Friday, 30 November 2012

30th November

1978: The Rezillos could put on a show but they never quite got the show re-recording right for whatever reason. What Fay Fife loses in projection she makes up for in energy. Holding his jacket over his shoulder like a yuppie twat, Peter Powell introduces a rejigged Darts, Den Hegarty having left his suit to the drummer and paid for Rita Ray's swimming lessons. It'd take too long to explain what's happening before Mankind and about the same length of time to explain why someone thought this was a good idea. The keyboard player it now seems is less Who, more Potter. In a post-industrial society all hope dancing women will have will be to reclaim bodysuits and feathers. A worrying vision of the Metropolis future to Chic.

1989: Well, how would you represent Kaoma's Lambada visually? The bassist is asking to be run into. All the time this has been running we've seen the full gamut of attention seeking keyboard players, but Rob 'N' Raz may have edged it even from such a full field, and the size of the one on the right's jacket isn't helping.

1995: The Childliners were an absolute pile-up of the day's top pop talent - East 17, Boyzone, Backstreet Boys, Dannii Minogue, Deuce, EYC, Michelle Gayle, Ultimate Kaos, Let Loose, MN8, Peter Andre, Sean Maguire, CJ Lewis, China Black, you get the idea. Still only made number nine, largely because it was just some shouting over a backbeat and nobody seems quite sure what to do with there being a limited number of actual mikes to go round.

2001: Shaggy arrived with his usual harem and a lot more jumping than we're used to from him. The split of Muse's visual effect doesn't seem to be entirely even.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

29th November

1984: A special occasion, and not just for being hosted by what was then an actual couple. The release date of Do They Know It's Christmas?, as you'll see from a few subtle clues throughout, starting with Nik Kershaw and many times over with Kool & The Gang. Don't think it's strictly "helping the famine", Peter. Slade brought another job lot of silk scarves and a guitar of such unwieldly design Dave Hill has trouble holding it properly. They weren't on the record but they joined in the chorus on the Christmas Pops nevertheless. As did - for shame! - Black Lace. You mean you don't always take pom-poms to TV studios with you on the offchance?

1990: Major had become prime minister two days earlier, which explains Nicky's opening link. Dream Warriors combined live vocal rap and morris dancing expertly at 1:09. Dimples D doesn't fancy her chances live but she does have a distracting big hat and two dancers who don't seem to move their feet all that much. Chris Isaak put his name on his guitar, which is security conscious of him, but you'd never lose him in that colour suit. The Pet Shop Boys look this time is 1930s novelist/spy and 1990s snowboarding holidaymaker.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

28th November

1991: He was trying to impress Morrissey, he claimed. Though it's also said he had a bad throat and had been told to sing live, which may have been more of a factor. Nirvana's famous appearance is on their Live! Tonight! Sold Out! video/DVD but this is recorded from original broadcast - that's Adrian Rose doing the intro, by the way - so we can greater admire the grinning girls wandering off at 3:25 and Tony Dortie at the end with his back to the still developing action carrying on as if nothing had happened, no acknowledgement from him or the people wanting to get on telly around him, who seem to be nearly the only people left not on the stage. His job is to throw to James, who seem to be on a much grander stage and get to wear shades on stage, everything.

2003: Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. All New Top Of The Pops, the Tim Kash-fronted, Andi Peters-produced (with a mission statement to cut down on the music in favour of gossip and interviews, which would somehow prop up the music element of the show) revamp that was supposed to resuscitate the ailing series. It lasted in this form until the following May. Featured were Elton John doing Your Song via satellite and Mis-Teeq and Lisa Maffia doing hit medleys, which is obviously exactly what's required from a chart-based show. Kylie Minogue turned up in a mini-dress that someone had spraypainted over. Maybe it was Blazin' Squad's extras before making their way outside for TOTP's tribute to the Roy Castle tapdance troupe record.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

27th November

1980: Well, there's also this day's show in 1969 which was the first TOTP to be broadcast in colour, but none of that survives. Robert Palmer seems obsessed with the mike cord. Something odd must happen to the director at 0:44 as for more than twenty seconds the only shot is from behind Palmer which isn't much use. Meanwhile The Stray Cats really excite exactly seven people.

2005: The Strokes and all their strobes, not to mention Julian's military jacket, but what must be asked about this show is why it's being presented by Noddy Holder. Wouldn't about three weeks later be more obvious if at all?

Monday, 26 November 2012

26th November

1981: You can always rely on Toyah for big red hair, electro-shock dancing and theatrics above and beyond. The latter definitely comes into play when she makes her way into the audience. The man in the spectacularly stripy top really does not want to be seen dancing, and indeed dancing like that, on television. She ends up on the other side of everyone in a yawning unlit chasm, where we see she appears to have a fringe drawn on her belly, and then makes her way back to find someone wants a dance-off with her by means of waving his arms about a bit. Sir, that bit has not aged well. You could always rely on Imagination to abandon their instruments halfway through in favour of unchoreographed hip shaking and Leee John to look like a New York gay club guerrilla. How could Kim Wilde ever hope to compete? Standing stock still's not going to do much for her so off she wanders through everyone too with her usual insouciance. Worrying amounts of robot dancing behind her at the end.

1987: How odd Blue Mercedes look, a kind of mounted double keytar, which surely defeats the purpose of keytars, and a man in his gym gear who just will not stand still. People seem keener on them then The Housemartins, conversations audible at the same level as the band at one stage. For a man sitting down Paul Heaton just can't keep still. Watch the cameraman's sudden panic at 2:10.

