Saturday, 31 March 2012

31st March

1977: It's always tricky following up a big hit, especially so if, like David Dundas, you're deprived of your trusty piano and the orchestra have incorporated a jug band motif and chicken squawk. The Stylistics' Russell Thompkins Jr seems permanently startled, while Lynsey De Paul (with Mike Moran) finds hilarity in not being able to throw a paper behind her shoulder. See that patriotic audience go wild.

1983: So there's a woman dressed as the Easter bunny, there's Steve Wright doing without glasses despite it revealing the strange shape of his face, and then we get to the properly embarrassing bit for all concerned - New Order's notorious go at contravening the usual miming offer and performing Blue Monday live. Steven Morris: "(it) was never the easiest song to perform anyway, and everything went wrong. The synthesisers went awry. It sounded awful". Mind you, he also says "it was the only time in the show's history that a band appeared on the show and the single went down in the chart the following week", which is evidently complete rubbish. U2 knew to stick with playback, which gave Bono time to pick an appropriate hat. As is his wont, eventually he goes walkabout and launches into a completely different song. More PRS all round! Also using backing tapes in her favour Tracey Ullman literally taking her routine straight out of the bedroom mirror posing. Note in those last two the double booking with the Easter fair.

1994: Don't need to split this one up into component parts, the whole thing is on Vimeo (yes, I know this should have occurred to me weeks ago) In there you'll find Eurovision hopeful (and mother of Eliza Doolittle) Frances Ruffelle flashing her knickers, Bruce Springsteen standing in a big dark room, "the New Wave Of New Wave hits the Pops" with S*M*A*S*H and the Bee Gees being presented with the biggest vinyl record in the world before an attempt at the end of making the whole show look artier.

2000: You have to wait a bit, but Melanie C does get joined by Lisa 'Left Eye' Lopes to join her after two and a half minutes of backlight work. The audience go mad at her reveal, even though there's clearly someone singing in that silhouette and Jamie's just said in his intro that they're performing together.

Friday, 30 March 2012

30th March

1978: Though we saw Les Gray on TOTP77 solo recently that didn't mean the end of Mud. They never charted again, though, as you could probably have predicted once you'd seen the rockabilly swerve with Les in a baseball cap. No, the record buying public preferred talents like Richard Myhill, who looks curiously like a self-awarely 'mad' Chris De Burgh and actually did get on TV pretending to waltz with a blow-up doll. Despite the absolute bemusement stageside this did actually go top 20.

1989: There were two phases of Fuzzbox's career, and while everyone forgets they shortened the name for this one otherwise never the twain seem to meet. The novelty-ish synthpop bit and emphasising Vix generally doesn't seem to sit as evenly with all of the band.

1995: Famous in its day, this, Menswear get on the show for their debut limited edition single, Johnny Dean proving red military jackets in indie didn't start with Doherty. One can only wonder what Courtney Love made of it, being on hand with Hole with all the puppydog emotiveness that implies.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

29th March

1979: You'd imagine getting Legs & Co to dance to Neil Diamond's Forever In Blue Jeans would be simple enough to costume, right? Wrong - as the blurb clarifies, they went the roundabout route to promoting denim. None of them are actually wearing jeans. Gonzalez's horn section more than make up for that, even though the actions at 1:42 might lead you to wonder whether that man knows what a trumpet is actually for, while the front four make up the spectrum of disco robes.

1984: Here's an awkward gear change, as the audience are required to go from party people to respectful onlookers at The Special AKA's Nelson Mandela. They can't, obviously. Mike Reid attempts comedy at the end, the reason for which is the pacifist leanings of Captain Sensible. The good Captain's usual vocal backing Dolly Mixture were many things - a perfectly decent post-punk band in their own right, for one - but convincing miming evidently wasn't a strength. Reid clearly fancied himself that week - you know, like every week - as he 'plays' us into the Thompson Twins, with Tom Bailey's accessorised leather jacket - what does it say on the back? - and a backdrop that runs off sync. The bands on that stage seem to be getting much less space than usual from the camera perspective, something that doesn't play well if you're Jim Kerr of Simple Minds and want to use all the space available to pose in.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

28th March

1985: Sturm und drang, Frankie Goes To Hollywood? Never! This time Holly's got his dictator chic on, which becomes somewhat jarring given everyone else is in black vests. Just after another example of the Mike Smith humour clinic, Go West exhibit not dissimilar style behind their big art coats as if they'd willingly chin you for suggesting the production might subsequently age the song.

1991: Fair to say Gary Clail On U Sound System's focused anger diffuses somewhat when subsequently presented with the bloke at the back. Is the man next to him an audience member or a particularly underused dancer? Meanwhile, for someone later oft commended for his unique sense of rhythm and movement James' Tim Booth seems quite hesitant, rocking on his axis a lot in his smock.

1996: The great cross-cultural exchange. PJ & Duncan, as they just about still were, performing their version of Stepping Stone - a song also covered by the Sex Pistols, lest it be overlooked - via satellite from... somewhere. I imagine the original caption stated a place. Moreover, if we assume the dancers are a red herring, where exactly was this recorded? The executive blocks round the corner from the set of Mad Max?

1997: Ill advised moves of our time: Sean Maguire's Britpop phase. Indeed, it's possible to argue this is what pushed the emergency stop on Britpop. The bouncing like Albarn used to, the coat, the accent, everything. You can only imagine what the Pet Shop Boys with their columns of silk made of it. Relaxed there, Chris. There's something tremendously clunking about the girls screaming and waving to the passing crane camera just as a quite minimalistic Beautiful South start a piano ballad having set out the candles and Paul's Russian hat. Zoe Ball at the end mentions the latter but in a way that makes you doubt she's even seen it.

2003: You don't often get a moment in pop, at least since ZTT packed in, where maverick producer with post-modern ideas meets proper pop band. Observe Richard X vs Liberty X, the band doing the full routine around chairs as pop bands do while Richard wanders around in the background a bit. Or does he? Helpfully he's uploaded the Paul Morleyesque actual text graphic backdrop.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

27th March

1980: Crouching Powell, hidden dragging on. Peter's arm movements of expressive dancing joy for Judas Priest are worth the visit, but stop for the director giving the guitar solo everything he can on the effects board. The Jam are number one, the studio call catching Weller out midway through making lunch. Hoi, no advertising!

