Tuesday, 31 January 2012

31st January

1974: Off someone's rickety early recording and with what seems to be a jump or two but what the hell, it's Stevie Wonder doing Living For The City to much joy, and a crane shot showing his huge keyboard rig. That bloke behind the backing singers must have some sort of role. A scrap of Pan's People doing Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes' The Love I Lost follows.

1980: The Legs & Co equivalent of Monster Mash/Get Down seems to have become Egyptian Reggae, which we'll see in 1977. A shame, because it means this remarkable animal character study for Azymuth's Jazz Carnival has gone unremarked upon. All I'll say is fitted animal costumes and Jensen in a pith helmet. Mildly less demonstrative, John Foxx brings his special sign, his army of analogue synth players and his way with a mimed finger click. And talk about getting your extremes on Pops, as the Ramones (and Pops strings - who else wants to have been there when Joey met Johnny Pearson?) were followed by the last gasp of Junior Choice, not to mention a performance that apparently meant nobody else had time to rehearse, Keith Michell's Captain Beaky. Now who's the bravest animals in the land?

1985: So how do you represent a band of studio bods with artistic ideas about self-representation on Pops? If you're The Art Of Noise, it's with berets, Edwardian outfits and outrageous hamming up on the Fairlight vocal samples. Anne Dudley can deliver one withering look. Meanwhile Terry Hall came back with two of 2-Tone also-rans The Swinging Cats as The Colourfield, having learned to artfully tie a sweater round his shoulders in the interim.

1997: That's just who you'd get as a guest host at the end of January, Noddy Holder. Depeche Mode are your downright dirty interest here, just after Dave Gahan cleaned up and with Anton Corbijn on drums, which is how he can get away with wearing one of their own T-shirts.

2003: I won't say it again, PUT THE STYROFOAM CUPS DOWN AND LOOK LIKE YOU'RE INTERESTED IN THE TV SHOW YOU'RE APPEARING ON. No wonder it went down the pan, eh? A storming Audioslave, making perennial guests the Wildhearts seem a bit wet, provide some sort of Trojan horse device to get Chris Cornell and most of Rage Against The Machine onto Pops for once. That audience must have been herded to the back once Jurgen Vries turned up with a game, bucket hatted Charlotte Church in tow.

Monday, 30 January 2012

30th January

1986: Firstly, it's the results of the Design An Outfit competition from Janice Long's show, though it does seem most of the material for her jacket has been accidentally added to Gary Davies'. Billy Ocean had taken the best part of a decade to sort out his own wardrobe and added the usual mid-80s overstaffed backing band. Watch that sax be swung. By contrast Talk Talk haven't brought a guitarist and the director takes some convincing that the bass player isn't the frontman. In fairness, so might the bass player. Meanwhile 50,000 Fine Young Cannibals fans can't be wrong.

1992: You'd kind of hope that Manic Street Preachers' debut might have been more high concept given it was during their Melody Maker bait period, though picture quality prevents working out what that is on the amps or what's on the distant backdrop. Still, we do get Nicky's self-shading, Richey's endless jumps and James foregoing the stencilled T-shirt and going the direct route, not to mention an overuse of Fairy Liquid in water. I bet they weren't told about those smoke bombs at the end.

1998: Yes, that's certainly Mulder and Scully, well done, set designer. Catatonia's Cerys Matthews busts out the pinstripes, and the bust. Jayne Middlemiss does half likewise introducing Green Day, or rather Billie Joe over for promo on his own. A man sitting behind him does his impression of a car nodding dog throughout.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

29th January

1981: It's 1981 and still people are pogoing. What's more they're doing it to hard rock Slade, Dave Hill now fancying himself as some sort of leather trousered desperado. Those explosions are really helping, cheers for those. The Stranglers were still hanging on in there too in a more low-key fashion, if you don't count Hugh's ocker hat.

1999: Four from this show, all of an alternative persuasion and all highly notable in their own ways. Terrorvision landed a last gasp hit after a Mint Royale big beat remix and celebrated with a Mexican set-up. I doubt that's their actual keyboardist stage left. Jayne Middlemiss advertising excessive drinking on the BBC? I demand resignations. The All Seeing I's single featured Tony Christie on vocals but he couldn't turn up this early in the year so they turned to the song's lyricist Jarvis Cocker. It goes somewhat awry when someone plays in Christie's chorus vocal and completely swamps him. Despite a top 30 single Sebadoh were unexpected visitors and repaid the complement by carrying on for what's clearly some time and with some ferocity after the TV edit is completed. Completing the set, infamous music press hypes Gay Dad featuring two blonde shaggy-haired men.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

28th January

1965: With its shadows and big studio it doesn't look like a Pops performance, this, but it is one. Experimental setting, perhaps. The Righteous Brothers and their insatiable fingerclicking is mighty enough whatever the location.

