The Gala Final of series five opened with a rare orchestral version of the normal ‘You’re A Star’ theme coupled with a shot of fireworks and, just in case anyone was in any doubt it was live from Birmingham, an aeriel shot of the Gravelly Hill Interchange or Spaghetti Junction as it is more commonly known. The final and brief aeriel shot was of the ATV Studio complex, including Alpha Tower, on Broad Street before the footage cut to host Derek Hobson walking along the corridor towards studio one for the live broadcast of the show before an audience of around 120 people.
The judges making the decisions on the show with one hundred marks each to award the acts were;
- Bernie Rothkopf – Executive Vice-President of the MGM Grand Hotel, making his third Gala Final appearance having flown in on the morning of the show.
- Muriel Young – TV producer, making her Gala Final judging debut
- Jack Parnell – band leader, making his second consecutive Gala Final panel appearance
- Tony Hatch – composer and producer, recently returned from Australia, to keep up his record of being a judge in every single one of the show’s Gala Finals to date.
The eight finalists looking to win the gold busker trophy and that amazing engagement at the MGM Grand Las Vegas were;
- Peter Collins with Style (four-piece group) from Norwich – shows 5.25 & 5.29
- Mike Stand Douglas (comedian) from Merseyside – shows 5.6 & 5.8
- Simone (vocalist) from Exeter – show 5.1
- The Bob Clarke Ensemble (jazz trio) from London – shows 5.25 & 5.28
- Mr Carline & Mr Walling (comedy double act) from London – shows 5.27 & 5.28
- Koffee ‘N’ Kreme (vocal duo) from Portsmouth – shows 5.11 & 5.15
- Bryan Taylor (vocalist) from Glasgow – shows 5.13 & 5.16
- Kite (three-piece group) from Isle of Wight – shows 5.22 & 5.23
The only act to have made just one previous appearance in the series was Simone, having won the very first show back on 11 September 1976 which brought back winners and near misses from the previous series. Simone was, however, the most experienced act in the final line-up as she was making her fourth New Faces appearance having previously appeared on shows 4.18 and 4.22 in series four.
The eight finalists were joined by special guest act, and last year’s Gala Final winner, Roger de Courcey with Nookie Bear who would make their appearance at the end of the show while the judges considered their final scores for the acts.
Opening the show were Peter Collins with Style who ignored the advice of song choice given to them by producer Albert Stevenson after their first appearance (see show 5.25) and instead chose to perform Jim Webb’s MacArthur Park. The group, fronted by vocalist Peter Collins, also featured musicians Robin Barnes (bass guitar), Richard Knight (grand piano) and Denny Royal (drums).
The second act to perform was Liverpool comedian, and the current Club Comic of the Year, Mike ‘Stand’ Douglas. Mike’s five minute routine, which he delivered dressed in a smart black dinner suit and bow tie, consisted of a number of gags, involving various situations, and centred around two Irish characters named Murphy and Reilly.
It was back to music for the third act of the series finale, which saw Exeter vocalist Simone making her fourth New Faces appearance and the second of this series. Simone chose to perform two songs, opening with the Stylistics hit Betcha By Golly, Wow, originally recorded by Connie Stevens, which she had also performed in show 5.1 and finishing with her new disco single A Little Bit Of Magic. In between the songs there was a quick set change with Simone stepping forward in front of some reflective curtains and discarding her full length jacket, which was collected from her by show host Derek Hobson.
Returning from the commercial break Derek Hobson hoped that those watching who hadn’t backed Red Rum that day were better at spotting winners on this show. Ridden by jockey Tommy Stack, Red Rum had earlier romped home at Aintree, some twenty five lengths clear of the chasing field, to win the Grand National for a record third time. He admitted he hadn’t backed the winning horse and neither had the panel before swiftly introducing the next of the acts.
The fourth act to perform were the comedy jazz trio The Bob Clarke Ensemble who had decided not to perform jazz on this occassion and instead chosen a little bit of gypsy music, performing Vittorio Monti’s Csárdás. The trio played violin, acoustic guitar and double bass. The double bass player joined the other two musician’s slightly late, armed with a music stand, to provide the comedy element to the performance by proding Bob Clarke with his bow and kicking him as he performed over-enthusiastic side kicks. To add to the humour of the performance Bob Clarke repeatedly cast a disapproving glare at the double bass player and kept moving his music stand in disgust at his antics.
