Various Artists

Top of the Pops, Vol. 61

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For all history's insistence that punk rock took the British chart by storm, the process was actually somewhat more protracted than that -- a gentle drizzle that eventually built into a blustery day might be a more appropriate meterological analogy. Certainly the Top of the Pops series remained immune to its safety-pinned charms until mid-summer 1977, when the Sex Pistols' "Pretty Vacant" finally made its way onto volume 60. And, six weeks later, the floodgates creaked a little more, as both Eddie & the Hot Rods' "Do Anything You Wanna Do" and the Adverts' "Gary Gilmore's Eyes" shot into view. And, with them, the moment that all Top of the Pops vocalists dreaded the most -- a major hit record with seriously unintelligible words. When in doubt, mumble. Even for fans, Adverts frontman T.V. Smith's original lyric was indeed an oft-unintelligible helter skelter, and nobody faulted the Top of the Pops version for admitting as much -- even Smith later went on record saying, "It was a lot better like that. It would have been terrible if he'd got the words right." But, how to explain the performance's other faux pas, as the song title's spelling is misleadingly presented as "Gary Gilmour's Eyes," abruptly recasting the song's protagonist from a notorious American killer into a well-loved English cricketer? For these reasons, "Gary Gilmour's Eyes" is the best-remembered track on the album. It is, however, by no means the sole highlight. Adhering to the series' long-established tradition for turning in remarkably true versions of hit instrumentals, both Jean Michel Jarre's "Oxygene" and Space's "Magic Fly" are executed with unimpeachable fidelity, while Elvis' "Way Down" -- his final U.K. single prior to his death -- draws out another in a long line of classic Presley impersonations. But the team's potshots at the Floaters' execrable "Float On" and actor David Soul's "Silver Lady" remind listeners that not all in the garden of 1977 was rosy, and Elkie Brookes' hitherto smoky "Sunshine After the Rain" is reduced to a mere gargle. Which, for Adverts fans, was probably better than a garble...but only just.

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