1986: The Art Of Noise were conceived as a faceless studio group, so when they did show up for Pops there was always a distraction in the way. Duane Eddy's presence supplies that, bar the long period in the middle where there's none of his guitar on the track so he just has to stand around looking mildly bemused, but just in case there's some concept dancers/backing 'singers' whom Flick couldn't have choregprahed more intently. I think that's meant to be a joke at the end. I think. Smitty also treats Tippa Irie with respect due. Irie for his part is dressed as Bing Crosby.

1998: ALRIGHT, WYCLEF, IT'S THE FUCKING REMIX, UNDERSTOOD. The first sighting of Beyonce over here, not that we knew the full extent of her powers yet as this was the first incarnation of Destiny's Child. Still, no question in whose vocal and stage hands the power lies, she can even get small groups to scream on implied command. There's a little bit of revisionism going on with Robbie Williams in Pops folklore, as there's a clip captioned from March 1998 of a huge production number version of Let Me Entertain You, but that was from a much later special when his career was secure enough to command everything being thrown at it. When it actually charted he was still in possession of ill-conceived blonde hair, tinted glasses likewise and natural fibres, his backing singers were referencing Sympathy For The Devil and one person in the audience was clearly getting a rugby lineout-style lift up. Still, it's not as if Robbie Williams ever needs a second invitation. As surprisingly well as the subtleties of Pulp's This Is Hardcore translate even to a 1998 Pops audience, the lighting director helps it along by gradually working through the colour palette. As for Jarvis' future collaborative partners The All Seeing I, the lack of a tangible frontperson or session representative thereof clearly need not have been a drawback.

Monday, 26 March 2012

26th March

1981: More proof of the strange rockabilly seam threaded through pop in the early 80s from The Polecats' Bowie cover, with a guitarist who seems to fancy his own chances as perpetual motion frontman that little bit more than the actual frontman. And again we ask, Legs & Co here - what is point? But then after that you do tend to forget how weird pop as a concept was in those days, where it found room for madness like an underdressed Hazel O'Connor, ditching some sort of elaborate disguise to bounce around - stop it - with her Johnny Rotten stare, end of the pier organ, state of the club nation address and ability to get a Pops audience to pogo. She was followed by Tony Capstick. And shortly after that, just to put all that into perspective and sounding curiously like Annabella Lwin, Lene Lovich and her Medusa-in-a-silk-shop hair. Even though the leather jacketed rock kids don't seem to notice until after he's started, Gillan has a more traditional method of exuding at the mike, though you still won't fail to be distracted by his bassist's style choice. In comparison to all that magnificence Bad Manners seem grounded, even with the dummy. No, not Buster. And who's that to their right? Yes, and no, they didn't need to be.

1987: Our first, storming look at Terence Trent D’Arby when he looked like he had a full and sane career ahead of him. Everything including his knowing use of the coil microphone points to what soul school he saw himself as part of. On better days that spin at 2:25 would have received a rousing reception. In his wake even Janet Jackson is left standing. Sorry, sitting.

1992: Vince Clarke evidently spent his Erasure income on his own telephone exchange. Hard to tell what the two backing members are specialising in, they're not obviously singing backing vocals without a mike and that's not greatly convincing dancing on the spot they're doing.

1999: Andy Williams' Music To Watch Girls By had, as so many things are, been on an advert, which in contravention of all sorts of BBC regulations appears to be playing on the back screen. He may have been 73 but he was still singing live regularly and this was his key song, yet he still needed a teleprompter - look at the shot from the drumkit forward at the minute mark.

2004: After his spell in N-Sync, JC Chasez chose for his appearance with Basement Jaxx to surround himself with people bearing similar charisma. Ho ho! (Look, just pretend Justin Timberlake didn't exist and that joke works) I can't work out if the backing shouters are supposed to be the models come to life - the one with the blonde wig is highly suspicious - and neither am I sure we're supposed to get a brief shot of an empty stage at 2:59, or that immediately after that the shouter in the PVC is supposed to push one of the dummies over, creating a small domino effect that our useful director completely misses if so.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

25th March

1964: Wiped, but a piece of small but significant Pops history landed here as the Beatles performed You Can't Do That and Can't Buy Me Love back to back, something very few - the Jam, Oasis, the Ramones for some reason - went on to do in the show's history. As these things are kept in meticulous detail we know the songs were pre-recorded on the 19th in London without an audience, the show still being based in Manchester.

1976: Pan's People *and* Cherry! Oh, you spoil us. Ver People give The Beatles' Yesterday the once-over in outfits left over from the photoshoot for the queens in a pack of playing cards. Cherry's death stare half way through is quite the thing.

1982: Hosted by Peter Powell and... Garth Crooks! Fantastic! Notice the way he completely misreads Powell's opening question before getting to bellow Altered Images' name. Is that a hat or is Clare demonstrating her tray balancing skills? Garth's first solo spot is for the neither one thing nor the other attired Bucks Fizz. He's not reading that, honest. Unfortunately he doesn't get the Foster & Allen intro gig, where it's difficult to ascertain what's less fitting - the mirrorball lighting, the dancing behind or the green jackets. Rare is the number one band who can seamlessly blend close harmony pop and fire breathing, but Goombay Dance Band are such people. Smoke alarms weren't in common usage in those days. By the end Garth has inherited a hat.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

24th March

1977: Though we wouldn't know it, this was where T.Rex and Marc Bolan left the TOTP scene, looking about as elfin as one can in a yellow jacket. The keyboard player isn't exactly fitting in with the glam look either. Far classier, Elkie Brooks and her smartly tuened out band, even the pianist with the big afro. The Ladybirds make a rare on-screen cameo, for a very short while. Dead End Kids, a great 1977 rock name given to the wrong type of band, tried to match post-Rollers teen pop to studious tubular bells playing.

