Dexys Midnight Runners

“My bombers, my Dexys, my high” – Top of the Pops, 3 April 1980

Kid JensenAmazing, isn’t it? We’re well into 1980 and Radio 1’s coolest daytime presenter Kid Jensen is still using phrases like “This week’s hit sound countdown” while Judas Priest’s Living After Midnight blares out behind him. We’re in a bit of an odd phase of TOTP actually, as we’ve clearly outgrown the light entertainment hell witnessed in the 1976 episodes from the early BBC Four reruns, but the balloons-and-streamers party vibe of the Michael Hurll era is still a couple of years away. Still, the show’s current dimly-lit, grim industrial feel only lasts another couple of months before it’s replaced with something even weirder, so let’s get cracking. This episode has been sitting quietly on A Well Known Video Streaming Website for some time now without the copyright police noticing, but it’s nice to see it in context. It’s also nice to see a proper broadcast quality version where the top 30 machine is set to a fairly soothing yellow on mid-blue rather than the blinding cyan rendered up from the original off-air recording. Was everyone colour blind in those days?

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

MADNESS – Night Boat to Cairo (#14)

MadnessCan it really be three months since we saw Madness opening the first show of 1980 with My Girl? Well, yes and no, because (a) the repeats are somehow now almost a month behind and (b) that performance was shown three times, the Nutty Boys not having been asked back because saxophonist Lee Thompson wasn’t taking it seriously. However, thanks to the band’s burgeoning success TOTP had no option but to get them back to perform their next single. This time Suggs & Co have decided to play it safe and ensure that nobody in the band is taking it seriously, having apparently raided a fancy dress shop on the way to the studio. Various Arabian headdresses and fezes are in evidence, while Suggs himself opts for an oversized pith helmet which combines with the poor lighting to ensure that we don’t see his face at any point during the song. Night Boat to Cairo was the fourth single release from the One Step Beyond album, a shameful state of affairs at the time, so for added value it was packaged with three new songs as the Work, Rest & Play EP to become the band’s third top ten hit.

BARBARA DICKSON – January February (#12)

Barbara Dickson“There’s plenty of variety in the chart and we’re about to reflect all of that on this week’s show,” smirks the Kid. Despite being cursed with the impossibly curly hair so prevalent in Scotland in the late ’70s and early ’80s (see also Alan Brazil, Dan McCafferty, Ian Krankie), Barbara overcame her misfortune to become a respected musician, although she was more often seen on The Two Ronnies than TOTP, making it odd to hear her introduced by the Likeable Canadian rather than Ronnie Corbett. This was Dickson’s third and final solo top forty hit although she would return to the chart in no uncertain terms in 1985 when her duet with Elaine Paige I Know Him So Well reached number 1. We’ll have to hang around a long time and cross our fingers really hard if we’re to see those editions of TOTP on BBC Four though.

DEXYS MIDNIGHT RUNNERS – Geno (#37)

Dexys Midnight RunnersDexys certainly benefited from the patronage of TOTP; here they are back for a second performance despite still not having cracked the top 36. A fresh-faced Kevin Rowland, increasingly confident in his docker chic despite being just about the only member of the collective not wearing a wooly hat, earnestly mimes his way through the song giving no indication that he would completely ditch this musical direction within two years, far less appear in a “man’s dress” on the sleeve of an album of easy listening covers within two decades. Of course the band would experience huge success in the next few years and this Geno Washington eulogy was soon to eclipse their first single Dance Stance, despite its catchy horn riff owing more to Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band than Geno himself, but due to one thing and another we won’t see this again for about a month until – spoiler alert – it’s at number 1.

PRETENDERS – Talk of the Town (#26)

Pretenders“The latest and arguably the best from the Pretenders,” Kid reckons, and given that it’s not much different from their three previous singles you probably wouldn’t bother arguing with him. This is one of those strange promo videos that have been set up to look like the artist is actually performing on a TV show, not in an ironic way like The Strokes but more like the video for Elton John’s Part Time Love which recently fooled a dim researcher for ITV’s Pop Gold into believing it was a clip from Get It Together despite the exact same clip having been shown on TOTP about eighteen months ago. Anyway, this video is pretty unremarkable with lots of strip lighting and shots of the band looking moody, enlivened only by some shots of Chrissie Hynde from a bizarrely low angle which make it look like the cameraman has fallen over and is trying to pretend he meant it. And isn’t she wearing a lot of leather for someone who once suggested firebombing McDonalds?

LEON HAYWOOD – Don’t Push It, Don’t Force It (#19)

Legs & CoA one hit wonder in the UK, Leon Haywood had several hits in the US, making him the exact opposite of Dexys Midnight Runners. In the States Haywood is best known for his 1975 hit I Want’a Do Something Freaky To You, which presumably means something sexually explicit rather than just something weird and unsettling like dressing up in a Spiderman costume and repeatedly rubbing a rasher of bacon on a sponge. Not having expected in a million years that he would ever score a UK hit, naturally Leon can’t be here tonight, so… enter Limbs & Co! It seems the Flick Colby Big Book Of Literal Choreography has drawn a blank this week, so the girls have just been shoved into indecently short micro-dresses and told to get on with it. Forced to rely on their natural instincts, they resort to their default squats, high kicks and pelvic gyrations in order to show off their Bill Grundies in as many different ways as possible. Something for the dads, there.