1992: Health and safety just don't let you light open fires in BBC studios these days, but Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine considered their rocky clearing incomplete without one. This was the very brief moment in fashion time where one could dress sophisticatedly while wearing a backwards baseball cap. This is what everyone thought the 70s looked like in 1992, thanks to Kylie Minogue. Are monitors really necessary on that small stage?

2004: Live from HMS Belfast for some reason, Eminem hires a drum corps despite also having a DJ. Never a good look, being able to see the performer's breath.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

25th November

1965: From the hundredth show - wiped, obviously - The Seekers, folky wistfulness on a pop art set.

1976: Jimmy making peace with all of Glasgow at once, or so he thinks. The Kursaal Flyers' Paul Shuttleworth is about as alarming a frontman as pop ever delivered with his teddy boy pompadour, spiv tache and Stonehenge teeth. Given his bandmates variously go for a garland of daffodils, Panama hat and shorts, maybe it truly was 'the times'. There's some meaningful production values gone into Cliff Richard's staging, someone wanting a craft Bafta. That's Pauline from Legs & Co wandering around in the clip. Elton John doesn't need all that, aside from the biggest tinted glasses he could find. Legs & Co meanwhile take on the art-prog of Be Bop Deluxe and fail conclusively.

1982: Bloody hell, there's loads of kids out there. But what's with the bloke to the right of Yazoo? You'll see him at the start behind and to Alison's left and then you won't be able to miss him. Meanwhile Vince is playing his solo by thought alone. Rather less activity around Lionel Richie and his white piano. Ah, here's that bloke again with DLT cracking a funny about him that doesn't make sense ahead of Talk Talk and scary shouty Mark Hollis. And again, what's going on in front of Travis at the end?

1993: The Wonder Stuff profit as the BBC buy up the Dixons window display.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

24th November

1977: If Pan's People's nostalgia clip show staple is Get Down, what is Legs & Co's? I suspect it may be their interpretation of Jonathan Richman's Egyptian Reggae, giving it plenty of extravagant Wilson Keppel & Betty while Sue and Lulu, we're assured in that order front to back, take a strange kind of centre stage. Sue misses her cue at the end, though. And then out comes the snake, and how Pauline keeps a straight face for that bit must be one of the great wonders of television. Not that The Carvells were cashing in or anything but that's a lot of skateboard material, skateboarding film inserts and skateboarding lyrical references, relocating the Beach Boys to the skate park. Surfing, skateboarding, it's all of a piece. And look, someone in the audience has had the magical foresight to bring her own board. Bonnie Tyler sounds like she has laryngitis on top of the gravelly tone and gets overshadowed by her guitarist's foot on the imaginary monitor soloing.

1983: An appearance that begat a legend, The Smiths in full bloom. Look closely and you'll see the production team have anticipated his lack of interest by just not giving Morrissey a mike stand at all. As Simon Bates mentions here recreating the full TOTP set of the time in a smaller studio meant some amount of sardine-type packing while Paul Young and full company get the space to do all the joint hand-waving they fancy. Thompson Twins' Alannah Currie finally found a hat with a brim long enough for vertical take-off.

1988: Most dance acts would fill the stage with their mates prancing behind keyboards. Bomb The Bass' Tim Simenon, who is not most dance acts, makes do with some bongos and a reel to reel player. Nice of him to show up. Bananarama are occasionally credited with bringing vogueing to pop long before Madonna, except she never tried to make it into a full choreographed dance routine with aides and catwalk walks. You can probably tell which one of the three had just joined.

1994: In the new pop landscape Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine were taking no chances. Also dressed for a night out, classy punter rather than talent, Berri as featured vocalist with New Atlantic. Neither of the above may ever apply to Sinead O'Connor, whose shot at the start of this is certainly striking in a way a lurking band and an artfully ruffled curtain can never really be.

2000: Madonna lays the cowboy theme on a little thick. Keyboards would fall straight through normal hay bales, surely.

Friday, 23 November 2012

23rd November

1978: Punk killed prog, did it? Not so fast, Emerson Lake & Palmer were still TOTP-worthy a year after that sea change was supposed to have occurred, if in reduced kit circumstances. Pisstaking RAK/Chinnichap-led glam was back around too in the form of Racey. Richard Gower starts by ostentatiously taking a drink while paying no attention to his organ, and I somehow doubt that was his first of the evening. Meanwhile, though not currently online, a direct challenge to Flick hegemony as Hot Gossip invade TOTP's patch under Sarah Brightman's auspices. Questions would have to be asked.

1989: The two people around Roland Gift weren't actually members of Fine Young Cannibals but they seem to have garnered more focus than two thirds of the actual band. Gift gives up joining in very early on. This has become a landmark TOTP... well, in some ways it was seen as a landmark TOTP at the time as the cult movement of the day broke through onto prime-time telly, and back to back too. First The Stone Roses, Ian Brown getting halfway through before realising he probably doesn't need the mike itself, then Jenny Powell clumsily introduces, in the singular, Happy Mondays with Kirsty Maccoll looking quite clearly not a permanent member.

1995: Bjork gets the big production number the song demands, and that they're all in animal costumes seems only right. The director is so keen to pull back he nearly misses the big ending. On the other end of the choreography scale, Whale let loose and rip up with the bit part help of at least one joke shop wig. Watch for the guitarist leaping into the audience and the audience pushing him straight back onto the stage.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

22nd November

1979: The Pretenders celebrate winter with Chrissie wearing a big scarf and skiing on the spot.

1984: Lots of coloured lights accompany Nick Heyward as does some sort of Poundland Four Tops. Years before the Commitments The Kane Gang attempt to codify that sort of besuited club soul but are let down by their singer turning up in his TA outfit. No way are the backing vocals on Murray Head's Chess hit really female, and these are so slovenly they can't even take their hands out of their pockets. There's some fine extravagant dancing here, a sole cameraman at Head's feet, an overflow of flags and a bloke seemingly just standing around at the back of the stage on Murray's side.