1988: You kind of imagine that having gone to the lengths of hiring two dancers to bring her onto the stage Sinitta expected a big welcome from the audience, but no dice. Those are quite clashing colours too, and that's just in her hair.

1994: Nice shirt, Mr Mayo! Watching Robbie take lead vocals with Take That before he had to work on his solo frontman craft is an odd thing, watching the same charismatic face we've become used to with floppy Theakston-like 90s hair and really attempting to exude rather than making it seem everything is coming naturally to him. Meanwhile over in America that seems far too many people even just for Salt N Pepa With En Vogue, especially the couple sneaked in at the back.

Friday, 23 March 2012

23rd March

1967: Because nobody knew any better back then, you get some highly expressive behaviour at the mike on these early Pops. Manfred Mann's Mike d'Abo's doing a lot of pointing and proto-Flick Colby expressive acting out of lyrics here. The toy drummer and Manfred's own hat/beard/whistling style are notable touches too.

1978: "Remember the night Kate Bush burst onto TV? When this aired it was a sensation!" Steve Wright as trustworthy as ever, as including repeats this was Wuthering Heights' fifth appearance on Pops. It is, to a vague extent, based on the even more famous video, alongside some curious bird wing-like motions. Someone forgot to remove some bit of set dressing at the back, which spoils the illusion a tiny bit.

1983: As referred to the other day, here be the more famous Orange Juice appearance, replete with members staggering drunkenly all over the place, experimental provocateur Jim Thirlwell miming sax and, according to Edwyn's own official biography, "the pleasure of performing the song on Top Of The Pops neutered by the pain of Legs & Co ripping up tissue paper whilst dancing on an adjoining stage". Will Zoo never be given their proper due? Besides which, look how much paper they've pointlessly got through off-camera. In fact Zoo were all over the show this week with their extreme literalism, firstly with boxing gloves on as JoBoxers seem to be filmed from miles away, lest the power of the urchin soul stomp dislodge something, and then indulging in some sort of country roundel while Big Country bluster away and Stuart Adamson breaks into some sort of pleasant knee-lifting dance in his white jeans while making his guitar sound like bagpipes. By the time Altered Images show up the place is a mess for the streamers. Unlike Grogan, who wants to watch Nick Heyward when he's being all sombre and grownup and meaningful looking in close-ups? Not the man looking for an escape route after 33 seconds, that's for sure. And hark, who's that just visible begrudingly sidestepping off to Duran Duran's right? Ah, Zoo, how you existed without anyone remembering.

1989: Having got Lisa Stansfield up front, Coldcut must have not known what to do with themselves. Answer: a big daft hat, a big bass and a big soft mallet to hit the samplers with. Isn't that potentially dangerous?

1995: These probably aren't the circumstances under which Toni Halliday expected to try and creep out the entire viewing public in a roundabout friendly fashion, but teaming with Leftfield and in front of a bass drum about as big as she is she still dares you to ask if she'll ever actually play that guitar she has strapped on.

2001: When we first see Muse Matt Bellamy is already on his knees. And he actually seems to be playing in live, with narry a thought of feedback resultant. If you watch closely as he puts the guitar behind his head and then heads towards Chris Wolstenholme he's brought his own special effect too.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

22nd March

1979: It's always been said that Flick's routines could be too literal, but rarely quite like this: The Players Association's Turn The Music Up, so a mocked up massive radio with a volume knob it takes a hefty push to turn. Though wouldn't that be more likely to be the frequency dial? Also incorporating spinning, Kate Bush gets a big dark studio and a flowing dress to express within, just like Wuthering Heights.

1984: What's Martin Gore up to here? While his Depeche Mode bandmates prod Emulators or prance, he gets some tubular bells and a single bongo to work with. Oddly everyone has their own drumstick or hammer even though there's never call for a futuro-percussion jam within the song.

1990: With the evolution of dance into a commercial entity came something this blog has discussed before, the best way to put it on telly. What, then, if you don't really have to physically do a lot to get your track going? The quandary befell Orbital, whose amount of equipment additionally meant the dancer friend of someone from FFRR was unable to move from one corner of the set and hadn't quite realised how little other onstage activity there'd be. The Hartnolls weren't invited back for six years.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

21st March

1985: TOTP around the mid-80s could cope with most things, but a solo singer-songwriter who wants to sing *and* play live? That's quite the challenge. Billy Bragg forces Steve Wright into an attempt at sincerity, but the audience usually in full party mode ensure you could hear a pin drop. Back in the arms of safety Nik Kershaw exhibits his band's range of jackets with rolled up sleeves, not to mention a keyboardist exhibiting the long lost art of playing two keyboards at once.

1996: It still beggars belief that someone saw Steve Lamacq and Pops presentation as natural bedfellows, however briefly. At least some of the show - maybe not Kaliphz Featuring Prince Naseem Hamed, but some of it - was weighted in his and Jo Whiley's favour, such as Garbage with Shirley Manson in full kohl-eyed ice menace mode and a mid-song move involving walking round in circles, and Menswear, all showing support to some cause, including the dragged in from Radio 3 string section.

1997: Kylie Minogue with odd hair introducing INXS. That's only really leading one way. Michael's got his driving gloves on too. Rather more controllable were the Spice Girls and their lifelike ventriloquist dummies.

2003: This is actually Jennifer Lopez's record, but if she will invite LL Cool J to join her and he will insist on going to the edge of the stage at most opportunity. Does she need that much padding on her mike?

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

20th March

1975: "After what they did to me last week I think they've got a bit of a cheek showing their faces round here" Actually, Tony had been on an episode first shown three days before, but no matter, it's The Goodies taking it to the primate bridge. Do you get the impression that certain (doctorate) members are less keen on throwing themselves into matters than others? The pop moment is caught in a mighty state of flux this week, as glam nonsense like Kenny and their Joseph-like song-thematic trousers bumped into Casino cash-in Wigan's Ovation. There must have been a school of thought that invoking the town's name in factory produced Northern Soul must have been hip for a moment, Wigan's Chosen Few and the infamous Northern Soul dancers drafted in to Pops as there was no actual band (that doesn't exist any more, at the BBC at least) was only two months before. Anyway, somewhere in the middle of all this, the first of many heralded comebacks by Lulu. On her many 80s and 90s revivals she's steer clear of the knotted scarf and Princess Anne hairdo.

