Blondie

“Everyone avoids me like a cyclone ranger” – Top of the Pops, 28 February 1980

Kid Jensen“Hi there! You’ve joined us just in time as we punch out more pop on this week’s edition of Top of the Pops!” Well, that was lucky. Imagine if we’d turned up late for a 35-year-old TV show. After the Winter Olympic related shenanigans of the past two weeks we’re back to normal tonight, returning to the regular Thursday night slot and the good old-fashioned yellow-on-black top thirty countup. The accompanying music is Jefferson Starship’s Jane, backing the countup for the second time in a month without ever appearing on the main show itself; we won’t see anything of them until late 1985 when they dropped the Jefferson bit and hit the top twenty with We Built This City, although there was a strange period in 1987 when their number 1 hit Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now shared space in the top 100 with White Rabbit by their predecessors Jefferson Airplane. This is all completely irrelevant to tonight’s show, of course.

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

ELVIS COSTELLO & THE ATTRACTIONS – I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down (#5)

Elvis Costello & The AttractionsSo let’s get going with two of the silliest minutes of television you’ll ever see associated with Elvis Costello. Even the boy McManus can’t keep a straight face as a once sombre Sam & Dave number turns more Chas & Dave. Clearly someone has consulted Flick Colby’s Big Book of Literal Interpretation as the TV picture totters from side to side and even slides right off the screen in case you weren’t sure what “falling down” meant. As if that wasn’t enough there’s a brilliantly ludicrous insert for the last chorus where Elvis is hooked up to some bungee ropes and dropped to the floor, before being hoisted up again and dropped again. Costello can come over as being somewhat austere – it’s not that long since he was sneering at “silly little man” Tony Blackburn – so it’s nice to see him behaving like a tit for once.

MARTI WEBB – Take That Look Off Your Face (#6)

Marti WebbWith Elvis still vibrating in the background after all his falling down, The Kid slows proceedings back down to a crawl, introducing Marti Webb’s inexplicably huge hit with a gesture that invokes images of Billy Connolly’s famous “I’ll take my hand off your face!” routine. This song from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Tell Me On A Sunday is on its way to spending three straight weeks at number 3, while grammar pedants across the country hiss “didn’t sleep well last night!” at their televisions. It’s the same performance as two weeks ago so much of it is still done in unnecessarily extreme close-up and the combined might of Pearson and Stredder are still tearing it to shreds, and it’s still not as good as French & Saunders’ version but as that doesn’t seem to be on YouTube you’ll just have to take my word for it.

THE VAPORS – Turning Japanese (#34)

The VaporsWhat is it with everything tonight referencing a yet-to-be-made comedy sketch? Flick’s book is out again as the graphics department illustrate Turning Japanese with pictures of every Japanese person they can find, in the style of Father Ted’s hastily prepared slideshow about how much he loves the Chinese. All it needs is to end with repeating slides of Vapors singer Dave Fenton and the phrase “Not a racist.” In fact you could be forgiven for being surprised to see this shown at all, given that a Barron Knights performance from the tail end of last year was excised from the repeat run for a dubious joke about the Chinese. Never mind, if nothing else the Japanese slideshow has enabled us to get through the song without once suggesting that the lyrics are about self abuse. Oops.

MICHAEL JACKSON – Rock With You (#7)

Michael JacksonA nice bit of misdirection from The Kid here who introduces Michael Jackson, the camera panning to the right as if to swing round to catch the man himself on stage in the studio… but no, of course not, we end up just fading into the video instead. The video itself is no Thriller, but it’s also no Earth Song so we can be grateful for that. What it lacks in zombies or Christ-like self-mythology it makes up for in lasers. There are lasers. Lots of them. So many that the laser budget probably made up about 90% of the total budget, especially in those far-off days when lasers were still viewed with the same scepticism as witchcraft and computers. In fact there are so many lasers that Michael’s spangly, sparkly outfit seems superfluous, not to mention dangerous as it threatens to redirect one of the laser beams directly into your retina. It’s a Health & Safety nightmare, etc.

LIQUID GOLD – Dance Yourself Dizzy (#47)

Liquid GoldIt’s fair to say that this lot are not taking it seriously. The guitarist and bassist are playing their instruments with violin bows, the guitarist has a heart-shaped guitar and has come as a prototype Adam Ant, the singer’s forgotten to put her skirt on and the drummer… well, he’s forgotten to put anything on except a tie and an indecently snug pair of nylon shorts. What he has remembered to do is paint a piano keyboard on his torso, which singer Ellie Hope “plays” during the xylophone solo in the instrumental break, to little acclaim from the audience. Still, it’s going all the way to number 2 and rather spoiling the idea that disco was dead and buried by the end of the 1970s.

GIBSON BROTHERS – Cuba (#40)

Gibson BrothersIn fact it’s disco frenzy this week – “It’s just like New Year’s Eve up here tonight,” observes The Kid – with three floorfillers in succession. Here are the Gibson Brothers – Mel, Henry and Debbie – salsaing their way through a song which had reached number 41 a year ago and had now made it one place higher on the back of their two top ten hits Ooh! What A Life and Que Sera Mi Vida. “My only desire is making you mine,” croons Mel, and indeed someone with a Davy lamp would be very useful on this strangely dimly lit set, decorated only by half a dozen balloons tied together – it doesn’t exactly scream “Fiesta” until twenty seconds before the end when the dancing girls arrive in huge feathered headdresses and not much else. Clearly the whole thing is a US-instigated plot to bring about the fall of Communism.

