Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Hark Now Hear it's Top of the Pops

This Christmas Day special from 1979 is where we say goodbye to the 70's on BBC4 (although there is one more special from the 27th December 1979, hosted by Mike Read and DLT, which is almost entirely comprised of videos). But apart from Legs & Co dancing to Anita Ward and (a repeat) the Bee Gees, this show was brimming with studio appearances. But one thing did seem to be missing.......

Do you think anyone will notice there's no audience?

25-12-79: Presenters: David Jensen & Peter Powell

BONEY M – Mary’s Boy Child – Oh My Lord (clip of TOTP 25-12-78)
IAN DURY & THE BLOCKHEADS – Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick
JANET KAY – Silly Games
ROXY MUSIC – Dance Away
ANITA WARD – Ring My Bell (danced to by Legs & Co)
BUGGLES – Video Killed The Radio Star
B.A. ROBERTSON – Bang Bang
BLONDIE – Sunday Girl
M – Pop Muzik
THE BEE GEES – Tragedy (danced to by Legs & Co) ®
(40) LENA MARTELL – One Day At A Time
SQUEEZE – Cool For Cats
(21) DR. HOOK – When You’re In Love With A Beautiful Woman
BLONDIE – Dreaming
TUBEWAY ARMY – Are ‘Friends’ Electric?
RACEY – Some Girls
CLIFF RICHARD – We Don’t Talk Anymore

Boney M ~ began the year with this million selling Christmas hit but by the end of 1979 their time as top 20 regulars was over.

Ian Dury & the Blockheads ~ topped the charts for just one week with this, their only number one hit, performed here as road workers.

Janet Kay ~ her only hit, which reached number two in the summer.

Gary Numan ~ another record which topped the charts for just one week, and also his second and final number one, though more top tens were to follow in the 80's.

Roxy Music ~ a number two from the summer, held off the top spot by Sunday Girl. Finally making it into the studio, which they didn't manage to do earlier in the year.

Legs & Co ~ with a very jangly dance to Anita Ward's one hit wonder.

Buggles ~ perform their only number one, which topped the charts for just one week, with the Top of the Pops cameras doing their best to recreate the feel of the video.

BA Robertson ~ another of the number two gang, this time held off the top spot by Cliff. Here he gets a couple of the Legs girls to march up and down banging drums.

Blondie ~ perform the second of two number ones for the band in 1979, with more to follow in 1980.

M ~ with their only major hit which was held off the top spot by Art Garfunkel and some rabbits.

The Bee Gees ~ still no live appearance on the show from the brothers, even at Christmas. So it's a repeat of the Legs & Co routine from the Spring.

Elvis Costello ~ and here's the song that was held off that number one spot by the Bee Gees.

Lena Martell ~ a one hit wonder in the singles chart with the surprise number one of the year.

Squeeze ~ the first of two number twos for the band in 1979, this was also held off the top by Art and his rabbits. Poor old Chris has to do a live vocal again to keep it Christmas friendly.

Dr Hook ~ still in the top 30 this was the band's only number one hit, with two more top ten hits just around the corner in 1980.

Blondie ~ performing for a second time, with Debbie in the same outfit, and yet another number two, this time held off the top by The Police and Message in a Bottle.

Tubeway Army ~ Gary Numan's breakthrough smash, what a year 1979 was for him, with two number one singles and two number one albums.

Racey ~ were a band already on their way out by now, here they are with another song that couldn't quite dislodge Art Garfunkel from the top spot. Here we are also treated to a montage of Legs routines from the year, although they don't actually join the band on stage this time.

Cliff Richard ~ brings the show to a close with his 10th number one, and his only number one of the 70's, though amazingly two more would follow in the 80's and two more in the 90's.

The next edition then should have been from the 27th December 1979 but that one is hosted by DLT and therefore won't be broadcast. So the next show on BBC4 should be the one from January 3rd 1980.


  1. A great show to finish a great year for music.Thanks again Angelo and Neil

  2. A good end-of-year show, and well presented by the two DJs.

    Anita Ward - excellent studio set made for Legs & Co, and the girls looking very fresh and Christmassy, and looking mighty fine if I do say so myself. Ring my bell!

    The Buggles - I don't remember this studio appearance because of the famous video associated with the song, but I particularly liked one of the two backing girls in the group, especially as she was re-inacting one of the Pink Ladies from Grease, but with a Christmas outfit. She could give Legs & Co some stiff competition no doubt on the looks front.

