Top of the Pops 78: 24.8.78

Originally broadcast on 24/08/78

Watched on BBC4 by Chris Arnsby
Kid Jensen. “Don't touch that dial 'cause the hits are on parade! This week to the tune of Andy Gibb and an Everlasting Love.”

Chart music: Andy Gibb, Everlasting Love [25]

Bilbo: She's Gonna Win [53]. Initial thoughts on Bilbo. They've boldly gone for a very beige clothing colour scheme; the guitarist is wearing nasty shorts; one of the band plays the accordion an instrument you don't often see on Top of the Pops (not since The Wurzels were exiled to the land of smoke and ghosts); the lead singer really needs to take his hands out of his pockets. It's not the worst song to open Top of the Pops, but I'll bet it never troubled the upper reaches of the charts.
Bilbo: At no.53 times were so hard that only some of them could afford shirts

David Essex: Oh What A Circus [12]. Distractingly the bouncy baseline of this song reminds me of the one later used for Christmas In Heaven from Monty Python's The Meaning Of Life. More distracting is wondering what location was used for this promo film? Initially I thought it could be somewhere on the London south bank (all that concrete) but there's enough religious iconography on show that it has to be a genuine church. Coventry or Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral were my next thoughts but following an exhausting internet* search I can excitingly and exclusively reveal that the video for Oh What A Circus was filmed at Clifton Cathedral in Bristol. Probably in one rushed night to judge by the inadvertantly amusing bit where the cameraman has been instructed to film some shadow play. In theory it should be a striking shot; a single candle flame at the bottom of the frame and David Essex's shadow moving from pose to pose on the grey concrete wall. Unfortunately there obviously hasn't been enough time to set this up properly and bits of  David Essex's arm protude into shot as the shadow moves. Finally the cameraman notices and moves the camera up slightly, and when this doesn't work the shot crabs over to the left, ruining the director's vision by taking the candle flame off centre.

Blonde: Picture This [61]. There's a surpisingly arty mix from the Oh What A Circus film into Picture This with Blonde in the Top of the Pops studio. Oh What A Circus ends with a close up of candle flames, which is faded to a single white studio light shot through a star filter (thus looking like a camera flash -Picture This, do you see?), and then on to Blondie on stage. Nice one unnamed Vision Mixer. Lighting Director Mike Jefferies is playing around with the studio lights again. His big trick here is fading down the overhead lights and lighting Debbie Harry with a single spotlight while the rest of the studio, and band, are in darkness.

Jilted John: Jilted John [10]. And Mike Jefferies is at it again. Last week he lit Child in pink, and Darts in yellow. This week he lights Jilted John in orange and green. Unusually the lights are strongest from the front so John and Gordon cast massive shadows on the ceiling. It looks striking; more striking than Mike Jefferies contemporary work on Doctor Who.

The Motors: Forget About You [31]. A pleasant but ultimately generic rock track. It's forgotten almost as soon as the music stops.

Foreigner: Cold As Ice [24]. Another outing for the promo film of Foreigner performing this song in concert.

Hi-Tension: British Hustle [27]. This performance starts off with a fantastic wide shot of the studio which looks like a piece of pop art in its own right; the abstract shapes of the lighting grid, the weird angles of the different stages, and the semi-illuminated crowd. At the right of screen is Kid Jensen briefly dancing along to Hi-Tension.

Boney M: Brown Girl In The Ring [4]. The crowd standing behind Legs & Co look familiar. There's Jilted John, and Gordon, the guitarist from Bilbo in his nasty shorts, and a few members of Hi-Tension. Flick Colby's masterplan becomes clear when Legs & Co turn and involve some of the watching audience in their routine. It seems utterly appropriate when Legs and Co choose Gordon over Jilted John and both stay in character. It turns out that in addition to having “I taught John Travolta to dance” written on the front of his shirt Gordon has added, “and Legs and Co” to the back.

The Jam: David Watts [32]. This performance ends with a magnificent camera pull back from The Jam, round the audience, and across the studio to the Legs & Co stage where Kid Jensen waits to introduce the number one song. Within the last few episodes Robin Nash has been promoted from producer of Top of the Pops to executive producer; this week's edition is produced by Phil Bishop. I can't help wondering if the new blood coming in to the production team has resulted in a minor change of look to the programme. As well as Mike Jefferies' lighting, there seems to be an attempt to make the studio a place in its own right. Rather than the old format of introduction, song, introduction, etc we now have ambitious camera moves like the one which ends The Jam's performance, and more introductions with the band already playing in the background; as happens for The Motors and Hi-Tension in this edition.

Number One: The Commodores, Three Times A Lady. A mixture of Legs & Co's routine from last week, and the promo film which shows The Commodores being collected from their London hotel and taken to a gig.

Closing titles: The Rezillos, Top Of The Pops.

* I do occasionally have a life. Just not this time.

1 comment:

  1. Thank goodness you worked out where Oh what a circus was filmed. It was eating away at us here.