1980: It's filters on overdrive for Rush as seen through the Legs & Co prism. It's the interlaid mini-routines that make this, especially the one in the car. If that was what Canada was sending us, we were replying with the lively mod stylings of The Lambrettas. Of course Mike Read would know of the original.

1998: You can tell it's IndieKylie, nobody's doing anything bar singing/playing. Eventually the camera crane has to tempt her just to turn a bit.

Monday, 19 March 2012

19th March

1981: There's actually six or seven Pops from this day but there's either nothing available or nothing interesting. Instead, let's talk dancers. The reason why Legs & Co have never been afforded the same status as Pan's People is, I think, because they were all too willing to end up as backdrop for someone who didn't need dancer backdrop. Here, for example, is Sharon Redd giving it plenty of expressive body language in her sparkly catsuit and a bit of cloth she gets to play with for a bit, on one side the audience is enacting some sort of unison hand jive like they're not really listening at all, and completely ignored by everyone else except the odd directorial cut are six women who must have thought they wouldn't end up as set dressing for an awkward empty bit of the frame. They did get a solo dance, but it's a Serious Moodiness effort featuring description-defying periods of tableau, for Stevie Wonder's Lately, Pauline's last appearance with them after four and a half years' service.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

18th March

1982: Sal Solo of Classix Nouveaux actually is a little scary, isn't he? Big bald man carrying on like Marc Almond used to is very much of its time, but the outbreaks of falsetto are like lulling sailors onto the rocks. Obviously the real highlight is the frame-in-frame-in-frame stop-motion bit near the end. Well done, director. 1982 and thereabouts was bloody weird anyway, Japan being considered pop material for a record that but for the percussive bits you'd hardly detect. This, I remind you, was the biggest hit by a band fronted by a teen pin-up. And there's an audience there, you can see their hands clapping at the end in the background. Given the party atmosphere developing on the show at the time, exactly what are they doing?

1993: Watch the very start of this clip, not just for Snow and his dancers waiting in keen anticipation for Hue & Cry to finish but the man who suddenly runs through the crowd and darts across the lip of the stage down to the side where he picks up the camera lead he was meant to be holding all along. You see him again at 1:52 encouraging the cameraman to step backwards off a ledge.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

17th March

1977: Cliff Richard going country didn't last very long but without it we'd never have seen his power chord air guitar technique.

1983: While Bucks Fizz were starting to adopt costumes in which they wouldn't catch their death if they went out dressed like that, it's been replaced by trouser design intrigue. And what's with Jay's hat? Also, swaying in time and then taking a few paces, turning around and taking a few paces back is not strictly a charged dance routine. Plus that isn't even the most famous performance of the song on BBC TV - thank god Saturday Superstore technology never fell into the wrong hands. No matter how big her band, Joan Armatrading can't help but seem out of place on that big stage with those populous surroundings. Bassist thinks he's Knopfler too.

1988: While it's headgear all round for Aswad, the combination of trilby and brown suede jacket giving them an unfortunate image as reggae's own second hand car salesmen.

1994: Looking comfortable there, Mark Owen. So excited are the audience by their proximity to an actual Take That member (and Robbie was co-hosting) they take a moment to notice that it's actually Alison Moyet on stage, though with that hair you or I might have struggled too. Horrible missed note at 0:32. Not that I want to point it out or anything. Tori Amos commands some respect from them, as is her wont. Blur's Girls And Boys opened, perhaps giving Robbie some ideas, but that's not showed up online.

2000: Geri Halliwell. Never let it be forgotten. Her spiritual mother Lulu was on one of her semi-regular slight comebacks, this one marked by her wearing shades indoors and doing hardly anything with her big voice.

Friday, 16 March 2012

16th March

1978: I don't know if this was even possible given the tech, but it does seem like Elvis Costello and the Attractions are playing properly live here. Of course the 'angry nerd' chooses to stare you down while you're on your sofa. This was about the stage at which, from shying away from punk, Pops would just put anyone (within reason) on, hence The Vibrators and Knox's hairless chest, not to mention the inventive shot through the drum skin. How far it all looks from Demis Roussous lookalike who just hasn't put the full effort in Dan Hill and a kaleidoscopic forest of severed piano-playing hands

1989: Run for the hills, it's New Order 'live' on TOTP! Stephen doesn't look like he's entirely comfortable with his set-up. Hooky, obviously, does.

1995: The Comic Relief special, hosted by... oh, you guessed. Its status might explain the symbolism of the Alex Party singer in black surrounded by red dressed dancers, and maybe also the attire of The New Power Generation's frontman, officially known as Tora Tora, not that anyone can possibly tell who that is. There's an intriguing cameo from Mayte (who, wouldn't you have guessed, was the partner of, um, Tora Tora) too, taking over for the middle eight, wandering off to the side of the stage and then suddenly reappearing crowdsurfing in the sort of outfit that even for a TV audience would take some guts. Meanwhile the bloke on extravagantly designed keytar looks ready to launch a military coup once this one's over. Meanwhile we catch The Human League at an awkward moment where they're not sure how many of them should be the public face and who should be the focal point, and what exactly is Phil Oakey playing here?

Thursday, 15 March 2012

15th March

1979: Is there a point at which Paul Weller started wearing shades indoors? For the latest The Jam appearance he's also wearing the sort of City broker-like suit the sorts he'd be deriding on Eton Rifles two singles later might fancy. Speaking of wearing stuff, Legs & Co accompany Chic with a largely forseeable cut-to costume change, plus wobbling, telegraphed by Peter Powell, who seems a little too excited by the prospect.

