The Police

“Feeling like a number 1” – Top of the Pops, 25 December 1980

Jimmy Savile & Peter PowellEven though Top of the Pops ceased to be a weekly event in 2006, the Christmas Day special looking back on the year gone by remains an unavoidable Christmas tradition, like turkey, the Queen’s speech and having to be nice to relatives you can’t stand. Like poor unfortunate Peter Powell, forced to spend his Christmas lunch visiting his old uncle Jimmy, who’s relaxing in his tracksuit and toting a cigar while sat behind a table full of turkey and crackers… so just like every day in the Savile household. “Apologies if we stop you mid-mouthful of your Christmas lunch,” offers Jim, “my colleague Mr Powell will tell you the first item whilst I have a look at the goodies, thank you.” Sadly Jimmy hasn’t gone to watch Bill Oddie and friends on a portable in the bedroom, he’s just inspecting the food on the table, picking up a satsuma and trying not to get cigar ash all over the turkey. Chin up, Pete, it’s only for an hour and then we can go home and watch the Bond film on ITV.

THE NOLANS – I’m In The Mood For Dancing

The NolansAgain? Yes! They seem to have spent more time in the TOTP studio than their own homes this year, and they were on just last week doing their latest single, but the Nolans just can’t help themselves. They’re back for another performance of I’m In The Mood For Dancing, which was released at the tail end of last year but became the sisters’ biggest hit when it reached number 3 in February. This is now their eighth appearance in the studio this year, a figure which puts them way ahead of their nearest rivals, and when you consider that the video for The Curtain Song Gotta Pull Myself Together was shown twice, they could easily have been in double figures. As a reward for their efforts, Creepy Uncle Jimmy and Young Peter join them on stage at the end of the song. “Would anybody like a Nolan for Christmas?” asks Savile. “Please!” replies Powell, raising his hand, but alas Uncle Jimmy has got there first, taking each Nolan by the arm as if trying her for size before grabbing Coleen around the waist and taking her away for his own purposes. This is why we BBC Four viewers can’t have nice things.


Dexys Midnight RunnersOne of the aforementioned nice things we’re missing out on now, as the recently hastily reconstituted Dexys Midnight Runners Mk II turn up for a run through of the Mk I version’s biggest hit. A tribute to Geno Washington, but you knew that, Geno spent a fortnight at number 1 in May, bringing the band huge success which Kevin Rowland immediately set about trying to dismantle. Follow-up There, There My Dear hit number 7 during The Event but Rowland fell out with the entire music press, next single Keep It Part Two (Inferiority Part One) was a disaster and the band split. Kevin was having none of it though and employed an army of new musicians to become Dexys Midnight Runners, adopting a new sweatpants and boxer boots image to replace the docker chic of the original band. Re-recorded with the new line-up, Geno sounds noticeably different, but Rowland’s trademark whooping, hiccupping vocals are still in place so that’s really all that matters.

BLONDIE – Atomic

BlondieSo the Nolans might have had a great year with four hits and a squillion appearances on TOTP, but Blondie have had an even better year: three number one hits from three attempts, without ever so much as setting foot in Television Centre. Even their videos were a bit weird: The Tide is High was represented by a hodgepodge of bits from the real video and a lot of clips from elsewhere, Call Me didn’t have a video at all so we got clips from American Gigolo, and while Atomic did have a video, it used the strange version of the track with only one verse and a seventeen minute bass solo, while visually it employed all sorts of peculiar solarised effects and starred Debbie Harry wearing a torn bin liner. It’s the only proper video available though, so it’s the one we get here. “Post apocalyptic nightmare scenario with your sprouts, dear?” “Ooh, don’t mind if I do, dear.”


Paul McCartneyLook out, Uncle Jimmy’s been at the sherry again. Like a man concentrating on his words extra hard in an effort to make you believe he’s not drunk, Savile hesitantly hopes we’re all having a very fine Christmas and introduces another video. It’s not been the greatest of years for fab wacky thumbs-aloft Macca – what with spending nine days in a Japanese prison at the start of 1980 and his friend and colleague being senselessly murdered at the end – but his first post-Wings album McCartney II made number 1 and this single got to number 2, although weirdly it was a live Wings version of the song that did the business in the US. The video, as you’ll remember, features an entire orchestra of McCartneys in all sorts of guises ranging from fab ’60s moptop Paul to Buddy Holly to Ron Mael to Animal from The Muppets, plus Linda as Linda. Incidentally there’s no tribute to – or even mention of – John Lennon during the show, suggesting that it was recorded weeks ago. More lies and deception from the BBC, there.


