Thursday, 30 October 2014

Crazy Little Thing Called Top of the Pops

Sporting a new short haircut, a now slightly more sophisticated Peter Powell hosts the 25th October 1979 edition of Top of the Pops, the last one before Halloween, but Halloween wasn't such a big deal back in 1979, but Grease still was......

Just call me Freddie Travolta

25-10-79: Presenter: Peter Powell

(26) THE SELECTER – On My Radio (and charts)
(41) THE SPECIALS feat. RICO – A Message To You Rudy
(16) VIOLA WILLS – Gonna Get Along Without You Now ®
(21) QUEEN – Crazy Little Thing Called Love (video)
(24) CATS UK – Luton Airport
(15) CHARLIE DANIELS BAND – The Devil Went Down To Georgia (video)
(18) CHIC – My Forbidden Lover (danced to by Legs & Co)
(3) DR. HOOK – When You’re In Love With A Beautiful Woman (video)
(48) IRIS WILLIAMS – He Was Beautiful (Cavatina) (The Theme From ‘The Deer Hunter’)
(7) THE DOOLEYS – The Chosen Few ®
(NEW) JANET BROWN – The Iron Lady
(11) ERROL DUNKLEY – O.K. Fred
(1) LENA MARTELL – One Day At A Time
(6) ABBA – Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight) (and credits)

The Selector ~ are selected to be the chart run down song this week.

The Specials ~ completing a two-tone takeover of the beginning of the show, this would soon become a second top ten single of 1979 for the Specials.

Viola Wills ~ was well on her way to number 8 in the charts.

Queen ~ turning up a bit too late for a part in Grease this song nevertheless got to number 2 in the UK and was the band's first number 1 in America.

Cats UK ~ not so cool for them - they were cut out of the 7.30pm broadcast tonight.

Charlie Daniels Band ~ maybe this one got a Halloween mention from Peter? ~ but it was also edited out from the 7.30pm showing on BBC4.

Legs & Co ~ go disco again this week with a routine to My Forbidden Lover by Chic.

Dr Hook ~ another showing for a video that we'll get to see quite a few more times yet.

Iris Williams ~ there had already been two instrumental hit versions of this tune in 1979, now here was Iris adding some lyrics and a lot of vibrato and joining forces with the Top of the Pops orchestra.

The Dooleys ~ another showing for this performance of a song that is seeming to split opinion a little, personally I quite like it.

Janet Brown ~ ok I take it back about Halloween not being so big in 1979 ~ because this was a real horror show which even made Dame Edna's woeful Disco Matilda look good in comparison.

Errol Dunkley ~ a new performance of OK Fred which was now at its chart peak.

Lena Martell ~ not many British acts have ever managed to get to number one with a country song, in fact I can't think of any off hand, but love it or loath it Lena did it and here she is doing it live with the Top of the Pops orchestra, who, as they had for several other performances this year, were once again in full view.

Abba ~ give us give us give us the play out song this week.

Next week then is the edition from November 1st 1979 hosted by Mike Calypso Read.


  1. Bearing in mind the kerfuffle over the UKIP Calypso, shame it wasn't Mike Read hosting this politically tinged edition.

  2. A bizarre edition.begins brilliantly with selecter, specials, viola and queen, then descends into an episode of the two ronnies with iris, dooleys, janet brown and lena.perhaps the totp lowpoint from pop music's finest year.

  3. Quite clearly in the running for the worst episode of the year. I can imagine the sixteen year old version of me sitting in front of this and shaking my head. Take Queen, Charlie Daniels and Terry Hall & Co out of the reckoning and this is dross of the highest order. Double-dross when you consider most of it has already been seen in the past two weeks!
    FASHION NOTE. Was this the month when sales of skin-tight satin pants went through the roof? Cats UK, Legs and some girls in t'audience all attired thusly.

  4. So a more mature Peter Powell means less jumping around and more sleaze disguised as class? Bring back the jumping about, I say.

    The Specials with Dave Grohl on trumpet. You could see they were already on their way to defining an era.

