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“Just take a seat, they’re always free” – Top of the Pops, 13 March 1980

Steve WrightSo it’s one of those weeks on BBC Four where, without warning or explanation, we skip an episode due to its host, ruining the famous rule that nothing gets on the show two weeks in a row unless it’s number 1 and leaving less enlightened viewers scratching their heads and muttering “Wasn’t this rubbish on last week?” To add insult to injury this week’s host is Steve Wright, still persisting with the “poor man’s Kenny Everett” beard, and as we’ll see later on there’s not really much about his presentation style to give him an air of respectability greater than that of DLT. You’ll also notice that the rubbish “TOTO” sign from a few weeks back has been melted down and refashioned into a new one that quite definitely reads “T.O.T.P.” complete with superfluous full stops. Anyway, the top 30 countup music comes from Canadian rock gods Rush, enjoying their biggest ever UK hit with Spirit Of Radio.

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

THE DOOLEYS – Love Patrol (#39)

The DooleysSadly there’s no record of the Dooleys ever having released a song called You’ve Got Me, so the story about someone phoning up a radio show to request “You’ve Got Me by the Dooleys” must be apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate. Anyway, this is all very strange as the Dooleys used to be a pretty straight laced, establishment-friendly bunch – they had a hit album in the USSR in 1976 and performed the theme tune to legendary adult literacy show On The Move which made a star out of Bob Hoskins – but appear to have reinvented themselves for the new decade, squeezing themselves into multi coloured lycra and glittery boob tubes – and that’s just the guys, ha ha. Ha. It doesn’t seem to have done them much good as, after two consecutive top ten hits, Love Patrol just scraped into the top thirty.

THE POLICE – So Lonely (#6)

The PoliceSo it seems the Police were in Japan when So Lonely finally charted and were required to spend an hour or so fannying about in Tokyo making a video. Hence we get the band members on a subway train singing the song into walkie-talkies – because that’s what the real police do, of course – while being completely ignored by the Japanese public. This is intercut with shots of drummer Stewart Copeland wandering around the streets drumming on anything he can find; street signs, fences and trams are all fair game for Copeland’s sticks, but not the food jars of an unimpressed street vendor who shoos him away. Hard times for the man who was allowed to drum on a Saturn V moon rocket a few months earlier. So Lonely would end up in the top twenty again a few months later as part of a Six Pack along with the band’s previous four singles and one new one.

DETROIT SPINNERS – Working My Way Back To You / Forgive Me Girl (#20)

Legs & CoJust as The Beat were known as The English Beat and Squeeze rebranded as UK Squeeze in certain other countries to avoid confusion with other groups, so the US soul group The Spinners had to be renamed in the UK to differentiate them from the Liverpool folk group of the same name. This medley was on its way to becoming their biggest UK hit, but they weren’t around for TOTP, so… enter Limbs & Co, with the Flick Colby Big Book of Literal Interpretation falling open at W for “Working”. Of course “Working” translates only as “digging bloody great holes in the road”, so the girls are dressed as… well, I don’t know what they’re dressed as, but the set is covered in scaffolding, traffic cones and signs reading “DANGER – LADIES AT WORK”. Not sure any of those outfits would pass a risk assessment though, and there really doesn’t seem to be any work going on, just a lot of dancing. Thatcher’s Britain, ladies and gentlemen.

BROTHERS JOHNSON – Stomp (#25)

Brothers JohnsonThe other Spinners, incidentally, never had a hit single but were regulars on undemanding light entertaining television and are probably best remembered for this public information film encouraging you to give blood. Anyway, more American soul now, from another band enjoying its biggest UK hit – the Brothers Johnson (Lyndon B., Linton Kwesi, Holly and Marblehead) who scored a top forty hit in 1977 with the bafflingly titled Strawberry Letter 23. The Johnsons aren’t in the studio either, but they have supplied a video which is a fairly nondescript affair, consisting mainly of the band performing the song in another studio, but interspersed with shots of George and Louis Johnson (they’re brothers, y’know) driving around in a car and some people dancing at a party. There are varying degrees of fancy footwork on display but at no point does anyone actually stomp.