PETER GABRIEL – Games Without Frontiers (#17)

Peter GabrielFive years after his departure from Genesis, Gabriel had yet to set the singles chart alight apart from his very first solo single Solsbury Hill in 1977. To be fair, Genesis were not exactly a bankable singles act at the time either, and Gabriel had reached the top ten with his albums Peter Gabriel and Peter Gabriel. This single helped his third solo album Peter Gabriel (titles were never his strong point) to number 1 and eventually reached number 4 in the singles chart – his joint biggest hit, matched only by 1986’s Sledgehammer. Despite the reference to ’70s game show It’s A Knockout and its pan-European equivalent Jeux Sans Frontiers, the video does not include anyone in a ten foot tall rubber costume attempting to carry a bucket of water over a bouncy castle, but there are also no references to Stuart Hall, so we got off lightly there.

STIFF LITTLE FINGERS – At The Edge (#25)

Stiff Little FingersTime for “a bit of that kind of rock,” as silly little man Tony Blackburn would have called it. It still seems odd that this was such a huge hit compared to some of the band’s more inflammatory material which failed to register on the chart; maybe the inclusion of a live version of White Christmas on the B-side helped propel it into the top twenty in March. Jake Burns and his cohorts give a suitably impassioned performance although again the studio is so dimly lit that Flick Colby could have smuggled U2’s guitarist in to the line-up and nobody would have noticed, not that anyone would have known who he was at the time anyway, so really it would have been a very obscure joke that only a tiny number of viewers would have appreciated at the time but utterly fantastic 35 years later.

DAVE EDMUNDS – Singing The Blues (#28)

Dave EdmundsBack again, it’s Dave Edmunds on vocals, Nick Lowe on bass and Keith Chegwin Billy Bremner on guitar, who would go on to have a bit of a solo career including almost hit single Loud Music In Cars. This sub-Status Quo version of a song that was already 24 years old sounds totally out of place in the post-punk era, a bit like Mumford & Sons covering Everything I Do (I Do It For You) nowadays, which is something I’m sure you don’t even want to contemplate. Sorry for bringing it up. This turned out to be Edmunds’ last appearance on TOTP although he managed one further top forty hit, a version of The Race Is On with the Stray Cats which limped to number 34 in 1981.

THE POLICE – So Lonely (#19)

Legs & CoFilling an awkward nine-month gap between singles, we call upon The Police’s third single So Lonely to make a belated appearance in the chart, in much the same way that both Roxanne and Can’t Stand Losing You had to be coaxed into the top forty many moons after their original release. Naturally the band had moved on by this point and weren’t particularly interested in appearing on TOTP to promote a single that was over a year old, so enter Limbs & Co. Clearly there’s been enough literal interpretation for one night so rather than dance around a giant effigy of Sue Lawley, the girls just do their own thing, which involves a lot of pointing for some reason, as well as whipping off their jackets and dancing in double time for the chorus as Sting emotes the full depth of his loneliness. How insensitive.

RAINBOW – All Night Long (#22)

RainbowLast week Peter Powell asked “Who said heavy metal was dead?” Quite clearly no-one did, because this is Rainbow’s second of three top ten hits between 1979 and 1981, and singer Graham Bonnet also scored a solo top ten hit just after the last of those. That said, Bonnet looks somewhat out of place here, with his look positioned somewhere between M’s Robin Scott and Let’s Dance-era Bowie. Mind you, with Deep Purplist Roger Glover taking on bass duties in full beard and fedora, not to mention keyboardist Don Airey in a fetching sky blue sweatshirt, it’s a toss-up as to who looks least rock ‘n’ roll. Luckily the song itself is an unimpeachable metal classic which is climbing all the way to number 5 and should not be confused with this Rainbow in the same way the Official Charts website does.

THE SHADOWS – Riders In The Sky (#12)

The ShadowsYes, this lot again, but in fact this is an historic occasion because this would be the Shads’ last ever appearance on TOTP. Following the success of this single they left EMI, where they had been since the late ’50s when they were still Cliff Richard’s backing group The Drifters, and signed to Polydor where they released numerous albums of tepid cover versions such as Moonlight Shadows, Simply Shadows and Steppin’ To The Shadows. If they suspected this might be their last appearance it certainly didn’t show, with Hank still grinning like a loon and Brian Bennett provocatively moved to the front of the stage to battle with those electronic drums again. The Shadows’ only top forty single after this one came in 2009 when they reunited with Cliff for a cover of – guess what? – Singing The Blues.

BLONDIE – Atomic (#1)

BlondieThe Shadows, of course, “have inspired countless musicians over the years, maybe even Blondie.” Yeah, not entirely sure about that, Kid, unless you’re basing it on the fact that they both have guitarists. Anyway, despite being one of their weaker singles, Atomic has deposed Kenny Rogers from number one so we get to see the apocalyptic nightmare scenario video and listen to the interminable bass solo again. Far more interesting, if that’s the right word, is the playout track which is David Bowie’s take on Brecht and Weill’s Alabama Song, a jarring listen which sounds like seven entirely different records being played at once but somehow made it to number 23 by virtue of being a David Bowie record. That’s all for this week, Dave Lee Travis is at the helm next week, or is he?

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