“Just another message on a payphone wall” – Top of the Pops, 7 February 1980

Steve WrightWell now, who’s this handsome young fella rocking the Captain Kremmen beard and massive, slightly tinted glasses look? It’s only Steve Wright on his first TOTP hosting gig, a position he would cling onto for the whole decade before becoming the voice of TOTP2 for many a long year, and if you think he looks ridiculous here you should Google him and see what he looks like now. Wrighty even had his own top forty hit I’m Alright in 1982, which makes absolutely no sense now if you don’t remember listening to Radio 1’s Steve Wright in the Afternoon around that time. The top thirty machine is still stuck on INK 0; PAPER 6 with accompaniment from Jefferson Starship, the missing link between ’60s stoners Jefferson Airplane and ’80s FM rockers Starship, a link that perhaps should have remained missing.

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

THE TOURISTS – So Good To Be Back Home Again (#46)

The TouristsAlmost as if they knew this would be their last major hit, the Tourists have decided to do the show in fancy dress. Dave Stewart has come as Ziggy Stardust, while bassist Eddie Chin has come as Dave Stewart ten years in the future. Guitarist Peet Coombes does a more than passable impression of Elliott Smith, Annie Lennox has come as some kind of combination of Lady Gaga and Petr Cech and drummer Jim “Do It” Toomey hasn’t bothered because nobody can see him and he has the best nickname anyway. Coming on the back of their successful remake of I Only Want To Be With You late last year, So Good To Be Back Home Again was the band’s only original composition to reach the top thirty; within a year Dave and Annie had jumped ship to become Eurythmics, who we may yet see on the show if the reruns carry on into 2018.

CLIFF RICHARD – Carrie (#27)

Cliff RichardAlong with Devil Woman and We Don’t Talk Anymore, this is one of the few post-60s Cliff singles where he seemed like he was trying to do something relevant and interesting rather than just coasting along being Cliff Richard. This is due in part to the writing talents of a certain B.A. Robertson, who generated more polarised opinions on social media with his hits Bang Bang and Knocked It Off than anyone else in 1979 and will do so again later this year. Meanwhile Cliff is in search of a young lady friend who used to live round these parts; they’ve lost touch in recent years, seeing as how they don’t talk anymore – the kind of conceptual continuity Frank Zappa would be proud of. Nowadays you would just tweet a photo of her and wait for it to go viral, but in the dark days of 1980 Cliff had to traipse around town with her picture, showing it to random people. Did he ever find her? We just don’t know.

THE WHISPERS – And The Beat Goes On (#18)

Legs & CoAs Kenny Everett had Hot Gossip, so Wrighty has a Kenny Everett beard and Legs & Co. Having rejected the literal choreography options of dressing the girls up as metronomes or members of The Beat, there’s nothing else for it but to dress them up in normal (if unfeasibly short) dresses of varying colours. But how can we keep the viewers’ attention if they’re dressed like normal people? Don’t worry. Noticing that bands’ logos have started showing up on the circular portions of the set in the past few weeks, someone has designed a logo for Limbs & Co which can be used in a similar way. I say “designed”, it actually looks like it’s written in Elvish and the director has seen fit to superimpose the barely legible word “Legs” over most of the dancing, so as usual it’s memorable but not in a good way. This would go on to be the Whispers’ biggest hit by some considerable margin, reaching number 2 in a couple of weeks’ time.

BOOMTOWN RATS – Someone’s Looking At You (#8)

Boomtown RatsAnother outing for the performance from two weeks ago, which is really two performances in one so it seems only fair. Geldof is still flitting between being some kind of leather jacketed Rambo figure and a freaky cataract-suffering game show contestant who’s found himself on Mastermind when he thought he was going on Celebrity Squares. As a conceptual art piece it must make sense to someone, if only Geldof himself. Reaching a peak of number 4 next week, this was the Rats’ penultimate top ten hit although they struggled on for another five years after this, even managing to wangle a slot at Live Aid, by which time Geldof was busily shooting his mouth off about rather more pressing matters than saving some fish.

THE NOLANS – I’m In The Mood For Dancing (#3)

The NolansWhile Geldof relaxes after putting in a double shift during the same performance, here come the Nolans with another great example of the Irish work ethic; this is now their fourth different TOTP performance of the same song (although we didn’t see the first one for jangly reasons). This time there’s no sign of Johnny Pearson and his orchestra in the background and no precarious looking podium for the girls to shuffle awkwardly on, but we do still get some unnecessary clips of audience members who clearly aren’t in the mood for dancing but have been coerced into doing so anyway. This concerted effort in returning to the studio time after time still couldn’t push them past number 3, the same position Madness got to with their one performance shown three times; this was, of course, the Nolans’ most successful single although they managed another six top twenty hits after this one.

