Thursday, 6 November 2014

I'm Only a Poor Little Top of the Pops

November 1979 arrives and this 30 minute edition of Top of the Pops means that nothing needs to be edited out of this week's 7.30pm slot on BBC4....

Don't mess with us, St. Winifreds!

1-11-79: Presenter: Mike Read

(3) SAD CAFÉ – Every Day Hurts (and charts)
(45) SPARKS – Tryouts For The Human Race
(26) THE RAMBLERS – The Sparrow ®
(50) DARTS – Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love
(29) THE JAM – The Eton Rifles
(46) LENE LOVICH – Bird Song
(16) EARTH, WIND & FIRE – Star (danced to by Legs & Co)
(43) THIN LIZZY – Sarah
(20) SUZI QUATRO – She’s In Love With You
(42) B.A. ROBERTSON – Knocked It Off
(1) LENA MARTELL – One Day At A Time ®
(8) FLEETWOOD MAC – Tusk (and credits)

Sad Café ~ play over the charts, now at their peak of number 3.

Sparks ~ get the show underway with their own brand of Californian euro-disco, but this particular 45 got no higher than 45 in the charts.

The Ramblers ~ flying up the charts, and playing their own guitars, it's the Abbey Hey Junior School choir tweeting a song written by Maurice Jordan.

Darts ~ Rita Ray takes the lead vocal for this follow-up to Duke of Earl, but it couldn't get any further than number 43.

The Jam ~ Host Mike Read points out that this is their 9th single, but it was to become the first to make it into the top ten, and although The Jam had been Top of the Pops regulars since 1977, this was their big breakthrough, with a song that was just a different level to any of their previous eight.

Lene Lovich ~ continuing the feathered theme this week, a wonderfully eccentric performance by Lene was enough to see The Bird perch at number 39.

Legs & Co ~ go space disco this week for a silver caped routine to Star by Earth Wind and Fire.

Thin Lizzy ~ a more mellow effort than usual here from Thin Lizzy, which perhaps didn't quite pay off for them with Sarah stalling at 24.

Suzie Quatro ~ now here's someone who doesn't really do mellow, it's Suzie Quatro with another raucous performance of Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman's She's in love with You.

BA Robertson ~ follows up his unusual hit Bang Bang with something even more unusual, but standing out from the crowd like this knocked him off a second top ten hit.

Lena Martell ~ with a second of three weeks at number one, but we won't see her again on BBC4.

Fleetwood Mac ~ drum us out this week with Tusk nearing its peak of number 6 in the charts.

The next episode, the 8th November 1979, is the famous 'two-tone' Top of the Pops, featuring Madness, The Specials and the Selector! Unfortunately, it was hosted by Jimmy Savile. So that means the next edition on BBC4 will be the 15th November 1979 hosted by David Jensen.


  1. That continental record sleeve’s wrong. It’s missed a “1”off. These particular Ramblers never reached the top, unlike Perry Como and the Ramblers - number one for five weeks in 1953 with “Don't Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes”, fact fans.

    First time I’ve watched this BBC Music (yawn) show live for months, and I got an uncut show for my trouble. Shame it wasn’t a longer show as they might have cut those bloody Ramblers out. I remember that song most from a football chant in the eighties – “he’s only a poor little (nickname of opposition), his face is all tattered and torn, he made me feel sick, so I hit him with a brick, and now he don’t sing any more”. The terrace youth of yesteryear. By the way, excellent chartdown mix of Sad Café’s single. I thought that gave you all the vital ingredients of the song in superb bitesize form.

    Once again, the studio audience were treated to five non-mugshot acts, and each one was already on its second or third week in the top 75 at that stage – and each one peaked at a higher position than the last one. Those scary multiple multicolour Rons might have caused Sparks’ song to peak at its show position, I hoped Darts’ supermarket yoghourt thin effort would be a cover of the Bad Company hit, scary Lene’s gurning and white of eye might also have put people off (imagine her in the same band or video as Scary Ron!), Thin Lizzy’s effort was their weakest in terms of raunch but not in sentiment and, typically, the one outsider I liked least by smug, overconfident BA made the top ten.

