Spandau Ballet

“I’m gonna be your number one” – Top of the Pops, 13 November 1980

Simon BatesOur TuneThis is a story about a young fella – well, a fella – who found himself… in a position he wasn’t entirely comfortable with. Let’s call him “Simon”, because that’s his name. Now, Simon was blessed with a pleasing, mellifluous voice which made him a hit with ladies of a certain age, so naturally it wasn’t long before he found himself hosting the mid-morning show on Radio 1. Simon didn’t mind his job, but it did come with a few drawbacks: for one, he couldn’t just talk for three hours but had to play lots of pop music he didn’t particularly like. This he could live with, but Simon’s main concern was that he was contractually obliged to host Top of the Pops every few weeks. On these occasions, not only did he have to introduce and even mingle with the pop groups he didn’t really like, but he had to reveal the fact that he had… well, let’s be charitable and call it “a good face for radio”. Eventually, after many years, Simon stopped being asked back to do TOTP and finally found his true calling: warning viewers of 18-certificate videos about the potential for “sexual swearwords”. However, one song in particular reminds Simon of his time as a TOTP host…

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

IRON MAIDEN – Women in Uniform (#35)

Iron MaidenYes, Simon Bates is back in charge this week and being forced to sound enthusiastic about Iron Maiden. Not even proper Iron Maiden, but unrecognisable 1980 Iron Maiden without Bruce Dickinson. Even the song is unrecognisable, except in Australia where it was originally a hit for the band Skyhooks two years earlier. Recorded by Maiden at the insistence of their publishing company who wanted a proper hit single from them, it became the band’s third top forty hit but it’s not on any of their albums (other than the Australian version of 1981’s Killers) and consequently the only version on Spotify comes from one of numerous albums of Maiden songs re-recorded by the band’s vocalist in this era, Paul Di’Anno. It’s almost as if the rest of the band are somehow embarrassed by the song for some reason. The whole shebang could easily be a performance by the Comic Strip’s spoof metal band Bad News, but even Vim Fuego would baulk at lyrics like “Women in uniform, sometimes they look so cold / Women in uniform, but oh! They feel so warm.” Just be thankful DLT wasn’t hosting this week.

DAVID BOWIE – Fashion (#6)

David BowieBates can hardly keep a straight face, what with the ludicrousness of the previous song and the fact that Iron Maiden’s upcoming UK tour takes in such musical metropolises as Uxbridge and Redcar. On with “a beautiful thing from the top ten”, Bowie still isn’t in the studio of course but he has sent along a film (Simes still hasn’t come to terms with the word “video”) which doesn’t feature Steve Strange almost getting flattened by a bulldozer, although Bowie does mimic Strange’s peculiar bowing manoeuvre from the Ashes to Ashes “film”. Fashion also includes a cameo appearance from May Pang, wife of producer Tony Visconti and “companion” of John Lennon during his 18-month “Lost Weekend” period in 1973-74. The song seems to be openly mocking the New Romantics to whom Bowie was such an icon, but nobody seemed to mind and it became his second top five hit in a row, the first time he’d achieved such a feat since 1974.

GLADYS KNIGHT & THE PIPS – Bourgie’ Bourgie’ (#33)

Gladys Knight & The Pips“Old four eyes is back,” grins Simes cryptically, leaving us unsure whether this is a self-deprecating comment, a spectacularly unpleasant dig at the bespectacled girl in the audience beside him, or an ironic introduction to his next guests, who have only three eyes between them. Yes, despite public demand, Dr Hook are back! Don’t panic though, it’s just Ray Sawyer and Dennis Locorriere here for one of those increasingly pointless quick chats between songs. Nobody seems to know why they’re there, not even Bates or the band themselves, although there seems to be some kind of private joke going on between the three of them to which we are not party. Never mind, maybe if their next single is a hit (it won’t be) they’ll be asked back to do a song (they won’t) just like Gladys Knight and the Pips have. Even if they did, it surely wouldn’t be a song suggesting that everybody wants to own the means of production in order to control the working class, which is what Gladys seems to be suggesting. Death to the bourgeoisie in their purple velour jackets and spangly waistcoats! But not to the mid-’80s jangly Scottish group who named themselves after this song.