    BA Robertson - This studio performance was made all the more interesting with BA taking a liking to Rosie from Legs & Co, first whispering something in her ear, and then going down on one knee later in the song while she was banging the drum. Lucky BA, and why not? You just gotta love it.

    Dr Hook - I don't remember this studio performance, as I always associated the song with their video which was played on each of their appearances on TOTP, so for them to be in the studio only after the song exited the charts, was most unusual, a bit like The Buggles earlier in the show. Same sort of feeling.

    Racey - this show seemed to be all about Legs & Co, and I must say that the montage of their 1979 performances on this Racey hit was a pleasure to watch.

    We were really lucky to have Legs & Co for another two years in 1980 and 1981, despite the fact that songs now had videos available as well as studio performances, and so the original concept of Legs & Co to perform when there was no footage of groups, was somehow overturned to allow us to keep them in our TOTP show for another two years, so thanks goes to the BBC for somehow giving them work even the though the video age had now come through almost to the full by the end of the 70s. Well done Beeb!

    1. Yes, and Legs & Co and Squeeze are really the only performances of note on this years other xmas show. As Angelo has said, all other acts appear on video only. Legs routine for Y.M.C.A. is performed in full Village People attire and it's done very well.
      Sqeeze's performance of Up The Junction is also interesting because they swap their instruments for it. Glenn Tillbrook looks like he would make a pretty decent drummer, but Jools is no guitarist !

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  3. At the risk of sounding like Scrooge, I don't generally find the repeats of the Christmas shows as interesting as the regular ones, thanks to the lack of obscurities and minor hits. However, I did enjoy this edition, thanks both to the good presenter chemistry between Kid and Powell and the plethora of new studio performances, particularly for songs that had only been seen on video during their chart runs. The big mystery is why there was no audience, as it did make the studio atmosphere seem distinctly sterile.

    Legs certainly did well out of this edition, and it looked to me as if their Ring My Bell performance was actually shot on film rather than videotape, suggesting it was filmed away from TV Centre. There was nothing about the routine which indicated to me that it couldn't have been mounted in the normal studios, so perhaps pressure on space caused by the recently ended strike forced Legs to go elsewhere.

    Another thing that struck me about the show was the lack of any input from the Orchestra - indeed, virtually everyone appeared to be miming to the original recordings. I'm not quite sure how the Beeb escaped the wrath of the MU over this, but it is surely another sign of the Orchestra's declining status on the show - it would only last another 5 months.

    I'm really looking forward to 1980 now, but hopefully Neil B might be able to provide us with the second Christmas show in the next few days. It doesn't look terribly fascinating, thanks to the dominance of videos, but it would be nice to see it for completeness' sake and the fact it was the very last TOTP of the 1970s.

    1. The previous Christmas edition of TOTP in the previous year 1978 which was presented by Noel Edmunds, which I'm just watching now on BBC4, also had no studio audience.

      I suspect that for Christmas shows, there was a different protocol for 1978 & 1979, but I don't know how far this stretches back to for Christmas shows with no studio audience. Does anyone know if the same occurred in 1976 & 1977? I'm sure the 80s Christmas shows did have studio audiences

    2. The point regarding Neil B providing the second Christmas show of 27/12/79 is not up yet, considering in two days time it will be the anniversary of this second show. I'm most interested in the interaction between DLT and Mike Read, and to see an unedited version of Bright Eyes by Art Garfunkel.
      But you are right, we do need this show uploaded for the sake of completeness for all of us TOTP fans, so Neil B, can you come to the rescue again with your own taping, or anyone who has the UK Gold repeat of this show?

    3. I always assumed that the 1978 Xmas show had no audience because it was badly disrupted by strike action just before Christmas, which is why Noel ended up presenting it from a poky little studio. I'm not so sure that applies the following year, as that autumn's strike had ended about 3 weeks before Christmas, but perhaps it was difficult to get all the acts in the studio on the same day, so they thought it was better to proceed without an audience. It did detract from the atmosphere though - I am pretty sure there was an audience in 1976 and '77, and those editions certainly felt more festive than this one.

  4. BONEY M – Mary’s Boy Child – Oh My Lord (clip of TOTP 25-12-78)

    I think this is actually a different version - the Christmas 1978 one didn't have an audience and the backdrop was blue - it's pink here.

    Hello everyone by the way!