    Worst mimes of the week had to be Ron Mael’s keyboard style (even the Shaw Taylor lookalike in Can did a better job) and BA Robertson with the violin - that bogus guitarist in Can did a better job with his bow. As for other tricks, Horatio Hornblower’s double sax has already been done by Davey Payne of The Blockheads, and BA’s verse style was similar to Ian Dury’s “Reasons To Be Cheerful (Part Three)”. Notice some sort of theme here?

    There were apparently five Leggers in intergalactic airhostess outfits dancing to “Star” – I could only see Patti, apart from that awfully nice bendover shot of Gill near the end. I take it Lulu was given the week off because her hairstyle would’nt have fitted into the hat.

    Good old Suzi. Always available and giving it some with her bass and shaking head vocal style. Liked the way the bass and guitars were the same shade or similar. Talking of style, that Jam group looked awfully smart, though Rick’s tie belonged to the Sad Café / New Musik edition, and Eton’s nearer Windsor than Slough, though you couldn’t get a sort of ruckus with the same assonance as Windsor. Ooh, hark at me, a right Melvyn Bragg! On the same level, “Tusk” rhymes with “busk” which is what it sounds like, and Martell rhymes with Hell. Quite right too!

    1. perhaps lene lovich and ron mael should get together with ian anderson out of jethro tull...? has anyone got any more suggestions to join what might be the scariest band in pop?

    2. yes that would be quite shocking ~ how about adding Pete Burns?

    3. presumably that's pete burns as he is now, rather than 30 years ago?

  2. I thought/think Bird Song was LL's finest hit,should've been top 10.Is it me or does Rita from Darts sound a bit like Poly Styrene on this one ? Always loved this Lizzy song,and my young lady was named in honour of it ! Here in Leeds we still use our version of The Sparrow to wecome visiting cockneys to Elland Road !

  3. Thought I'd get in early this week... So the BBC have finally caught up. November already, how time flies.

    Sad Cafe. It really doesn't work with slow songs accompanying the chart and weirdly they seem to have edited the first verse with the second chorus, heaven knows why but perhaps they wanted to end with the guitar solo.

    I have no memory of seeing this performance of the third Moroder-produced Sparks single but it's pretty good, but clearly too much in gay disco territory to be a mainstream hit.

    The Ramblers song is not to everyone's taste but it is nicely done if you like that sort of thing. But to my 17 year old self I can remember always finding something better to do when it was on.

    The Darts effort is totally forgetful and it's no wonder this didn't trouble the Top 40. The 1950s doo-wop style is completely missing and they have produced a nondescript pop song and even Nigel the sax player can't liven it up by playing two saxes at the same time. Nice hat though.

    The Jam - the highlight of the show. My brother had left for Poly by this point and he had bought all The Jam singles up to this point and even wrote off to join their fan club in 1977 (they didn't have one but I still have the letter and badge from Paul's sister Nikki which he passed on to me). Now it was up to me to buy my own Jam singles and I bought this one. A splendid performance perhaps somewhat marred by the faux soldier on backing 'vocals'.

    I have no memory of this Lene Lovich song. She's clearly seen a few Kate Bush videos judging by the amount of eye work going on here but pretty soon her crown would be stolen by Hazel O'Connor.

    Nice lesser slower EWF song with an interesting dance interpretation by the Legs girls but I prefer their more up tempo routines.

    I quite liked this Thin Lizzy song but thought it was a much bigger hit than it was. It certainly deserved to be.

    Another sterling performance by Suzi Quatro and her band who have reverted the '70s leather look.

    I think I may have bought this BA Robertson single but heaven knows why based on this performance. Not quite sure about the references in the lyrics to track suits and BBC parking spaces, this may have a hidden message or it could be a load of self indulgent nonsense.

    From Lene to Lena (again) and then Tusk under the titles (again). No video yet, oh well.

  4. This was better than last week's, if nothing else, though they were still trying to find the next big hits and not really pulling it off judging by the low-scoring singles in the first half.

    I suppose this is what Ron Mael would have looked like as a 1970s hologram, only he wasn't in 3D. Didn't remember this one bar the title, but it's not bad at all, deserved better.

    How many guitars did the Ramblers need? Yes, it was cloying, but infernally catchy, I'm just glad the teachers at my school didn't see fit to have us learn this for assembly.