JOHN LENNON – (Just Like) Starting Over (#20)

Legs & CoNow that Dr and Mrs Hook have been dispatched off back to the green room Simes cracks on with the Tedious Music News™ section, including a mention of U2’s début album Boy a full nine months before it charted in the UK. Then, just when you think things might have taken a positive musical turn, along comes Stu Francis, host of Friday afternoon kids’ TV show Crackerjack and purveyor of various catchphrases including “Ooh, I could crush a grape” and the lesser spotted “Ooh, I could jump off a doll’s house.” Of course Francis has a record to plug, but thankfully it’s not his; it’s BBC TV’s Best of Top of the Pops with a list of artists on the front in order to distinguish it from the low budget anonymous cover version albums also called Top of the Pops. The confusing world of trademarks, there. It’s a particularly busy link as Simes also has to fit in the first part of the top 30 countup which seems like a lot of faffing about before we get to John Lennon. It had been five years since Lennon’s last single, and even that was a belated release of Imagine to promote his 1975 best-of Shaved Fish, so naturally expectations were high when he finally got bored of being a househusband and went back to the studio. It seems churlish now to suggest that his comeback single was a bit underwhelming, but it certainly didn’t break any new ground and was struggling its way up the chart. Perhaps if John had come to the UK to do some promotion it might have helped (not being in New York in early December would certainly have been a bonus) but it wasn’t to be, so… enter Limbs & Co, obscured behind semi-opaque screens in various baffling costumes which have little to do with the song apart from looking as dated as the track sounds. Never mind, Lennon’s back and surely he’ll make lots more records in the years to come, won’t he?

LIQUID GOLD – The Night, The Wine And The Roses (#32)

Liquid GoldHaving derailed the show with the overlong link before Lennon, Simes decides to cut his losses with the next one, scooting through the next part of the chart and straight into Liquid Gold. Yes, this lot again. It may be six months since we’ve seen them but it seems like only yesterday, mainly because they’re doing exactly the same shtick over exactly the same backing track. Other than Ellie Hope attempting to subvert proceedings by singing into a rose instead of a microphone (But how does that work? Is the rose electronic? Does it convert sound into electrical impulses through the power of pollen?) everything is just as you remember it: the drummer still looks like he’s been thrown out of a fancy dress party, this time wearing some kind of Stars & Stripes Lycra bodysuit and knee high stockings; Ellie is still wearing a cocktail dress that she looks like she might pop out of at any second; and if the song sounded any more like Dance Yourself Dizzy they’d have to sue themselves. The law of diminishing returns was never more evident than in Liquid Gold’s chart career (except maybe in Kelly Marie’s) – this would be their last top 40 hit, although we haven’t quite seen the last of them. Sorry about that.

SPANDAU BALLET – To Cut a Long Story Short (#43)

Spandau BalletCracking on with the shorter links, Simes barely acknowledges Liquid Gold and moves straight on to “five young guys from Islington who are causing a real buzz in the music industry.” Indeed, long before they adopted the sensible suit and tie look you remember from the True video, Spandau Ballet were among the original New Romantics, regularly playing at London’s Blitz nightclub where they were contemporaries of Boy George, Steve Strange, Rusty Egan and everyone David Bowie was taking the piss out of earlier. It’s not hard to see why the New Romantics were figures of ridicule for the older generation; Spandau look like they’ve just come from a wedding in Inverness, tartan and sporrans everywhere, although Steve Norman is the only one brave enough to actually wear the kilt. This TOTP performance would propel the band’s début single into the top twenty next week and sow the seeds of a career that has lasted thirty-five years so far, albeit with a twenty year break in the middle when they hated each other’s guts.

ABBA – Super Trouper (#13)

ABBATalking of hating each other’s guts… Sweden’s finest are up next and Simes is all excited because Super Trouper has entered the chart at number 13, “something that’s amazed even the record company.” It’s not immediately clear why this is so amazing, given that three of their last eight singles débuted inside the top ten, but Bates does at least get the honour of introducing the song’s video film for the first time on British television. Of course, everyone knows it off by heart by now: the huge stage light being shone directly at the camera, the group in white costumes grinning wildly whilst surrounded by circus performers, Frida’s amazing jumper, “I was sick and tired of everything when I called you last night from Glasgow” (yup, that’s Glasgow for you). Musically it’s miles away from The Winner Takes It All but lyrically the undercurrent of barely contained despair is still very much in evidence. Still, it’s business as usual and Super Trouper is on an immutable path to number 1.

BLONDIE – The Tide is High (#1)

BlondiePut that light out! On with the top ten then, again with the TEN TOP TEN TOP TEN caption that comes and goes seemingly at random, and now with a caption for “ADAM AND ANTS” at number 7. “And for those people who thought that Barbra Streisand would be at the top ’til Christmas, you’re wrong!” You certainly are. Blondie have done it again with their third number one of the year, although the video isn’t finished yet so we get the opening shots of the Blondie men looking up at Debbie’s apartment from the familiar video and a brief clip of Ms Harry lip-synching to the chorus, but the rest is pans over still photos and footage from other videos, including a section accompanying the “I’m gonna be your number one” line where a giant blue 1 floats across the screen like a scene from Sesame Street. Simes bids us goodnight over the unexpected sight of Stu Francis and Dr Hook batting balloons at each other and we play out with I Like (What You’re Doing To Me) by Young & Company, who were a funk group from New York and not a firm of estate agents from Aberdeen.

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