SECRET AFFAIR – My World (#40)

Secret AffairGlossing over the image of Steve Wright with his arms around two of the five young ladies forming a line around him for no obvious reason, we’d better get on with pretending that the mod revival is still a “thing”. Secret Affair had reached no.13 last Autumn with Time For Action and after an underwhelming follow-up Let Your Heart Dance they were about to score their second and final top twenty hit with this single. Fortunately Limbs & Co have finished whatever work they were doing, but nobody has taken the scaffolding down or put the lights back on, so the band has to perform gamely behind a mass of metal poles in almost total darkness. Although this would be their last top forty hit, Secret Affair is still going and undertook a tour celebrating the 35th anniversary of their début album Glory Boys last year.

LIQUID GOLD – Dance Yourself Dizzy (#14)

Liquid GoldHaving struggled to win over the crowd with their “xylophone on my chest” routine two weeks ago, Liquid Gold are back and trying even harder, irritating Wrighty in the process – “this lot were so much trouble in rehearsals” – which really isn’t surprising when you discover that this week drummer Wally Rothe has come as Tarzan. Thirty seconds in, before we’re even out of the introduction, and he’s already covered in silly string and struggling to breathe, never mind drum. Meanwhile Syd Twynham with the heart-shaped guitar and bassist Ray Knott who looks suspiciously like Mud’s non-gender-specific guitarist Rob Davis are having a great time with singer Ellie Hope in an even more revealing dress than last time. Time for Wally’s xylophone solo though, and you’ll be delighted to know that this week the keyboard isn’t painted on his chest, but strapped to his arse. What fun.

RAINBOW – All Night Long (#5)

RainbowAnother video? Limbs & Co must be looking nervously over their shoulders, while wagging their fingers reproachfully and, I don’t know, putting their feet through television sets or something. Rainbow was the only real rock band on the show this week, although Def Leppard had been in the studio to record a performance of their not-quite-in-the-top-forty hit Hello America last week in the hope that it could be shown this week; awkwardly it went down instead of up so they didn’t get on the show and it would be another seven years before they did. Still, Richie Blackmore and Cozy Powell are keeping the heavy metal flag flying, while Roger Glover and Graham Bonnet are flying the flags for Jethro Tull and M respectively. This was as high as All Night Long got but Rainbow had another, even bigger hit up its collective sleeve next year.

THE VAPORS – Turning Japanese (#8)

The VaporsTowards the end of the 1979 run there was mild outrage on Twitter when the Barron Knights’ Food For Thought was cut out of the show because of this dubious Chinese takeaway routine to the tune of M’s Pop Muzik. Three months later and here’s Steve Wright introducing Turning Japanese in exactly the same voice. He even does a little bow after it, as if he’s just done something very polite instead of incredibly racist. At least there are no gratuitous insets of sumo wrestlers / Yoko Ono / Ming The Merciless this week, but this is the performance where drummer Howard Smith loses a drumstick, stands up to retrieve it and returns to his kit without missing a beat, only to be upstaged by a massive, clunking edit in the track a few seconds later. There, that’s twice the song’s been on and we still haven’t mentioned self-abuse. Oh.

SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES – Happy House (#36)

Siouxsie & The BansheesProbably best for Wrighty to say as little as possible and just move straight on with the next song. The Banshees had been going since the early days of punk – Siouxsie was the young lady Bill Grundy suggested he could “meet afterwards”, sparking howls of sweary protest from the Sex Pistols on live television – but somehow this was only their second appearance on TOTP. Happy House catches the band in a kind of limbo between punk and goth, with Siouxsie looking as effortlessly cool as she ever would simply by not trying too hard to be one thing or the other. She does keep pulling handfuls of glitter out of her pocket and throwing them in the air for no clear reason though. This would become the band’s second top twenty hit and later inspired Cappella’s 1993 dance hit U Got 2 Know.