    Darts, the harmonies are there, but the tune to back them up isn't. Was this the last time we saw them?

    The Jam with their idiosyncratic diet tips (maybe it's for the iron content) and they mean business. It's no wonder this was the hit it was, they were practically daring you not to buy it, and they'd brought the heavy mob around for the chorus. Who were those guys, anyway? Had they won a competition?

    Lene Lovich, another one where I knew the title but what it actually sounded like eluded me. Quite ethereal while it's on, but I'm having trouble recalling how it went now.

    Must admit this is one of my favourite EWF songs, the melodies are great, it grooves along quite the thing but not too overbearing. Legs & Co taking costume tips from Dee D. Jackson there. Or was it D. Dee Jackson?

    Thin Lizzy, not very rock 'n' roll to do a ditty about your new baby, but it's such a sweet tune you can't begrudge them. Seems to be one everyone thought was a bigger hit than it was - maybe the baby should have been committing some kind of lawbreaking or other for the fans' acceptance?

    If Suzi Quatro had been performing this one live she's have sounded like Norman Collier judging by her cavalier attitude to microphone technique. Very unnecessary fist pump to indicate rumpy pumpy too. Fun song, though.

    B.A. Robertson joining The Firm and The Beastie Boys in namechecking Mr Spock in his lyrics. I guarantee nobody will ever write a song like this again, or make the top ten with it anyway. I note Mike said he would be sitting in for him on the radio - but what accent would he use?

    Still want to see the Tusk video on TOTP. I know, that's what YouTube is for...

    1. Darts are back next month with a rush-released cover which didn't even make the top 50. If we're lucky enough to get to 1980, we'lll see their cover of a Four Seasons song which just missed the top ten.

  5. After the 100 percent dross of last week, tonight was a -slight- improvement. Better host and a couple of personal faves.
    Sad Cafe (over the charts) As noted above a rather crudely edited version giving a snapshot of the entire song - verse chorus, guitar break. Which begs the question, why didn't they do the same with Tusk at the show's close?

    Sparks. I was a huge fan of the earlier poppy stuff, and Kimono My House is still one of my favourite albums but this is just dire europap.

    The Ramblers. Whilst I can understand why people would have bought Granma We Love you - presumably for their Grandma to show that, well. . . . they loved her. Why would anyone buy this? Tic-inducing, shudderingly awful.

    The Jam. A solid-gold gem. This is The Jam at the start of a purple phase of back to back megahits. Spitting lyrics, pounding guitar and a hook to die for. I'm guessing the four 'soldiers' miming the 'oi' shouts were the idea of some ToTP executive. I don't think Weller was as assured of his position in rock's pantheon as he would soon become otherwise he would have told the exec where to go.

    Lene Lovich. 'One trick pony in less impressive follow-up single' shock.

    Thin Lizzy. A sweet song but not one of my favourites. Phil was clearly miming to this which is unusual because in most of Lizzy's ToTP appearances he sings live. Also can anyway tell me who was playing drums ( didn't look like Downey) or who was the other guitarist?

    B A Robertson. Channelling the energy of Norman 'Mr Grimsdale' Wisdom there.

    As Tusk plays out you can see Mike Reid signing autographs from the stage.

    1. The other guitarist in Thin Lizzy was Dave Flett, who had been recruited for a US tour as a temporary replacement for the sacked Gary Moore. I notice that Scott Gorham actually mimes Gary's solo on this performance! Former Manfred Mann guitarist Dave had joined Lizzy around the same time as Midge Ure, who played keyboards on the same tour before leaving for Ultravox. Dave quit soon after this appearance on TOTP and was replaced by Snowy White, while Darren Wharton took over from Midge on keys.

      The drummer may have been New Yorker Mark Nauseef, who had previously deputised for Brian Downey on tour while the latter was recovering from pneumonia.

    2. Thanks for that Julie. Didn't think I recognised the faces and neither name rings a bell as being 'official' Lizzy members

    3. anonymous, is there any chance you can post in future with some kind of user name so we don't get you mixed up with other anonymous's? thanks

    4. Was Gary Moore sacked from Lizzy? I never knew that - clearly he and Phil had made it up by the time they released Out in the Fields in '85!

