It did not escape my notice that John Peel’s birthday, when he would have been 68 years old (and no doubt still searching for new music and confounding treasure seekers with esoteric and not-so-esoteric Festive 50s) came and went on Thursday 30 August. ‘John Peel Everyday’ naturally marked the occasion with an affectionate and pithy tribute, and that sparked me off to pay mine.
Thanks to Rocklist (whence comes all the raw data for these posts) and that great guy Adam at ‘Fades In Slowly’, I can now present my promised overview of the 1977 Festive Sixty! All the information that is available, that is. You see, as I have already mentioned, this was the only Festive chart where the records were actually chosen by JP himself. He apparently said after the initial chart in 1976 that he would alternate the charts, allowing the listeners to vote in one year, and he would choose the records in the next. Presumably, he did this to avoid a stale and unmoving chart: unfortunately, this is exactly what happened. Between 1978 and 1982, the same records (Anarchy In The UK and Joy Division, for example) recurred in the Top 10, so that a situation arose in the 1981 chart whereby Teenage Kicks (released in 1978) made no. 6. This frustrated Peel, who wanted to move on with his audience: therefore, he made an All-Time chart in ’82 and a new chart which would only contain records released that year and kept to that format thereafter (excepting 2000, when another All-Time chart surfaced).
However, back to ’77. He had alienated [read: pissed off] a lot of his old audience by playing a considerable amount of punk (too much, as he subsequently admitted), and therefore probably felt that a chart for that year chosen by him alone would be a valid compromise. To this date, very little has survived of the rundown for that year: Andy Smith at Rocklist found a tape containing the Top 13, a mixture of punk and reggae songs, but for a long time nothing else was deemed to exist. In fact, nobody was really sure how many tracks were in the list at all
Until last month, when Adam posted Peely’s end of year show (dated 30 December) wherein Peel clearly states that he had completed a Festive SIXTY the night before. Although this broadcast does not give any further details of tracks that made the chart (speculation about the other tracks abounds on the Yahoo Peel group: somebody remembers what no 16 was, they think: another guy is ‘sure’ that Heroes and Dave Edmunds’ I Knew The Bride were in there), it does give us a valuable reference point to a grey area in Peeldom, and some hope that the Holy Grail (a complete listing of all tracks) will one day appear (doesn’t anybody at the BBC know anything about this?).
So…enough waffle, and, in tribute to a wonderful man and seminal DJ, the Top 5 tracks in the ’77 Festive 60, as chosen by him.
5. John Cooper Clarke, Suspended Sentence
JCC came from Salford, and was a ‘punk poet’: he was popular at punk gigs for reciting declamatory (and sometimes defamatory) poems, sometimes with muscial backing (from The Invisible Girls, a group that included Pete Shelley and Bill Nelson), sometimes without. This would be his only appearance in the FF, with a rant against capital punishment.
The photo shows what kind of a figure he cut on stage: shaggy hair, spitting out his verbal fire while reading from notes. He fought a drug addiction problem in the 80s, but can now be seen supporting The Fall.
4. Rezillos, Can’t Stand My Baby
This constantly shifting line-up from Edinburgh hit the charts with Top Of The Pops, but this is their best effort by far: a frenzied complaint by lead singer Faye Fife of an apparent allergy to her boyfriend! This is NOT the original version on Sensible Records that was re-released after their renewed popularity, but the faster version recorded for Can’t Stand The Rezillos. This track made the FF again in 1978 at no. 20.
3. Motors, You Beat The Hell Outta Me
An early single apparently by Nick Garvey, Andy MacMaster, Bram Tchaikovsky and Ricky Slaughter. The band moved on from pub rock to punk on their first album to pop on their second, and this is what gained them their biggest success (if anybody remembers Airport and Forget About You). Not the real deal, guys: this track was miles ahead.
2. Althea & Donna, Uptown Top Ranking
True one-hit wonders, Althea Forrest and Donna Reed brought reggae to the masses by topping the UK charts for one week in early ’78 with this song, co-written by them and Errol Thompson. Being 17 and 18 respectively at the time, they are still the youngest female duo ever to have a UK number one. As usual, though, Peely got there first. (POSTSCRIPT: As a result of reading Mick’s comment, I present this duo’s live appearance on Top Of The Pops. The comments are also worth reading: ‘those glasses..I’ve seen smaller car windshields’. Top.)
1. Motors, Dancing The Night Away
Possibly the most wonderful record in the world this week…scientific experiments done in the reeking dungeons of Peel Acres showed quite without any shadow of a doubt that that record above all others released in 1977 is most likely to cause ecstasy in humans, at least the album version of the same thing…well, it caused ecstasy in this particular human, anyway. [John Peel, from above-mentioned radio broadcast]
I had the album version, John, but with my vinyl purge in the 80s it has long since gone…it features an extended introduction. Still, the CD has recently been reissued, so take your pennies and get a slice of wonderful crossover pub/punk (which also made the 1978 FF #35).
Thanks for listening, I hope you enjoyed this quick step back in time. A great thank you once again:
- Fades In Slowly for inspiring this material:
- John Peel Everyday for the whole idea.
- To Mick, duffpaddy, Lee, Davy, ally, Ed, Rowen and Iain for your support.
A final mention for blog friends who seem to have fallen by the wayside: please get in touch.
- Bianca and Thomas on Hey Charlie!; no posts since July 12 and you’re not answering your e-mails?
- Tutu Vicar, whose The World Won’t Listen appears to have been deleted.
- Crash Calloway: ditto for the wise and wonderful Pretending Life Is Like A Song.
People, where are you now?