1984: Simon Bates was always keen to emphasise what studio they were in like it made a difference. Don't know what the bloke on the right's story was. Julia & Company are first on in a studio that seems all over the place, massive Toppotron to the right, people in yacht wear to the left. And a big note and bow to finish. Not as big a note, though, as Tina Turner, her first ever appearance on the show for her power ballad cover of Help!, not entirely sure what to do with the mike. Bates' portentousness at the start is semi-amusingly underminded by Smith's sole comment at the end.

1990: A very Madchester-in-spirit show, this one. In one corner Inspiral Carpets, complete with girls actually screaming at Tom Hingley, unless that's blind fear. In the other corner, Primal Scream breaking new boundaries of awkwardness. If you didn't know anything else about them at the time, and that's very likely, what would you make of Bobby Gillespie's input here? Pub quiz winner: Mark Gardener of Ride on approximate keyboards. And in entirely their own area far away, Candy Flip's cover of Strawberry Fields Forever, and you'll notice they did get their mates in. That girl's still screaming.

2002: We'll have to take this on trust that this European screening is the same one we got, but already everything we felt we needed to know about Shakira is laid out. There's some interpretative indigenous dancing that turns into flagrant booty shaking, a man on session panpipes and a nod at some sort of cartoon rock tradition. That breasts/mountains line (which has been edited out of this for some reason) wasn't lost in translation, by the way, the Spanish is exactly the same. Electric Soft Parade were much the same in the glamour stakes. I'm not sure that keyboard part at the end is entirely in keeping with the recording.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

14th March

1974: Lord knows where this comes from, the rest of the show is lost, but memory tends not to remember how often Pan's People broke out the long gloves and Ascot hats for, oh, some reason. Their sophisticated twins come into play for Aretha Franklin.

1985: Paul Young tartan - chiefly grey but somehow still extravagant. Paul and his cantilevered hair are joined by a central casting Temptations clone, one given silly big glasses in an attempt at individuality.

1991: Happy Mondays had been a chart presence for a while by this point but Shaun Ryder never looked any more comfortable. He seems to forget where he is at one point. Bez meanwhile does what he does and hopes someone's watching. As you can see at the end this was the Comic Relief show, and one guess who Mayo's co-host was, which makes Ride seem all the more out of place. The only other studio appearance that week was by a debuting Chesney Hawkes, of whom more once he gets to number one, which must have constituted a head whirl experience.

1996: Presented by MN8. There's a booking that'd last the test of time. You can see a couple of them bobbing about right at the end, which is odd as it's Bis, their infamous exclusive appearance before being signed (though they weren't really the first unsigned band to appear on the show, plenty of passing fancies years before had been on one off/self-funded deals) At the other end of the scale Gary Numan, as we've seen and will see, was guaranteed a big hit every time through the first half of the 80s so was on the show quite a bit. Off the back of an advert Cars got back in the charts in remixed form which enabled him to pretend to sweep the stage floor. At 1:05 the unique sound of Gary Numan stifling a giggle at something.

1997: Yeah, I know. No, I don't know. And this time it's Ian Broudie hosting! Peter Hook's at a loose end these days, he could just reform Monaco and abandon bass miming when he feels like it. You do kind of suspect he's overdoing it on the low-slung front in the middle. And now, Declan Donnelly The One Chord Wonder! Ant & Dec's attempt at going 'the grown-up sensitive one' was always going to be held back by, well, the fact they're Ant & Dec, and also everyone has dressed smartly for the occasion except Ant, and he's the lead singer. The Spice Girls were number one, which is here just because, nothing interesting happens in it apart from how excited Mel C gets at the end.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

13th March

1975: 13th March turns out to be a minor goldmine for notable performances, especially this year. You've got pre-country Rubettes in their flat-capped pomp, this time trying out a yellow jacket and Kill Bill trousers motif, and someone in the audience is trying to wear one of those caps with really long, frizzy hair and ending up with it nearly lost in there. Noel notes the title of Duane Eddy's hit and pulls an emergency stop on the first gag that comes to mind, though it wouldn't have been any less unendearing seeing as the song features Eddy playing second audio fiddle to an also-ran girl group. Noel then gets excited about the radical new direction (Slade, essentially) of Sweet - "they produced this number! They wrote it!" - while not noting they now look a lot older and heavier set for it, especially with Bay City Rollers. A solitary tartan scarf for the moment, plus Eric Lomgmuir in a Wombles costume without the padding. Meanwhile Pan's People are buggering about with thematic flags to Elton John, though I don't think those are standard issue army skirts. How out of place from all this Peter Shelley and his old English sheepdog seem from, well, anything. Which leaves one final question - does Noel deliberately get Gloria Gaynor's name wrong?

1980: Even compared against the image and success of the Nolans around this same time there's something decidedly earthy about The Dooleys, literally a family cabaret band hitched onto pop-disco who don't seem too different from Colleen and co, except they'd never have worn a canary yellow jacket. If that's a very earthy set Secret Affair's seems half built with that great big scaffolding construction in the middle. No wonder there don't seem to be any kids there. Maybe they were never let out. Siouxsie & The Banshees may have been granted a more open set but Siouxsie's still had to bring her own special effects. At least the Gibson Brothers are bringing the groove, not to mention the Mickey Mouse T-shirt. That logo lasted for so short a time it's not even mentioned in the show's official history.

1986: So let's prove Mike Smith wrong from yesterday, as here's Culture Club a day over a year before George's big return. And yes, that is still Mikey George on guitar, seemingly having fallen entirely for Dynasty-derived mid-80s fashion. Hipsway are something of a six point type footnote in cod-soul of the time, chiefly noted only as the band Johnny McElhone formed after forming Altered Images but before forming Texas, this time with a male singer but one with all the moves and the look out of the L'Oreal Studioline advert. You can always trust a frontman on the quality of his spin on the spot.

1998: Jayne Middlemiss, being wheeled on as only an overeager producer can manage, attempts to get us to believe the Cast From Casualty (snappy name, guys) being on Pops is akin to the outer reaches of sanity - "we've had some strange songs on the show, we've had the Wombles, we've had Teletubbies..." Yes, but this is a karaoke cover of the evergreen Everlasting Love, not Shaddap You Face. Also, that's clearly not the whole cast and what there is of it seem to not quite know who's buying this either. In a way on the level of expectations it's more jarring to hear Natalie Imbruglia, who can make all the doe eyes she wants at us... pause to consider that for a moment too long... but really shouldn't be trying to front out bombastic arena rock.

