Well, what can I say. You see I was making my way in the world of work at this time not long having left school. Music was very important in my life then, being just on the cusp of my lifetime ‘peak record buying period’ that was about to come. Of course we all think that our own era in pop/rock music was the best don’t we? On the back of that, I had set a series record on Sky Plus to grab the weekly dose of TOTP editions from 1976 that have been showing for the past while. Today whilst sitting at home I’ve just finished viewing the Christmas show from that same year.
What a huge disappointment.
Of course, what I had completely forgotten was that Top of the Pops was ALWAYS terrible – almost without fail. This goes back to it’s origins when despite having great sixties acts (miming) on the show it was regularly outperformed by Ready Steady Go!
The year of 1976 was of course just about to experience a huge change in music with the coming of Punk and New Wave largely ousting the older sixties/seventies bands and changing the genre forever in some respects. All it took was for the Sex Pistols to utter a few expletives on The Bill Grundy Show and we were away. One would never have thought so watching TOTP in that year as an endless procession of gimmicky, often one-hit wonders were rolled out to the smug, trite and unfunny introductions of Noel Edmonds, Dave Lee (The Hairy Monster) Travis, Tony Blackburn and ‘Diddy’ David Hamilton.
The Christmas edition packed in appearances by no less than Brotherhood of Man, all cheesy moustaches and twee choreography and Our Kid, a bunch of pre-adolescents tailored for the granny market plus the end-of-evening-at-the-disco schmaltz of Chicago’s ‘If you leave me now’. These efforts neatly dovetailed the more interesting Rod Stewart’s ‘The Killing of Georgie’ with Rod at his preening and posing mid-seventies best (worst) and a spot of poppy soul in the full-voiced Billy Ocean.
Augmenting this sorry state of affairs, dance group Legs & Co were reeled out by a salivating Jimmy Saville and Tony Blackburn to perform the most literal of dance routines to Wings’ ‘Let Em In’ which comprised the dancers cleverly walking through doors to depict the song’s fairly banal lyrics. Deary me.
You see I DO remember there being some great music around at this time – it’s just that Top of the Pops was the very last place to go looking for it. I think I gave up on it a few years earlier than this about the time when David Bowie appeared with Ronno and the band performing ‘Starman’ to the eternal question of my dad (and every dad up and down the land) from behind his Daily Mirror asking ‘is that a bloody man or a woman?’. The signs were on the wall then and, apart from some kind of misplaced nostalgia, I’m not really sure how the program lasted quite as long as it did. It must be said that whilst televised rock music pickings were thin indeed in that era, the ever-excellent and probing Old Grey Whistle Test picked up the ball and ran with it to great effect. It was always everything that TOTP could have been (if it had been, say, Ready Steady Go!)
I’ve cancelled the series record on Sky. I think I’ll stick with my memories and my ever-collecting-dust vinyl record collection
Oh, look out…here comes Showaddywaddy…