UB40 – Food for Thought (#10)

UB40One very notable aspect of pop music in 1980 is the way that, despite the fears of the Musicians’ Union, computers and synthesizers have yet to replace musicians in any significant way. Already tonight we’ve had Madness (seven members), Dexys (eight members) and now UB40 (another eight members) cancelling out the theory that less is more. Of course, once it became apparent that splitting royalties between anywhere up to a dozen band members was less lucrative than splitting them between two people and a Fairlight, this would change. For now though, the idea of the band as a gang rather than one singer and one person in charge of all the instruments through a keyboard was very much in vogue. This was the first of seventeen top ten hits for UB40, a band discovered by the aforementioned Chrissie Hynde who would go on to sing on two of those hits.

SELECTER – Missing Words (#34)

SelecterAs if to prove my previous point, here’s another band with six… seven… nine… hang on… damn it, they won’t stop jumping up and down long enough for me to count them. Anyway, once Madness and The Beat had jumped ship for slightly bigger labels, The Selecter became 2 Tone’s second biggest act (after The Specials, obviously). Strangely though, despite the obvious quality of their material, they were suffering from the law of diminishing returns. Their first release, the eponymous The Selecter had reached number 6 as the B-side of 2 Tone’s first release Gangsters by The Special AKA. Since then they had scored one top ten hit (On My Radio) and one top twenty hit (Three Minute Hero); Missing Words would peak at number 23 and next single The Whisper reached number 36, and then they were gone. The band split in 1982 but Pauline Black now leads a version of The Selecter, while Neol Davies who wrote the original track The Selecter heads up a completely different version of the band. This is probably why vocal and synth duos became so popular.

B.A. ROBERTSON – Kool in the Kaftan (#25)

B.A. RobertsonI have to admit I’m still struggling to comprehend just why B.A. Robertson provokes so much hatred on Twitter every time he’s on the show. It can’t all be because he wrote Mike & The Mechanics’ ghastly The Living Years, although that’s a pretty good reason. Is it his slightly pretentious use of initials rather than a first name (it’s Brian, incidentally; the initials are to avoid confusion with Brian Robertson of Thin Lizzy), or is it because his face looks like a foot? Or do we just expect him to be more like B.A. Baracus? Anyway, this is a repeat of his performance from two weeks back and if you hated this you’ll be glad to know that its only other airing is on an edition hosted by J*mmy S*vile, which has naturally been locked in a vault three miles below the surface of the Earth for all eternity. Not only that, but Robertson’s next single and third top ten hit To Be Or Not To Be fell victim to The Event which blacked out TOTP for two months in the early part of the summer. Never mind, just wait until we reach the August 28th edition.

LAMBRETTAS – Poison Ivy (#7)

The LambrettasYou could be forgiven for thinking this was a repeat, with Jez Bird still resplendent in his bright red suit, but in fact it’s a third different performance for this song. The giveaway is the fact that the drummer and guitarist have taken pity on Jez and turned up wearing green and blue suits respectively, making the band look like some kind of mod Showaddywaddy. Showmoddymoddy. Number 7 was peak position for Poison Ivy (still nobody has cottoned on that it’s about a sexually transmitted disease, so thanks for keeping the secret everyone) but the band did manage one more appearance on the show, sneaking on with their next single Da-a-a-ance in late May just before The Event. In the meantime, you may be interested in this later Lambrettas single, a cover of Jefferson Airplane’s Somebody To Love. It wasn’t a hit.

PRIMA DONNA – Love Enough For Two

Prima DonnaOh blimey, is it that time of year again? Yes, this was the UK’s entry in the 1980 Eurovision Song Contest, written by Stephanie de Sykes and Stuart Slater who had also written our amazing 1978 entry Bad Old Days by Co-Co. Sadly, unlike that wild card with its unexpected minor key chorus, this was a predictable mid-’70s middle of the road singalong with a distinct nod towards the theme from TV’s On The Move. Annoyingly it did much better in the contest that Co-Co, finishing third behind the almighty Johnny Logan’s What’s Another Year. We’ll see more of J-Lo next month of course, but despite the combined might of Slater and de Sykes plus Kate Robbins, Sally Ann Triplett (later one half of Bardo) and Jay Aston from Bucks Fizz’s brother Lance, chartwise Love Enough For Two became the UK’s least successful Eurovision entry to date, stalling at number 48. Clearly some kind of detachable skirt arrangement is required for next year.

THE JAM – Going Underground (#1)

The JamStill wearing his apron backwards for legal reasons (other brands of tomato soup are available), this is the third and final week at number 1 for Going Underground and still no recognition for its alleged double A-side The Dreams of Children. Of course The Jam made lots more appearances on the show before splitting at the end of 1982, at which point all of their singles were reissued and most of them charted again, Going Underground becoming the most successful by reaching number 21 second time around. Saying goodnight (but not good love), Kid Jensen is kind enough to alert us to a Dr Hook special on BBC 2 next Monday as the good Doctor (he’s not really a doctor, you know) plays us out with Sexy Eyes. What the Kid fails to mention is that the special guest on that show was Kate Bush, an unlikely bedfellow for the maraca-shaking cyclops and his beardy mate, but there you go. Simon Bates is here next week, so look out.

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