1976 was a pivotal year in the cycle of change in popular music; or it is if the television programme I saw at the weekend is to be believed, and if one uses Top of the Pops as the bell weather for the measurement of such things.
At the time TOTP’s policy was to play whatever was at the top of the singles charts, no matter how mediocre and awful it was. And I was reminded when I watched the retrospective of just how truly dreadful a lot of it was. But then I can honestly say I thought it was naff at the time.
I could never see the attraction of Shawaddywaddy or the Wurzles; and had thankfully completely wiped from my memory a particularly egregious group of boys with awful haircuts and cheesy grins evidently called ‘Our Kid’.
Watching the programme I finally understood why I felt so misplaced with my musical tastes in that period. I couldn’t abide the light entertainment flavour of TOTP, with its novelty acts and terrible dancing, (from both acts and audience) but I didn’t get the long haired, beardy droning on The Old Grey Whistle Test, which, anyway, was on after my bed time.
Tony Blackburn and David Hamilton, a couple of former Radio 1 DJ’s from the period were interviewed. ‘We were as big as the acts whose music we were playing’. Oh dear. They must have been the glory days indeed. My reaction was to wonder that they were both still alive, as, at the time, they seemed to me to be so extraordinarily old, and around forever already by 1976.
Both confirmed that they said ‘on air’ at the time they didn’t like the direction music was going when punk began; it was all so noisy and tuneless. The irony was that they seem not to appreciate even now that that was the moment they should have moved on and away from ‘pop’ front line; but they were so immersed in the middle of the road blandness of ‘Seaside Special’ that they thought their opinions mattered.
And they talked all the time.
I didn’t understand why Radio 1 couldn’t just play music instead of allowing them to witter on so much. They could have played so many more different things without all that vacuous chat, I thought. I hadn’t realised that the BBC plays list was as restricted as the 40 tracks they evidently agreed upon at their weekly meeting, attended by a laughably elderly looking group of executives.
What actually made me laugh out loud was the couple from Brotherhood of Man, serious faced and sincere, telling us that we had to remember that they were already number 1 by the time they got to the Eurovision Song Contest. Such cultural high glory days.
Now that I’m in the danger zone, risking ‘it’s not as good as it was in my day’ rants, it was instructive to revisit the appalling pap that was so prevalent then, to compare it to the over produced, over hyped pap that dominates music on television now, and sigh ’twas ever thus’, and go and find something else to listen to.