Various Artists

Top of the Pops: Best of 1976

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A year that opened with "Bohemian Rhapsody" and ended with the Sex Pistols was never going to be uneventful in terms of the U.K. chart, and Top of the Pops: Best of 1976, a 14-track distillation of seven regular volumes (numbers 50-56), illustrates that unpredictability with unerring accuracy. All but two of the year's British number ones are included, a litany that reaches from the first flowering of ABBA's eventual world domination through to the wealth of mini-ABBAs that sprang up in their wake, such as the Brotherhood Of Man and Pussycat. Post-glam oddities Sailor, the first band ever to be fronted by Norwegian nobility; American leviathan Chicago; and the comparative veterans of Elton John and Showaddywaddy join the role call, but if any single recording summed up 1976 for Top of the Pops, it was their assault on "Bohemian Rhapsody," an epic of such verisimilitude that BBC radio DJ Kenny Everett once famously broadcast their version side by side with Queen's original, then challenged his listeners to tell them apart. From the cod operatics in the mid-rift to the metallic barrage finale, producer Bruce Baxter and vocalists John Perry, Stu Calver, Ken Gold, and Tony Rivers nailed in one night a performance that took Queen three weeks -- sheer brilliance. Perry's breathless Freddie Mercury impression resurfaces, with similarly grandiose results, across "Somebody to Love," while a couple of other inclusions on Top of the Pops: Best of 1976 will certainly provide serious students of the series with a wry smile. "You to Me Are Everything," a hit for the Real Thing, was co-written by Ken Gold, one of the series' regular vocalists, while Tina Charles' "I Love to Love" was the first hit for a singer who had been covering other peoples' hits for the Top of the Pops albums themselves. No less than Elton John, whose late '60s were spent in a similar fashion, but whose own songs were now Top of the Pops regulars.

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