Buggles

“Boys love future girls” – Top of the Pops, 24 January 1980

Mike Read“Thirty seconds earlier and I could have been on Tomorrow’s World,” laments Mike “Hello chums” Read, dressed somewhat nattier than Simon Bates was last week in what appears to be some kind of Two Tone shirt. Ironic really, given that in recent months Read has aligned himself with UKIP, a political party whose main policy seems to be “send all the immigrants back where they came from”. You may remember last year he even released a single to that effect, which seemed to draw very little influence from The Specials and more from the late lamented Lance Percival. Still, let’s get on with the top thirty, accompanied by a bit of jazz-funk – or is it funk-jazz? – from Brazilian combo Azymuth, whose Jazz Carnival should not be confused with Spinal Tap’s Jazz Odyssey. The person who jammed a screwdriver into the Top 30 machine last week has been fired and the colour scheme has reverted to the usual yellow on black, although in a pleasingly ramshackle way the caption for Billy Preston & Syreeta has been remade using completely the wrong font.


See the full top 75 for this week on the Official Charts Website.

BUGGLES – The Plastic Age (#54)

BugglesAs with last week we kick off with a singer who would go on to much greater success as a producer. We didn’t get to revel in Trevor Horn’s only week at number 1 as a vocalist, as Video Killed The Radio Star topped the charts last October in a DLT-fronted episode. To be fair we didn’t really miss much as they only showed the video; this is the band’s first studio appearance on a regular episode and despite the title there’s very little plastic on show (Trevor’s remarkable specs notwithstanding). Indeed Horn’s getup is decidedly 20th century, as if he’s just come from a wedding, although the rest of the band have donned shiny metallic jackets because they’re from the future. Although only a select band of hardened Buggles devotees seem to remember it, or any Buggles songs apart from the obvious one, The Plastic Age would go on to reach the top twenty and provided an almost title track for the band’s debut album The Age of Plastic.

THE NOLANS – I’m In The Mood For Dancing (#4)

The NolansIt seems that having been stuck up on a tiny gantry two weeks ago hasn’t diminished the Nolans’ mood for dancing; if anything their inclination to cut a rug has increased. Now they’ve been given some proper space to do so and even the TOTP Orchestra can’t talk them out of it. In all fairness Johnny Pearson leads his musicians through a spirited rendition of the track – we even get to see him conducting for once – and the entirely live performance shows just what a class act the Nolans were when they didn’t have random audience members in grey jumpers getting in the way or self-important singers of post-punk bands expectorating at them. Still can’t see past their Filthy, Rich & Catflap performance though.

BOOMTOWN RATS – Someone’s Looking At You (#45)

Boomtown RatsOops, look out, Geldof’s gone all conceptual on us. Not content with just performing the song on the TOTP stage, in camouflage gear for some reason (except keyboardist Johnnie Fingers who has seemingly just broken out of prison), the scene intercuts rapidly with Sir Bob sitting in a chair apparently watching himself and the band performing on stage (He’s in two places at once! He is a saint, he can perform miracles!), dressed in some kind of plastic overcoat which he proceeds to cut and tear to shreds. This spectacle is also mixed with shots of some kind of electronic noughts and crosses motif like the most nightmarish episode of Celebrity Squares imaginable. Quite what it’s all supposed to mean is anyone’s guess, but at least he’s not demanding money from anyone.

BEE GEES – Spirits Having Flown (#16)

Legs & Co“Now, here’s a fellow attempting to ride a bicycle. But he’s having some trouble, isn’t he? Because he’s a Scot! Hneunh hnuh hnuh hnuh.” Yes, just as the show is getting into fourth gear, here comes Buzz Killington in the shape of Limbs & Co to illustrate one of the weakest Bee Gees singles in living memory. Spirits Having Flown would be the brothers’ last top forty hit as a group until the pounding You Win Again kick-started the third phase of their career seven and a half years later. This evening Limbs are dressed as tarts. Lattice tarts, to be exact, with some kind of skirt affair made out of feathers to indicate flight, as in the song. Presumably Flick Colby’s initial idea for the ladies to be dressed as huge bottles of vodka, gin and whisky fell through due to advertising issues.

JOE JACKSON – It’s Different For Girls (#12)

Joe JacksonRead beckons us closer in a conspiratorial manner as Limbs & Co fade out – “You should see that without the feathers – it’s different for girls,” he whispers, restraining himself from adding “know what I mean, nudge nudge, say no more.” But wait, because what he’s actually done is link us into Joe Jackson! Read, you sly old fox. It may well be different for girls but this is the same clip as two weeks ago, with Jackson apparently issuing whispered instructions to his guitarist during the intro. This was on its way up to number 5 and on the back of his previous hit Is She Really Going Out With Him? seemed to signal the start of a hugely successful career for Jackson, although for some reason it never materialised and we won’t see him again on the show until Steppin’ Out takes him back into the chart in three years’ time.

SUZI QUATRO – Mama’s Boy (#50)

Suzi QuatroFire up the Quatro! Introduced by Read in an American accent so poor even he looks embarrassed, this is the last of Suzi’s twenty-five appearances on the show in a run stretching back to 1973. Although most of her big hits came in the first two years of her chart career, you may remember her doing If You Can’t Give Me Love on the 1978 repeats or She’s In Love With You at the tail end of last year. Mama’s Boy follows the usual template of Suzi, dwarfed by her massive bass guitar, rocking out in front of her band, although the leather jacket of the mid-70s has been replaced by a more conventionally tailored affair. The song itself is a pretty shoddy character assassination on a lover who apparently isn’t manly enough for her, the insinuation being that he might be one of those new-fangled homosexualists – “Don’t know why he gets involved with women/He’s a closet case with all the trimmings” – but probably no-one was listening to the lyrics anyway.