    1. Both episodes are on BBC4 tonight - one after another - starting at 10.30.

    2. Everyone get out their Boney M jeweller's eyepiece - see if right!

    3. I've just checked my copy of the 25/12/78 edition that was shown some time ago on BBC4. This is the unedited one that included the footage of both Saturday Night Fever and Grease, and you are absolutely right, it is a different version of MBC with a blue background !

    4. Interesting. When was your copy of the 25/12/78 edition aired on BBC4? The copy shown on BBC4 last year and then again tonight, had the edited versions with Legs & Co on Saturday Night Fever and Grease instead of the video footage from the two films.

    5. I don't know when it was broadcast Dory. I bought a 48 dvd set of 145 episodes of 1970's TOTP from a seller in Florida, who was selling them off for half the usual price on ioffer.
      One of the episodes included was a perfect copy of 25/12/78 with the BBC4 logo on screen and it also had the SNF and Grease footage included.
      Also included is a very good UK Gold copy of 27/12/79. I have never uploaded a video before, but I will try to if Neil B. has not got it. I suspect he will have it though !

    6. Just as a footnote to the above, the full episode of TOTP from 28/12/72 is on the same dvd as 25/12/78. It is also a perfect copy, but it is unlikely to get a repeat showing anytime soon as it features Gary Glitter singing Rock and Roll (part 2), and Rolf Harris is also on the show, drawing pictures as Chuck Berry sings My Ding- A-Ling !

    7. Enjoy

    8. Thanks, have done so. Are you Steve H.?

    9. Welcome along Steve. Could you put a name instead of Anonymous. Steve H would be good or a nickname, just so we know to ask for your kind help in uploading future shows either not shown by BBC4 or where edited by them, where we would like to see a full original show. Happy Christmas!

  5. I absolutely loved this show, predominantly because 79 was such a great year for music that I actually like every single song on here bar Janet Kay and Lena Martell's.

    Having said that, getting Blondie to do 2 songs and one of them not being 'Heart Of Glass' was a bit of an error!

    Lovely to see The Buggles - with Trevor Horn making it blindingly obvious that he didn't really like playing the pop star - Roxy Music and Dr. Hook performing their songs.

    Who can blame BA Robertson for taking a fancy to Rosie - since Cherry's departure the best of the ladies for me.
    And the Legs montage to Racey was great for 2 reasons :
    1) We didn't have to see the band's ugly faces and the usual mugging to camera and...
    2) We got to see what was presumably a rehearsal shot of Sue and Patti on the 'Sunday Girl' set (I think) with Sue looking *really* pissed off for some reason.

    I bet the backroom boys were queueing up to get the gig of looking back at a year's worth of Legs & Co routines! And the lucky boy got a credit at the end as well!!!

  6. So, the 1979 ToTP Christmas Day Special. What a strange way to start - with the Christmas number 1 from the previous year, then the introduction, then Whole Lotta Love before we get into the action proper.

    What the hell is going on with this edition? My recollection - perhaps dulled from several bottles of Asti - was that Christmas ToTPs were liberally festooned with glitter and christmas lights and tinsel and tinsel and tinsel and Christmas hats and balloons and AN AUDIENCE!!

    A decent enough presenting job from The Kid and Peter Powell but where were the Santa costumes??.

    Ian Drury with a small lone tree atop the piano.Janet Kay with a couple of dead trees 'decorated' with three baubles. Pan's People performing in 'snow'.

    BA Robertson at least had a coat that kinda looked like Santa's. which he again took off and put back on again.

    Blondie - if you look close enough you can just catch a silver tinselled tree in the background.

    At this point Kid says 'and I hope you are enjoying this Christmas edition of Top Of The Pops'. Just to make sure we know its still Christmas.

    M - Pop Muzik. Robin Scott in Army fatigues for some unfathomable reason.

    Legs as Pierrots dancing to Tragedy.

    Elvis Costello gurning his way through Oliver's Army. ( Interestingly Costello's use of the N word gets thru the censors knife which must mean its okay to say N..... but its not okay to pull your eyes sideways to resemble Asians?)
    The baldy dead trees from Janet Kay's peformance make a return for Lena Martell who officially takes the title of Worst Mimer Of The Year.

    Squeeze. Chris Difford becomes the only singer NOT to mime on this edition. And downsizing the swearing from 'their missus always looks the BLEEDIN' same' to
    'their missus always looks the BLIMMIN' same'.