Monday, 12 March 2012

12th March

1987: Do you think the unmanned instruments set up behind Boy George are deliberate, possibly in a pointed way at Culture Club, or the result of stage manager laziness? Either way Smitty attempts to make returning after a two year gap sound like an event - it wasn't even that, the band appeared in 1986 as you'll see sooner than you think - but it's George's hat and coat of badges that really draw the attention. Alison Moyet seems more surprised to be there, leaving the trumpet player to build his part up.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

11th March

1971: And more T.Rex! Marc, unfortunately, looks in comparison like he hasn't tried on the sartorial front. And if in doubt, get Legs & Co to lead the audience in some sideways movements. You'd never try that sort of thing out on the canary killer Lynn Anderson, singing direct to the orchestra like someone not quite understanding how to put on a show yet.

1976: Don't want to know about your ulcers, thanks Noel. Someone from Guys 'n' Dolls has retained most of their appearances from the otherwise wiped shows. Even those like this, involving disturbing hairy chests, one Doll really showing off above her colleagues and the most ostentatious single rhythm guitarist this side of The Real Thing.

1982: The account featuring the previously posted Bow Wow Wow clip has been terminated, but this one makes an admirable replaement not just because Arabella has cheered up a but but for her remarkably designed hot pants and Matthew Ashman's tits T-shirt. The original Associates linked video is still there too but there's plenty going on here, they having seemingly been given the failing power station set to which they add Billy's French spy chic, a banjo, some marvellous one-handed keyboard playing in period dress and a hell of a camera bump at 1:14. Also worth watching the chap front left just after two minutes who spots a camera and does everything possible with one arm aloft in order to be noticed, never spotting that it's the wrong angle.

1993: Imagine you knew nothing about Jamiroquai and then this soul kid in a furry hat and a jerkin of many colours comes on. I've commented before on random outbreaks of screaming in the middle of songs, but if anyone can work out what causes the reaction at 2:06 I'd be grateful to know. Top stick waving action to his side.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

10th March

1977: Smallest man in pub rock Graham Parker & The Rumour indulge in lots of fist pumping and miming something during the bridge. The UK didn't quite retain its Eurovision crown, Lynsey De Paul & Mike Moran finishing second taking on the might of the continent with back to back duelling piano jazz chords and ramming the title and sentiment home with a mock newspaper. Glam wasn't dead! At least in the home of Brendon, whose rhythm section might be the smartest turned out people in this entire blog.

1983: Edwyn Collins always likes to mention the Pops performance of Orange Juice's Rip It Up and the expectations it didn't live up to, but that's the second appearance (don't worry, we'll get there). This is the first, mostly enlivened by Edwyn losing his shades off-camera and the gentleman having some sort of rhythmic seizure next to Mike Smith.

1988: Oh now look, they're just teasing us with Vanessa Paradis' age now. The formation sax team are back, though they didn't get back to pick up their coats from Sketchleys in time. They've picked up the scarves, though, the manufacturers taken from Slade's contacts book. One of the sax blokes is clearly pulling double duty too, on synths with Taja Sevelle and her maze of ringlets and gardening gloves.

1994: It's the big stage Bobby Gillespie always wanted, as Primal Scream get the special glamorous gold curtain and Denise Johnston's vocal rivalry. And yet they're still not as popular that week as Doop. I fail to see the connection between flapper dancers and detergent, but there you go. Not even they share in Carter USM's light show. What's going on at 1:49? What are they all jumping to? How come they still miss the namecheck of the show itself? Well, that one's intrinsically answered.

Friday, 9 March 2012

9th March

1978: Here's a weird clip in pretty much every single sense. The 1978 World Cup Finals began on 1st June, but Andy Cameron's Ally's Tartan Army was already at number 21 by the start of March. In fact, like the team it was struck for, it went out early, disappearing from the chart by the end of April never to re-enter. Then there's the fact the original was recorded live, or the pretence was made at least, meaning he couldn't exactly do it live (different ambience) or mime. So, enter the orchestra! Not the full set but the Ladybirds are involved, there's someone pressed into squeezebox service and the male backing vocals are, unlike the recording, over the top of Cameron's voice. Proof too that a London audience of pop kids can be pressed into any service. Sidenote to BBC4: can we have Football Songs At The BBC this June? Anyway, elsewhere it's a big hello to Taff and Les and a get out of the way to the bloke in the lumberjack shirt for Generation X and, weirdly to current viewers, one star of TOTP 1976, the perenially ceiling-gazing in the rundown Tina Charles, covering a Jimmy James & the Vagabonds song we saw last year. Someone in the orchestra gets to do a wind chime solo.

1989: It's the Comic Relief special with Lenny Henry and Hale & Pace as The Management. From that, straight into the Reynolds Girls. That's asking for trouble. This entered the top 75 in the week of the famously failed Brit Awards, making the pointed jab at Fleetwood Mac all the more ironic, although Mick Fleetwood is probably a better dancer. Also, surely the only use of the word 'demographic' in a nakedly commercial single. Speaking of unlikely and tortured wordplay, "I'd rather jack Profumo!" Even then he gets it wrong. Take your shades off, man. The link is the theme from the film Scandal sung by Dusty Springfield, her personal string section and her overdone body language. At the end a glimpse of Vas Blackwood brings us all back down to earth. Paula Abdul gets full use out of a few waiting room chairs and a good range of period haircuts.

1995: In full: part one features the Boo Radleys at their height, Clock with a rapper in a Victorian military jacket and dancers as New York police for no good reason, and Radiohead (as a whole here) with Thom Yorke in a 'TEAM BUKOWSKI' T-shirt, which would make a fascinating turn for Twilight. Part two has Faith No More's Mike Patton facing away from the crowd for most of the time and straight on to Stevie Wonder, still holding cachet despite everything, not least this. Des'Ree leads onto part three, wherein Wet Wet Wet don't look convinced by their own work. Marti seems to think it's hilarious, for one.