  6. i've been waiting all yr to see Thin Lizzy's Sarah what a brilliant song wroth by Phil & Gary for Phil's newborn Daughter (not to be mixed up with the 1972 song of the same name Phil wrote for his granny .Julie Your right Mark played drums on the recording of this song and Gary Moore done all the guitar work - Scott did not feature at all it is also an interesting fact Huey Lewis (of the news fame) played the harmonica on the recording.Pat

  7. By the way anybody know why this show was only half an hour and not the usual 40 mins ? when did the show move to half an hour every week ?

    1. The new Genome site, with digitised Radio Times listings from 1923-2009, reveals that Tomorrow's World was 5 minutes longer than normal this week, reducing TOTP to 30 minutes. During the autumn of 1979, TOTP was normally 35 minutes long as Blankety Blank was scheduled immediately after it.

    2. what's a genome? does it have a pointed hat, a beard and a fishing rod ,and live in the back garden?

    3. The online definition I found reads as follows: "The haploid set of chromosomes in a gamete or microorganism, or in each cell of a multicellular organism." Not really the most obvious title to give to a website of old TV and radio listings, methinks...

  8. very much a curate's egg this week, inevitably with the rubbish performing better in the charts than the good stuff. but perhaps nowadays that's a good thing as the decent tunes that failed to shift huge amounts at the time don't get played to death nowadays...?

    sad cafe: whilst i admired the edit that meant you heard both verse and chorus in the chart rundown, this was an utterly inappropriate choice for 3 reasons: 1 - far too slow (the chart places were appearing ever sooner before they should have done as the countdown went on), 2 - everyone's heard this a million times by now (i know there was no rule, but this spot tended to be taken by new tracks that were climbing the charts), 3 - this spot also (unofficially) tended to be handed out to those that were never likely to appear live in the studio for either logistical reasons i.e. US acts, or practical ones i.e. the artists in question being faceless disco aggregations. i'm sure sad cafe would have crawled all the way from manchester to appear on the show given the chance - an appearance in the flesh might have even got them the top spot instead of just hanging around at number 3...

    sparks: good idea of the director to film ron doing some gurning beforehand so he could appear intermittently like some kind of spooky ghost, and a great ferry-style pink suit worn by russell. obviously all to no avail though despite this being the best of their disco efforts. a very similar feel to japan's "life in tokyo" that was also struggling to break into the charts around this time (and of course another giorgio moroder production). i noticed that the drummer got some good face-time at one point - can anyone i-d him?

    the ramblers: i normally try to make an effort to sit through even the most atrocious of what totp offers, if for nothing else than to comment here. but in this case i had to immediately move on to the next act as i could feel the bile rising in my throat in pavlovian response! i'm no expert on star wars, but is the lead singer jabba the hut? i had it in my head that this was a massive hit (at least top 3), but i think i was getting it mixed up with st winifred's school choir. still, even being a lesser hit is nauseating enough...

    darts: i thought this was one one their better efforts, although hardly in the rock n roll pastiche vein that they made their name with (there was even a sitar twanging away in the background!). mr bass man's whistle is almost as stylish as russell mael's...

    the jam: no doubt this will anger other contributors or at least make their jaws hit the floor, but i could no more watch their latest effort than i could the ramblers!

    lene lovich: better than the follow-up to "lucky number", but her number was up by now (ho ho). extremely similar to what toyah was coming out with at the time, but one suspects that loony lene didn't have the nous, self-determination and (misguided) belief that she was something special that toyah had to stay the course...

    1. Sparks drummer is Keith Forsey, a British-born sessioner who also worked with Donna Summer, Boney M, Wang Chung and others. He co-wrote the soundtracks for The Breakfast Club and Flash Dance and was a producer on Billy Idol's first solo album.

    2. thanks for that bama - i'm well aware of keith forsey who started out in 60's british pop bands before making his mark as a session drummer in germany, working for boney m mastermind frank farian among others. wouldn't recognise him if he walked past me in the street though hence the query. the theme he helped write/produce for "the breakfast club" was "don't you forget about me" recorded by simple minds (sadly that was my shark-jumping moment as far as they were concerned!)

