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....