While Derek Hobson prepared to introduce the fifth act of the show he was joined by a bemused looking Mr Walling who wandered into shot behind the host of the show. Mr Carline and Mr Walling, two schoolmasters had decided to become professional entertainers following their last appearance on the show. Their performance began with Mr Walling, minus his front teeth, ‘singing’ a very out of tune version of There’s A Place For Us. He was shortly joined by the shorter, and much more hirsute, Mr Carline who ‘treated’ the audience to his ‘expert’ spoon playing, with just the one spoon. The act is probably best described as early ‘alternative’ comedy, similar to the style that Reeves and Mortimer would later be hugely successful with, devoid of actual jokes and relying purely on the madcap antics of the comedy duo to raise a laugh from the studio audience.
The sixth performance on the show was from vocal duo Koffee ‘n’ Kreme who had won through to the final from the first Near Misses show back in December 1976, where they recorded a score just nine points shy of the maximum score possible. They chose to perform two songs in the final, starting with Everybody Gets To Go To The Moon which they sang on their first New Faces appearance and followed that with their new single My World (Keeps Getting Smaller Everyday).
Returning from the second advert break of the show Derek Hobson introduced the audience to Mrs Kathleen Feast, from Gravesend, Kent, who had named the ‘Busker’ award that was presented to the top act from each All Winners Show. Derek then presented Mrs Feast with her own ‘Busker’ award before announcing that Frankie Vaughan had confirmed that every act appearing in the Gala Final would be given a spot on his new Soutern Television show to be broadcast later that year.
The penultimate act of the final was Glasgow vocalist Bryan Taylor who had secured his own television series in Scotland since his earlier success on the show. Bryan performed the ballad I Honestly Love You, which had been a number one US hit for Olivia Newton-John a few years earlier.
The final act of the series and of the Gala Final were the trio from the Isle of Wight, Kite. They performed both sides of their new single I Love The Love We’ve Got / You Got The Power which they presented as a seamless medley.
Before the scores were announced and to give the judges time to finalise their marks for each act the audience and television viewers were given another chance to see series four winner Roger de Courcey and Nookie Bear. Since winning the fourth series Roger had become the first New Faces discovery to appear at the Royal Variety Performance making the line-up in November 1976. He also already had a tour of Canada planned with Des O’Connor and had appeared in the UK’s premier pantomime at the London Palladium.
For the announcement of the scores and the final result the judging panel were relocated from their seats in front of the audience to a comfortable sofa in front of the main scoreboard. Each judge gave a brief opinion of the show before revealing their scores for each act in what would be the closest ever Gala Final with just six points between the winners and the runner-up.
Jack Parnell thought the show was terrific and that the standard of talent was very high indeed in an outstanding show. Jack awarded Bryan Taylor and Koffee ‘n’ Kreme the same score saying it was ‘so hard to chose which was the best out of the two acts.’
Muriel Young felt that ‘the songs could have been better for tonight, because it’s a very important night,’ and added that her scores were higher for those acts that she felt performed with more ‘heart and truth.’ After Muriel’s scores Glasgow vocalist Bryan Taylor was just one point ahead of Koffee ‘n’ Kreme in a very close competition.
Bernie Rothkopf had just one comment before giving his scores, he said that ‘being an American, the English humour, the comedians, suffer from my viewpoint because some of it is local humour and I really don’t relate to it as well as the musical groups.’ This view was reflected in his scores with both comedians scoring the lowest marks on his scorecard.
The final judge to reveal his scores was Tony Hatch, who followed up on Bernie’s comments on British humour, saying ‘sometimes it doesn’t work for me either,’ adding that for a Gala Show ‘the material for the funny men wasn’t funny enough.’ He also warned musical acts about ‘plugging records on a show like this’ adding that they should think about what material would win the show for them rather than trying to keep their record company happy.
After all the scores were totalled the final scoreboard gave Koffee ‘n’ Kreme a narrow win by just six points from the runner-up Bryan Taylor, with Simone finishing in third place. Both Bryan Taylor and Koffee ‘n’ Kreme would return to New Faces in series six where they both appeared as guest acts on different shows.
|Jack Parnell||Muriel Young||Bernie Rothkopf||Tony Hatch||Total|
|1||Koffee ‘n’ Kreme||90||94||93||92||369|
|5||Mike ‘Stand’ Douglas||84||91||80||82||337|
|6||The Bob Clarke Ensemble||83||92||82||80||337|
|7||Peter Collins with Style||80||90||85||78||333|
|8||Mr Carline & Mr Walling||78||90||78||73||319|
Credits: Andy Skelton and Tim Marshall (Kite) for providing an invaluable source of information for this particular show.