1990: The Twin Peaks theme was always going to be a hard sell in the Pops studio but Julee Cruise makes it work through force of emotional expression alone. 808 State desire to keep it looking real but with the man who would have been jumping around given a guitar it's no wonder the panning shots of the audience last that little bit longer.

1996: The Fugees make the tactical error of giving Wyclef centre stage with a guitar. Lauryn can't even be bothered to get up on her feet.

2002: In the desire to do something different, maybe, Kylie Minogue has Casey Spooner, frontman of electroclash hobby horses Fischerspooner, joining in on the remix of her single. He only has one thing to do and that's right near the end, but he can preen well.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

21st November

1985: Doug E Fresh & The Get Fresh Crew should have spent the whole song in those office chairs, shouldn't they? Also, for all his later skill with mouth noises what is Doug E miming to before the future Slick Rick detains him? Being 1985, the audience is about evenly split between keen and perplexed, as are Janice and a sweater-over-shoulders sporting Paul Jordan. The masses have no doubt in their arm waving to Dee C Lee though, a soulful classic and an overlarge headband.

1991: Two varying examples of how dance acts coped with the new live vocals decree. M People debuting with a big record behind him, a man dancing at the back and Heather Small's huge vocal and bigger leopardskin headband. "The Stafford ravers" Bizarre Inc, on the other hand, sampled and looped their vocals. She tries her best, but...

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

20th November

1980: The very definition of the phrase "we're off", Motorhead. The front row are going for it but I'm not sure the balloon cascade is entirely in keeping with its form - someone scores a direct hit on Fast Eddie Clarke's fretboard seventeen seconds in. As for Philthy Animal Taylor, ignore his Steve Martin-esque head accessory and note the logo on the front of the bass drum is being held on by what must be increasingly unadhesive tape. Literalism takes many and varied forms, as Legs & Co prove dancing to Diana Ross. Unfortunately, this leads to DLT comedy. That in turn leads to Eddy Grant, and while he's putting his all into it you can just about hear a load of audience chatter, proving they still haven't learnt the lesson of turning the ambient mikes down so it seems like people are there for the music.

1986: For Erasure's debut Vince Clarke throws a curveball and takes up guitar. If they're kind of introspective, Bon Jovi... aren't. No pyrotechnics or arena tricks but everything else in the playbook - sharing the lead mike, guitarists playing to camera - is comfortably in place. Says here the show featured a "brief appearance from Gary Davies and Smiley Miley". Had it done something bad?

1998: James had put out a remix of Sit Down, as was the way, and having considered Tim Booth's skull cap and sarong not quite enough, they drag Robbie Williams in to mime some rhythm guitar, or at least mime until he gets bored around the first chorus. He hadn't just turned up for the sake of it, he was on himself later. As was Madonna, a string section, a Scottish Widows look and an overexcited front row.

2005: I've talked sometimes on here about single people being asked to fill a big TV stage, and nowhere is that more apparent then with KT Tunstall. She's playing live as well despite having room for at least three drumkits behind her. Franz Ferdinand go for uniform Cold War spy chic.

Monday, 19 November 2012

19th November

1981: Unaccustomed to leaving stops in place, it's just like the Latin quarter when Modern Romance are around. They've actually got nearly the whole audience in a conga line, and not one of them is listening or cares who's on the stage, which is a shame for the samba dancer and the bloke wearing a deer head. Such frivolity carries over to everyone else, Trevor Walters seeing the competition and taking no chances by bringing along friends this time, namely two women dressed as sarcophaguses, a robot dancer and a bloke just wandering around at the back in zebra print trousers. Walters seems surprised when a confetti storm erupts halfway through. It takes the debut of Fun Boy Three to stop them in their tracks, attempting as they are to replicate a whole track through two sets of bongo drums alone.

1987: Not too long after Paula Yates had introduced them as "something really weird", The Proclaimers were taking no chances on their TOTP debut - see the coterie of handclappers at side of stage. Somehow this was Donna Summer's show debut, though imagine what the orchestra might have done to I Feel Love and feel that bit more thankful for that.

1992: Two returning 80s favourites, two circumstances of performance, two highly desperate sets of measures going for the revival hit. Heaven 17, Glenn as groomed as he ever was in the BEF days, remixed their biggest hit, while Madness covered a reggae perennial and then, for some reason, went to perform it in Red Square. That's what the fall of the eastern bloc facilitated. It takes that home crowd quite some time to get into it.

1999: Good to see after everything that Robbie Williams can still, at 1:54, derive amusement from people singing his song's words back at him.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

18th November

1982: Not too much change from this date, but this'll do. Modern Romance had got over their Latin dress ambitions, though clearly the trumpet player took the 'power dressing' memo differently to the rest of the band. This period of Duran Duran's career is now synonymous with snappy dressing and pulling models, but this was clearly dress down day going on Andy's flat cap and Simon's choice of T-shirt. Even Nick Rhodes has on the sort of denim jacket most save for popping down the tip in. In front of someone who seems to be wearing a cardboard crown it's left to Blancmange to bring in their own palm tree.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

17th November

1977: Not often you see a really good noogieing on television. Thus are The Boomtown Rats' credentials settled, to go along with the wooden rulers handed out to the audience so they have something other than just fists to punch in the air. Also handing out things for the audience to wave, the rather more refined Brighouse & Rastrick Brass Band. Newly liberated from her nominative band, Noosha Fox's country schoolteacher style turn collides awkwardly with her band taking the French references of the song rather too much to heart. Legs & Co deal with dangerously wobbling stalagmites in what you'd think would be a Stone Age set to match the title of Electric Light Orchestra's hit but the idea doesn't seem to have gone as far as the background or costumes.

