Here’s a clip of Scottish punk-poppers the Rezillos with their 1978 single “Top of the Pops” performed here, as it happens, on the Top of the Pops TV show for that extra level of irony. The song is included on the band’s self-deprecatingly titled 1978 LP Can’t Stand the Rezillos . It would remain to be their sole release, and this their biggest hit.
Punk rock is often associated with iconoclastic images, aggressive stage antics, and abrasive sonic textures that basically approaches the business of rock ‘n’ roll as something of a blunt instrument. Many punk bands justify that perception, of course. Another important aspect of punk is that it involved the audience, not unlike the 60s folk boom did. It reminded the audience that punk could be made by anyone who really wanted to make it, even if you didn’t play, or perhaps more importantly look, like a standard rock star. Among many attributes, the Rezillos embodied this ideal.
In many ways, it’s entirely appropriate that this is their signature tune. This is one of the songs about fame which has a fun, yet biting, edge to it. Punk-pop is an oft-derided form these days, being as it is something of a worn out form thanks to Blink 182, Good Charlotte, and their ilk. This might be because the biting, satirical side to the music isn’t evident in modern punk-pop. It’s costumes without cleverness.
Once upon a time, punk bands were all about conveying the essence of a pop song without the frills, instead of trying to establish credentials as being ‘punk’. In this, being a punk band makes for something of a catch-22 these days. Perhaps more than any other form, punk is defined by what it isn’t, rather than what it is, and the ins and outs of this are regularly debated among music fans. Yet, with the first wave of British punk rock in the late 70s, these distinctions weren’t really that important.
I love this tune, sung in their own Edinburgh accents (another punk aesthetic: sing in your own voice), and there is a certain self-awareness to be found in this song beyond its seemingly banal lyrics. What this band did on this tune was to put some art school cleverness in and disguise it as knock-off fun about the thrill of being on national TV.
Ultimately, what’s revealed is the basic absurdity of being in a band in the first place, making your name in the world by appealing to a faceless TV audience. But, there’s not to be attention placed on this as the song is playing. If you really get it, you’re too busy having fun to notice the irony.
For more music and information, check out the Rezillos MySpace page.