Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Top of the Punks – Part 2

Oh Bondage, Up Yours! TOTP Style

Top of the Punks Part 1 - can be bagged here

In my last post, we looked at the way the Top of the Pops LPs were forced to accommodate the rise of punk and New Wave in 1977. At first reluctant, they were soon embracing the harder-edged singles appearing through 1977 and 1978, with a few of the Poppers recordings giving the hit versions a run for their money.

The Poppers’ remit was to hoover up chart hits, regardless of the musical styles in play. Thus they were compelled to have a go at wildly disparate, but commercially successful material like “Voodoo Chile” (volume 14), “Bohemian Rhapsody” (volume 49) and “Wuthering Heights” (volume 65), which no-one in their right mind would have selected for a pocket-money cheese-fest like Top of the Pops! And, of course, there were The Sex Pistols.

The group had already scored a hit with “God Save The Queen”, making their next release, “Pretty Vacant” a reliable bet for the top end of the charts. And so the Poppers decided to bite the bullet and nail their own version, which was taped, like most of the series, at De Lane Lea studios in Wembley.

Lead singer on the track is session man Tony Rivers, backed up by two Poppers stalwarts, John Perry and Stu Calver. According to Rivers, the latter were finishing up the backing vocals when in walked Paul McCartney for a listen. Realising what was afoot, he scurried off and brought back Chris Thomas, producer of The Pistols’ original, who happened to be in the building and is said to have fallen about laughing and what he heard!

Tony Rivers has since spoken of his take on punk figurehead, all-round bad boy and future butter salesman, John Lydon: “Johnny Rotten sounded like Norman Wisdom to me, so that’s how I did it!” Enjoy it here, as featured on Top of the Pops volume 60.



Pretty Vacant from vol. 60



After popping their punk cherries on “Pretty Vacant”, the Poppers wasted little time zeroing in on other New Wave hits. The follow-up LP, volume 61, features both “Gary Gilmore’s Eyes” and a version of Eddie & The Hot Rods’ classic “Do Anything You Wanna Do”, which boasts a pretty decent band track (nice bass work!), albeit with a slightly dubious lead vocal over the top. Ironically it sounds markedly more primitive than the original - in fact, dare we say, more authentic? No, I guess not.

Do Anything You Wanna Do from vol. 61



Volume 66 (May 1978) boasts cuts like “(I'm Always Touched By Your) Presence Dear” and “She's So Modern”, and we also find a version of “Because The Night”, via the Godmother of Punk, Patti Smith. OK, this Springsteen-penned track is no “Pretty Vacant”, but it’s nonetheless an interesting selection for Top of the Pops, which they manage to do justice to.

Because The Night from vol. 66



A band wasn’t worthy of the tag ‘punk’ unless they were ready to put an angry boot into the establishment whenever the chance arose, especially if it meant offending the industry itself. Cue The Rezillos, whose accusatory “Top of the Pops” had a dig at the TV show of the same name, before earning them a spot on it. And thus, the consequent hit also found its way onto volume 68, bizarrely looking like a title track for the whole series!

Top of the Pops from vol. 68



We wrap up this survey with a track which had originally been a hit for The Boomtown Rats. OK, we’ve heard better impressions of Bob Geldof, but this reading of the group’s 1978 chart-topper from volume 69 is still a decent listen. Interestingly it also name drops Top of the Pops in the lyric, but of course they’re also referring to the TV show.

Rat Trap from vol. 69




A huge thank you is due to Terry from TOTP The Definitive Website for this poptastic posting....

18 comments:

John Medd said...

Tony Rivers' take on Lydon (comparing him to Norman Wisdom) wasn't that wide of the mark: Captain Sensible once said of Anarchy In The UK: 'It was like old man Steptoe singing over a second-hand Bad Company riff.' He had a point.

ally. said...

part two??? part one scared me enough as it is. deep breaths....

Mondo said...

I remember during some of The Damned's (82/83)live shows the band would treat the audience to Johnny Rotten singing lessons - which were very Steptoe..PS did you know Sensible is doing some live dates with the Glitter Band John? They come to Southend December 13th

Once you've steadied yourself Miss Ally - lend an ear to Do Anything You Wanna Do, is it me or does this versh bring out a Springsteen angle never heard before - it's almost Oil City's own Born To Run...