1983: We're drawing towards the end of Jimmy's time as a regular host, specials aside he only did one more, so one suspects his Madness intro may not have been what Michael Hurll was quite expecting. Lee Thompson's approach isn't what anybody expected, even for this band - if you watch at the start you'll see him use his top hat (!) to waft away stray dry ice. As Woody comes forward for some keen air guitaring, you see that black sign Chas Smash holds up at the end, just about the only one of their many placards the director gets a good shot of? The 'HELLO BREN' at the bottom was a message to his imprisoned brother and earned the band a BBC studio ban lasting about six months. Something else that came out of that show through The Assembly, as while Vince was perfecting his wine waiter look Chas approached Feargal Sharkey with the idea to record his Listen To Your Father, which they did and became a later hit.

1994: Hosted by Michelle Gayle keen to show off her pointy new bra, the first two songs were M-People between decomissioned observation towers taken from the Berlin Wall and Suede, Brett looking mightily pissed off at the start. Blur were often guilty of putting Graham's guitar playing on a pedestal. Surely that brass section are laying it on a bit thick. The real highlight, Michelle doing what she can to sound enthusiastic, was the return to the studio of Kate Bush. Actually it wasn't quite as long as suggested since she'd appeared, it was March 1986, but for someone who didn't play live and didn't get out much it was still quite something. In return Kate camouflaged herself as another backing singer.

2000: Krakatoa 1 Vesuvius 1, but nobody wins when Tom Jones and Heather Small do some light disco grooving. Massively hyped but heavily underperforming, Girl Thing were already heading down the dumper but briefly stopped off to dance in front of an audience who are all over the place with the hands in the air bits.

Friday, 16 November 2012

16th November

1972: The Strawbs try the Byrds route and buy some spangly jackets for the occasion. Some Rod Stewart and the Faces tomfoolery you don't see too often, with a cutout Ronnie Lane, who hadn't actually left yet but was definitely on his way out. I suspect Rod really didn't need to check the lyric at 1:24.

1978: Buzzcocks always seemed to start the show after a while. Why not, those were dynamic and compact songs, though on that L-shaped stage they do resemble quite fey loafers on a street corner. The Boomtown Rats had just usurped Summer Nights after seven weeks, hence the famous show of strength at the start. Note just three people reacting. Then Bob gets out his wind candelabra. He always kept a length of rope handy, just in case.

1989: "They've never done it before" Simon says, by which I assume he means 808 State haven't needed to mime while jogging on the spot before. The one at the front on electric clarinet presumably operated the PC you see in the middle.

1995: Was Tina Turner's latest single a Bond theme at all?

2001: From within their house of lightbulbs The Strokes. Note two spare guitars by stage right and a clunking edit at 2:22 - watch the mike position.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

15th November

1973: Anyone concerned about the rundown at the start of this first clip, in the dancing-between-the-stills era, should be reassured to learn Ringo Starr had not just died. Elsewhere half of the Who have been blasted off into space, Wink Martindale's oversized head has been taken into church to confess, someone's being overliteral with Elton and they might have been taking whatever Bowie was doing at that time as well. Once that's done and Princess Anne's wedding has been marked it's a celebrated debut as someone points a camera at a monitor and Alvin Stardust floats about in the middle. His band seem to adore him already. Clip two and Mike Batt has appeared in character, and Tony clearly doesn't have a clue who he is. Then he gets the title of Mott The Hoople's single wrong, only slightly, but definitely. Mott's backing singers Thunderthighs apparently deserve their own credit and Hunter plays up to them a treat. There's some extravagant moves from David Essex and girls at the front alike, and note Tony in the background dancing until he spots himself on the monitor. After that he just stands there and lets everyone carry on around him. Pan's People's routine to Barry Blue is a prime example of how nostalgic image overpowers actuality, as despite some making a token effort to jig along even among the small number of kids watching them from side of stage most aren't bothered and a few are making plans to wander off early. Even the special guest is looking away from them before long.

1979: Blimey, Cliff Richard's up for it tonight, despite looking like he's wrapped himself in 1970s cliche wallpaper. In her wing collared leathers The Tourists-era Annie Lennox looks every inch the go-getter, already short haired and vaguely approaching the androgyny of later fame, if via Suzi Quatro's wardrobe. The Moody Blues had put Nights In White Satin back out again, couched in unflattering blue filters and Justin Hayward overstridency. For Donna Summer and Barbra Streisand Legs & Co come up with a fairly odd routine even by their standards as Sue and Patti play yin and yang before everyone else piles in and ruins it.

1984: Mike and Bruno have dressed up for some reason, the former trying vainly to make himself out to be the cosmopolitan one. We know you too well, Mike. Matt Bianco aim for Left Bank chic through the prism of Essex wine bar. Slade had a job lot of scarves to get rid of, and it was Dave's turn with the extravagant headgear. Note Jim Lea as a country squire.

2002: Given a live set, some R&B/rap acts just get it while some go through the motions and get out. Missy Elliott, frustratingly, does neither, energetic but reducing an out-there production to bellowing, not a great approach when your opposition is Dannii Minogue pole dancing without much of the actual dancing. Queens Of The Stone Age add the thunderous guitars and flashing lights. The big edit is nicely done but, well, it's a great big edit that cuts from second verse straight to the end.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

14th November

1985: Amid the neon and cheerleading of Hurll-era Pops the occasional guitar band could seem heavily out of place. Step forward Lloyd Cole & The Commotions, Cole somehow managing to both ooze charisma and essentially play mike stand musical statues. Paul King meanwhile preferred playing to camera than the audience, which makes sense but can't have been much fun if you were there at the front expectantly. He spends a lot of time with his fingers together too. At the end Mike Smith captures the aura of the mercurial David Byrne perfectly.