    Dr Hook - more bad miming.

    Blondie return and - HURRAH- some glitter/tinsel falling.
    Gary Numan returns as well.
    Legs return again in a 'greatest hits' montage to save us having to watch Racey peform all of Some Girls. (Now if ever there was a band that would get dressed up in 'hilarious' Christmas costumes it should have ben this lot, but - nope, nothing). This feels like a 'lets have a look at your best bits' section of a reality show.

    TOTP PRODUCER: Look lads this isn't going too good can we make it more of a party atmosphere?

    P.POWELL: Sure. I can hold a balloon and say something like 'Its getting hot and good'

    TOTP PRODUCER: Mmmmm ok. Anything else.
    CLIFF: I can stick a small ceiling decoration in the top pocket of my jacket.

    TOTP PRODUCER: Ok good. Can you swing your microphone around your head extremely slwoly and boring as well?

    And we end with Peter Powell having the entire decorating budget wrapped around his shoulders.

    Such japes - such festive frivolity.

  7. Not much to say about this one, just a few stray observations - I always missed the Christmas TOTP because I was having my Christmas dinner at the time it was on, like most people.

    Janet Kay in a duvet... Bryan Ferry showing off his dental work... Legs & Co with those feather duster things that used to zoom about the set of Vision On...

    Buggles featuring nonchalant "two keyboards" technique... must admit I thought Pauline and Rosemary looked pretty cute as the majorettes, and managing to dance wearing huge drums is no mean feat - get off them, B.A.

    Thought Debs had been overdoing it on the Christmas sherry with those huge shades, but she took them off for the next routine... M seemed designed to keep the band as far apart as possible... "VIOLENCE AND CRIIIME!" well at least we don't crucify people now, Lena... Squeeze getting their final verse cut off, that's gotta hurt... don't know why Dr Hook bothered, this was exactly the same as the video only in a different set... Gaz threatening to disappear in dry ice like Cliff Richard in that outtake - oh, and talk of the Devil, well, not the Devil exactly...

    Hmm, maybe I did have something to say after all...

  8. IAN DURY & THE BLOCKHEADS – Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick

    I don't know who was playing the drums under the boot-polish, but it certainly wasn't Charley Charles!

    Lucky this didn't go the same way as The Barron Knights!

  9. My memory has got really mangled. I was sure I could remember this starting off with Blondie, in the studio (with or without an audience), and Clem Burke launching into the intro for Dreaming. Turns out this was towards the end. Hmmm...

    Anyway, there wasn't much in the way of 'festive' here - it smacks of 'industrial dispute' throughout. Lots of good music but it came across like a compilation of pre-recorded musical inserts featured in some light entertainment show.

    See, Janet, this lip-syncing thing isn't too difficult after all ;o)

    Nice touch to put a live mic on Legs & Co's stage so we can hear them jingling along to Ring My Bell. It's not what the song is about though....

    B. A. Robertson - forever the showman. From what I could see he starts fondling Rosie's leg, she kicks him away, and after he's got up he then makes pretend strangling gestures at her! And following that, did anyone else notice Jimmy Destri messing around?

    M - Mrs. Scott seems to have gone from Indian to Japanese to whatsername from Absolutely Fabulous.

    Lena Martell - "Show me the way............[please?]..........." This looks like the first time she has had to lip-sync this song.

    So Squeeze had to do a live vocal to substitute the word "bloomin'" for "bleedin'"? Funny lot, those BBC folk. And what was all that about just one hit? They're on again the next day! Mind you, Kid was absolutely spot on about Are Friends Electric becoming a classic.

    The Some Girls sequence was for sure the undisputed highlight. Pure brilliance and it looked like a lot of time and effort went into it. It was no doubt as enjoyable to make as it as it was to watch, even though the Quantel sausage machine gave a rather American 'Never Twice the Same Colour' look to the footage.

    And to finish with, even Cliff was faltering in the lip-syncing department. But altogether an entertaining hour and good to see Roxy Music, Buggles and Dr. Hook in the studio.

