The Police

“My middle name is misery” – Top of the Pops, 2 October 1980

Dave Lee TravisAnd yea, no sooner are we back from the seemingly endless summer break in the BBC Four reruns of 1980 TOTP than the spectre of Dave Lee Travis looms up again and we’re skipping another week. Shame really, as this week it appears Travis is auditioning for a job on Top Gear. “I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but the Paris Motor Show opened recently…” I wasn’t aware of that, Dave, no. “…and soon we’ve got the Birmingham Motor Show.” Turn left at the Arc de Triomphe and carry on until you reach Spaghetti Junction, great. What’s this leading up to, Travis? “Well, there is one car that they’ve both been trying desperately to get their hands on and it’s here, under wraps, and nobody’s gonna get it!” Dave, son, it’s Top of the Pops you’re doing, remember? Records and that? Oh dear, he’s gone off on one. Still, let’s press on, with our silk shirts open to just above the belly button to reveal our hairy chests and medallions in a way nobody has done since 1977… ah, no, that’s just DLT.

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

GILLAN – Trouble (#22)

GillanWe kick off with a bit of Guitar Based Rock from Gillan, a band which former Deep Purple singer Ian Gillan formed in 1978 from the ashes of his previous band The Ian Gillan Band. No ego issues there, then. This was the first of six top forty hits for Gillan the band, with Gillan the singer epitomising brutality by standing stock still for the full duration of the performance, occasionally glancing menacingly towards the camera or – horrors – lifting one finger from its position curled tightly around the microphone. At no point does he look anywhere near as menacing as bassist John McCoy who, with his bald head, dark glasses and copious goatee beard, looks like he’s just stepped out of the board game Guess Who? Written by legendary songwriters Lieber and Stoller, Trouble was first performed by a comparatively unthreatening-looking Elvis Presley in his 1958 movie King Creole, although it’s hard to imagine a better version of the song than this one by the desperately missed Rik Mayall.

STEVIE WONDER – Master Blaster (Jammin’) (#2)

Some people roller skating to Stevie WonderIn modern tabloid parlance, Travis is now sharing the stage with a curvy model clad only in a flimsy satin sheet, which he can’t wait to remove, exposing her to the world. Yes, it’s the car again. Two non-glamorous assistants peel back the sheet to reveal the “London Proof Car”, the revelation only around 75% spoiled by Chas Smash from Madness walking in front of the camera at precisely the right moment. Said vehicle includes a “Traffic Warden dispersal unit” (machine gun), “Polaris anti-taxi missiles”, and double yellow lines painted along one side to aid parking. Just what you want from TV’s top pop music show. Perhaps DLT could sell the car to Stevie Wonder, who is known to be keen on driving, to such an extent that the internet is awash with pages claiming that Wonder is not actually blind and has just been having us on all these decades. Certainly his video for Master Blaster is not particularly interesting to the sighted, a fact which TOTP addresses by repeatedly cutting back from the clip to the TOTP studio to watch various clods in boiler suits dancing on roller skates. There’s a clod in silver boiler suit who thinks he’s a robot, a clod in an orange boiler suit who looks uncomfortably like a young Frank Zappa, and some female clodettes in boiler suits (plus one in a white swimsuit, for some reason) who struggle not to fall over. If Stevie had seen it, I’m sure he’d have laughed too.

MATCHBOX – When You Ask About Love (#38)

MatchboxDespite Vince Prince‘s best efforts to torpedo the rockabilly revival, it still refuses to die. The Middlesex branch of the Confederate States of America – still fighting the Civil War over a century after it finished – are back with another single, only this time it’s not an uptempo rockabilly floorfiller but a sensitive Buddy Holly-esque ballad. The comedy quiffs and sideburns are still very much in evidence though, and singer Graham Fenton has spotted a conveniently placed blonde lovely at the side of the stage to whom he can sing the middle eight. His advice to her to “rely on someone who’s older” seems a bit unnecessary though, not least because he’s already old enough to be her father or a Radio 1 DJ, but also because his assertion that “what you feel for me is infatuation” suggests a Don’t Stand So Close To Me-style Yewtree klaxon isn’t far away. Despite the cloying sentimentality and the vague rumblings of inappropriateness, When You Ask About Love was on its way to becoming the band’s only top ten hit.

THIN LIZZY – Killer On The Loose (#18)

Thin LizzyPerhaps equally surprisingly, this was on its way to becoming Thin Lizzy’s last top ten hit, even though nobody really remembers it very well. DLT promises us “an amazing film” at the start of the show, but in reality it’s neither amazing nor, strictly speaking, a film. It’s the band performing on an unconvincing, badly-lit, litter-strewn street – clearly indoors, because apparently they couldn’t find a real badly-lit, litter-strewn street to perform in. Phil Lynott, sporting an unusual bit of chin-fluff to go with his trademark moustache, insists that “there’s a killer on the loose again,” bringing back memories of the classic “Tonight there’s gonna be a jailbreak somewhere in this town.” If you’d thought to try the jail first, you would have got the killer before he escaped and he wouldn’t be on the loose. Who’s running this police department, Chief Wiggum? Still, as a rock legend and future TOTP theme composer, I suppose we can forgive Lynott most things.