1971: A fine mix of short shorts and synthetic fibres, and a variety of hot stepping greets The Mixtures and their banjo. The woman at 1:30 - what's her story? You'll see which one.

1982: For their first two singles Tight Fit had been one of those session medley groups; for the third they suddenly became a bloke and two girls in a fashion magazine idea of cartoon explorer gear. Good to see the Jungle Rock outfits come out of storage for one last hurrah. Pop fact: the single was recorded and produced by Tim Friese-Greene, who would go on to help mastermind Talk Talk's move from electropop also-rans to avant-ambient jazz.

1988: Andy Cox and David Steele's 2 Men, A Drum Machine & A Trumpet seems the sort of project that could only have come about in the nascent days of the house pop crossover. Required for promotion they take the natural ingredients of the club hit on telly - expressive dancers, pretend musicians - and add a pretend gumshoe.

1993: In contrast, 2 Unlimited pare it down to her, him and the requisite bank of TVs. What really makes it is the camera attached to Ray's unconvincingly played keytar, not recommended to those cursed with common motion sickness. Speaking of unlikely instrumentation, one of East 17 has been given a bass. You'd think having a set specially built for their whims, bubble machine, female hanger-on who looks long before the halfway mark like she really should have handed this off to her friend and having a night's hire on waiter's jackets would be enough visual representation. Note that Tony Dortie has to stress he's making a joke at the start.

Friday, 27 January 2012

27th January

1977: Opportunity Knocks winners The Brothers brought reggae to the masses in Quality Street wrapper shirts. David Parton returned in all his awkwardness. See his instrumental break technique - forceful handclapping, putting his fingers to the corners of his mouth in a 'smile, bastards!' motion with no great facial joy, attempted geeing-up and pressing of flesh, and presenting the rose from his lapel to an uninterested girl. Smooth operator. One can't honestly say mock Victoriana was what The Eagles had in mind when they wrote this, but don't underestimate Legs & Co. Patti alone pulls four different expressions in her first three seconds on screen.

1983: Far more streamlined today after the frenzy of the 26th. There was a time when Wham! were thought to be equal partners - equal foursome, possibly - despite that even this early George is the one doing all the singing and the moves. He's got street credibility, I hear.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

26th January

1967: Interesting how much of the surviving footage from the 60s is Rolling Stones performances. This is Let's Spend The Night Together with Brian in his big white hat pretending to be Jack Nitzsche and Mick making us all thankful that this is in black and white. The intro is a lie, by the way, Simon Dee was presenting this week.

1978: We've been enjoying the embryonic Midge Ure in Slik in 1976. In 1977 Slik went punk and fell apart, and by 1978 he was looking like Alex Turner and forging forward into power pop as leader of Rich Kids with Glen Matlock and Rusty Egan. Also returning from a two year wilderness of their own making, with Noosha gone most of Fox became Yellow Dog, utilising the combination of country rock'n'roll and flying goggles. That bit at the end is on the record, but somehow it's Kid Jensen's presence that makes it. The nexus around which the week ran was however none of these. Not when Terry Wogan was armed and ready. The audience isn't playing along at all, are they? And then... orchestra at the ready to skank, it's a slowly befuddling Althea & Donna.

1984: It's Gaz Top again! A year to the Thursday after his first appearance at the presenters' elbow this time he nearly gets to distract Mike Smith ahead of The Alarm, who get to indulge in something you don't see any more but used to happen with rock bands a lot, where three members gather around the main mike to shout along. The feyer side of the sixth form common room got to indulge in the big Echo and The Bunnymen/Smiths rivalry, as Ian McCulloch sprays on about as much hair product as Mike Peters and Morrissey dons the open blouse and hearing aid of fate. Cyndi Lauper takes the immediate spoils though with her celebrated stage traversing, as previously Canonised. There was another new US female star straight out of the discos and into the pop universe debuting on the show, but with that basic a setup what chance does Madonna stand of a fulsome pop career, eh?

1990: You really couldn't stage Sinead O'Connor any other way - black polo neck, spotlights, lots and lots of dry ice, wait for tears to fall at home.

1995: To think the sound of The Real McCoy was once considered of its time. Now all US pop sounds like this. Excellent juxtaposition of the two acts that appear before them at the start of the show too. One of those, The Wildhearts, exists online in a recording little better than flickbook form but is worth it for the parochial pride and the launch into the solo.

