Saturday, 5 March 2011

Glam on TV

Unlike its coverage in the movies glam rock had a better time on British TV, although this did come towards the end of glam rock’s popularity, and in the case of “Marc” well after glam rock's heyday.

The major music programme of the time was Top of the Pops. TOTP has already been covered here on this blog, so I will start with ‘Supersonic’ a British children's television music show which also featured pop music artists of the day.

Launched in 1975, it was produced by London Weekend Television for the ITV network and ran for two years. The show lasted 30 minutes and was broadcast, firstly, on Thursday afternoons and then moved to a Saturday afternoon slot. The programme was presented by film and music producer Mike Mansfield.

Although the show starred performers with songs in the music charts, unlike its BBC rival Top of the Pops, it was not chart-based. Whilst Top of the Pops ran all year, Supersonic had a limited run with season one consisting of 30 editions and season two consisting of 28.

The show was recorded in front of an audience of children at the South Bank Television Centre and had a style of production in which cameras were highly visible and areas such as the production gallery were featured. 

Its host also doubled up as producer and director, cueing in performances from the studio gallery instead of presenting conventional links to camera.

“Shang-a-Lang” was a children's pop music series starring the Scottish band, the Bay City Rollers. It was produced in Manchester by Granada Television for the ITV network and ran for one 20-week series in 1975. 

It featured the band in a number of comedy sketches and performing their songs to a live studio audience made up of their teenage fans. This resulted in chaotic scenes at times as some members of the audience attempted to run onto the studio floor to meet their heroes, resulting in security officers having to forcibly restrain or even eject them from the studio.

The show's theme song "Shang-a-Lang” was a hit single for the group, peaking at number 2 in 1974 in the UK.

In 1976/77 the ITV network also produced “The Arrows Show”. The band would perform their own songs, and would also introduce guest artists, that included Marc Bolan, The Bay City Rollers, Gilbert O'Sullivan, Peter Noone, Alvin Stardust, Slade, Pilot and many more.

The band were popular in the teen print media in the mid 1970s, appearing in interviews and as pin-ups in all the glossy fan magazines of the day. They even had their own weekly cartoon strip which ran in ‘Music Star’ magazine.

The Arrows are the only band in pop music history to have a weekly TV series of their own and no records released. Although they had hit singles before their series, the band released no recordings during the entire run of the shows, both series.

This unusual situation was due to a legal wrangle with their record label. Their last single release was two months before the first broadcast Arrows TV show. There were 28 Arrows Shows in total. 

Historically, The Arrows are now best known for writing, recording, and releasing the first version of the song "I Love Rock 'N Roll" in 1975, a year before the band had their TV series.

And last but not least was “Marc”.

In early 1977, Bolan got a new band together, released a new album, ‘Dandy in the Underworld’, and set out on a fresh UK tour, taking along punk band The Damned as support to entice a young audience who did not remember his heyday.

Granada Television commissioned Bolan to front a six-part series called Marc, where he introduced new and established bands and performed his own songs. By this time Bolan had lost weight, appearing as trim as he had during the height of T. Rex's popularity.

The show was broadcast during the post-school half-hour on ITV earmarked for children and teenagers; it was a big success. The last episode featured a unique Bolan duet with David Bowie during which Bolan fell off the stage. With no time for a retake, this occurrence was aired and Bowie's amusement was clearly visible and is reported to have called out "Could we have a wooden box for Marc [to stand on]?”

The show gave Bolan a chance to showcase punk bands, including Generation X, The Jam and Eddie and the Hot Rods. T. Rex performed three songs each week - a mixture of new versions of their old hits, and fresh tracks - while the guests were slotted in between.

It ran for six weekly episodes in the autumn of 1977, before its host died in a car crash on 16 September that year. The final show was recorded on 7 September 1977, but not broadcast until after Bolan's funeral on (20 September 1977).