Sounds of the 70s

We should be processing the latest frockery arrivals today as we got a bit behind over the festive season and, thanks to new year consignments, the stock room is full to overflowing with frockery in need of cataloguing. However, we just had to take some time out to gush with enthusiasm over last night's / this morning's  Triple A* showing on BBC4 of the Old Grey Whistle Test: 70s Gold, Top of the Pops: The Story of 1977 and Top of the Pops 1977: Big Hits from the 70s.

To say we were riveted is an understatement as we were transported straight back to our own youth by star performances from an era which encompassed the most incredibly diverse range of music (and fashion). Social media buzzed for hours with comments and reminiscences as nostalgia took firm hold of those of us who were there the first time around, while younger music aficionados also shared their appreciation (or otherwise!) of the featured acts. Even our local MP tweeted enthusiastically about musical "gems" from his youth as a Ramones and Clash fan, and to see Dr Feelgood trending on Twitter was, in the words of Whispering Bob Harris, "very cool".

We frockers were blown away by the awesome performances of Johnny Winter, Captain Beefheart and Frankie Miller in particular, but there were just so many brilliant examples of 70s musical supremacy crammed into a few short hours it would be impossible to mention them all. Catch them on the iplayer if you can, but meanwhile here's Johnny!

We had in fact tuned in to watch John Otway, whose career (with its many lows and occasional highs) we have followed since the mid 70s. A spectacular and painful mishap with an amp on the Old Grey Whistle Test in 1977 resulted in his instant propulsion from dustman to stardustman with Cor Baby! That's Really Free. However, despite his best (and worst) efforts, he remained a One Hit Wonder until 2002, when he finally achieved a No 9 chart hit with Bunsen Burner with a lot of help from his fans.

Our chief frocker was a member of Otway's Hit Squad, sang in the Abbey Road choir which contributed to the B side (House of the Rising Sun) and had a front row seat at the Palladium on the night  BB's chart position was confirmed on stage by Johnnie Walker. Some might say it was a bit of a risk booking such a prestigious venue before even recording the Hit, but Otway is probably the least risk averse person/prat we know, and  it worked out on that occasion. (Just don't mention the World Tour). Later this year, Otway the Movie is to be premiered at the Odeon in Leicester Square to celebrate his 60th birthday and we feel sure it will be a success, again with a lot of help from his fans both old and new!

But back to the excellence of BBC4's offerings:

Old Grey Whistle Test: 70s Gold  included archive performances from a myriad of stars, including  Elton John, David Bowie, Captain Beefheart, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Curtis Mayfield, New York Dolls, Bob Marley and the Wailers, Brinsley Schwarz, Gil Scott Heron, Blondie, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the Jam, Talking Heads, Iggy Pop, Cher and Greg Allman, Argent, Steppenwolf, Lindisfarne, Dr Feelgood and Johnny Winter. Just wow!

Top of the Pops: The Story of 1977  featured our own Mr Otway with Wild Willy Barrett in the Queen's silver jubilee year which saw punk and New Wave blast on to the music scene. We were treated to the Stranglers and the Jam alongside Donna Summer's disco,  Bob Marley's reggae and pub rock greats like Eddie and the Hot Rods who remain one of our favourite still-touring bands. The programme also featured interviews with musicians and insiders who lifted the lid on the making of TOTP back in the day.

Top of the Pops 1977: Big Hits highlighted the show's 1977  output with performances by Rod Stewart, the Jacksons, Queen, the Stranglers, Brotherhood of Man, David Bowie, Bob Marley, Baccara, Heatwave and Elvis Costello. Rod Stewart's shoes raised a laugh in the frocker household, but prize for most ridiculous outfits had to go to the members of Heatwave whose rendition of Boogie Nights was especially energetic and hilarious.

We are now fully expecting a run on 70s vintage fashion (well, maybe not Johnny Winteresque sleeves!), if only as a means of helping to banish the winter blues. Nobody can deny it raises the collective spirits to see grown men and women dressed like Christmas trees, masquerading as extras from Star Trek, or held together with safety pins, but the era encompassed a wide spectrum of styles, not all of which were garish or overly outrageous - and the music was out of this world. Yes, even Boney M (talking of Christmas trees!)

Maybe we are showing our age, but we have to say that today's reality 'talent' shows and so-called celebrities look and sound stale and sameish by comparison, with the exception, in our opinion, of Amy Winehouse, whose life was cut so tragically short in 2011. Simon Cowell et al have a lot to answer for as manufactured bands crowd out the grass roots talent, most of which is probably playing in a local live music venue near you, but which has neither the PR budget (nor probably the desire) to compete on such a cynically skewed playing field.

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