2001: Odd the things that you find looking back at these unvarnished records of the popular music of the day. Boom! appear to be an attempt to produce a UK garage Steps, and may be why UK garage went down the tubes not long after. One of them, to bring it full circle, is now married to Lisa Scott-Lee.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

25th January

1973: That's one superb hat. I can't work out whether that's the orchestra giving reggae a go behind Dandy Livingstone, though as they've made a decent go at it I'd say no. Regardless the kids are really gunning for it. Put your back into it, Dandy. In that sort of company The Strawbs look ever more out of place with their big bass drum, kids' TV countryside shirt and dungarees get-up and evocation of the three day week. The Sweet do none of these things and look completely alien as a result, despite essentially being brickies with girl's hair. It's a busy week for the vision mixer as the psychedelic patterns get utilised for Pan's People taking on the Temptations. Great work all round here, both in the strutting and the close-up expressions acting. Stop messing around with those girls, Jim.

1979: Looking like the world's most menacing second hand car dealer, Lee Brilleaux of Dr Feelgood exudes still only a portion of the danger Wilko Johnson, who'd left by this stage, did. Still looks like a different spectrum from Donny & Marie Osmond, going cabaret disco as a last throw of the dice, and their little gang of hand clappers down the front. Is that a love song? To each other?

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

24th January

1985: "We've dressed up tonight" says Mike Smith, at the kickoff of the first half of the show. If that's the case someone should have warned Steve Wright off that skinny red tie. After some comedic misdirection we see also dressing up, after a fashion, Chaka Khan in half a skirt and some sort of belt arrangement. Then there's Strawberry Switchblade, who kind of never knew when to stop accessorising and pleating, then an invitation to vote for the Brit Best Video award - note Mike Smith's pronunciation of "industry" and his insistence on telling us where everything was filmed - before James Ingram smooths things out. Meanwhile Paul King has come as Rupert The Bear.

2003: Two debuting alternative (indie seems wrong in one case) bands here, and while the Libertines go two and a half minutes without fighting or whatnot you'd have to imagine The Flaming Lips would bring the show for their TOTP debut, and while there's no balloon drop, weird videos or strobe lights, there are men in costumes, including a superfluous celebrity bassist who lasts four seconds before removing the head.

Monday, 23 January 2012

23rd January

1975: Here's a curio of the time. In the 1976 shows we saw Flintlock, who had two children's series based around them and still only cracked the top 30 once. Arrows were slightly more successful but still couldn't convert later televisual fame into major chart stardom, contract disputes with Mickie Most and RAK Records meaning even though they had two fourteen week long runs of an ITV show with their own name as the title, clips of which you stumble across on YouTube if you're looking for bits from those years. (Oh, and two of them wrote I Love Rock 'n' Roll, which they left on a B-side) Looking at this, you'd argue that the kids needed more than doe-eyed balladry as sustenance.

1986: This one's easy, The whole show, in glorious distorted video camera pointed at screen-vision, has just turned up. Note that as Mike Smith introduces The Alarm (clearer version here) their roadie Gaz Top is behind his right shoulder. No idea why Paul Jordan asks if you've seen Smith's face before, Smith had already hosted the show the previous November (of "my first time on Top Of The Pops and it's their first time - Wham!" fame)

1992: So what do you do if you're an underemployed singer in a two frontwoman setup? If you're Marcella Detroit of Shakespear's Sister you grip onto a barely used guitar. If you're Siobhan Fahey, as you'll see at 2:46, you make some odd hand signals. And if you're Flavor Flav of Public Enemy, you do those punching downward movements you always do. Brilliantly shot performance, all in one continuous crane shot with live vocals and brooding, immoveable S1Ws patrolling the sides, while the short-haired pale youths down the front look uncomfortable.

1998: Ian Brown's debut solo single saw the innovative use of eggs as mellotron. Ian looks bemused at it all but soon enters into the spirit by chucking them at his own image. There's some Freudian symbolism there.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

22nd January

1987: Pete Burns lit like Bela Lugosi. Must we fling this at our pop kids? Dead Or Alive invent goth-Hi-NRG. With Siouxsie & The Banshees on the same show - nice hair, drummer - and also in the top 15 it might have seemed something was afoot.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

21st January

1965: In a clip that looks like it would've been equally better served by tape preservation were it recreated as a flickbook, Del Shannon gets his own massive personalised backdrop and then fails to play in front of it in favour of making his way down to the people. Loads to note among the crowd, but from 0:46 note that cameramen doing their best to run the audience over wasn't just a mid-70s thing. On this Gerry and the Pacemakers footage you get a better idea of the original set with its chart rundown, and from 20 seconds in you get to see not only the title graphic but Savile dancing to a completely different rhythm.

1982: As far as faux-Teutonic iciness goes The Mobiles, who were from Eastbourne, have it covered. Who are they taking most after here with all that acute angle instrument posing and movement school frontwomaning? Siouxsie? Lene Lovich? That keyboard player definitely gives Nick Rhodes a run for his money. In 1982 if it had a synth and you had a personable profile you could get anything into the top end of the charts, it seems - witness OMD's icy waltz coupled with Andy McLuskey's perpetual motion on the spot. Much less self-regarding are XTC, and given Andy Partridge's expression, that of a man seemingly being forced to play at gunpoint, it's unsurprising that his breakdown and acute stage fright that would halt XTC's touring activities would come less than three months later.