1991: A show most famous for the much trailed premiere of all eleven minutes of Michael Jackson's Black Or White video, including the bit where he smashes up a car and gets Points Of View correspondents' hackles up. In the studio Tina Turner slips on a jacket and a short dress and her body language attacks the front row. What Altern-8 lacked in such style they make up for in a huge backdrop, a workable live vocal and a hypeman on full blast.

2003: Pet Shop Boys became adept at fitting their show into the studio, and sometimes fitting a show around the song. Allowed to use big screens and their idea of what backing dancers should do, the only thing letting the side down is Chris' hair. The dancers for Outkast may be more linear and the stage set-up more basic but Andre 3000 in his lumberjack shirt, high waisted trousers and matching tie and braces - style icon, eh? - is all that's necessary to rouse the rabble. Black Eyed Peas have four frontmen and they can't manage that big a reaction. Also, you just wish Will.I.Am would take his own advice before the music has really started.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

13th November

1980: If only those people batting balloons about knew what was coming. As mentioned a couple of times before, Iron Maiden didn't appear in the studio with Bruce Dickinson until 2000, by which time he'd left and rejoined - Paul di'Annio is still singer here and not a particularly active one at that. Simon Bates complains that Dr Hook had "made a complete joke of me", so they do it again before Gladys Knight & The Pips, the latter in what look like lumberjack shirts, followed by a pop news slot which refuses to give any further details on anything. What'll be Christmas number one? St Winifred's School Choir, of course, but John Lennon will have been lost by then. For now he's still on his way up the charts and Legs & Co salute his name with backlit fun followed by the reveal of a group of outfits that have very little connection. Cash-in disco is best left to professionals like Liquid Gold, the sort willing to get covered in streamers and wear as ill-advised costumes as their drummer. Medleys were in their future, something more lasting for debutants Spandau Ballet, still working through their overtartaned phase.

1986: ...and rather neatly Spandau Ballet's final TOTP appearance came six years on to the day. Lighting helps keep the powder dry on the presence of most of the band but you can tell just from Hadley's comparative dress that time had marched on for them all. It was supposed to be Madness' farewell too as unlike Spandau they'd announced their split, only they decided to come back eventually - you'll see that at the end, albeit their special message is revealed far too early. You could make a claim about those suits too except you wouldn't class that as day to day wear round Camden.

2005: The tyranny of Sharon Osbourne's presenting career laid out here. The Darkness just aren't trying in any sense like they used to, something that could be said in other senses of Stevie Wonder for quite some time but TOTP were always glad to have him round no matter how many musicians he brought.

Monday, 12 November 2012

12th November

1981: Few horn sections grooved like Kool & The Gang's did, and with new matching outfits all round every time, plus a rogue bowler hat. Unfortunately the smartness of the attire does show up the garishness of Zoo's looks at the back, the Eighties cliches already kicking in somewhat. A very different kind of fashion statement - Arran sweaters, woolly hiking socks and plus-fours - somewhat jars against the sort of music Haircut 100 actually made. "Flick Colby's" Zoo make another cameo here before their actual centrepiece to Earth Wind & Fire, which seems to eclectically be set in some sort of Aztec temple.

1987: Presumably there's meant to be loads of those flags a few people are limply holding around The Communards but nobody quite got round to making them or telling the kids what to do with them. We can see that extra keyboard player at the back, so called duo. By contrast Alexander O'Neal, you feel, will never let anybody onto the same stage unless it's absolutely necessary, hence sticking his backing singer up in the stalls.

1992: TOTP 1500, and what spectacular accroutements could we expect? Nothing. At all. Almost inevitably. What there is is a strident En Vogue, though watch the one on the left get the choreography just wrong on the chorus every time. Mark Franklin refers to Vanessa Paradis "still going strong" a marathon four years after her debut, though it's only now she's put some almost sensible trousers on. Jason Donovan's done some of his own growing up too - stool, strings, crooning standard. The girls aren't going to let go that easily, it's not even that long or big a note they go mad at.

1999: Double Spice solo duty, or sort of given Emma Bunton was dragged into Tin Tin Out's (and by extension Edie Brickell's) orbit. Presumably she couldn't bear to look to her left at that big close-up screen too much. Meanwhile Geri Halliwell hires a wind machine and waits a long time before taking the title at its word.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

11th November

1971: The 400th show, so obviously it's been wiped. The exchange of clips with foreign broadcasters means Cilla Black at least survives. Are those backing singers, backing dancers or techs who've sneaked onstage on the offchance?

1982: Yes, Mike Score's famous hairdo, but the A Flock Of Seagulls frontman cannot keep still, hopping from foot to foot throughout. None of that impetuousness from Clannad, literally presented as a group of people standing stock still. No flashy lights for this one, just a careful dry ice cascade. Here's the rundown, at the start of which Kid is flanked by a girl wearing a Farmer's Boys T-shirt and a man in some sort of Russian cosmonaut styled boiler suit.

1993: There's a reason why you're unlikely to remember Captain Hollywood Project and it's related to how you're unlikely to remember dancers when they're dressed as waiters. Elton John and Kiki Dee returned sans pink dungarees but with a lot of key change earnestness.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

10th November

1977: The whole show, featuring Tom Robinson shot from above, Elvis Costello boggle-eyed glaring down at us, Roxy Music from 1972 after a Greatest Hits-inspired reissue, a rare Kenny Everett video, Tina Charles in a marquee and Den Hegarty of Darts just not having the space to work in, dammit. More pressingly, whose idea was it to dress Legs & Co as young farmers? In what way does that match the Bee Gees?