GIBSON BROTHERS – Cuba (#16)

Gibson BrothersOoh, Steve, “a re-release from the Gibson Brothers”? You’re spoiling us! But yes, it’s true, Cuba had stalled at number 41 a year earlier but was now well inside the top twenty, ostensibly as a double A-side with Better Do It Salsa which, it’s fair to say, contributed little to the overall sales of the single. It was Cuba that got all the airplay and the TOTP appearances, the Brothers doing their thing here in front of the new T.O.T.P. sign for the first time, without any dancing girls this week but with singer Chris Gibson sporting a fetching Mickey Mouse T-shirt. Both sides of this single, like many of their other songs, were produced and co-written by one Daniel Vangarde, father of Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter. Could Daft Punk actually be two of the Gibson Brothers underneath those helmets? Er, no.

PETER GABRIEL – Games Without Frontiers (#4)

Peter GabrielIt’s such a packed show tonight that there is only time for a minute and fifteen seconds of the video for Games Without Frontiers, a fact that provoked more mildly annoyed tweets after the edited 7:30 showing on BBC Four, although for once it wasn’t the fault of Edward Scissorhands in the BBC Four editing suite, it was the original showing that was mercilessly hacked down to 75 seconds. Still, you get the general idea: pan-European game show used as metaphor for war or racism or some such. The incredibly short running time means we’re spared any of the potentially upsetting clips from the US Duck And Cover films advising what to do in case of a nuclear attack, but we do get lots of scenes of Peter Gabriel pretending to whistle, which is just as unsettling.

MARTI WEBB – Take That Look Off Your Face (#3)

Marti WebbOh no, not again. Third time around for the sole TOTP performance of this song, still with unnecessarily extreme close-ups and awful Americanised grammar. (Excuse me a moment, sorry, these corduroy pants are really chaffing.) The two follow-up singles from Tell Me On A Sunday flopped and it was five years before Marti had another hit; she reached number 5 with a cover of Michael Jackson’s Ben, released at the behest of Esther Rantzen in memory of the UK’s youngest liver transplant patient Ben Hardwick, a fact which becomes harder to swallow when you remember that the song Ben is actually about a boy and his pet rat. Webb also reached the top twenty the following year with Always There, a vocal version of the theme from the BBC’s yuppie yacht-based soap Howards’ Way. We’ll deal with those in a few years if needs be.

GENESIS – Turn It On Again (#35)

GenesisHumorously the removal of Marti Webb from the 7.30 edit made it look like Peter Gabriel and his erstwhile colleagues were right next to each other. Wrighty makes a big deal out of the fact that this is Genesis’s very first appearance on TOTP; this was the start of their transition from being an “albums band” to a more commercial act with one eye constantly on the singles chart, although they had their first hit single as far back as 1974 when I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe) had the honour of being danced to by Pan’s People. Despite being in some completely unfathomable time signature Turn It On Again was poppy enough to reach the top ten and gave us our first sighting of a not-yet-totally-bald Phil Collins who would become ubiquitous over the course of the decade. And with Mike Rutherford, B.A. Robertson and Sad Café’s Paul Young all on the show over the course of this month, it’s like watching Mike & The Mechanics in instalments.

FERN KINNEY – Together We Are Beautiful (#1)

Fern KinneyTop of the charts for one solitary week, Fern Kinney would become the decade’s first genuine One Hit Wonder, using the British Hit Singles definition of the phrase which means she reached number 1 with her first hit and then had no more hits of any kind at all, ever. For her special week we’ve gone back to the tedious studio performance from three weeks ago in preference to last week’s baffling Limbs & Co interpretation. Once again the TOTP Orchestra have pushed in all the stops for a performance that sucks all the life out of what was a pretty dull song to start with. Never mind, this is the last time the song appears on TOTP until the Christmas Day edition and thanks to a certain tracksuit-clad cigar smoker we won’t be seeing that. As if to make the number 1 sound more interesting, we play out with Do That To Me One More Time by the Captain & Tennille, although we don’t see the Captain get his recorder out this week.

2 comments on ““Just take a seat, they’re always free” – Top of the Pops, 13 March 1980

  1. I see a version of the bafflingly titled “Strawberry Letter 23” is being used in an advert for H & M.

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