Pick of the Pops 65 (28.5.78)

Although far more of my significant life events took place in the eighties, I'll always prefer 1970s chart music to the Thatcher years. As Radio 2's target demographic grows ever 'younger' (and this really IS a Theory of Relativity thing), there are fewer and fewer 1970s years being featured on POTP.

It's no great loss, of course, as the ratio of crap to decent in the majority of 1970s charts will almost certainly favour the former, but I always find there's more of interest and a certain charm to even the most depressing of 1970s charts that's missing from (certainly) the post 1983 'Top 40'.

Anyway, Summer '78: Callaghan's in power, there's another great 1970s World Cup unfolding and the possibilities of life are there to be embraced.

First up:

Itzhar Cohen and Alphabeta - A-Ba-Ni-Bi

The first of two consecutive Israeli Euro winners, Itzhar's effort is far, far worse than Milk and Honey's 1979 winner Hallelujah (and that was really shite), but at least it didn't rip off Perry Como's excellent Catarina (which Milk and Honey most definitely DID).

Anyway, I sort of lost interest in Eurovision for a while after the 1970s, but here's the verdicts on the decade's winners. Remember: it's just a bit of fun, so don't get upset. (BUT IT'S THE TRUTH - AND DON'T YOU FORGET IT, EUROVISION LOSERS.)
1970 Dana - All Kinds of Everything
It's not as rude as his Cole Porter/Bryan Ferry's These Foolish Things, but our Ginger's version of AKOE has its moments. A terrible, terrible song that shouldn't have lost out to our Mary's Knock, Knock. 2/10
1971 Séverine - Une Rue, Un Banc, Une Arbre
Sounds a bit like one of the 'turns' at the St Francis de Sales Working Men's Club in Walton, but pretty much anything in French sounds classy. Apart from - I imagine - John Aldridge's autobiography. 4/10
1972 Vicky Leandros - Après Toi
Just brilliant. 10/10
1974 Anne-Marie David - Tu Te Reconnetras
Ace, urgent, strident and French, but dipping just below Vicky's effort (also Luxembourg) the year before. 9/10
1975 Teach-In - Ding-a-Dong (Netherlands)
Terrible lyrics aside (you try writing in another language, smartarse), this is ace. An absolutely corking tune and an urgency in the vocal deliveries that belies its halfwit, expedient rhyming. 9/10
1974 Abba - Waterloo
Rubbish, but a barnstorming 'debut' at the top table. 7/10
1976 Brotherhood of Man - Save Your Kisses for Me
Fucking hell. 0/10
1977 Marie Myriam -Un Oiseau and Something or Other
With a bit of thought and effort, this could have been a classic (taunting) football hooligan chant. 5/10
1978 Izhar Cohen and the Alphabeta - A-Ba-Ni-Bi (Israel)
Surpassing itself by being almost as  bad as Britain's 1976 winner, A-Ba-Ni-Bi sounds like something the Younger Generation (UK cabaret/light entertainment TV's go-to dance troupe) when allowed to 'do an original'. Extremely rubbish, and with the truck driver's gear change employed for maximum Eurovision effect. 1/10


RFPP - the British ABBA: beloved but shit.

Johnny Mathis/Deneice Williams - Too Much Too Little Too Late

I've already mentioned how the impugning of Johnny Mathis's sexuality led to a massive and quite vicious fight between my old brother and I one Christmas Eve in the early 80s. I think the underlying reasons were far more complex, and had it not been Mr Mathis's sexual preferences, something else celebrity-related (Roy Hudd's love of old time music hall/Michael Robbins's early Marlon Brando/Gauloises obsession) would probably have occasioned the fisticuffs.

It was a fuse waiting to be lit. Johnny Mathis WAS that fuse. 3/10

"Stel-LAAAA! Or Kronenbourg - I'm not fussy..."

Blondie - (I'm Always Touched By Your) Presence, Dear

Pop perfection. Point deducted for the "It's really not cheating" (moron click bait, I'm afraid), but point regained for the use of 'theosophy'* in a 1978 chart pop song.

*The study of all things Kojak-related.


"Let's check out Smokie Mo's, Chris- I've heard it's real peachy!" (Blondie at Lime Street station, May 1977.)

Raydio - Jack and Jill

Potentially good soul/disco record spoiled by the inanity of its subject matter, and it's truly terrible lyrics.

