Wednesday, 15 April 2009

It's Top of the Pops! aka Yikes! Not another retro post: part 1


Once upon a time, when the grass grew greener, the trees grew taller, the sun shone more brightly, and Snickers were Marathons, there was a special programme. This special programme was called Top of the Pops. Not the Friday Top of the Pops ; no, the TOTP I'm referring to was on a Thursday, indeed, WERE Thursdays; excitement; anticipation and, apart from the Sunday evening top 40 count down, the biggest thrill of my week. Who could forget the appearance of Culture Club? Confused Dads across the country echoing "Is it a boy or a girl?"; whilst fabulously sulky, sullen teenage daughters glowered at them from beneath electric blue mascara, wondering if they would ever be able to braid their locks in the manner of George. The appearance of Dexy and his Midnight Runners miming fabulously to Jackie Wilson Said while a huge mugshot of Jocky Wilson loomed behind them. Did Kevin Rowland realise? Did he care? We waited for Julianne Regan to warble of her hippy idyll in All About Eve's "Martha's Harbour"? Except Julianne was robbed of her chance to warble and, instead, sat inert, as her audience listened to the pre-recorded lyrics floating soulfully round the studio. The Happy Mondays and The Stone Roses made their debut together in 1989. Was this wise? Certainly interesting! Ian Brown, the Monkey Man himself, swaggered round the stage...too cool for school but clearly thrilled to be there; whilst one wonders whether Shaun Ryder and Bez even realized they were there (seen here with the late, great Kirsty McColl). Yep, TOTP did, occasionally nod to major trends as evidenced in the following performance of, perhaps, the greatest Manchester/Punk band ever (one of my top 5 best ever bands), the mighty Buzzcocks; (I'm sure I saw Pete Shelley in the Trafford Centre the other day; I tried to follow him anyway...I like to think it was Pete...)

The glue that held it all together was, of course, the presenters. The ones who would count down the top 10 for us; make or break our Thursday evenings. Were they trendy? Errr, hmmm, sort of...for the times but safe; very safe; very chirpy and bright and polite: Noel Edmonds; think dapper suits and beards, Bruno Brookes; think brightly coloured sweaters and mullets, Simon Bates ,looking a bit like yer dad and Janice Long, TOTP first female presenter, taste for bright clothing: dare I say, verging on garish, but nevertheless, a look that was oh so easily achievable after a quick trip to C&A's Clockhouse) clothing. She always sounded like she was in a bit of a rush, wonder where she was going? Ah, Top of the Pops, it may not have been as cutting edge as The Tube (with the uber-cool Jules and Paula) or as serious The Old Grey Whistle Test (a study in musicology courtesy of whispering Bob and Annie Nightingale) but it had one thing they didn't: John Peel (R.I.P.). With, his witty asides, dry humour, deadpan delivery...need I say more? Sadly missed. Last words, over to you Mr Peel;