1988: Watch your Grolsch bottle tops, here comes a debuting Bros. Red leather jackets were very much of their time.

Friday, 20 January 2012

20th January

1966: A classic, and again the only survivor from an otherwise wiped show, Stevie Wonder's Uptight. Groovy isn't the half of it for this audience.

1972: The thought of Pan's People doing a routine to John Barry's Persuaders theme is tantalising enough, but that's not the half of the actual experience. It's a location shoot! It's an everyday visual tale of girls in big white fedoras, huge shades and Mafia suits with roses in the lapels smoking cigars in the back of a convertible Rolls on their way to the casino. Let's be frank, it's a routine based on sitting and walking, but it's the best thing you'll see today (pending). Also on this day T-Rex do what they habitually did and cause mass outbreaks of grooving.

1977: Jesse Green fancies himself as a modish Sammy Davis Jnr judging by his range of hot shoe shuffles culminating in an air tightrope walk. When Legs & Co are wearing big overcoats you know what's coming, as they do to Elvis Presley.

1983: By this stage you could have mimed if you wanted, as Kajagoogoo and their abandoned balloons prove, but presumably Echo and the Bunnymen had too much self-respect for that, leading to the weakest of live sounds. Ian McCulloch's donned his lovely off the shoulder number for the occasion too. The first time a woman, Janice Long, had ever presented TOTP, this. Just took the nineteen years.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

19th January

1978: lots today so let's just pile through them, starting with Odyssey in what I suspect is meant to be some sort of appropriate native dress but looks like someone didn't get the message - they got rid of him not long after. Brotherhood Of Man's attempt to become a Tony Hiller Abba with less than half the effort has been well documented, though after Angelo's fairly flagrant steal this seemed dialled back a bit. What are the blokes actually doing on this?

1979: Nile Rodgers tells a story about being at TOTP in some circumstance in 1975 (maybe accompanying Labelle) and, having only been exposed domestically to genre specific radio, being surprised to find the kids attentively watching Mike Reid's The Ugly Ducking. He didn't appear under his own steam until Chic brought Le Freak, Luci Martin and Alfa Anderson getting right behind their men to a hesitant audience. No wonder when their usual musical diet was thematically clothed poor man's Hot Chocolate Olympic Runners, with the last chicken in the shop-titled Sir Dancealot, and Racey playing their other hit and all looking like darts players. Almost certainly watching intently, or getting horribly pissed and abusing them in the green room, were Ian Dury and the Blockheads, dressed up for the occasion and a week away from going top. Note Davey Payne's two-sax trick and a too early initial deployment of silly string.

1989: Marc Almond and Gene Pitney, one looking a bit like early Vic Reeves, the other looking like a golf expert. Another once sexually over 80s icon, Holly Johnson returned in his wedding outfit and backing singers who must have forgotten their names a lot.

1991: The KLF always made sure to put on a show even if they had to put the pretend instrument players and Ricardo da Force front and centre. This time Drummond and Cauty are among the former. Seal brought a similar cape with him, though in his case it was for the mere purposes of abandoning it ASAP.

1995: The pillars of fire ornaments that popped up around this time suited some acts (Take That, Manics) more than others. Coupled with Massive Attack's Protection it looks more like overexuberance with the petrol. Tracey Thorn fronts and plays guitar in the manner of someone guardedly stroking a stray dog. More fire, ill-advisedly, for Rednex, as well as whatever could be rescued from a local skip as stage decoration. What is the audience screaming at exactly?

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

18th January

1996: Not much of note on this day, save for an awkward, shouting Alan Davies introducing Sunscreem, who it's fair to assert had seen by this stage which way the musical map was turning and decided to have a go at all of it at once. There seems to be too many people on that stage, the drummer attempting to communicate electronic breaks through the medium of vigorous head nodding.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

17th January

1980: Dartist amusement far in the future, Dexys Midnight Runners make their debut in their Mean Streets clobber. Bigger stages would come with the hits, as the briefly successful New Musik were finding out. I think the theme is supposed to be pitching them as pop scientists, and certainly we're finding out together that you can play an acoustic guitar with power chord strokes. Meanwhile Legs & Co, given Booker T and the MGs, attempted borrowed nostalgia for the unremembered Sixties.

1985: Lots of business for Powell and Davies to get through, firstly announcing the Brit award for Best British Video (Wild Boys won - fair to say Howard Jones didn't stand a chance), then a countdown, then the Strawberry Switchblade video over bits of Yellow Pearl you've never heard, then a couple of video clips, and finally Grandmaster Melle Mel and the Furious Five - three of them may have overslept - in the sort of outfits Lenny Henry was already making a punchline out of.