CHANGE – Searching (#11)

Legs & CoLounging against his London Proof Car and flanked by a couple of young ladies, including one of the roller skaters from earlier who wisely turns down an offer to buy the vehicle, Travis introduces us to Change whose previous hit A Lover’s Holiday achieved notoriety as the playout track on the unbroadcast pilot episode of the show during The Event. Inspired by the similarly-named Chic, Change was a complicated studio-based project involving music recorded in Italy which was then flown to the USA to have vocals added to it. Far too complicated to appear in the TOTP studio, of course, so… enter Limbs & Co! The fact that the ladies have, again, forgotten to put their trousers on cannot detract from the unavoidable observations that (a) that’s Luther Vandross on vocals, and (b) it doesn’t half sound like Warning Sign by Nick Heyward. This was as high as Change ever got in the UK chart and it would be another four years before they had another hit, their third and final top twenty entry Change Of Heart.

ODYSSEY – If You’re Looking For A Way Out (#20)

OdysseyCooling everyone down – especially himself – after Limbs & Co, DLT takes this opportunity to invoke the Tedious News Section™, and for a second week TOTP is amazed by the new Toots & The Maytals live album which was apparently recorded, pressed and made available for sale in the space of 24 hours – still a fairly impressive achievement today, given that we’re talking about an actual vinyl album and not just an mp3 wristband that you can buy in the foyer 20 minutes after the gig. There’s also a mention for the new Rod Stewart album which no doubt took considerably longer to make. Time for the chart countup, using the now established 30-20 format, meaning we pause at number 20 for Odyssey. Their dancefloor anthem Use It Up, Wear It Out had been another casualty of The Event over the summer, reaching number 1 regardless of the lack of TOTP exposure, but now they’re back with one of the saddest songs ever written. Sung from the point of view of someone desperate to keep their partner from leaving, but resigned to the fact that they will and wanting not to hurt them when they do, If You’re Looking For A Way Out is crying out for a chart-conquering cover by some maudlin indie band. Sadly this version by Tindersticks isn’t it.

MADNESS – Baggy Trousers (#4)

Madness“Now then, I can’t promise you what’s happening next musically on the programme is gonna be really unbelievable…” Not sure exactly what Travis means by this. A convoluted dig at Madness? This would seem churlish, especially given some of the dross he’s swooned over as “one of the best records ever made” in the past few months. Mind you, Chas Smash did spoil DLT’s car joke earlier on and he does turn up again to gurn to the camera during his next link so maybe Travis has taken the hump. Anyway, after the next bit of the chart countup it’s the Nutty Boys themselves, in the studio again so that they can be banned from the studio again. Any issues Auntie Beeb may have had with the line “Gone to fight with next door’s school” two weeks ago seem to have been resolved now as Suggs gets to mime to the proper lyrics in what has become time-honoured Suggs style, i.e. from behind the very darkest of dark glasses while jerking his head rhythmically in all directions except towards the camera. Baggy Trousers was the band’s third top ten hit of the year and – hard working lads that they were (and still are) – they would manage to squeeze another one in before Christmas. Indeed, such is their eagerness to please that they end up falling off the front of the stage by the end of the performance, being ordered back to their positions by Travis who warns them off starting any trouble – “I’m a black belt in Ludo, me.” Who would have thought that Chas Smash, waving “Hello Mum” into the camera, would go on to create such mature and heartbreaking music as this 35 years later?

THE POLICE – Don’t Stand So Close To Me (#1)

The PoliceSo, onwards with the top ten, again with no numbers on screen because then you wouldn’t have to listen to what DLT was saying. Before we get to the number 1 though, we have another pointless bit of fluff to get through as Travis has to give prizes – records, of course, including a copy of the hilariously titled K-Tel compilation Mounting Excitement – to the “best dancers” in the audience this evening. The two female winners get an LP and a kiss from the Hairy Monster, while the male winner gets a single and no kiss because, for reasons unknown, he’s shaving with a battery operated razor. Well, wouldn’t want to be mistaken for DLT now, would we? The Police still can’t be bothered to come to the studio so we get the video again, with troublemaker Copeland smoking in class and climbing the stepladder that seems to be there for no reason at all, and yet again the central heating is stuck on full and Sting has to take his clothes off. Travis signs off with Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds and the promise of “Next week… someone else doing Top of the Pops.” Cheers Dave, we’ll work it out for ourselves.

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