    Viola Willis, who after a quick Google I learn was forty years old when she had a hit with this, and is now deceased, sadly. At least we know what happened to her, unlike Patience and Prudence who had the original hit and disappeared from the face of the Earth.

    Queen, Freddie was going for a Brando in The Wild One look here, but as observed above it was just too close to Grease. I remember this was the song John Peel played after announcing the news Freddie had died. Not a Queen fan, but I don't mind this one.

    Cats UK, they asked them back?!

    Legs & Co defying the laws of physics by managing to dance in screamingly tight pairs of shiny trousers. If they're still wearing them next week I wouldn't be surprised in the least. Its good when they get a disco tune to accompany, isn't it?

    Iris Williams, someone I had completely forgotten about. Think her booming voice is too overpowering for the delicate tune. Googling her, I see she had a very inspiring life, well, she still does, she's still alive.

    What are those bits of fluff on the lady singing Dooleys' lapels? Stick a pair of eyes on them and you have a gonk or something.

    Janet Brown pioneering hip-hop with her mid-song rap there, if it's good enough for Beyoncé and Jay-Z on Crazy in Love it's good enough for TOTP. Quite a contrast between that as Errol Dunkley in reggae terms. Her finest five minutes was at the end of For Your Eyes Only, really. Oh, and Errol, Pharrell wants his hat back.

  5. The Selector and then The Specials. What a way to start the show!

    I have seen a clip of The Specials doing Rudy loads of times but that was from a Savile-hosted show, not this performance which is superb.Note the mini-me Buster Bloodvessel in the crowd who makes an reappearance later. I never did understand why trombonist Rico got special billing on this track when trumpeter Dick is just as important. I like Rico's jacket, a very wide pin stripe.

    Note Peter Powell's little gesture to dancing after the intro to Viola Wills which ceases about three seconds later when we see him and the girls in long shot in the distance. I wonder if Viola has sisters called Violin and Cello?

    Crazy Little Thing Called Love is one of those tracks I never tire of hearing and a brilliant video. Not quite as camp as some of their later efforts but it's getting there. Ace guitar solo from Brian and I love John's 'Bike It' tee shirt which was spoof of the then current 'Save It' energy saving campaign.

    Cats UK sporting the first set of shiny disco tights on display tonight. I suppose this isn't a million miles away from the type of stuff Kirsty MaColl was doing back then, They Don't Know and There's a Guy Works Down The Chip Shop, etc, nicely done and a good performance. I would never buy it though.

    The Devil Went Down To Georgia again. Why does PP feel the need to pronounce it Ge-or-gia when Charlie pronounces it otherwise?

    Stop don't rock it's a disco tights - pt 2. This time Legs and Co in shiny turquoise strides strutting their funky stuff to Chic. Be careful with your cheeky 'forbidden lover' reference Peter, that sort of thing can get you into terrible trouble.

    Dr Hook. Another US act on video AGAIN. Hands up who got the naughty 'it's hard' reference straight away, I did but my mum didn't until I pointed it out.

    Oh no it's Cavatina again, a vocal version this time. I didn't care much for this at the time but I can see now it's a great vocal performance and a beautiful arrangement.Nice use of vaseline on the lens but why is Iris standing slightly stooped like Mrs Overall at the end?

    The Dooleys again with their cheeky re-write of Sugar Sugar.Well if you're gonna steal, take from the best I guess. The right hand male Dooley vocalist reminds me of a children's TV presenter but I can't think who it is. Not Stu Francis but someone along those lines.

    I can't work out if Janet Brown's Iron Lady is a tribute or a dig at Mrs Thatcher. The less said about this the better.

    Errol Dunkley again. There were quite a few reggae acts in the chart at this time and continuing into 1980 and 81. At the time I tied them into the Two Tone thing but roots reggae was already popular before this because of its connection to punk and was getting more airplay along with lovers rock tracks. I love the bassist's dancing style, he's got some great moves going on there.