Legs & CoBack in their seats now, Uncle Jimmy leers over the turkey in a most disturbing manner as Young Peter picks up a leg. “Don’t eat with your mouth full!” Savile admonishes him, before picking up the plate with the turkey on it and giving it a look which quite definitely says “Hey baby,” the senile old goat. Trying his best to ignore him, Powell introduces Barbra Streisand with her unexpected Bee Gee-penned number 1 hit from a few months back. She’s not here, of course, so… enter a recording of Limbs & Co! Yes, even though they missed a regular weekly edition recently because they were “rehearsing” for the Christmas special, they still can’t manage to do two routines in the same day so the one they did for the song’s first airing on the show will have to suffice. We don’t even get the hybrid version that’s intercut with clips of Streisand snogging a variety of men who look a bit like Barry Gibb, it’s the full routine for us. This number 1 was, of course, the peak of Barbra’s UK singles success; it would be another seventeen years before she returned to the top ten by way of duets with Bryan Adams and Céline Dion, and another thirteen years after that before Duck Sauce managed to smuggle her to number 3.

LIQUID GOLD – Dance Yourself Dizzy

Liquid GoldMeanwhile our hosts are working their way through the mountain of food on the table; Uncle Jimmy has a turkey leg (not a medical condition) while Young Peter is peeling a satsuma (not a euphemism). “My colleague’s appetite seems to have taken a considerable nosedive, ladies and gentlemen,” announces Savile, and with Liquid Gold up next it’s easy to see why. This week Ellie is wearing a gold lamé onesie while appropriately-named drummer Wally is wearing… well, it’s hard to tell. Zebra skin pants and boots? Whatever it is, there’s so little of it that it’s probably put a significant number of people off their Christmas lunch, not just Peter Powell. Of course they do the “xylophone on the chest” routine again and Wally gets a custard pie in the face for his trouble. Sheer comedy bronze. Thankfully we’ll see significantly less of Liquid Gold next year, as their bid to represent the UK at the 1981 Eurovision Song Contest was roundly defeated by the British ABBA.

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DAVID BOWIE – Ashes to Ashes

David BowieLeaving Uncle Jimmy to try and seduce the turkey, Young Peter wanders over to the (still resolutely monochrome) video screen to introduce… another video, or “piece of film” if you’re Tommy Vance. Yes, it’s the Ashes to Ashes video again, complete with the “David Bowie invented the iPad” rumour, the £3.39 “standing in the middle of some water without getting wet” effect and the late, great Steve Strange attempting not to trip over his outfit and get flattened by a bulldozer. Bowie ties with Blondie for the number of times he’s been on the show in 1980 without ever turning up to the studio, his tally bumped up by the unexpected reissue of John I’m Only Dancing in the very first week of the year and the use of Alabama Song as the show’s least appropriate playout track of the year at the end of February. 35 years on, Bowie is one of the few acts from 1980 who can still generate excitement by promising a brand new album in January 2016, unless there’s a sudden Liquid Gold reunion over Christmas.

MARTI WEBB – Take That Look Off Your Face

Marti WebbIt’s that awkward lull in Christmas Day where the festive spirit is starting to run short but it’s too early to start drinking. Young Peter attempts to amuse himself by juggling satsumas, throwing them on the ground in mock disgust when his attempt ends in inevitable failure. Equally disappointing was Marti Webb’s year, after it got off to such a promising start when Take That Look Off Your Face got to number 3 back in March. Her two follow-up singles both stalled outside the top sixty, so having only bothered to record one TOTP performance for the song when it was in the chart, Marti appears to have been press-ganged into coming back to do another one on the grounds that it may be her last chance. She shouldn’t have bothered. With all the enthusiasm of a beleaguered housewife who’s just received an iron for Christmas, Webb performs the song standing stock still with barely as much as a hand gesture. As it turned out she did get on the show again, but not until 1985, and with that attitude it’s no wonder.