DOLLAR – I Wanna Hold Your Hand (#9)

DollarTime for a history lesson with Professor Read. “Sixteen years ago this month was the first Top of The Pops with Jimmy Savile, number 1 was I Wanna Hold Your Hand, it’s back there in the charts today courtesy of Dollar.” A nation splutters tea across the room and takes to social media to register its disgust – “Get this filth off my television! I don’t pay my licence fee to see that great nancy boy David Van Day murdering a Beatles classic!” Yes, J*mmy S*v*le was mentioned on TOTP and civilisation failed to come to a halt, although coming directly after a song about a closet gay and with songs about teenage sex and birth control still to come, it was hardly the most controversial thing on the show this week. The Dollar track remains a self-consciously modern remake of a pop standard, but luckily they bumped into Trevor Horn backstage.

THE SPECIALS – Too Much Too Young (#15)

The SpecialsWhile their erstwhile 2-Tone labelmates Madness seemed to have overtaken them in bringing ska-pop to the masses, The Specials were about to up the ante with their EP The Special AKA Live! Lead track Too Much Too Young is the one that got all the airplay, despite Terry Hall’s assertion on the Old Grey Whistle Test that “This should have been our next single but they wouldn’t play it on the radio.” Sadly the band aren’t in the studio to play the song live but are represented by a video of themselves playing the song live, although despite being the shortest song in the chart at the time the track is mysteriously cut off before the final verse can bring the concepts of contraception and sterilisation and the advice “Keep a generation gap, try wearing a cap” to a nation already traumatised by the mention of Sir Jimmy. At least the ad-libbed, almost off-mike cry of “You silly moo!” before the instrumental break remains intact.

BARBARA DICKSON – Caravan Song (#53)

Barbara DicksonIt’s a strange career progression for Mike Batt, from The Wombles to this in four years. Fife’s foremost former folkie Barbara Dickson takes this Batt composition and fills it with all the excitement of a wet weekend in a static caravan in Rhyl, not even having the common decency to change out of her pyjamas and dressing gown for her TOTP appearance. Despite only reaching number 41 this remains one of Dickson’s most famous songs, although she was best known at this point for her 1976 hit Answer Me, the following year’s Another Suitcase In Another Hall from Evita and her frequent guest slots on The Two Ronnies. It would be another five years before she scored her biggest hit, the Elaine Paige duet I Know Him So Well, but before that we’ll see her again performing January February in, er, March.

MATCHBOX – Buzz Buzz A Diddle It (#30)

MatchboxAs well as the ska revival and the mod revival, there was also something of a rockabilly revival going on at the start of the 1980s. Amongst those blazing a trail for rock ‘n’ roll in the confused post-punk era was Matchbox, who had actually formed back in 1971 but first charted in 1979 with the top twenty hit Rockabilly Rebel. Their TOTP debut having been stricken from the record due to the extreme misfortune of appearing only on shows hosted by Savile or Travis, this is the first time BBC4 has been graced with their presence; Confederate flags and Stetsons are very much in evidence, which is a bit odd for a group from Feltham in Middlesex. They have a few more hits to come throughout the year, but if you can’t wait to see them again the full 1980 line-up is back together and touring the UK and Europe. Form an orderly queue.

SHEILA & B. DEVOTION – Spacer (#20)

Sheila & B. DevotionWell, Mike Read certainly enjoyed Matchbox, to the extent that he is moved to honk a bicycle horn in appreciation. From this unbridled show of emotion we move on to another outing for this slab of futuristic French disco, or “Gabby Logan: The Disco Years” as several viewers observed on Twitter. Strange how shiny metallic clothing was always used to signify “the future” and yet we’re still waiting for it to take off. We’re still no closer to finding out what a spacer actually is, other than “a star chaser” which doesn’t really clarify matters, and I’m sure you couldn’t hold a real light sabre like that without losing several fingers, but never mind. This is Sheila’s – and, indeed, B. Devotion’s – last appearance on the show, although the track returned to the chart in 2001 when it was sampled on Alcazar’s Crying At The Discoteque.

THE REGENTS – 7 Teen (#22)

The Regents“Right chums, it’s time for the Regents with 7 Teen and you’ll notice the lead singer’s wearing a seatbelt in case the girls try and pull him off into the audience.” Sorry, Michael? Stop sniggering at the back, because Read’s unintentional innuendo is the least of the moral majority’s worries here. This song about teenage shenanigans has been around for a few months and was on a Savile-fronted show before Christmas, but it’s only just made it into the top forty. Lead singer Martin Sheller is indeed wearing a seatbelt and has the unfortunate air of Robert Smith without make-up, but 7 Teen is a forgotten new wave classic. They might not have been able to get the phrase “permanent erection” past the censors (although the uncut version was given a limited release) but they managed to get the line “So clean, thought that you were never coming” onto prime time television right under the nose of Mike “this record is obscene” Read, so fair play to them.

PRETENDERS – Brass In Pocket (#1)

PretendersMike hasn’t noticed the lyrical filth in 7 Teen because he’s too busy working on a joke – apparently the Regents “took their name from a well known London park… Hyde Park.” Once the tumbleweed has gone past and the sound of a distant church bell has died away, it’s a second week at number one for Chrissie Hynde and band, a position they have yet to equal although Hynde did top the chart again in 1985 as guest vocalist on UB40’s remake of I Got You Babe. In fact Chrissie is credited with discovering UB40, having seen them play in a pub and given them a support slot with the Pretenders, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves. We play out with Too Hot by Kool & The Gang, a band formed back in 1964 but enjoying only their second hit single, having reached the top ten with Ladies Night a few months earlier. Mike’s got to run because he’s on the radio in a minute, but we’re back with Kid Jensen next week.

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