    "Lena Martell and she is number one" Why say it so slowly and deliberately Peter? From the strange edit between Errol Dunkley and this I get the impression that maybe PP had messed up his intro the first time and was forced to do it again, slightly sarcastically the second time.

    "Cheatin' and stealin'. Violence and crime" coos Lena. Er, stealing IS crime you numbskull. Nice to see Johnny Person and the guys in the background though, this might be the last time we see them.

    And why was PP off to South Wales. Any one know?

    1. I think he said earlier in the show that Radio 1 had gone down to South Wales, though why I don't know - I'd have thought it was a bit late in the year for the Roadshow.

    2. bama, if viola wills had a sister called cello, would she be funky? (an oblique reference to the cleveland eaton double a-side single that bama culls his name from)... also, perhaps other male singer dooley reminds you of keith harris?

    3. Wilber - I've just remembered it was Aiden J Harvey. It turns out he wasn't a kids TV presenter but a comerdian/impressionist but there is a bit of Keith Harris in there as well, the curly perm I suppose.

    4. And well done with the obscure Funky Cello reference - I'm going to have to change my user name when we reach 1980 to something more appropriate to the new decade.

  6. That was an awful show, definitely the worst of '79 so far and one of the worst we have seen in these reruns. Almost wall-to-wall repeats and retreads, two dreadful novelty records and the lovely Lena to top it all off. Nice to see that she came dressed as Calamity Jane, incidentally. Christmas seems to have started early in 1979, given the number of novelties we have seen over the last few episodes. Janet Brown's effort was particularly excruciating, though I have never forgiven her for spoiling the end of For Your Eyes Only, which up until she appears is perhaps the most hard-edged and credible of the Roger Moore Bonds.

    It all started so promisingly too with the Specials and their walrus-moustached trumpet player, but other positives are hard to find. Legs did well, though such is the quality of that Chic track it would have been hard for them to mess it up! Crazy Little Thing Called Love has never really done much for me - I think it sounds a bit too much like a pastiche for my liking. Funnily enough I saw Brian May yesterday, in the vicinity of Westminster, which made me wonder if he was lobbying for the badgers once again...

    1. Oh, and I don't know if Peter Powell's haircut had made him light-headed, or he was affected by the low quality of the show, but he was all over the place this week. The squeezing and repeated pelvic thrusting were particularly unappealing...

  7. Thanks to that brilliant new Genome option on the net, I can confirm Radio 1 were indeed spending the week in South Wales. Obviously, Errol Dunkley had been down there too, as his rasta-coloured top was the tracksuit top for Wales’s national football team at the time.

    I can imagine how deflated I’d have felt watching this as a 17-year-old, hoping the next song would be better and being disappointed almost every time. How on Earth could Peter Powell call this a good night out near the beginning? Definitely the worst re-run show so far.

    PP had a busy soundbite show what with “always seen but forbidden to touch” (if only Jim’ll had listened), quoting an Amen Corner lyric, and the pun about Janet Brown’s record reaching number 10 – luckily it did bugger all. Quite why she tried to cash in five whole months after the election beats me. The BBC props department would have sighed in relief at the chance to rehash those hats last used for Neil Innes. Still, no doubt Mike Yarwood would have watched this and realised his career was going down the pan.

    Vivacious veteran Viola Wills was easily the most vibrant act on the show, with iris Williams at the other end of the spectrum. Interesting to see the show’s producer thought the same as me about Cats UK, putting the obvious ‘stunna’ stage front this time. Decent hairstyle for the lead singer, nicer outfits, even the ‘push off’ refrain added to the lyrics – still didn’t stop the song from being utter shite, though.

    Were Legs & Co wearing Cats UK’s shiny, tight change kit for their kicky, hoofy but stylish routine? Reminds me of that old joke – “How do you get into those trousers?” “Try a Campari and soda for starters”. Talking of which, why were Cats UK called that? If they were an aperitif rip-off, surely they should have called themselves The Scamparis. Scam, Campari, you get it? Never mind.