THE POLICE – Don’t Stand So Close To Me

The PoliceHaving merely wielded his cigar like an extra finger until now, Uncle Jimmy has thrown caution to the wind and is now actually smoking the damn thing. In a TV studio. With food still on the table. And as if that wasn’t bad enough form, he decides to pull a cracker. With himself. “He wins everything,” says Young Peter with a resigned half-grin, “and so do the Police.” Notebooks out, conspiracy theorists. “And there are one or two people back at home who are just waiting to see the Police.” I bet there are. Sting, Andy and Stewart have taken time out from trying not to kill each other to make a new video for Don’t Stand So Close To Me, apparently filmed at the same time and location as the De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da clip shown a couple of weeks back and involving some skiing Santas as well as the band arseing about on a snowmobile as before. Sting can’t break with tradition though and, despite the extreme cold, starts taking his clothes off halfway up a mountain. Won’t somebody think of the children?

FERN KINNEY – Together We Are Beautiful

Fern Kinney“Yes indeedy, ladies and gentlemen…” Uncle Jimmy’s put his cigar down somewhere. It’s probably setting fire to the tablecloth as he goes to have some fun with the camera crew. “Crew 7, who are responsible for your pictorial elegance and such like, wish you a very merry Christmas and disassociate themselves with the next title, We Are Beautiful.” This provokes a hearty laugh from the crew, although Kenny Everett is probably not concerned about Savile taking over his Video Show on ITV. Fern Kinney is another turn who only recorded one performance of her big hit and then failed to have any more, so she’s back to do it again, but unlike Marti Webb this really was her last appearance on the show as Fern turned out to be a genuine honest-to-goodness one hit wonder and she went back to her day job as a backing singer soon afterwards. At least this time she doesn’t have to battle against the TOTP Orchestra. Are we still allowed to mention the TOTP Orchestra? Probably not.

JOHNNY LOGAN – What’s Another Year?

Johnny LoganBack to Young Peter now and, excitingly, he has a cake! It’s a reminder of the time DLT and a random audience member presented Johnny Logan with a birthday cake back in May. “We can’t give him a Christmas cake,” admits Peter, rather spoiling the effect and giving away the fact that J-Lo’s performance is pre-recorded, “but we can certainly give you out there Christmas wishes, and Johnny Logan too.” Logan’s also had trouble following up his big hit, even after getting his hair cut to make him look less like Rodney Trotter, but he’s back on his Westlife stool for another run through What’s Another Year?, this time in a suit so bright all available light is reflected straight back off it. Still, at this festive time let’s remember that Shane MacGowan also did a version of the song, which makes this one seem much, much better. It would take Johnny even longer than Marti Webb to get back on the show, right up until he did the unthinkable and won Eurovision for a second time in 1987 with Hold Me Now.

ABBA – Super Trouper

ABBATime to settle the traditional Christmas Day argument – what’s the badge Young Peter is wearing on his jumper? Even Pete himself isn’t sure whose picture has been adorning his chest all afternoon (although he wasn’t wearing it in the opening link, continuity fans). “It’s Bogart… isn’t it? I think?” “Humpty Go-cart,” confirms Uncle Jimmy, now totally bladdered. Better stick on another video, this time the most recent hit – and final UK number 1 – for ABBA. One gets the feeling that the Swedish pop legends are now all heartily sick of being in the band and they’d all quite like to take a break from it, but people just won’t stop buying their records, no matter how miserable they make the lyrics. At least Frida has a nice Christmas jumper. This showing brings ABBA to a total of eight times on the show this year without being in the studio, the same number as the Police, Bowie and Blondie. Can any of them sneak in a ninth appearance and win the award for Most Appearances For Least Effort? Time’s marching on…

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LIPPS INC. – Funkytown

Legs & CoIndeed, as time marches on and Uncle Jimmy continues to lay into the sherry, his behaviour is becoming increasingly erratic. We return from watching ABBA to find him pointing and grinning at something off screen – who knows what? – before becoming uncontrollably excited at Young Peter’s merest mention of Limbs & Co. Yes, this is the routine they’ve been rehearsing all month, and being Christmas it naturally involves toys. Lots of toys: dolls houses, teddy bears, clockwork robots, a train set (maybe that’s what Jimmy was getting so excited about), alphabet blocks arranged on the floor to spell out “XMAS TOP OF THE POPS” and even an inflatable paddling pool, just what you want on a midwinter’s day in Grimsby. The girls are dressed as… well, it’s hard to tell. “Sexy fairies”, possibly, or perhaps their dresses were torn to shreds by an angry dog before the performance started. This was the only full airing for Lipps Inc. on the show as Funkytown reached its peak position of number 2 during The Event and they never ever looked like having another hit single. Funnily enough, Peter Powell was also co-hosting TOTP the week in 1987 when Pseudo Echo made their only appearance on the show performing their only UK hit – a cover of Funkytown.

