From the sublime to the…
Only three years separate Rhinestone Cowboy from Top Of The Pops. But these songs *appear* to come from totally separate universes. In that time punk had happened, and with its year zero ethic sought to sweep away the past and start again. That it was a sound and an ethic for which there was a strong, albeit underground, lineage – from the tougher sound of 60s groups such as The Kinks (check out “You Really Got Me” or “All Day And All Of The Night” as a prototype for the punk sound) and The Who, through the US garage bands, The Stooges, New York Dolls, and the UK pub rock scene of the early 70s with bands like Dr Feelgood – seemed to have passed some of the revisionists by.
But whatever the background, it is undoubtedly true that punk was a breath of fresh air into a music scene that was becoming increasingly divorced from its raw roots, either in the polished sheen of disco, the middle-of-the-road blandness of mainstream pop, or the indulgent and tedious world of prog rock. And it was fun! Yes, there was obviously the political intensity of bands like The Clash and Stiff Little Fingers. But there was also a collection of punk bands who didn’t take them to seriously – something you could term day-glo punk. Step forward The Damned, X-Ray Spex (whose “Day The World Turned Day-Glo“could be this non-existent movements anthem!). And step forward The Rezillos.
The Rezillos hailed from Edinburgh, and were influenced as much by Glam Rock and 60s pop as the punk sound. They weren’t hugely successful in commercial terms, and Top Of The Pops was their only top 40 single, peaking at 17. But it is a great song that hasn’t aged at all. An explosion of energy and colour that blasts breathlessly through it’s 2 minutes and 58 seconds, leaving you wanting to go straight back to the beginning and play the thing over again. The hallmark of a great single. Here’s a performance from – where else – Top Of The Pops.
Ukulele groups up and down the country seem to have taken a shine to some of the classic two-and-a-half minute punk singles from this era. Whether it is the lean structure of the songs, the three-chord thrash, or just a reflection of the demographics of those in these groups, it is true that some of these songs work really well on the ukulele. So I thought that Top Of The Pops might maybe join the ranks of Teenage Kicks and Ever Fallen In Love… a ukulele staple. And as if to confirm it, I came across this wonderful version by Gus & Fin…
So buoyed by that I pulled together a set of chords that seemed to work and reflect (as close as feasible) the original. Also included is the little riff that goes before each line in the chorus. Tabbed for ukulele (the two notes in brackets can be omitted and you still get the right feel). Or else you can do as Gus & Fin did and whistle it! Works for me.