  8. i agree with the above that this was probably the worst show of the year, and a salutory reminder that even in this fondly-remembered golden age of pop there was still plenty of shite about... in fact the only thing i liked about this episode (other than the queen video which doesn't really count) was the preponderance of skin-tight shiny spandex pants - if only lena martell had worn some as well rather than that frumpy outfit she had on it might have made things a little more interesting. the only other thing i noted (that others have failed to spot) was that the janet brown backing track was in fact a classic example of cod-reggae!

    1. I gave Janet Brown about five seconds before fast-forwarding - that was more than enough - so I didn't hear the backing track properly. Janet could bastardise a Caribbean music style back then, and Mike Read gets into trouble for imitating the Caribbean vocal style now. Mind you, back then we had sitcoms like "Love Thy Neighbour", "Mind Your Language" and "Curry and Chips" passing themselves off as entertainment.

    2. If you wanna hear more mildly racist calypsos then check out Max Bygrave's Under The Coconut Tree here on You tube:

    3. Mike Read has really gone down in my estimation for caving in to the 'professionally offended'. I wouldn't mind betting that these stupid people are amongst those who go to the holiday discos and sing along to "Woh, I'm going to Barbados", too dumb to know that this was recorded by two white guys.

    4. Mike Read went down in my estimation for releasing the calypso in the first place. This is the man who wrote High Rise! Where did it all go wrong?

    5. "High Rise" didn't chart when it probably deserved a top 75 place. That's where it all went wrong! :-)

  9. I have nothing much to add to the above, It was indeed probably the worst show of the year given all the rubbish and repeats of the previous one.
    Only The Specials was something new and good (technically Queen too, but I've seen that video so many times now!) and that Janet Brown effort was just mystifying.

    Such a shame that last week's much better show couldn't be shown...

  10. Eclectic or what? I wouldn't go as far as saying that this was the worst show we've seen so far, but it's true to say that all the good stuff has either been on before or will be seen again. At least Viola and lead Cat didn't look so scary this time and the orchestra sounded rather more enthusiastic. Talking of the orchestra, it looks like this was their Indian summer, with no less than five performances in one show.

    The Specials were another example where the live OGWT performance completely eclipses this effort.

    Personally I rather like Luton Airport, as novelty records go. Compared to some of the other stuff on this show, I think it can be classified as 'new wave'.

    Surprised that Legs & Co didn't have different coloured trousers, but I think that's been done before.

    The Janet Brown single was probably one of those which lingered in Woolies' clearance bin for anything up to a couple of years afterwards. But it's an interesting historical artifact because it captures that brief, innocent period when a female Prime Minister was considered a novelty. It didn't take long before opinions became polarised - The Beat's Stand Down Margaret must have been one of the first anti-Thatcher songs, as early as Summer 1980.

    I think the problem with Lena Martell is just the sheer fakeness - you only have to look to Wikipedia to find that she's really called Helen Thompson and comes from a crappy part of Glasgow. Whilst it has long been common for British artists to sing in an American accent (there must be a historical precedent for this, but I don't know what), this is nothing more than 100% plastic.

  11. Lena Martell was no Barbara Mandrell. Hey, that rhymes.

  12. I think the Saturday nght repeat was the edited version again. Second time that's happened.

  13. Ugh, that Janet Brown thing. Must be the first time in these entire re-runs that I've fast forwarded through something. And I've sat through Neil Innes, far too many Dooleys and squillion repeats of the British Hustle. But two lines of this did for me.

    1. You managed the whole Edna below Everage effort? Fair dinkum!

  14. Apparently Alcoholics Anonymous use One Day At A Time as their theme song, not sure how the religious connection works though.

    Angelo - The only other British country and western number one I can think of is Billy Connolly's spoof of DIVORCE in 1975.

    1. If I've learned anything from Stephen King books, I've learned that AA use a faith in a higher power, call it God if you like, to give the addicts the impetus to kick their habit. Dunno what happens if Lena's trilling drives you to drink, mind you.