LEO SAYER – More Than I Can Say

Leo SayerIt’s not all fun being in Legs & Co though – sometimes you have to stop dancing and stand beside Jimmy Savile. As it turns out, all the toys that were littered around the floor during the dance routine – at least the ones Limbs & Co didn’t trip over or stand on – are “going out to deprived children all over the country” because Uncle Jimmy is, as we all know, an eccentric philanthropist who’s very fond of children. Be that as it may, time for another number 2 hit that was kept off screen by The Event over the summer, although Mike Martin made a decent fist of it as part of the legendary unbroadcast pilot episode in July. Leo Sayer made a couple of appearances on TOTP during the year, but only as pointless interviewee or emergency guest host, so as a special Christmas gift he finally gets to sing his biggest hit of 1980. Unfortunately, on his big moment, he cuts a faintly ludicrous figure in jacket and tie teamed with leather trousers, with his hair at peak afro, swinging the microphone about by its lead with gay abandon. Careful, Sayer, you’ll break that! Honestly, that Mike Martin was never this much trouble.


Sheena EastonIt’s all too much for Uncle Jimmy, who’s had to go and sit down at the table again so he can “close my eyes and visualise myself as the boyfriend of this young lady,” before sinking back in his chair and uttering a faint “Uh-eh-uh-eh-uh” noise, as was his wont. It’s left to Young Peter to introduce TV’s Sheena Easton, with only the second performance on the show of her second single but first hit, as the belated success of her first single but second hit rather engulfed it TOTP wise. Does that make sense? More than anything Savile’s said all afternoon, I’m sure. Two singles in the chart at the same time, both of them about the drudgery of the daily commute – what a time to be alive. Sheena’s appeal would become more selective after this, at least in the UK, although she did get the nod to sing next year’s Bond theme For Your Eyes Only, beating off a challenge from Blondie who’d already written a song and everything. In the States, of course, Sheena went from strength to strength after Prince took her under his grubby wing, but that sort of association didn’t cut the mustard over here.

PINK FLOYD – Another Brick in the Wall Part II

Pink FloydLook out, Uncle Jimmy’s woken up again and his quick power nap seems to have done him the world of good. “We should actually pay the BBC for having a super time like this,” he offers, before Young Peter needlessly asks us if we remember Pink Floyd. Indeed we do, Pete; we remember the fact that Another Brick in the Wall was number 1 last Christmas and for the first couple of weeks of 1980, we remember the “double negative” joke and we particularly remember the terrifying video with cartoon teachers turning into hammers and feeding children through mincing machines. Never the most prolific of acts, the Floyd never scored another top twenty hit single but did manage four number 1 albums over the next 35 years. The choir of Islington Green School never had another hit either; by the end of 1980 there was a new, much more polite gang of singing kids in town.

ST WINIFRED’S SCHOOL CHOIR – There’s No-one Quite Like Grandma

St Winfred's School ChoirIt’s all over for another year, the turkey has been cleared away before Uncle Jimmy can interfere with it and Limbs & Co are back, still in their dog-ravaged costumes. “Who would not like to spend Christmas like this, dear friends?” asks Savile, as a million hands go up across the country. “Now then, Mr Powell will tell you of the musical content whilst I attend to Legs & Co.” Thankfully Jimmy’s attentions are limited to offering them a chocolate each from a large box on the table, while Young Peter reminds us that Pink Floyd were number 1 last Christmas but fails to tell us what’s number 1 this Christmas because the whole thing was recorded weeks ago before anybody knew. Of course it’s the choir again, because even recently deceased rock legends can’t compete with the power of the grey pound in Christmas week. So we come to the end of Top of the Pops for 1980, a transitional year, but the transition is far from complete: Michael Hurll is still tinkering with the format and even bigger changes are afoot next year. Not immediately, though, because in those far off days there was no chart published in the week between Christmas and New Year, so TOTP 1981 kicks off on New Year’s Day with another look back at 1980 that BBC Four won’t be showing.

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