1997: Sensitive East 17 worked once and once only, and this wasn't it. Three superfluous backing singers and a man playing percussion on a spare bit of the lighting rig add flavour.

Monday, 16 January 2012

16th January

1986: You cannot create chemistry between performers, but you can have them shout at each other from close range in the guise of togetherness. Hence Cherrelle, who seems lonely and lost until Alexander O'Neal saunters on halfway through with a towel around his neck like he chanced a late shower and got caught, and of course the audience couldn't care less about him.

2006: Easy to overlook how popular A-Ha remained in this country until their split last year, though that bassist the director seems fixated on I'm pretty sure isn't an original member. How do you suppose the band had Fearne's co-host explained to them?

Sunday, 15 January 2012

15th January

1981: Pops' first look at two classics this week - firstly Phil Collins and his famously symbolic paint pot, exerting his natural energy through his feet. Watch what VT does to cover the lack of a thwackable drumkit. Then it's Ultravox, Midge sporting a pencil tache, Billy Currie working through all his movement at the keyboards from the shoulders up before a sporting shot at replicating the violin part. Less celebrated, Susan Fassbender ("from my part of the world" boasts DLT, like it matters) and her big glasses, and Light Of The World bring the jazz-funk and yellow trousers to Marley.

1987: Iggy Pop, top on for once, lasts as a proper pop singer for about as long as he doesn't notice there's a camera at his feet pointing upwards. Once he's disposed of the awkward mike stand he's really off and running, even more so once he realises the essential redundancy of the mike itself.

1999: Another one retained in full: part one has two of the Honeyz showing a bit of leg, which asks its own questions, Blockster and Bryan Adams and Mel C singing at each other; part two sees Kate Thornton extolling both the looks and features, surely too similar things, of Ultra before Robbie works through his Bond ambition, part three features Justin (not that one).

Saturday, 14 January 2012

14th January

1971: Pops appears to have got things arse about face this week - look at the size of the space Tom Jones is performing to, and then halfway through you'll see everyone dancing behind him. The Johnny Pearson orchestra working overtime on this one. Even they've buggered off by the time Badfinger come on and put all the standing up members off to one side. And then... well... there's Clive Dunn. He'd only just turned 51 when this performance was recorded, which doesn't preclude him from being a grandfather but does suggest he made a habit of playing above his age.

1982: We've had this before, but there's no need for dancers to specifically accompany Altered Images around the stage when Clare Grogan is a vivacious enough presence. One imagines the production team never quite told the Stranglers about the ill fitting dance interlude invading their own screen time.

1988: The perennial problem at this time was how the show should visually represent developing dance music. Lots of monitors, sideways caps and keytars was generally the answer, Krush going one further with a big 1930s BBC radio mike for no apparent reason. That this was on the same show as Morris Minor & The Majors' Stutter Rap must have caused uncomfortable scenes.

1993: For 1993 Pops, starved of modernity's glamour in a sea of bad dance, Duran Duran must have felt like royalty returning from abroad with their fancy foreign gifts of twin-necked headless guitars.

Friday, 13 January 2012

13th January

1977: With his label refusing to release Stevie Wonder's Isn't She Lovely as a single, David Parton nipped in with a shameless cover, had a top five hit and went on television sing-shouting it with his eyes tightly shut as if in the midst of constipation and filling gaps by kissing hands and running round in a circle. Legs & Co spent the month's budget in one go on an appropriately designed set for Rose Royce's big hit.

1983: The Maisonettes, a second shot by one of City Boy of 5-7-0-5 brief fame, exhibit both the tidy beard and the parallel backing singer fashion of the time. Other notable detail: with dual presenters brought in at the start of the year, this was the first Pops of a total of sixteen to be co-hosted by its greatest double act, Peel and Jensen, the Rhythm Pals.

1994: That point was an interesting time for Pops, in the "may you live in interesting times" sense, as the first stories about its impending axing were doing the newspaper rounds at the end of 1993, so bad were the viewing figures when Ric Blaxill took over as series producer. That can't have been helped by chancers like K7, who can't decide whether their image is that of a rap collective or a supercharged boy band. Never trust an outfit whose DJ joins in with the routines.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

12th January

1984: It takes a lot to get a specific response out of a Pops audience, but with TV's help Joe Fagin manages it. "A real classy song, OK ya"? What sort of show did Steve Wright imagine Auf Weidersehen Pet was? And why is he wearing one glove? If it's a Jackson tribute the Thriller video had just been released and the single was out a couple of weeks later but that wasn't reflected in the show.