Ishouldbeworking said...

That man...on the cover... with those white pants...

drew said...

Thank god these albums stopped before hip hop came to the fore, please Mondo tell me that they did.

Mondo said...

Is it Peter Purves, it looks uncannily like him..yours for only £6 on the 'bay at the mo' ISB. Go on treat yourself to the full gatefold glory...

Last one was 1985 Drew - but that would have been worth hearing Public Enemy, Beastie Boys or Run DMC given the TOTP treatment

23 Daves said...

Actually, the version of "Pretty Vacant" isn't half as bad as I was expecting it to be. To this day, probably the worst punk/ new wave TOTP cover I've heard is their version of "Senses Working Overtime", where barely any of the lyrics are correct. You can find it over on Spotify if you're a member.

Mondo said...

Ouch! Here you go Senses from Volume 90...

In all fairness I believe these versions were 'bought in' rather than performed by the Top of the Poppers

Piley said...

*shudders* Pretty Vacant is my all time fave song, so this almost smacks of sacrilege! Amusing though.

Love those whiter than white wants too - bet his mum used Daz...

P

Simon said...

I always thought that Eddie And The Hotrods sounds a bit Brucey.

Meanwhile mate, please stop. I'm almost liking these. But they make my brain bleed.

Mondo said...

I don't mind this version P, I'd been expecting a horror story - but it's actually better than some of the Pistols early demos - almost a Spedding style version of Vacant. Although this is my benchmark for how far the boundaries can/should be pushed Pretty Vacant - Los Punkrockers..

He's a bit snug-fit too, perhaps they shrunk in the wash.

Brace yourself Simon, there may be a few more TOTP treats to come later in the year..

Furtheron said...

As you say - it isn't as bad as I'd expected. Be honest given I was in a band playing covers of this stuff plus some horrendous original crap we'd have been bloody happy to sound like that frankly!

swiss adam said...

Vacant isn't as bad as it could've been. I've seen bands do worse versions- in fact I've been in bands that have done worse versions

Mondo said...

I'm with you both - given that these studio bods had been clonking out mini-me versions of bigger pop picks for years, and had to accommodate the viral popularity of punk(with it's dayglo vibe that is probably totally at odds with a studio-soaked session muso's mindset) - they've actually been fairly faithful to the source material.

23 Daves said...

Now then - slightly off-topic maybe, but I happened to see a copy of "Top of the Pops" today with "Autobahn" on it. Have you heard this? Is it any good? I would have bought it, but on closer inspection the vinyl was scratched to all hell, and I decided just to leave it in the budget rack at M&VE.

Popper said...

Hi, 23 (and everyone),

Terry here, who wrote this guest blog. "Autobahn" is on volume 45 and is one of the most noted cover versions in the series, along with "Walk on the Wild Side", "Voodoo Chile", "Pretty Vacant" etc.

Mojo did a feature on these LPs a few years back, and this is what they said about "Autobahn":

"An amazingly accurate recreation of Kraftwerk’s debut hit. “That was very hard,” recalls Bruce [Bruce Baxter, the LP producer]. “I did it all myself on an ARP 2500 synth. It took the best part of a day.” Tony Rivers turned the vocals into something very close to Jan And Dean’s “Surf City”."

- It's worth snapping up a copy of volume 45 if you see it, or you can download the track individually from iTunes/Amazon etc.

Cheers all

23 Daves said...

Thanks. I was tempted, trust me, but the state of the vinyl in question did put me off (even for one measly pound). I may very well download the track in question, though.

Off the Top of the Pops topic ever so slightly, at least one person has insisted to me that the version of "Popcorn" on "Hot Hits" (a budget rival) is superior to the actual single itself. Not been able to find this so far, though.

Popper said...

Well, it's a personal judgement, but the Hot Hits version ain't bad. Quite energetic in fact. It's on volume 13 of the original LP series, and also on the end-of-year review LP, "Smash Hits 72".

These albums have not been made available on iTunes like TOTP, but there have been several "compilations" made up of MFP tracks which you can get. If you go to Amazon and search for "Hot Hits Presents 1972", you will find that said collection contains their recording of "Popcorn", so again you can grab it for a few pence, if you want.

Hot Hits only ran to 20 LPs in the main series (1970 to 1973). You could easily hunt down a set if you wanted...