1983: RHYTHM PALS ALERT! RHYTHM PALS ALERT! And a classic of their peculiar trope too. Once that's done it's a chance for dads nationwide to utter the phrase passed down through the years as Marilyn dons his sparkliest gear. The pianist seems to have come from a variety showband. No such frippery for The Cure despite the stuffed toys and the knowingly retro mike. Robert Smith, as ever, is overjoyed to be there and unerringly accurate with his guitar chord miming.

1988: Brother Beyond's Nathan Moore has a very odd dancing style. It drives the girls wild, no question, but future boy band frontmen would take it to the next level and actually move their feet rather than just gyrate from the knees. See, the bassist from Deacon Blue can manage it, bouncing around on his toes while Lorraine uses her tambourine as a weapon. What, apart from the whiff of subliminal soft drink advertising, is Robin Beck hiding under her hat?

1994: There's a suspiciously staged quality, if you'll pardon the expression, about the stage invasion that greets The Saw Doctors, not least as it all comes from the sides and kicks in far too early. It's said producer Ric Blaxhill is lurking somewhere at the back, surely in a flagrant abuse of production guidelines.

Friday, 9 November 2012

9th November

1978: It's Chas & Dave's debut! Just not in the format you're used to them in. Note Chas' rememberance day poppy, more than the debuting, velvet suited Mike Read (or Dave, come to that) can manage. In a fine example of the show taking no heed in genre splits, next to perform in the studio were X-Ray Spex, a militarised Poly Styrene keeping her goggles close at hand for... whatever you'd need goggles for in the studio. Read lies his way into Legs & Co, who get yet another Grease soundtrack cut, Olivia Newton-John on her own this time, but instead of replicating the film's tone or dress they get out the dangerously short babydoll dresses and the diaries. Because it's about private devotion, see.

1989: Here's a performance that made a star overnight, Janet Jackson and her tightly drilled marine corps, nobody breaking character at any stage. That said, have to take issue with the top commenter's remark that she's "one of the best no ONE OF THE GREATEST DANCERS, I'VE EVER SEEN!!!!!!!!!!!" when everyone on stage is doing the same moves throughout. All the same, suddenly it seems Lisa Stansfield's beret and crucifixes just aren't enough. Crucifixes?

1995: Another show kept in full, maybe because/despite the comic stylings of Lee Evans hosting. Part one features some pretty standard dance and light Europop before someone decides two blokes prodding keyboards isn't quite enough of a visual spectacle so brings in the shrink-to-fit dancing girls and flashing lights for Saint Etienne. Annoyingly this is carried over mid-song into part two, featuring an entirely unnecessary Etienne Daho cameo, and the whole thing doesn't seem to be around. Following them are the trash fashion of Swedes Whale, largely unknown here at the time but chanced with an exclusive, though the better performance comes when it charts. Everything But The Girl follow, Tracey Thorn seemingly not very good at miming, but not much worse than Liam Gallagher (here's the whole thing unedited) That Bowie exclusive promised at the top of the show? That's in part three with a cast of thousands. Robson & Jerome are number one, but that's what happens.

2001: Of The Corrs which is more awkward, Jim's beard or Caroline's askew beret? Alicia Keys is more confident with actually playing the keyboard while wearing an admittedly inferior hat, as you would be if your first line can gain two seperate cheers. Blowing away all ideas of both subtlety and headgear statements, though, come Limp Bizkit. Perform to us, Fred, not them! There's more of us!

Thursday, 8 November 2012

8th November

1979: Matchbox flaunt their rockabilly credentials by wearing something entirely different, American Civil War gear - at least you'd think the rockabilly element would outdo the 'rebel' part. The retro music the kids were actually going for at the time was ska, The Specials in front of some abandoned floodlight panels with Walt Jabsco filling in while Jerry Dammers takes up the guitar. The audience just look bemused, especially at Lynval and Neville's playfight. They look even more so, even those wearing fezzes, come Madness Nutty Walking through them. A cameraman chasing them quite clearly mows down several people in his path, yet does he stop to check their welfare? Punk was still fighting a rearguard action of sorts given even Sham 69 had gone rhythm and blues with the aid of a torrent of dry ice. Who ever said Flick Colby was too literal all the time? For Herb Alpert Legs & Co take to some Greek ruins. Perhaps it's just a routine she wanted to do and needed any sort of non-verbal impetus.

1984: The time, Limhal's backing singer - who's clearly considered comfort and warmth for the top half of her outfit more than the bottom half - and her football favouritism apparently all take precedence over the song for Simon Bates. Look at the shot right at the end, someone really seems to think posing like that with Simon Bates will look cool. The scrapyard of invention that passes for Depeche Mode performances unveils new toys again, hammer on box and bicycle wheel pressed into service. No such inventive novelty for Gary Numan, working a look somewhere between A Clockwork Orange and Dave Vanian. The backing singer must be commended for her attempt to sing a Fairlight sample 'live'.

1990: The La's' Lee Mavers famously once rejected a vintage mixing desk as it didn't have original 60s dust on it. Presumably those dry ice fountains were entirely authentic. Very high stance there.

1996: Frankie Dettori hosts, a notorious low point in Chris Cowey's "golden microphone" passing around. Unfortunately his "craaaaazy Moby!" intro isn't here and even he would struggle getting the mood right for Bjork, who's given up on trying to replicate this backing.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

7th November

1985: Another ostentatious long scarf from Steve Wright and another bunch of funny foreigners dropping in for a debut, A-ha. Mags seems to have either lost the use of one hand or can only use both if he needs Morten's help for a third part.