1989: In which Pops has a skirting flirtation with the 'blonde' scene, in the shape of the Darling Buds, Andrea Lewis proudly blonde, proudly wearing her band's album title on her sunglasses and proudly committing ABH on tambourines. Someone in the audience throws confetti about halfway through.

1995: N-Trance provide some high quality keyboard slapping, strobe lighting breaks and a not entirely committed frontwoman.

2001: "This will be the year for rock!" Gail Porter starts her link, like that means anything. She wouldn't have yet known about the Strokes and all that either. Here it applies to Feeder, Grant Nicholas' vocal an odd mix of live and recorded amid lots of ostentatious bouncing.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

11th January

1973: Another sole surviving performance from an otherwise wiped show, Elton John's Daniel, seemingly in this case because a German programme found a tape. The fruit machine insignia at the back of the stage doesn't seem to correspond to anything on the show and clearly this is well before Elton's stage spectaculars. Odd set design wasn't just a feature of 1976.

1979: Here's a curio, Driver 67's Car 67, a slightly bizarre but proven notion that a song about a world-weary taxi driver refusing to pick up his ex-girfriend could be a novelty smash. The follow-up was about a truck driver stalking lone women at night, and was banned. Elsewhere Legs & Co take on Funkadelic's One Nation Under A Groove in combat fatigues, minus the trousers. No Sir Nose D’Voidoffunk they.

1990: Never forget Simon Mayo's image as Radio 1 breakfast show host, especially when he's wearing shades indoors. Deacon Blue knew they should have synchronised their beret designs.

1996: Two keyboards required for full effect? No problem for Tori Amos, who just needed to borrow an office chair. Completely misses the crossover second time, though. Babylon Zoo's song on the Levi's advert was the talk of the nation at the time, but that was before anyone had heard any more than the sped up bit. A man in a mask and some static 'dancers' covered that bit before Jas Mann got to the emoting and ruined it all.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

10th January

1974: Yeah, don't kid yourselves you're that popular, The Sweet. Counter-intuitively the uploader boasts "this clip does not exist in the B.B.C archives so is very rare", not taking into account that the BBC could show the YouTube uploaded version if they ever really wanted, which they won't as it's a fairly uninteresting performance of a relatively minor Sweet single.

1985: The trend of opening the year with a new artist continued with Strawberry Switchblade, who had their dresses especially layered for the occasion. Jill seems to be enjoying herself, which is more than the week's other female duo Elaine Paige and Barbara Dickson can summon up. Dickson looks like a Janet Brown version of herself. Meanwhile Bronski Beat's Jimmy Somerville is busy leaning into the ground level camera.

1991: Dual coloured trousers and raggedly tied back long hair is very much Midlands 1991, as Pop Will Eat Itself gladly demonstrate.

1997: Hope you like Blur's new direction, Britpop kids. Actually, they did - check the screaming when Damon pauses - but that's besides the point and they were the same people really, as you'll see by Graham ear-flicking Dave in the intro. Lauren Laverne never hosted TOTP, doing a few months' service on CD:UK until it was ditched, but her Kenickie opened the show's 1997 account. For a band who proudly flaunted cool-trashy fashion, Marie du Santiago does seem to be sporting a golfing jumper.

2003: I've included this, Avril Lavigne's Sk8er Boi, not so much for the performance - yeah, she actually does do the devil horns thing, doesn't she - but for the intro sighting of Andi Peters' Chris Cowey's folly, the TOTP Star Bar. Listen to Sarah Cawood, you lot, she's standing next to you and on telly!

Monday, 9 January 2012

9th January

1986: Feargal Sharkey - a nice bunch o'lads. What is Steve Wright doing at the start? Sharkey in his indoor shades seems to be full of the joys of a new year, witnessing his overambitious air punch at 0:26, but fate grounds him once more in the shape of a runaway microphone. See the comedy walk of the trumpeter towards the end too as Sharkey goes off to jump off the back of the set to no-one's immediate notice. No such exuberance for the Pet Shop Boys, in their second week at number one. This look - Neil in market jacket and tie, Chris in 'BOY' cap - would be their public image for a good decade afterwards.

1992: The whole episode is online, though with Mark Franklin and Claudia Simon hosting it's hardly prime era. Paying particular attention here to part one, featuring our first look at Bjork as a Sugarcube. The tremendously casual style of the keyboard player is at inevitable odds with Einar Örn Benediktsson and his Bez-esque pointy elbow striding dance. Following them, very much unlike two peas in a pod, Isotonik, who don't balance anyone's body fluids but do have a man dressed as a tomato and several young women who'll catch their death. Isotonik, whom one presumes to me the man stage left, was one Chris Paul, whose website claims he DJed the Queen Mother's 90th birthday party two years earlier. Part two gives us the opportunity to see the bicycle-shorted Simon looking caught in the headlights but also Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine taking the title of Rubbish too literally, both in set dressing and vocal mix terms. They wouldn't let you do that now, and perhaps quite rightly. Blue Pearl in part three seem to be coincidentally taking up the theme with drummers pretending to be bashing rusting barrels. 'Luxury', think the following Senseless Things, who only have a big action painting to show for themselves.

