My Ten Earliest Musical Memories – and Top of The Pops: The Story of 1978

What are your earliest musical memories?

I overheard someone talking enthusiastically on their mobile the other day about how seeing Steps would bring back early childhood memories. Steps.

I’ll leave aside for the moment how that would bring back little more than a cold sweat as I awake from a nightmare of the full horror of early line-dancing novelty hit 5,6,7,8. The enthusiasm! The smiles! The fake tan! The stupid rhinestone-clad boots! And that’s just H. Ghastly.

Someone told me recently that H from Steps had died. Then they showed me this picture as evidence…

H From Steps: RIP(With thanks to Popbitch for the original joke)
H From Steps: RIP
(With thanks to Popbitch for the original joke)

What really struck me about the phone conversation was just how ancient and crumbling that makes me. Damn you, Steps. Next thing I know, S Club 7 will all be forty years old, and I’ll be in an old people’s home.

(I expect most of my overseas readership are finding their eyes glazing over and are probably asking S Club Who? Let’s move on).

As the more astute of you will have realised, much of this blog looks back at early musical memories. What formative sounds shaped my current musical tastes? Why did I like this record and not that one? And can I make a joke about it? Don’t knock it. It’s a simple formula.

Having spent the best part of the year trawling though the deepest recesses of my otherwise fairly empty mind, I thought I would shake out the cobwebs and share my very earliest memories. I did this, and then last night’s BBC4 Top of the Pops Documentary pretty much broadcast the whole lot. Damn.

Thankfully there’s a decent chance that a) not everyone will have seen the documentary and b) not all my early memories were on the show, so without further ado, here are these formative memories:

Remember any of these? Are yours very different?

1. Gary Numan on Jim’ll Fix It:

I realise of course that Mr Savile is now rightly persona non grata on account of his beastly behaviour. Nevertheless, no amount of airbrushing of history will (unfortunately) remove the now tainted memories of Jim’ll Fixit – a show where children would write in to ask for their dreams to come true. Whilst for many I could see the appeal, the one that sticks in my mind was the kid who wanted to be in the car whilst Numan sang his hit single Cars. What I remember is just how dull the realisation of that dream was. Numan gamefully sang away – probably worried about whether Savile would try to goose him later – whilst the child sat in a slightly less cool Sinclair C5. Note to kid: Next time, set your dreams a little higher. It looked rubbish. (PS. I haven’t seen this clip in 30 years – it’s not on You Tube – but I’m hoping my memory isn’t playing tricks on me).

2. Grease singles played on my sister’s record player. And the Skurfs.

My sister had a Dansette record player and, being a couple of years older than me, was into pop music sooner. John Revolting and Olivia Neutron Bomb (as my mum and dad called them – how we laughed) stayed at number one for what seemed to be an eternity, only interrupted by The Smurfs. My sister saved her pocket money and bought Summer Nights and Hopelessly Devoted To You. I preferred novelty hit Stamp on a Skurf, which lampooned the Smurf Song by Father Abraham – the chorus of which went as follows: Stamp stamp stamp on a Skurf / Stamp stamp stamp for all your worth / Stamp upon a Skurf today / Then maybe they’ll go away – Stamp stamp stamp on a skurf. And no, I haven’t heard that song in thirty five years. These early memory scars are etched indelibly on the mind. Here’s a clip I have found on You Tube of this classic song:

3. Tommy Steele‘s “Crash Bang Wallop”.

My parents owned this single. The only other records they owned were by Cliff Richard, James Last or Tijuana Brass. As a result this got played a lot. They also had lots of church organ music. I still get a feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach when I hear a hymn. Church music has done more to promote atheism than Richard Dawkins ever will. Cliff Richard once sang a song called “Why Should The Devil Have All The Good Music”. It’s a terrible song. Oh, the irony.

4. Blondie on Top of The Pops.

Sunday Girl was the song – I think. I don’t remember which song so much. I do remember the singer though, wearing a stripy dress. Can’t think why.