  10. hosts: they worked quite well together despite peter somewhat ironically doing dwarfed by a guy known as "kid". why didn't they re-shoot the ba robertson link after powell messed up the balloon stunt? maybe the budget only allowed for two of them. it seems a bit weird without any obvious sign of an audience (other than the "applause" heard at the end of each act) - presumably another budget cut? remember - this was the winter of discontent!

    ian drury (as a lot of people actually think he's called): was the blackface drummer thing meant to be post-modern irony? or maybe he was meant to be a miner. whatever the reason, that wouldn't happen now

    janet kay: as soon as i saw she had no band pretending to play behind her, i moved straight on (solo turns always remind me of the embarrassing guest singer interludes in light entertainment shows like "the two ronnies")

    gary numan: i notice that billy currie has now flown the coop (no doubt working hard on the "vienna" album), to be replaced by a man who called himself rrussell bell (sic)

    anita ward/legs: was there any relevance to them dancing to this on what appears to be an expensively-made set? bell...? chimneys...? no, i don't get it. maybe it was a leftover prop from the latest goodies' xmas special (ah, maybe that's why they could only afford two balloons for powell to pop!)

    buggles: i wonder if the woman on the left watched this and thought (as i did) "what the hell made me get that godawful haircut?" i'd like to say it was another kind of budget cut, but the truth is it probably cost a lot of money to look that bad!

    ba robertson: the legs' drum majorettes made for a massive improvement to this (visually anyway). ba seemed a lot more interested in rosemary than pauline though. the first of several graduates on the show from the ian "drury" academy of non-singing...

    blondie: what was the point of debbie (as she was still known at this point i think) wearing shades when she's obviously spent some time on her eye make-up, as evidenced in the second appearance? why did they appear twice on the same show anyway - couldn't they have put one of these turns on the dlt/read part 2? also people might not then have noticed that shades apart debbie made no effort whatsoever to change her appearance (maybe due to budget slashes along with the balloons and audience!)

    1. The Winter of Discontent was the previous winter, though I reckon the BBC strike in November '79 might explain why there is no audience, as it probably caused disruption to the Xmas production schedule at TV Centre, as well as the loss of a Douglas Adams Dr Who story...

    2. apologies john - i should have made sure of that beforehand!

    3. If BA Robertson seemed a lot more interested in Rosie, then I'm sure Pauline would have had just as many admirers, like me, but at the time of that show I was only eleven, and so could not appreciate the vacancy there.

      I wonder what Rosie and Pauline are doing now in 2014 if they are not banging drums with BA Robertson.

  11. like the xmas specials, it's another two-parter...

    m: is it okay in these pc-times to say i found it amusing that the black member of the band (wally badarou i presume) wore a white woolly hat whilst the rest wore black ones? all that trouble they went to (possibly due to no heating in the studio as part of the budget cuts?) and then mr & mrs m are put on a stanchion way above, thus rendering them practically redundant. mr m appears to be another student of the ian "drury" vocal technique...

    elvis costello: quick, where's the fast-forward button?!

    lena martell: good job the fast-forward button's handy! this may appall readers and fellow-contributors, but if i had to choose to watch one of the last two slots i honestly don't know which one i'd rather endure. by the way, has anyone yet worked out why this dinosaur record was such a big hit in these "modern times"?

    squeeze: ...talking of which, like "pop muzik", a track that summarises all that was good about 1979: early examples of modernistic synth-pop that were also rhythmically good enough to get people dancing in discos. chris difford doesn't quite merit a diploma from the ian "drury" academy, but he's not far off...

    dr hook: the guy with the eyepatch still thought of by many as "dr hook" (a bit like debbie harry as "blondie") is now reduced to maraca-shaking. it seems they need three guitarists (including the one with the "lennon" specs and 'tashe who always amuses me - he looks like he should be playing a banjo) and a keyboard player in this band as well as a maraca shaker, which given the lightweight sound seems a bit top-heavy to me...

    tubeway army: despite going "solo" gary numan still has his band as part of the act. one the synth players from the last performance now has to mime playing a guitar, even though there's no noticeable presence of one in the track itself. gary shows off his ian "drury" non-singing chops in the middle

    racey: hoorah for whoever decided to put together a legs' compilation so we didn't have to put up with "mr racey" and his chums too much. hopefully the last we'll see of them...?

    cliff: i can't watch him without thinking about various thespians' obituaries in the papers, concluding with the statement "he never married". whatever could they be inferring? maybe all will be revealed in cliff's own obit when it comes... although i wouldn't put money on it!

    1. At this stage, Racey had just started a spell of six flops out of seven on RAK - surprised they were kept on the label that long with their outdated ways. We don't get them at all in 1980 and we'll only see them twice in January 1981 if we get that far.