2001: The honour of performing two songs on the same Pops is rarely granted, but the show's hand must have been forced when Manic Street Preachers released two singles on the same day and they ended up in adjoining top ten positions. Spot the backing singers forced to awkwardly stick around in the shade for the un-BV-friendly Found That Soul.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

8th March

1979: No, Legs & Co never danced to Pretty Vacant, the video was shown on TOTP but it becoming a routine is an urban myth. But they did dance to the post-Rotten Sex Pistols' Something Else, practically straight-up rock'n'roll with Sid on lead so not strictly razing the Roxy, though it's still an infamously multi-coloured costumed and bewigged routine. The kids crowded round the edge of the dancefloor are impressed. No, not impressed, the other one. Catatonic, that's it. Lord knows what the unusually leather jacketed Buzzcocks across the studio made of it. This is a hugely conflicted show, starting with Inner Circle not quite deciding whether they're reggae, funk or Clapton, then Dennis Brown plunging 99% of the studio into artful darkness and towards the end Motorhead pummelling as only they could. And no, this came out before Ace Of Spades.

1984: Glitter rather than men rains on The Weather Girls and their ambitiously purple tops but it doesn't seem to disappoint anyone, not when cheap graphics are involved. Gary Davies' intro stops just short of "look at these fat biffers!" You can see the remnants of that shower underneath Bananarama's feet. Matching white jackets? Is this, perish the thought, professionalism creeping into their approach? Another avatar of the 80s, a more stylistically sound one, makes her Pops debut, Sade. That bassist is actually standing up, isn't he?

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

7th March

1985: Peel and Long, chiefly the latter, claim this is Shakin' Stevens' fiftieth appearance, though I can only count 45 in total and he still had a few hits to go. Whatever, see here the mastery of the instrumental break that some never connect with as he demonstrates various comedy walks, including a mock-Jagger and what seems to be a forward moonwalk. Shortly afterwards, a facetious bum wiggle.

1991: Oh blimey, Hale & Pace's Comic Relief single. Like much of their career, especially that on the BBC, they don't do anything funny. Great graphic at the start. Slightly different, some might argue, to the skate chic fraggle of Ned's Atomic Dustbin. The close-up of a guitar not being played is a winning point of direction.

1996: Presented by Louise Wener, for some reason. She seems conflicted accounting it back in her book. She also admits large amounts of jealousy-related hatred for other female-fronted bands of the era, but she's putting a brave face on it for Lush, though she could just have stopped talking rather than the middle bit explaining the song. She's right about Take That, this was their last appearance in the original run, the girls in the audience refusing to let go of their emotions just yet - you don't often hear singing along from a telly crowd. For the occasion they let Mark wear his favourite tank top.

2003: You'd hope Junior Senior on telly might have been more than golf visors, Junior singing along with the playback and Senior going "c'mon!" whenever the mood arises, but never mind. Why are the audience waving their arms like it's a soft ballad? Besides the real staging oddity was elsewhere, with Royksopp and their adapted holiday drive. Hope the girl was being well paid.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

6th March

1980: On lovingly degraded VHS, UK Subs try to assert punk's not dead. Some excellent windmill jumping towards the end. But no, it's all Martha & The Muffins-like new wave round here. That and a meta Legs & Co routine to Fern Kinney's Together We Are Beautiful, which as the blurb mentions contains a shot of Pauline's actual wedding photo.

1986: A free pass into this blog comes for any and all Kate Bush, though the showiness for Hounds Of Love is a hand in the pocket of her power suit jacket. Nice rhetorical question on Gary's top at the end, the type Whistle might have better appreciated. The design might go with their furry hats. Meanwhile how many people can Jim Diamond fit on stage for his his Boon theme?

1998: With all the pop blog love expanded towards her it's easy to forget Robyn was in 1998 basically Max Martin giving his Britney work a subtler vehicle a year early, right down to the ad libs. Shouldn't those two sets of dancers be co-ordinated in some way? Meanwhile the Spice Girls are away - Zurich, Frankfurt or Bologna, by my reckoning - and have to videophone it in. Note the Toppotron (see Yes It's Number One passim) wasn't just a 1977 thing and that Geri can't convincingly say five words.

Monday, 5 March 2012

5th March

1970: Repeated this week, this should have been on the 12th February post. Sorry. It's not like it's anything important like John Lennon's only solo studio appearance or whatever, a song only recorded sixteen days before that performance. Yoko plays her expected part, but the man behind Lennon with nothing but a tambourine to hand must have a story. He's certainly not the man on tambourine in the less familiar take recorded in the same session, as that's famed Beatles road manager Mal Evans.

1981: Talk about setting your image out from the start. Duran Duran's debut has all the early signifiers - Simon's puffy shirt, Nick's rococo image and ozone-depleting layers of dry ice and hairspray alike. Some helpful explanation of what this Planet Earth thing is towards the middle too. At the other end of the longevity scale The Who made their 21st and final appearance, Kenney Jones filling in for the unavoidably dead Keith Moon. The audience seem rather more animated when Shakin' Stevens steps in with his swing dancers and surrounds himself with people keener on clapping than, well, watching. Meanwhile Phil Collins is still touting that symbolic paint pot around. He's brought the brass section but every other instrument can apparently fend for itself.

1987: Sensitive ol' Morten and A-Ha, with his cheeky wink at 1:58 and his leather jacket patch, stands as master of the pop domain against such machine tooled works as Mel & Kim in their nearly matching everything, Spanish hats inclusive.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

4th March

1964: Which means this is some of the earliest surviving material the archives still have, the days when The Hollies could get away with Allan Clarke sitting down. There's also all of 35 seconds of the Rolling Stones' Not Fade Away, with Brian on harmonica and Mick showing off the stock from his unwise decision to purchase a maraca factory.