1998: Easy to forget in the face of the comeback TV show and attendant publicity that Steps were meant to be a one-shot deal to cash in on the shortlived popularity of linedancing, and it's only after 5, 6, 7, 8 spent four months in the top 40 (without ever getting beyond number 14) that any longevity was seen in the project and they were handed over to Pete Waterman. None of which explains another debuting pop act on the same show, the infamous (and much rumoured to be an industry insider bet) Vanilla. If only we could have seen Piero Umiliani at that moment.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

8th January

1976: the day of one of the very best/oddest Pan's People routines, Itchycoo Park. On the same show, ELO's Evil Woman, caught between styles. Much like the rest of their career.

1981: An awkward time, early 1981. Observe: Racey, the band Showaddywaddy could have been; Chas & Dave and their thematic coterie; Bad Manners raiding the BBC costume department and coming up trumps for a man of Buster's bearing.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

7th January

1982: Alton Edwards, a one hit wonder notable for the dancing voluntary and the very un-soul-funk horn section.

1988: The Stranglers, in a slightly downsized version, turn up in their late 80s guise of covering garage classics. How malevolent Hugh Cornwell has become with age. How like Paul Merton Jean-Jacques Burnel had become.

Friday, 6 January 2012

6th January

1977: Ineffable coolness from Gladys Knight & The Pips, Knight having taken care to invest in a lurid green scarf to counteract the British winter. Compare to the workaday look of Smokie, who bought themselves a lightbox with the income from their success. And then throw away all your working in the face of Boney M, who clearly had no idea before arrival they were supposed to be singing live to the orchestra's attempt at disco. Never has the infamously dubbed on record Bobby Farrell's lack of comfort, exacerbated by his lack of space and necessity to keep some energy back for the vocals, been more apparent. Never knew there was a mariachi section in the middle.

1983: once again, Bucks Fizz' Jay Aston got to the cut-offs wardrobe first. Excellent lateral thinking for the boys, safari suits to represent If You Can't Stand The Heat. No such subtlety for Pete Wylie, adopting the towel across the shoulders of 80s smoothness legend for Wah!'s The Story Of The Blues

1994: The thirtieth birthday show, again, though starting it with Things Can Only Get Better doesn't augur well for a show's self-imagine, "first rave-up of the year" or not. And, if you were wondering, no it isn't him.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

5th January

1978: Eddie and the Hot Rods seemed an awkward fit in 1976 with their supercharged pub rock, but by 1978 they seemed like hangers-on to the coach and horses the interim year had driven through British music. Quit This Town saw them attempt to reconcile punk attitude with feather cut, big scarf headband and fringed jacket. As usual the first show of the year saw plenty of Pops debutants, so welcome Tonight, whose Drummer Man features little in the way of drumming as lead but is another of the late 70s' habitual attempts to make power-pop a proper thing. Peter's keen to mention where they're from, isn't he?

1984: The special twentieth anniversary show starts with a piece of inadvertent TOTP history itself, a pre-ban Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Relax just number 35 at the time (it was banned by the BBC within the week) and a fascinating choice as the first Pops performance of 1984. Clearly there was plenty of special attention paid to backstage refreshments, as it's this show where Status Quo's Rick Parfitt does his job on the drumkit. Quite a conclusive one too, kit, man, stool and all off the riser in one go, only a lone cymbal left standing. Jim Lea stood in for the departed Alan Lancaster on bass and his own Slade did a roaring trade in plastic scarves. Completely out of place with both time and occasion, a cut down version of the highly odd Christmas Countdown by Frank Kelly. Yes, that Frank Kelly. Feck, arse, that would be an ecumenical matter etc. As for special materials, they all came as clip montages - the 60s, co-introduced by Alan Freeman, and 70s up to date, beginning with Peel's tribute to the recently deceased Alexis Korner. Additionally, a Rhythm Pal'd up Video Top Ten.

1989: Nothing quite as odd half a decade later, but Inner City's Good Life is granted duelling keytars and some frantic arm-waving.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

4th January

1973: you might have heard about this one. TOTP2's sound editor had Mark Radcliffe talk all over the intro but through faerie majick one of the many uploaders of The Jean Genie has managed to cut out the talking. Must be said, 1973 editing leaves something to be desired given Mick Ronson, playing up a storm here, only appears in close-up when not soloing or when the back of his head is in the way of Bowie's shot. From the same show (saved by a later repeat), and in black and white for some reason, Pan's People do You're So Vain in what would have been Cherry's second outing with the fab five. Even before watching you can visualise the chorus movements and dresses.