5. Matt Bianco on Saturday Superstore

Apparently I used to rock in the cradle to The Lion Sleeps Tonight. When I was very small, this was the song that my parents would play to keep me happy / send me to sleep. They played Cliff Richard’s records as punishment if I had been naughty. However, this is hardly a “memory”. More vivid in the memory is watching Matt Bianco on Saturday Superstore (a three hour Saturday morning live TV show) take a live phone-in where they were roundly abused. Bad language on Kids TV is the sort of thing that lives long in the memory – and thanks to You Tube, the moment has been preserved for posterity (contains swearing):

Next up: Part 2 of My Earliest Musical Memories

Record #137: Blondie – Sunday Girl


19 responses to “My Ten Earliest Musical Memories – and Top of The Pops: The Story of 1978”

  1. beatthemtodeathwiththeirownshoes Avatar

    I was just watching that very programme when your email came through… thanks to my big sisters being a bit older, I had a lot of Bowie and T-Rex as my early memories. Plus my house was reverberated to my Mum’s Queen and latterly, Meatloaf! But Punk I claim as mine. In the early summer of 1977 I saw The Stranglers on TOTP singing Go Buddy Go. I was a fan of Elvis and thought “Mmmm. This is Rock’n’Roll” and I was hooked. BTW, I looked up the clip and it was introduced by none other than Jimmy ‘how old are you’ Saville.


    1. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

      Great clip! And that’s a fetching shirt that the dreadful Mr Savile is wearing. *shudders*


    2. Moses Presley Avatar
      Moses Presley

      Earliest music memories….Watching the Dave Clark Five at the Tower Ballroom Blackpool in about 1965 (my mum took me, I was 10). Then watching Jr Walker and the All Stars at the Shades Club Northampton in 1972. After that it was a blur of Floyd, Clapton and The Who until the Pistols came along then the Clash and on and bloody on it goes. Still at it, saw The Wedding Present last week, the Kast off Kinks on Sunday and going to see Graham Day this week. Music…will keep at it till i die!


      1. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

        Thanks for sharing your memories. That’s a great collection you have there – and plenty more where they came from no doubt!


  2. mikeladano Avatar

    Me being from Canada…I share absolutely none of these memories. Ahhh well!


    1. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

      You were lucky to escape John Travolta and Olivia Newton John….


      1. mikeladano Avatar

        I was…that WAS a big hit here, but I never heard a single track until much later in life when I was dating a girl who loved that movie. I escaped it for almost 30 years!


      2. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

        Consider yourself fortunate. I bet you haven’t seen Dirty Dancing either?


      3. mikeladano Avatar

        My wife made me watch it a couple years ago. Oh man. I managed to get through all those years without seeing it and then BAM. Baby was in the corner.


      4. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

        Was she? I thought No-One Put Baby In The Corner… (God, it’s terrible isn’t it? It was on TV over Christmas. My wife was all over it – I thought it was as terrible as I had remembered – and then some).


      5. mikeladano Avatar

        It really was terrible. And here’s another one from the same era: Flashdance. That one I did have to see when I was a kid, my sister was into the music.

        I also witnessed a New Kids on the Block concert home video. It was great for mocking.


  3. ianbalentine Avatar

    It’s interesting to me that your parents weren’t really that into music yet you became, like me, an obsessive fanatic. My folks weren’t that interested either, and all I remember them listening to was CW McCall, Stars On 45 and the odd Johnny Cash album. I wonder if this is true for other fanatics? If it is, I guess my kids will become nonchalant about tunes, which would be a shame.


    1. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

      They were and are interested in music – just not rock n roll. I think there’s still hope for our kids….


  4. ianbalentine Avatar

    Ok, thank God. If I can only get the oldest to stop watching all those Simon Cowell contest shows I’ll be well on e way to fulfilling part of my destiny…


    1. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

      My 7 yr old son spent most of this afternoon playing Beatles Rock Band on the Wii…and then dancing along to Boney M and One Direction. I’m hoping he’ll keep liking the Beatles and lose 1D…


  5. […] Part 1 of this trip down memory lane is here. […]


  6. waynelaw Avatar

    Alice Cooper and Slade on Top of the Pops are special to me because they are some of my last memories of England before my family moved to the States. At least I hope that Alice Cooper memory is from then…I still see him pointing that sword at the camera.


    1. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

      1972: School’s Out.
      Ha! That ages you! Here’s the clip:


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