Babylon. Three weeks at number one now, and disappointingly it's another repeat of the first performance.

Closing titles: Rod Stewart feat. The Scottish World Cup Squad, Ole Ola [25]. Ugh.

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