And as one who actually  likes quite a large numbers of 'Americanisms', there ARE exceptions, and snook*, as in

Jack snook down the hill,

(He snook down, he snook down -

Can fuck right off.


*Possibly 'snuck'. I don't care.

Hi-Tension - Hi-Tension

Admirable proto-funk record's overall quality dissipated by the poverty of its lyrics. The repetition of

Hi-Tension - that's what we are, superstars!

was never going to win any Ivor Novello awards. 4/10

Smokie - Oh Carol

"Not the Neil Se-dakker version," the obscenely remunerated (and remember, it's YOUR licence fee he's wiping his fundamental with, mugginses) points out with startling perspicacity.

Noy much to report here, it's a Smokie record. 

No more, no less. 3/10

The equally estimable Smokie Mo's: a pint, a fight and free lesson in theosophy guaranteed. Situated next to the original Harlem Cotton Club - in Charlotte Street  Liverpool!

Ruby Winters - Come to Me

A rather lovely mid-table chart-filler from the poetically-monikered singer. 7/10

Plastic Bertrand - Ça Plane Pour Moi

Last heard being played on the 'car stereo' of Mel Gibson lookalike PI Mel Sattem (the excellent Adam Rothenberg) in the watchable, but ultimately meh Netflix series Ozark. Gambaccini went through a risible '5 Famous Belgians' routine (really - it's twenty fucking twenty two), and I'm pretty sure that most people know that Roger François Jouret didn't sing a single note on all THREE of the 'Plastic Bertrand' albums. Ça Plane - despite being used on adverts and League One Better Call Saul imitators remains a great punk single. 8/10

Better late than never - punk hits Weatherfield (December 17th, 1979).

Ian Dury and the Blockheads - What a Waste

Superb, and with a sound all of its own. The "first night nerves every one night stand" line would have given it an eight, but as it is... 9/10


The incredible Vera Ellen poses in front of Princes Gardens whilst helping to create a future Ian Dury-themed homophonic pun.

Tavares - More Than a Woman

And pray, what might that be, exactly? 2/10

The Patti Smith Group - Because the Night

As a callow youth, I remember buying this single - and having instant buyer's remorse. Admittedly, Patti knocks some of the more bombastic, rock elements from the song, but it's a miserable, ball-aching four minute trudge, nevertheless. I love the influence that Patti Smith has had on a generation of like-minded souls - and particularly her effect of feminist empowerment- but I wish I could enjoy her music. 6/10

JohnTravolta/Olivia Newton-John- You're The One That I Want

Still horrible. 0/10

John-Paul Young - Love Is In The Air

Forming a vulgar triptych with Phil Collins's Coming In the Air Tonight and Mitzi Gaynor's I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of My HairTonight, I'm still waiting for JPY's follow up. 42 years now. Come on, John-Paul! 3/10

Yvonne Elliman - If I Can't Have You

The second (and easily the best) track from the planet-fevouring Saturday Night Fever soundtrack in this week's Top 20. Just a brilliant, timeless single (which was almost rejected by the singer, who thought it shite). 10/10


What's grey and thought If I Can't Have You (her best-ever record) was a bit crap and below her usual standards?

Yvonne Elephant!

Bee Gees - Night Fever

When you're a nascent punk rocker in the late 70s, you don't want to see men with fluffy long hair, chest wigs and medallions on TOTP, and consequently it was hard to appreciate Randy, Boris and Dobbin's (admittedly still silly) falsettos and Arif Mardin's superb production. A great record. 8/10


Darts - The Boy From New York City

Nothing against the band, but ultimately doing cover versions of songs from a recent-ish era was ultimately pointless and helped to clog up what could have been much been much better charts with dross. 3/10

Boney M - Rivers of Babylon/Brown Girl In The Ring

See also. It always felt a little bit better when something new, outré (very rare) or original topped the charts - rather than these cynical, stack-them-high/sell-them-cheap, cover version, crappy records (which admittedly has been the norm in perpetuity).

A terrible number one record - and seemingly inescapable in the summer of 1978. 0/10

Programme as a whole Gambaccini's inanities, adverts for Paul O'Grady's shitty programme and some really horrible records (still) failed to dampen my enthusiasm and love for good pop music. 7/10

Best: Blondie edges out Yvonne.

Worst: a few noughts, but nothing hateful this week.

Click on the pic to hear the song.