  9. was it frank carson whose catchprhrase was "and there's more"? or was it jimmy cricket? anyway, here's the rest:

    ew&f/legs: unfortunately i was watching this on a very small computer screen so didn't really get the benefit of the costumes. musically a great track once the groove kicks in, but one suspects the drawn-out intro did for its chances of both chart and club success

    thin lizzy: i was never a fan of their usual heavier stuff (although i've grown to like some of it nowadays), but this really blew me away - i couldn't believe it was the same band! in fact from going by what has been said above it was practically a different band, with exemplary guitar and musical composition work from the now-departed gary moore (should i say "he was no moore in thin lizzy?")... and another gem for students of modulation!!

    suzi quatro: what a let down after lizzy - real meat and potatoes stuff that i can't believe came from the same pens that wrote classics like "blockbuster" and "tiger feet". and did they really need len tuckey junior on second guitar (if he was actually len's brother, hopefully his name was ken ho ho!)

    ba robertson: now then, now then bama, well spotted with the references to tracksuits and bbc parking spaces! like his last hit quite an interesting proto-synth pop backing track, but rendered redundant by the vocals and "humourous" lyrics. and was he deliberately trying to sing badly in the choruses, or could he not actually carry a tune in a bucket?

    lena martell: not surprisingly, mr read has real trouble stopping his eyes rolling as he introduces this. it's sad we won't get to see the 2-tone special episode nest week (i note there's still no damning evidence that js was guilty as "charged"), but at least we won't have to suffer this rubbish again...

    1. Jimmy Cricket = "And there's more"
      Frank Carson = "It's the way I tell 'em!"

    2. thanks arthur - regarding the former: last year i was in a pub in dobcross (saddleworth moors, lancashire) where i saw a poster advertising a jimmy cricket gig in the function room upstairs (that probably holds less than 100 people). maybe not exactly a case of "how the mighty have fallen", but didn't the guy used to appear on prime-time tv and in royal variety shows?

    3. He certainly did, but times and tastes change. Apart from possibly doing panto (where most of the younger element of the audience wouldn't know who he is), there probably isn't much else Jimmy can do these days. besides, he's nearly 70, so maybe he's happy doing small gigs now.

    4. Jimmy Cricket seemed to be constantly on TV when I was a kid - I recall he would always start his routine saying "come 'ere."

  10. The Top 30 was remarkably static at this point in time, with very few new entries, so it's no surprise this show featured so many that were "bubbling under." No complaints from me, anyway, as it was nice to hear some new stuff after the endless repeats last week! The overall quality was higher as well, and it was great to discover a couple of songs (Lene Lovich, B.A. Robertson) that I had never heard before but actually quite enjoyed. I find B.A. deeply unappealing visually and was prepared to hate the song when it started, but it certainly grew on me.

    The Jam were the undisputed highlight of this show, however, with a single that just has "monumental" written through it like a stick of rock. Thin Lizzy provided a sharp contrast, but Sarah is a little too saccharine for my tastes - it is also grimly ironic that Phil ultimately did not "change his style" enough to avoid becoming yet another premature rock n'roll casualty. The most forgettable new song was from Sparks - while the multi-coloured scary Ron images were fun, this was too much like the two previous singles to stand out in any way, and I am not surprised that it stiffed.

    It's nice to see that Mike Read is still allowed on BBC4 after the UKIP Calypso fiasco, though frankly I would rather have listened to that than the Ramblers again! Incidentally, I think there was an adult guitarist accompanying the girls, but his face was kept out of shot. I enjoyed Read's face when introducing Lena Martell - he looked totally disbelieving that it was still topping the charts! Alas, we have not quite seen the last of Lena on BBC4, as she also appeared in the non-Yewtreed Christmas Day edition...

    Finally, Tusk gets its second go as the playout record, but I don't think the accompanying images were as striking on this occasion.

  11. wilberforce - couldn't figure out how to post with a name. The alternatives shown in the drop-down meant nowt to me. Upon instruction I am going to give it a go now. *Crosses fingers*

    1. Ah ha! Success. No more anonymous for me.

    2. welcome to the club shaky...

  12. I was also disappointed to see Sad Cafe relegated to chart rundown, when they had climbed up to No.3. No wonder they didn't make it to No.1, on the crucial airtime week to get them over the line to the top spot with an important TOTP airing.
    Shame on you BBC for not inviting them back to the studio, going up from No.5 to No.3 in the charts.