1991: In the midst of the KLF's success Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty revived the Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu name for something very un-Stadium House. Obviously being Drummond and Cauty they had to do something big for the TOTP appearance and so it was that, with Drummond given a peace offering of a keyboard, Cauty hooded with bass and a slogan blown up at the back, morris dancers filled in the gaps. Seems obvious, somehow.

1997: Imagine how much shredded paper went into building a set for Natalie Imbruglia. Jarvis Cocker famously tired of Britpop ubiquity, so when Pulp returned to the charts he began dressing as Frank Butcher.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

6th November

1980: He didn't write the theme tune, but he's going to sing it nevertheless, and sing it live at that. Dennis Waterman looks out of place and like he knows it. Bearing in mind they're miming and neither audience nor camera cares about them, what do you suppose the keyboardist and bassist are saying to each other around 2:39? Slightly different performance dynamics from Motorhead, to an audience who seem not to be so much headbanging as moving their entire upper bodies in that motion.

1986: Having mugged Rupert Bear of his scarf, Steve Wright introduces Red Box and their showy three-drummer setup, none really showing all-round technical expertise. Guantanamo chic from the blokes in Swing Out Sister which Corrinne Drewery models a vaccuum-packed bin bag.

Monday, 5 November 2012

5th November

1970: Is Jeff Christie wearing stilts under there? It's a remarkable garment to be wearing, making his colleagues' hat wear seem like they're not trying. Look at the groovy young things dance, especially the one at 1:16 who resembles a lost Dimbleby.

1981: It's Fireworks Night, so in contravention of health and safety laws someone threatens to set Peter Powell alight. Well overdue, I say. The number of dancers who come between Modern Romance and the camera, or just instead of them, might give a clue that something is afoot, likewise the show parade-size flags at the back. In fact as Peter hinted with his talk of new eras we've entered the era of Zoo, the twenty strong troupe who replaced Legs & Co to act as cheerleaders as much as specialist dancers, debuting at the latter to ELO in a way that's hugely inappropriate for showing off their strengths. Everyone seems to be doing something different, the wandering camera can't linger on any one piece of choreography for too long and the lighting means they don't really get on telly properly anyway, not allowing us to relate to them in the way of their various smaller scale predecessors. There's a little playlet at 0:50 but it lasts fourteen seconds and we never see those people again, let alone let their tale unfold, and alongside everyone else it means nothing. It's a mess. Maybe if they'd been given something properly danceable, though...

1987: Big emoting from T’Pau, though that piano needs tuning urgently. On the flip side, very little emoting whatsoever from Eric B & Rakim, maybe annoyed at finding they'd be miming to the Coldcut remix they supposedly disliked - having for the most part been one man desultorily messing with a pair of decks and two others standing around watching, Rakim just wanders off before the end - or just not realising where they were. Eric B told an interviewer in 2009 that on arriving at the airport the day after it went out "all these older people – they’re sixty, seventy years old – ‘Hey! I seen you on Top of The Pops last night!’ We’re looking at them like, ‘What? ‘Top of the..?’ We’re from the United States, we’re stupid, we don’t know nothing about Top of the Pops. We figure it’s a regular video show that they put rappers on from all over. We didn’t know it was a real television show that people watch and everybody performs on... It never dawned on us Top of the Pops was a big show." What the audience's excuse is for their absolute lack of movement, conversely, I don't know.

1992: Guest hosts aside it's not often you get one artist introducing another, but when a Terence Higgins Trust fundraiser EP of Right Said Fred covers charted, for whatever reason TOTP invited two of the participants' singers, Sarah Cracknell (Bob Stanley: "in hindsight, it’s a very good thing that our first ever Top Of The Pops wasn’t Pete miming to a crazed version of I’m Too Sexy") and Flowered Up's Liam Maher (label boss Martin Kelly: "they had to keep re-recording it; I think it took ten attempts. He was so smacked off his bonce he couldn’t even manage to get the band’s name right"), whose own band never properly appeared on the show, to introduce the third, The Rockingbirds. Because they might as well they have a couple of dancers along too, one of whom gives the camera an inadvertent whack at 1:13. More earthy delights came from INXS and their dot matrix printed backdrop.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

4th November

1965: Prime Rolling Stones and a workshop into their image down the years. Here's Mick Jagger in a lumberjack shirt performing as if he's standing on an exercise ball. There's Brian Jones looking blankly engaging. And Keith Richards too, swinging the guitar neck about making faces that suggest he's really feeling it. Charlie at 1:13 is just too stoic and too cool to look forwards.

1976: You wouldn't expect a surprising visual joke from Showaddywaddy, but with their clash of kits that's what you get, even if shooting everything twice does give away Dave Bartram's seemingly improvised sitting on the edge of the stage moment. You wouldn't have thought kettle drums could be played so nonchalantly. Bonnie Tyler is notable for three major reasons - the sound of Tyler's voice before the sandpaper larynx emerged, the Blockbusters backdrop and Noel's terrible attempt at a joke, if that's what it was, afterwards. In fact human interaction isn't his strong point this week, as after Climax Blues Band he attempts to make halting conversation with three members of Chicago, asking what the song is about to someone who didn't write it. Watch for Terry Kath's little dance to Pussycat at the end.

