Top of the Pops 78: 17.08.78

Originally broadcast 17/08/78. Watched on BBC4 by Chris Arnsby.  

A ripple of excitement as the BBC4 continuity announcer warns, “some strong language as we head back to 1978.” Are the Brotherhood Of Man going to sing The Ball of Kerrymuir?
Noel Edmonds. “Good evening. How do you fancy taking a quick look at the charts and meeting a brown lady?”
Chart music: Brown Girl In The Ring, Boney M [5].

The Stranglers: Walk On By [27]. A Burt Bacharach and Hal David song. This could be a contender for the most unlikely cover version ever. Still, it sounds fantastic. I've written before about the studied indifference with which The Stranglers treat the Top of the Pops audience, but it's always a fascinating thing to see. There's never a hint of interaction between the band and the audience. They genuinely give the impression they could be playing anywhere. From The Golden Lion in Fulham to studio TC8 at Television Centre; to The Stranglers it's all the same.
Justin Hayward refused to sing until given some rice pudding.

Justin Hayward: Forever Autumn [6]. Justin Hayward keeps attracting the attention of the vision mixer. Last time he was on with this song (20/7/78) he was mixed in with an effect which looked like a refugee from Doctor Who. This time the vision mixer cuts to a sheet of reflective plastic which makes nice abstract shapes on screen as the camera moves past. This makes sense when the vison mixer cross-fades between the plastic and Justin Hayward. Suddenly the reflected highlights of the plastic look like currents of air moving across the studio. Very clever.

No sign of any strong language yet.

Cerrone: Super Nature [11]. It's a bonkers Legs & Co dance routine! The one they did for Father Abraham & The Smurfs was good, but this one is properly eye-rolling mad. We start off in a laboratory set with lots of green goo in beakers, and a badly set up Liebig Condenser. Legs & Co are dressed in white lab coats, doing staccato dancing, and have red spots of blusher on their cheeks for some reason. Then, here comes the science bit, they “drink” the “potion” they have made and are transformed into cavorting savages like Leela from Doctor Who on a cardboard jungle set which includes; a sad looking toy monkey, an even sadder looking toy lion, a stuffed snake, a weird bald purple and orange cloth goose, a toy elephant, and joy of joys a giant banana. The remainder of the routine is Legs & Co dancing around with the fruit as if auditioning for a stage version of Viz's Tommy 'Banana' Johnson comic strip.

Child: It's Only Make Believe [14]. Child are lit an unflattering pink for the entire duration of their performance. At the end they get an actual round of applause from the audience, as opposed to the usual sight of a motionless audience gazing at the stage while pre-recorded applause is played into the studio.

Strong language update: zilch. This is apparently Noel Edmonds' last show. Is TV's Mr. Professional going to snap and call the audience “m*therf*ckers”?

Darts: It's Raining [4]. The vision mixer is buoyed by the success of his “wind” effect on Forever Autumn so he mixes Darts into a shot of a shower curtain for “rain”. It doesn't work. Lighting Director Mike Jefferies follows up his pink look for Child with yellow for Darts. The band look like the entertainment at a jaundice convention.

10cc: Dreadlock Holiday [8]. Could 10cc be the sort of band who would swear up a storm on Top of the Pops? They are after all the band apparently named after the amount of an average male ejaculation. Disappointingly instead of turning the air blue (no doubt with the help of the vision mixer and Lighting Director Mike Jefferies) they sing that song which goes “I don't like cricket/ Oh no/ I love it.” Incidentally. If you want to make your browser history look sinister then why not try a Google search for “10cc” and “semen”.

The Who: Who Are You [20]. This bog standard promo film of the band in a recording studio is given a depressing edge because drummer Keith Moon was 3 weeks from death when this edition of Top of the Pops was broadcast.

Strong language news: nothing yet. Surely the BBC4 continuity announcer wasn't warning me about the joke Noel Edmonds used while introducing Super Nature? “Down in the jungle something's stirred. I think someone's burnt the streak and pygmy pie.”

The New Seekers: Anthem (One Day In Every Week) [21]. Two of The New Seekers have brought their guitars along. This seems unnecessary given that most of the track is a-capella.

Mr Big: Senora [NEW]. Mr Big look grubby and dishevelled. Exactly the sort of band you'd expect to try and sneak the words “p*ss fl*ps” on to Thursday evening BBC1. No, instead they sing a dreary rock ballad . Disappointingly Mr Big never try to rhyme “senora” with “I adore ya.”

Number One: John Travolta & Olivia Ne... No, wait a minute, it's someone different. The Commodores: Three Times A Lady. The track is danced to by Legs & Co (well three of them at least) but because this is a serious and sensitive song they're wearing white dresses and no one has a giant banana. It's a nice enough song but a bit dull. In a million years I'd never have guessed it displaced You're The One That I Want from the number one spot.

Closing titles: City Boy, 5-7-0-5

Strong language postscript. If like me you missed it, it was in the promo video for Who Are You. The 1978 BBC had already fixed the problem by dipping the sound on the line “who the fuck are you?” Lip readers were presumably outraged.

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