1965: Yes, one year later. Not that it's not unwelcome but there's a lot of Rolling Stones from the 60s left in the vault compared to their contemporaries, Beatles especially. On Not Fade Away we get to observe Bill Wyman's vertical playing style once again, the bludgeon influence of pop art and helpfully captioned at 1:37 a man not traditionally seen as awkward around dancing girls.

1976: One of the many wiped shows from the start of that year, which is why BBC4 started in April. Tina Charles at number one literally just about survives though, given a much bigger stage than she was allowed for the Christmas special. That really isn't a flatteringly cut dress.

1982: Still never likely to be confused for a party starter, Gary Numan invested in a fretless bass and a white hat and broke into a few moves as if he were the Nick Heyward of dystopian synthpop. Note how both keytarists are dressed like 1930s gangster archetypes. Rather more active is Leee John from Imagination, although the hand work cameos of bassist Ashley Ingram were cheesy even then. Good to see TOTP2's captioneer really putting his research shift in that week. Meanwhile Flick, now in charge of Zoo, was having a flashback to simpler dancing times. Not just in the group movement, but given one of the chancer reissued early singles (and thus, despite being seen as the cool early stuff Jo Whiley types always used to go on about, nowadays sounding far less interesting than the actual contemporary Ants hits) of Adam & the Ants, Deutscher Girls, she took one look at the title, got on the phone and ordered in the lederhosen.

2005: You'd correctly imagine a band like Kaiser Chiefs could seize the moment and the opportunity of the Pops stage, suited, booted and ready to fly. I was never crazy about that insistence all bands concluded their song with "thank you, Top Of The Pops!" in those days. We'll decide whether you've done enough to require thanking, cheers.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

3rd March

1983: Only their second show together and already Peel and Jensen are working their singular oracle - note the T-shirts and how long they keep their fingerclicking going at the start of the first half of the show. John makes sure to use the Scouse vernacular to introduce OMD, after which the pair officially name themselves. As for the song, even the man wearing a farmer's hat right at the start can't disguise the record's oblique strangeness, in which the kids go wild for a minimalist vertical drumkit, Kraftwerkian keyboard patterns and a megaphone that apparently produces computer voices. Which country is that man at the front a general of, do you think? Meanwhile the lesser regarded Tracy sister struts her stuff to Bananarama, all belts and braces and 'ethnic jeweller' T-shirt designs.

1988: Someone needs to look at the ratio of that picture layering effect. Coldcut and Yazz strut their stuff to a crowd whooping even more than usual, though what that bloke did wrong to not get any sort of credit we can only speculate. By this point The Sisters Of Mercy were down to Andrew Eldritch, here as a demonic Dave Stewart, and the implausibly icy Patricia Morrison, goth's equivalent of a postcard of a punk girl with an orange mohican. She's married to Dave Vanian of the Damned, you know.

1994: Missed the first appearance of this 2 Unlimited hit a couple of weeks ago, which is worth seeing for everything from the showy intro revealing they take their memorabilia everywhere with them to Ray's chain mail top. Two weeks later Mayo's back and so are they, accompanied by dancers exhibiting the 'glowstick Roswell' style. How far such frippery must seem in Morrissey's world of smart-casual suits. As Simon says he "hasn't been on TOTP for many years". 22 months, actually. But bigger things than even Moz's slight return were afoot, as this was the day of the only Pops showing of the Manchester curmudgeon other Manchester curmudgeons surely bend the knee to, Mark E Smith. The full story and fallout of his Inspiral Carpets cameo has been dealt with on t'other blog, where you'll also find coverage of the Andi Peters-led fallout, but also notice that perhaps as a family warning there's not a close-up of him until nearly halfway through.

Friday, 2 March 2012

2nd March

1978: Kate Bush came by the studio three times in the name of Wuthering Heights. Having heard what the orchestra had done to her work first time around, this time she took no chances and brought her piano along, though it seems the potted flower display couldn't be removed without damage. The more earthbound, and green suited, Nick Lowe's band seem to be building their parts up a trifle, the pianist especially.

1989: Always nice when a band uploads its own Pops appearance and comments on it. Living In A Box reckon they were "dressed like performing circus monkeys", though in comments they realise it's probably based on the single sleeve artwork. We hope they paid those backing singers double for going through the full repertoire of on-the-spot interpretative movements available.

1995: Sandwiched by a salutory example of what ills befall when you ask Keith Allen to do something in the public eye, there's an odd reaction to Faith No More right at the start, as some youths can't decide whether their run-in is manufactured excitement for telly or proper pushing Wall Of Death. Mike Patton spends most of the song singing it at the bass drum, then at the end you can tell he's weighing up how hard he'd have to push to do Allen physical damage. The broad church of Pops also welcomed Mike & The Mechanics, Paul Carrack in the early stages of being mummified.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

1st March

1973: Jellyfish, ladybirds and some sort of pupae. The obvious backdrop for prime T Rex. Micky Finn's thinking ambitiously with his trousers.

1979: Violinski was an actual thing that happened, but there's very much an aura of quickly drafted in session mates about this performance, so awkward does everyone but the preening Mik Kaminski look. How different from the sophisticated power-playing to camera of Thin Lizzy.

1984: It's a Rhythm Pals show! Pops was always awkward around street-derived scenes and that audience can't fail to be impressed by Break Machine's bodypopping and back spinning like a luminous Jeffrey Daniel. A very different form of music and movement was on show elsewhere that week. Alexei Sayle, an appropriate prop and a quarter of a idea at best to get him through three and a half minutes of single take television. Are those meant to be two dancers at the back of the stage?

1990: "Great young groovers" Electribe 101 might have been faced with the same issues as every other dance act on Pops around this time of transferring a frankly static live act to prime-time telly, but that's betting without the magnetically bendy presence of Billie Ray Martin. Watch at 2:16 when so preoccupied is she with getting in all different types of move in as short a space of time as possible she plain forgets to mime.

2002: Now she's the housewives' favourite it's easy to forget Alesha Dixon was not so long ago merely a shouty MC off the back of UK garage. Mis-Teeq's matching Adidas tracksuits were the thing back then. In 1987. And you can't trust their dancers to turn up anything like on time.