    The Ramblers - was the lead singer a Yorkshire lass with that accent? I'm a southerner, so someone please give me some clarity on this point.

    Darts - they just couldn't keep the fun going by late 1979, and were not a jot on their 1977 & 1978 charting peaks of No.2, but nevertheless a good song here that did not even make top 40 for the group.

    Fleetwood Mac - alas the last we hear of Tusk, after two closing credits appearances and one Legs & Co effort. It seems we were really squeezing the towel dry with this one, with no video and no live footage available for what is a brilliant track in the group's resume of hits. Goodbye and good night!

    1. I believe The Ramblers were from Abbey Hey, which is near Gorton in Greater Manchester.

    2. There was actually quite a famous video for Tusk, the one with the marching band in the baseball stadium:

      Also at that link, stick with it and you'll see the video recreated recently with loads of people in the pouring rain!

    3. Thanks THX, it's a little strange that TOTP never showed this video on the show, but instead on the three appearances, we only got two on end credits and one Legs & Co. You'd think they could have had at least one showing of the video!

      But i think I have the answer. The tune does sound like a perfect end credits tune for any show, i.e., chat shows, sports shows, documentaries, and so I can understand how this genius sound was implemented on TOTP to sound out the show. It's the perfect instrumental sound-out.

  13. The Sparks song should have been a hit really, it was just suffering from 3rd single syndrome as it was quite similar to the other two.

    Still trying to recall who was responsible for The Ramblers becoming famous. Pretty sure my Nan and Grandad had a copy, though I would like to stress that it was NOT for my benefit. I love the fact that the kids are swaying completely out of time with the song and each other!

    Darts - An odd song, really. Again, probably deserved to at least graze the Top 40. The saxophonist seemed to be decked out in a blatant copy of Madness though.

    The Jam - Easily their best song to this point, you can see why it was a big hit. Not sure about that line-up front of stage, looked like something out of Never Mind The Buzzcocks. The one on the right definitely didn't want to be there.

    Lene Lovich - Somehow, this DID just dent the 40. The intro alone is enough to scare everyone off. Not great.

    Thin Lizzy - I like this one, it used to be on the playlist of one of the radio stations I worked for, so I know it pretty well.

    Suzi Quatro - Another good tune, and as well as being able to see Mike Read signing autographs on the playout, I'm pretty sure you could see Suzi packing her guitar away too!

    B.A.Robertson - Utterly nonsensical, but I love it. He surely goes out of tune on the chorus deliberately, to emphasise despair?
    Also, I'm pretty sure there is a lyric change to one line, the one where he mentions TOTP. The single version ends with '....I was Top of the Pops!' but he doesn't say that here. I wonder why?
    Unless some pedantic producer said that as he only got to No.2 with 'Bang Bang' he couldn't actually say that. Stranger things have happened....

    Last observation on the playout - one of the pieces of the set has flashing lights on it. Why didn't they use that in the show exactly?
    Incidentally, the set design seems to resemble a particularly bad mosaic tiled bathroom at the moment, it's awful.

    1. The record version of Knocked It Off has the line " some Granada Ghia I was Top Of The Pops" which he was presumably ordered to change (the BBC have been a bit funny about car references for a very long time - see The Playmates' 'Beep Beep').

      A good show for changed lyrics spotting - Suzi Quatro similarly couldn't sing "And when she's making love to you". Oh, and she could do mellow Angelo - check out her version of 'Fever'.

  14. Good Sunday morning to all.
    Angelo, it appears that Neil B. has now uploaded the 8th Nov 1979 Jimmy Saville hosted show, so are you ready to put this up? It's a Rockabilly Rebel from head to toe, and also Lena Martell's 3rd and last week at No.1, and last ever appearance on TOTP I think.

    1. Great news that Neil B has this one!
      Yep, it's now up :-)

  15. Lena will appear once more. She will sing on the Christmas show, hosted by David Jensen and Peter Powell.

  16. A fine show after some of the recent duds - I even let the Ramblers play through without fast forwarding.
    Don't remember the Lene Lovich song at all..
    Ba Robertson's bassist looked like a manic Tom Robinson...