THE CHORDS – Maybe Tomorrow (#44)

The ChordsAh yes, the Mod revival, remember that? This was the first of two appearances for the Chords, who had been signed up by TOTP’s semi-regular gobshite Jimmy Pursey of Sham 69 before falling out with him and signing to Polydor, making them labelmates with The Jam. It’s fair to say that a record label is not all they shared with Weller & Co; this, their only top forty hit, sounds for all the world like a Jam demo. All the required chord sequences and drum fills are in place, singer and guitarist Billy Hassett has acquired the obligatory Rickenbacker, all that remains is for Paul to write a melody and sing it over the top. Sadly this never happens and we’re left with a template for a Jam record which is pleasant enough but lacking an indefinable something to make it memorable. Still, their performance was enough to push the single to number 40 the following week.

REGENTS – 7 Teen (#11)

Regents“I have a feeling we might be seeing a lot more of the Chords,” predicts Wrighty, unwisely, as he links into another bunch of one hit wonders. Yes, the Regents are back and still looking like Robert Smith fronting a homemade Human League, although at this point the League was still four blokes dicking around with analogue synths and slide projectors, so maybe it’s more accurate to say that the Dare-era Human League looked like a smartened up Regents. Either way, it’s the ramshackle nature of the track that gives it its charm – a re-recorded, slightly more polished version was ditched for the single release in favour of this demo recording – and got the band as high as number 11, although surprisingly it couldn’t push through into the top ten. The Regents went on to sign with a major label and were never seen on TOTP again, while the Human League were barely off the show in the second half of 1981. The music industry, there.

QUEEN – Save Me (#20)

Queen“I understand Freddie Mercury and his band Queen have been getting into ballet recently,” observes Wrighty, seemingly not as a dig at Fred’s famous encounter with Sex Pistols bassist Simon Ferocious but a reference to Mercury’s performance with the Royal Ballet the previous October. Very little in the way of ballet to be seen in the video for Brian May’s ballad Save Me, although there’s plenty of rocking out in front of a massive drum kit as you might expect. Freddie has gone for a formal look this evening, in red leather trousers and matching tie, but the effect is somewhat marred by the fact that he’s forgotten to put his shirt on. The video is unusual in that it mixes live action with animation, half a decade before a-ha’s Take On Me did; including a scene where the animated female character morphs into a dove which Freddie fails to catch. Luckily it flies away before dropping a load on Roger’s drums.

THE SELECTER – Three Minute Hero (#21)

The SelecterAnother hugely overstaffed 2 Tone act following The Specials and Madness into the chart, The Selecter were notable for their appalling spelling and the fact that, uniquely among the 2 Tone acts of the time, they had a female lead singer in Pauline Black. The band’s performance is generic 2 Tone – if there can be such a thing for a movement that was barely six months old at the time – with each member chiefly required to jump around until exhausted, regardless of how difficult it becomes to play his instrument while so doing. Despite Wrighty’s expectation that this would soon join the Specials at the top of the chart, it seemed the band’s popularity was already on the wane; Three Minute Hero only climbed as far as number 16 and was their last top twenty hit.

AC/DC – Touch Too Much (#47)

AC/DCAnd now a bit of genuine rock history: AC/DC’s last UK television appearance with Bon Scott on vocals. It seems surprising now that they were even invited on the show to promote this single, entire chunks of which have had to be edited out; typical AC/DC single entendres such as “She liked it done medium rare” were apparently not suitable for TOTP, which is a family show and will not tolerate such filth. Twelve days after this show was first broadcast the legendarily hard living Scott was no more; having passed out after a night of heavy drinking in London, he was found dead the following morning, acute alcohol poisoning being given as the cause of his demise. As a fitting (and probably accidental) tribute, this episode was shown as part of the BBC Four reruns 35 years to the day after Scott’s passing.

BUGGLES – The Plastic Age (#28)

BugglesAC/DC, of course, carried on with Brian Johnson taking Bon Scott’s place and are still going, having released their latest album Rock or Bust late last year. Not still going, on the other hand, are the Buggles, who were already struggling to live up to the success of their début hit. Once again Trevor Horn didn’t get the memo about dressing up in shiny futuristic gear, although he still doesn’t look as odd as keyboardist Geoff Downes who, for reasons known only to himself, appears to be wearing a pair of rubber washing-up gloves. Maybe one of his keyboards wasn’t earthed properly. As if to make up for the fact that they weren’t on the show with Video Killed The Radio Star (except for the Christmas special), The Plastic Age will be on again in a couple of weeks and even their difficult third single gets a slot in a month or two.

THE SPECIALS – Too Much Too Young (#1)

The SpecialsWell, surely we’ll have enough time to show the whole 2’05” of the song this week, won’t we? Ah, no, out of time again, deary me, they’ve had to cut the verse about contraception again. It’s almost as if they didn’t want you to hear it. Anyway, Wrighty has made it through his first of countless TOTPs and we play out with Joe Jackson’s It’s Different For Girls again, after Steve teases us with an intriguing teaser for next week’s show, apparently on Friday instead of the regular Thursday. Don’t tune in next Friday though, because (a) it’s not 1980; (b) The Sky At Night is on BBC Four next week in place of the regular TOTP repeat, pushing the next edition back a week as it has done since 2011 although it still seems to confuse people on Twitter who will postulate that they’ve dropped the show because of the number of editions they can’t broadcast any more; and (c) Simon Bates is hosting.

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