TV Cream

100 Greatest TV Moments

58) “Ringo Starr film by Michael Hurll”

The Top of the Pops audience get their groove on, 29th April 1971

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Has there ever been a more mocked group of people than the Top of the Pops audience? Certainly by the time we’d got to the late seventies, as seen as BBC4, they seem a bizarre bunch of people, being in the same room as some massively famous pop stars and looking like they’re just there to shelter from the cold, with the height of their exuberance being a grudging bop and the only entertainment coming when a camera runs them over. But it wasn’t always like this and, before mass-drowsiness set in at some point in 1974, the audience were totally up for it and played a prominent role in proceedings, enthusiastically dancing to whatever chart-bound sound the producers required visual accompaniment for. Never was their stamina tested more than in this fantastic moment where the end credits were accompanied by Jig-A-Jig by East of Eden. In the same programme Tony Blackburn called it “a very unusual record”, and certainly this utterly frantic rearrangement of a traditional tune by some prog rockers must have sounded quite something in 1971. It still sounds pretty exciting these days and we love how they’ve actually picked the fastest and least danceable bit of the tune to get the audience to dance to. Nevertheless the audience certainly give it a good go, frugging with gay abandon and a total lack of self- consciousness. The ladies with “SCRAG 71” T-shirts, who as they explain earlier in the show are representing Slough Technical College’s rag week, certainly put the effort in but watch out too for the gormless bloke jumping up and down like an idiot who doesn’t care a jot that ten million people are going to be laughing at him. Because his name’s in the credits too we must pay tribute to Vernon Lawrence’s excellent direction with the nimble fingers at the end adding to the excitement. What we also love about this is imagining the nation’s parents, having agreed to let their kids watch the Pops, encountering this and assuming Satan himself has got into the studio with the raucous music and provocative dance moves. And don’t forget, every single person you see is now at least sixty years old.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Glenn A

    December 9, 2013 at 8:59 pm

    Danny Baker referred to the weak style of TOTP dancing to a dull song as the indifferent bop. Also when someone like Telly Savalas had a hit, the audience would stand almost immobile as the song was undanceable.

  2. Lee M

    January 29, 2015 at 3:17 pm

    Wherever they are now I salute the ladies of Slough Technical College for their noble terpsichorean efforts in accompanying this Prog classic by East of Eden and providing us with this groovy footage. TOTP looked pretty happening for most of the late 60s and early 70s, with 1970 probably being the coolest year featuring a varied mix of excellent music, great fashions and an enthusiastic audience. It did seem to go off the boil in 1974 with a crowd full of disinterested and sullen looking teens. Possible reasons: a new production team, Glam on the wane, a lot of fairly bland soul in the charts, plus maybe the economic woes of the time (3 day week and power cuts) contributed.

  3. Glenn Aylett

    August 25, 2015 at 4:05 pm

    @ Lee M, fast forward to 1979 and a lot of the audience seemed to want to lynch a lot of the acts, particularly acts most of them had no interest in like the fag end of the punk scene or singers like Elkie Brooks( I do recall her singing some dirge in a green tracksuit and the audience looking totally hostile). Also even more so than 1974, we had such joys as the Winter of Discontent, a second oil crisis and yet another recession, so no wonder people were getting hacked off.

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