Tuesday 19 March 2024

Together Riding On a Crest, It Was Swell

Back in the 1970s, most of the Friday morning playground chatter concerned the previous evening's edition of Top of the Pops. A lucky few of us would've recorded selections from the programme on our new fangled cassette machines, turning to shush our parents as we held a microphone up to the tiny tinny speaker next to the screen. The rest relied on mental highlights, etched into transfixed memory and enhanced by the shared recollections of classmates. Memorable performances seemed to come thick and fast for us throughout those years; David Essex's extraordinary 'Rock On', Leo Sayer's pierrotesque tour-de-force 'The Show Must Go On' and our first glimpse of  the unique genius of Sparks, via 'This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both of Us', to name but a few - all of these before we even start on the likes of Bolan, Bowie, Slade, Sweet etc. The cultural impact of Top of the Pops may have been tarnished by the evil actions of some of the presenters and dimmed by the passing years, but those performances resonate with me to this day. Another that stands out is Cockney Rebel's 1974 TOTP debut with 'Judy Teen'. The following morning, before the school-bell rang, a group of us huddled together beneath the netball hoop to exchange our thoughts on the brilliant quirky oddness of the song and frontman Steve Harley's strangely alien appearance. It was the stuff we lived for. Needless to say, the BBC have wiped that particular edition of the show, though a later TOTP version of the song is preserved on YouTube.

I happened to be in London on Sunday, just half a dozen miles from my childhood stomping grounds, when news of Steve Harley's sad passing pinged onto my phone. In The Boleyn later that evening, I raised a pint of Five Points Best to Steve and to all those pals from the old schoolyard. 

Cockney Rebel - Judy Teen 


Charity Chic said...

Great post and tribute Swede.
We were so fortunate to have such tunes in our early teenage years.
Steve Harley contributed a good few.

Martin said...

Great post. And RIP Steve.

John Medd said...

Steve Harley knew that colour TV could supercharge his image, his music, the full nine yards. It's no coincidence that TOTP (and, don't laugh, Pot Black on BBC2) revolutionised and changed forever how we would digest popular culture. I'll get my coat.

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