You'd never guess it from the cover or contents, but Top Of The Pops Volume 79 is an historic release - the final edition to be overseen by long-time producer Bruce Baxter.
Much had changed since he first came on board back in 1970 - volume 14 was his first as sole producer, at which time he was faced with a chart topped by Jimi Hendrix and Matthews Southern Comfort, softened by Andy Williams and Neil Diamond, and only just getting acquainted with T Rex. A decade on, it was the Jam and Madness who led the pack, Barbara Dickson and Dr Hook who catered for the AOR crowd, and UB40 who were the new boys on the block.
Ah, but the more things change... the Top Of The Pops series might have fallen on hard times saleswise (one of the main reasons behind Baxter's departure), but the performances themselves are much the same as always, a gloriously hit and miss melange in which some cuts "Talk Of The Town", "Missing Words", "Living After Midnight" can at least compete with the originals; some ("Going Underground" is the worst offender) barely sound like the same song; and some are such dynamic reinventions that they could have been hit singles in their own right. When Boney M covered the Smoke's psychedelic nugget "My Friend Jack", rock archivists were astounded by their audacity. One can't even begin to imagine what those same people would have made of the Top Of The Pops team's version.
Baxter's departure did not, as some observers feared, spell the end of the Top Of The Pops series - not immediately, anyway. But it did bring a remarkable era to a close with what sentimental hindsight now insists is the last truly crucial edition in the entire series.