1982: Mike Smith's famously minimalist intro: "it's my first Top Of The Pops - and it's their first Top Of The Pops!" Wham! were still down at 42 at a time when records outside the top 40 being on the show was increasingly rare, but when someone (nobody seems to know who) pulled out at the last moment they were nearby and available. As with Culture Club debuting when Shakin' Stevens pulled out the year before, that stroke of luck turned into Eighties pop defining gold as the playlet with the bare-chested George already taking the forefront over the posing Andrew and his shirt of many polka dots as a kind of miniature Sharks/Jets for the style conscious. That's not Pepsi with George, by the way, it's a pre-Style Council Dee C Lee. Don't know whether the single tree on Blancmange's set is supposed to complement the Indian musicians in some idea of exoticism, but it's difficult to see how the sizeable brooch Neil Arthur is wearing fits in with that. Hall & Oates is another sneaky closed set pre-record, with a pyramid of lights behind them that would grace any game show set.

1993: You may be unable to watch the start of The Time Frequency clip without cringing involuntarily, for which I semi-apologise. In truth the track and Mary Kiani's vocals might well have survived without the knockoff C3PO bodypopping while stuck to the spot. It is, however, called putting on a show, and The Shamen knew just how to do that - by playing a keyboard from behind and just having a girl at the back waving her arms about in a very vague attempt to make it look like someone's 'havin' one. People cheer at the end, which doesn't tally with how we've just seen practically the whole crowd move away before then. After more than two decades in the business Aerosmith finally made their studio debut. Warning: leopardskin waistcoats don't suit everyone.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

3rd November

1977: The Jam open, notable for at least three reasons: the name and address on a label on Paul Weller's guitar head, debut presenter Peter Powell's hyperexcited reaction and that when the band the Grumbleweeds could have been, The Barron Knights, turn in later their singer does a knowing, possibly improvised little jump and air guitar in the supposed style of Weller's. The Barron Knights taking the piss out of the Jam. Whoever thought that would one day happen. As for the song TOTP edited out the Angelo bit everyone remembers and everyone corpses at a comedy Irish accent and a comedy gay accent. Ah, 1970s humour.

1983: Not that Michael Hurll can be faulted much, but the idea to put explosions behind Elton John must have gone through his office at some point. No wonder Elton's bought a hat behind which he can hide his eyes.

1988: Puffball skirt with cycling shorts underneath, sideways baseball cap, denim jacket with patches. Should it ever be unearthed by a future generation, this Yazz performance could be dated almost to the minute before even the 303 has been considered. Someone should tell the backing singers if they take a big sideways step like that they'll be nowhere near the microphone.

1994: Eleven years on Elton John has developed a lovely head of a younger man's hair and there's nobody and nothing filling the space behind him. Unfortunately there's plenty between him and the camera, meaning the chorus is greeted by a distracting forest of arms. Sheryl Crow made her debut, getting the first line wrong, and the props department dig out those neon signs they made for a Russ Abbott sketch about a gumshoe.

2000: Indoors as they may be, Bono still feels the need for a big winter coat. A normal U2 performance is then enlivened as he chooses to feast on new human flesh. The Spice Girls' last appearance demonstrates the problem with the end of their original run - for a band originally with such dynamic visual style they could have been anyone there.

Friday, 2 November 2012

2nd November

1972: You'd never be able to drum properly moving your shoulders about that much. The Osmonds go all enthusiastic and knock-kneed.

1978: It's fun sometimes to think of the huge numbers TOTP attracted in the late Seventies against what the shows actually brought to that swathe of the nation. For example, just under 14m viewers watched this show and each and every one of those, plus the kids in the studio, must have wondered what on earth Streetband were about. One hopes for the retrospective sake of BBC budgets that that set wasn't specially designed and built. Back in the regular world The Skids' Richard Jobson must have just launched his specially monogrammed clothing range. He should have lent some to Legs & Co, who for Elton John are wearing Watford colours just for him, albeit in not quite the same design.

1989: Again with the paint pot, Phil Collins! Surely he'd be in some way over it all by now. (Actually he says the original paint pot, from the In The Air Tonight performance eight years earlier, was nothing to do with his divorce, it was just left there and he thought he'd incorporate it) There's only one point, this, in her long career that Kylie Minogue would surely have seriously envisaged wearing orange trousers.

1995: As the former mentions in the description of his own upload, McAlmont & Butler were barely speaking by the time this was a hit and they clearly don't make eye contact throughout. For a while it lools like Madonna, in her first TOTP studio appearance in eleven years, is going to do the same to everybody.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

1st November

1973: Inventing Dennis Taylor's glasses shape a decade ahead of the fact, Elton John appears to be miles away from his band. Maybe it was a dispute with the guitarist over who got to wear the purple ruff. Pretty sure that's a lost member of Slade on drums.

1979: It takes a lot to distract attention from Ron when Sparks are in but Russell's pink suit is as good a go at doing so as anything. The Jam wanted to ram home the class-consciousness of Eton Rifles so got Rick to don boater and b blazer and hired some notably mike-less, bendy backing shouters while Paul models an appropriately well heeled electric blue suit and some sort of tied scarf. Bruce... well, they just left him out of the discussion. Unfortunately that's also the sort of look you can imagine BA Robertson going for unironically. Instead he's gone for the unlikely clip-on tie, reversible jacket and holding a football, because if you liked football then that's what you did.

1984: "What better way to get us underway than Heaven 17?" says Gary Davies after the audience has whooped at Duran Duran and Wham!'s names. Hmm. Glenn Gregory, seeing such company and reaction, attempts a disguise. The musical rivalry may have spurred each other on but choosing between Duran Duran's patterned jackets and Wham!'s mixture of golf jumper design and high top button fastened work shirt is no choice at all. Caught in the crossfire, metaphorically, Jim Diamond's band includes a man who's far too big for his guitar.

1990: It takes quite the confident performer to mix a tennis-style headband with the most ruffled shirt you'll find. Kim Appleby, well done.

1996: East 17 and Gabrielle - the resistable force meets the immoveable hair. Never have the two at the back seemed more out of place.