Sunday, June 26, 2011

Long Time Growing

In the beginning, there was nothing, no time, no space, no matter. Absolutely nothing at all.

Then very suddenly there was something. And this something was formless and although it filled the space, that is only because the new space was unimaginably* small.

And then in an unimaginably* small instant, space expanded unimaginably*, and the energy (for that is what had filled the space) began to take form – although in a very primitive way. And the space was still very small and time had barely started. You might say it was a new phase.

And the echoes of these events are still seen today, by those who seek.

And a long time later the small nearly formless pieces began to combine together into units that made bits of matter, and bigger bits of matter, and into what we see today. Because by now there was a lot of space in which this could happen. And it could be considered to be the next phase.

And an unimaginably* much longer time later, creatures developed, and some of them developed into mankind. But mankind did not know how it had happened. And they used to make up stories about it because they did not know. And this was another phase.

And some said these events did not need a God to be present for them to have happened. But some believed in God nonetheless. (Even though it became unfashionable.)

* some texts say incomprehensibly

Friday, June 24, 2011

Hitsville UK

Am watching Top of the Pops 76 repeated on BBC4 weekly (well nearly, come to that in a minute).

It really did use to be the must-watch pop programme on TV. Well, there wasn't much else. You could see what the people looked like who'd made the records you'd bought or were thinking of buying ("stockmarket for your radio", thank you the Rezillos).

Well ... up to a point.

I hadn't seen the ones that are now showing because in May and June 1976 I was at University and the TV room (singular) was not comfortable and usually somebody wanted to see something else - although not usually during TOTP, admittedly, even the intellectuals who posed as not being interested had to watch. Room always busy.

Blimey, TOTP was in a dire state in 1976, reflecting the charts and the state of British pop music in general. We really did need punk - which was just on the horizon. When the Number 1 progression goes Brotherhood of Man (weeks on end), Abba, (OK that was a good one, Fernando, but it hung on for ever, several weeks at number 2 before the top and still at number 4 "currently", JJ Barrie (appalling piece of schmaltz) and the Wurzels (fun once, but then really tiresome, comedy record without any comedy), then the charts are in trouble.

But that isn't TOTP's fault (although they probably take some blame for who they publicised).

So this is about the programme itself. They were clearly in trouble getting people on, groups go on tour, I know but TOTP was breaking its own rules consistently. In short, it was no longer a chart show.

So all right the first one on was always a new release, fair enough, this week the Surprise Sisters (who?) with Got To Get You Into My Life, which never troubled the Guinness Book of Hit Singles compilers. Last week the G Band (renamed even though Paul Gadd had not yet been found out) with Don't Make Promises (You Can't Keep) which I bought although clearly no-one else did.

And then seemingly every week several not actually in the Top 30 - and some which didn't make it there at all - although "bubbling under" probably, all right they were going up and so in a sense if it's next week's chart, well OK. Prediction is difficult.

But "this" week (now I'm getting to that), a classic. No less than 6 acts not on the chart performing on the 13 June is a new record (groan). (Because BBC4 is not actually showing it every week, it is already slipping in the schedules. They started together at the beginning of May and are now two weeks adrift. By the time we get the 1976 Christmas chart, it will be February here, at this rate. Henceforth we shall regard 13 June as "this" week. "How much does BBC4 care about this show?" is a question worth asking though.)

So apart from the Sisters, we had on the show but not in the 30, Bryan Ferry on film (was a big hit in a week or two and it is a fantastic film), two of Ruby Flipper dancing to Maureen McGovern (don't see the excuse for that one, can't they dance to something in the charts, the alleged point was to cover for acts that couldn't make it into the studio) which did make No 15 eventually, the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, good value but not there right now, Flintlock (no never heard of them either) who struggled up to No 30 in time, and Osibisa's follow-up to Sunshine Day which statistics indicate hit the dizzy heights of number 31.

And then ...

There used to be a rule that once a record had gone down, it didn't get on again even if it started going up again. Now that was a shame sometimes when some yo-yo records were still quite popular or if there were a one-week blip, but a rule is a rule.

But clearly this rule did not always apply ...

On this week's show were Slik with Requiem. Number 30 in the charts. Down from .. not sure, 24? And not the first time they'd broken the rule, two weeks ago, this classic yo-yo had dropped out of the 30 and still been on. I've counted 4 times Slik were on with this one, and I may have missed one. And 2 of those broke the rule ...

Now it's lovely to see the fresh-faced Midge Ure again so many times and I didn't mind the song, even though its wonderfully atmospheric beginning and original lyrics for what's only a lost-love song both get lost a bit in the poppy chorus ("This is a req, only a req, this is a requiem ..") but you have to ask "Just what hold did he have over the producer of TOTP in the mid-70s?" Were they really the only band he could get hold of at short notice on a Tuesday?

But while we ponder that one, one final question for BBC4. What are you doing with the editing?

Each week (...) there is a 30 minute version at 7.30 on Thursday - and a 40-minute "repeat" in the middle of the night. It's very amusing (well it's not really) when the V+ box preview and the BBC iPlayer give you a brief blurb including some of the acts who are on - and then you think afterwards "hang on, I didn't actually see Cliff, did I drop off in the middle?", but it's only because he got edited out of the shortened version (which is also the iPlayer version), although the preview/description clearly says he would be on. You wonder if you've got the wrong show (particularly given the dates thing).

Come on BBC4, don't get tied to this modern thing where every programme between 7 and 11 has to be 30 or 60 minutes. Can you be bold enough to plough your own furrow? BBC1 may have lost it, but you don't need to. And have some integrity of what you show.