1979: a cocksure Billy Idol and his Noel Coward jacket steps out with Generation X

1990: First show of a new decade, and who better to kick off a new era of hope and expectation than the Quireboys? The whole thing is up - part one, two, three - proving only them and Sonia were desperate enough for TV exposure that early in the year.

1994: 30 Years Of Top Of The Pops, a Smashie & Nicey-fronted special preceded by Alan Freeman in the Broom Cupboard. Bits of the show are still knocking about, namely the montages of best sellers, 'groups and solos' (as opposed to what?), black music and novelties, replete with self-effacing Loadsamoney reference.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

3rd January

1980: The first show of a new year was always partly bothered with clearing up the festive detritus no matter how out of time it now was. For example, Peter Powell here recreating the start of the record and having to switch the 'night before Christmas' quote to something more appropriate for the date. In every other way this is something of a watershed, Kurtis Blow's Christmas Rappin' the first rap single not just to appear on TOTP but also to be released on a major label. The same sample as on the preceding Rapper's Delight, you'll note. Meanwhile, is Chrissie Hynde wearing one or two scarves here? Madness practice a two-member-per-keyboard lineup, The Beat are all over the shop, Boney M try dressing for the occasion and Fiddler's Dram brought a few fewer than in their late 1979 appearance but still with the extraordinary hairdo.

1985: With dancehall patois alien to most Brits, clock how many references Smiley Culture gets away with for a family audience presentation on Police Officer. His entourage of three people in costume was somewhat short of Sal Solo's.

Monday, 2 January 2012

2nd January

1975: having seen his banker I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day not just fall short of Noddy and co but also end up behind the New Seekers in the Christmas 1973 chart, Roy Wood and Wizzard decided on something subtly different for the following year's festive period. At least three counts of nightmare fuel here. As there may be here, as Jimmy first grabs his inaugural sailor of 1975 and then, as he's a mightily ginger bearded Australian, chooses to indoctrinate him in the way of The Wombles. The observant will note the emergency clarification on the blackboard, Chris Spedding being on hand for this one and that Orinoco/Batt has borrowed his mike technique from Faces-era Rod Stewart. No less unlikely humanoid creatures, Kenny. None of those people are actually the lead vocalist on the recording, you know. Mud are still number one, as suddenly unseasonal as that is, and it's only now Les Gray has his big, celebrated idea of how to properly mime a spoken part - he'd tried to do it himself on the festive show itself. At least we the public gave him the opportunity to expand his CV.

1986: John Peel's best TOTP work was always as part of a double act, and with Jensen having thrown in BBC work for the cold steel embrace of commercial radio at the end of 1984 Janice Long acted as his most regular foil. Note at the end of his last link the return of The Dance. From that show, early flowerings of A-hamania.

1992: Right Said Fred reach hit number three, for which Richard Fairbrass gets out his best vacuum-packed club gear. 1992 proved to be something of a bind in pop terms, though, the rave explosion having ended up in stuff like Roobarb & Custard by Shaft, where they couldn't even get the rights to sample Richard Briers and had Steve Wright sideman Richard Easter revoice the quotes. Released four months after the Prodigy's Charly there was a lot of this kids TV-sampling stuff to come, from people who not only failed to become new Prodigys but didn't so much as achieve the success of half of Shaft (not the same Shaft, by the way, who covered Mucho Mambo at the end of the decade), Mark Pritchard, who tends for some reason to prefer to highlight his later work as half of Global Communication, who made the electronic ambient classic 76:14, and his remixes for the likes of Aphex Twin and Radiohead.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

1st January


The first ever show was hosted by Jimmy Savile and Alan Freeman, filmed in a converted church on Dickenson Road in Rusholme, Manchester, supposedly taken up there because the BBC weren't keen on its prospects. The titles are all that is known to exist of the show, which featured in order of appearance Dusty Springfield (I Only Want To Be With You), the Rolling Stones, Cliff Richard on video, the Dave Clark Five, the Hollies, Freddie & The Dreamers, the Swinging Blue Jeans and, number one and on video, the Beatles' I Want To Hold Your Hand.

1976: nearly the whole of this one is online, and with the first day of the new year still mid-chart statis the show still has to broadcast some Christmas tunes but takes the opportunity to showcase some new talent. The Bo Flyers make the set wobble with the strength of their post-Kenny boogie; part two features Billy Howard's remarkable King Of The Cops and Slik's Bay City Rollers at 33rpm future big hit; Glyder have too many members for purpose - two acoustic guitars, bass, electric guitar and mandolin, plus inaudible sax? - and part four, um, exists.