Hazel O'Connor

“Neon bright to light our boring nights” – Top of the Pops, 21 August 1980

Steve Wright & Cliff RichardAfter last week’s toe-curlingly anti-establishment edition of TOTP in which Roger Daltrey was paid to sit around looking sullen, we have a far more showbiz-friendly pair of hosts tonight. Everyone’s favourite God-botherer Cliff Richard is here, straight from the hairdresser but – like Midge Ure last week – completely unable to tie a tie properly. Cliff had some experience in TV presentation, having done several series of It’s Cliff Richard for the BBC in the early ’70s amongst other similar light entertainment shows. In contrast, the “proper” host is Steve Wright, at the helm of TOTP for only the fourth time, and also fresh from the barber’s having had his “poor man’s Kenny Everett” chinstrap beard surgically removed. Unlike last week, there’s a genuine rapport between the two hosts: “Cliff, how come you always look so brown?” “It’s rust, mate.” We’re still persisting with the “what’s coming up later” introductory passage which serves no real purpose when we could just be getting on with it, but it does give Cliff the chance to squeal “Meee!” like an excited child when he sees himself on screen. Alright, Cliff, calm down!

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

NICK STRAKER BAND – A Walk in the Park (#28)

Nick Straker BandAnnoyingly, the new format means it’s now much easier for the BBC Four editor – a Mr E. Scissorhands, I understand – to begin the continuingly ludicrous half-hour 7.30 edit by chopping out the first song, something which has rarely happened before now, and it would have to be one of the best songs on the show. A Walk in the Park was a huge hit in Europe, as Wrighty is keen to point out several times, but a disastrous flop in the UK when it was first released in 1979. After the single’s initial release most of the band, apart from Straker himself, went off to become New Musik, so while we lost their final top forty hit Sanctuary to The Event, they’ve managed to sneak in the back door without anyone noticing. Unfortunately there’s no sign of Tony Mansfield here tonight, alarmingly-permed Mike Batt impersonator Straker being backed by some anonymous musicians who may or may not be his current “band”, if indeed he still had one at this point. Annoyingly the only version of A Walk in the Park on Spotify is a dubious late-’80s PWL remix, so adjust your playlist expectations accordingly.

SHEENA EASTON – Modern Girl (#25)

Sheena EastonAfter an initially disappointing chart career, the power of television means that things are now moving faster for Sheena Easton that anyone can keep up with. Her second single 9 To 5 is already on its way down the chart, but not to worry because her first single is on its way back up to meet it. Two weeks ago we saw a clip from documentary show The Big Time in which two TOTP bigwigs were disappointed to discover Modern Girl had gone down back in April, but now all is well and the song has finally made it onto the show. Of course we don’t get to see this revealing clip from the show, but never mind. She’s given the green jumpsuit back to Peter Powell and donned a natty black and white number for this… interesting take on early ’80s feminism. “She’s been dreamin’ ’bout him all day long… He asks her to dinner, she says ‘I’m not free, tonight I’m gonna stay at home and watch my TV.'” I mean, there’s playing hard to get and then there’s just being rude. And who eats a tangerine on the tube anyway?

THE JAM – Start! (#3)

The Jam“You’ve really hit the big time when you’ve got two records in the charts,” observes Wrighty, whose optician has certainly hit the big time judging by the amazing magnitude of his glasses. On to the week’s highest new entry now, Taxman Start! by The Jam which, even at the time, was such a blatant rip off of George Harrison’s finest moment that nobody could quite believe Weller & Co had the gall to release it. There’s no puoS otamoT znieH apron in sight in this video but a lot of arty shots taken through Venetian blinds, while Weller models the kind of tinted specs that Liam Gallagher would covet for the next fifteen years. Taxman Start! was the only UK single release from The Jam’s 1980 album Sound Affects at the time, although a European release of That’s Entertainment later made the UK chart on import sales. We’re still experimenting with the captions at the end of each song, this one involving the word “JAM” made out of Os in a way which is perhaps the closest so far to the famous excesses of the mid-’80s graphics.

SHAKIN’ STEVENS – Marie Marie (#32)

Shakin' StevensA meeting of the generations here, as the “British Elvis” of the late ’50s and early ’60s introduces the “British Elvis if he wasn’t dead” of the ’80s. Although he’d already been plying his trade for over a decade, young Mr Stevens had come to national attention in the stage musical Elvis! in 1977 and the subsequent revival of ITV’s rock ‘n’ roll show Oh Boy! and was now finally starting to achieve chart success. As with his previous hit Hot Dog Stevens is up for a bit of horseplay, going cock-eyed for his introductory close-up and generally shakin’, gyrating and even leaping into the air and staying there at one point in a move which definitely isn’t a clever video effect, oh no. This would become Shaky’s first top twenty hit; after a few false starts he would go on to have an unbroken run of 21 top fifteen hits starting in March 1981 and running right through until 1987.

THE CLASH – Bankrobber (#24)

Legs & Co“It’s at times like that I wish I’d’ve learned to jive,” says Wrighty, inexplicably sat behind a drum kit. Onwards, though, to the part of the show which has finally caught Roger Daltrey’s attention: The Clash with already their ninth top forty hit Bankrobber. Alas, despite the Rezillos’ optimistic boast that “Everybody’s on Top of the Pops,” Jones, Strummer and cronies decided early on that it just wasn’t their thing and stuck rigidly to that decision throughout their career. So, with three videos in the running order already… enter Limbs & Co! Really they could have interpreted any of the songs represented by videos in tonight’s show, but Bankrobber was the most obvious entry in the Flick Colby Big Book of Literal Interpretation, so we get the girls in stripy leotards (as issued as standard to all female thieves) each dancing behind her own set of bars, with nothing to prevent them just taking a couple of steps to the side and walking free. This performance really does stretch literal interpretation to its breaking point, the girls throwing money into the air on the word “money” and bending over backwards for the line “I don’t believe in lying back.” And because they’re in a minimum security jail, they’ve managed to acquire guns! Oh, it’s alright for them to stick the guns in their mouths though, because they’re made of chocolate. Someone should have been locked up for this routine.

BILLY JOEL – It’s Still Rock ‘n’ Roll To Me (#30)

Billy Joel“That could have won the Eurovision Song Contest!” smirks Cliff. Somewhere in London Joe Strummer picks up a revolver, spins the barrel and aims it at the television. Let’s move on before anyone gets hurt. Another video now, this one for Billy Joel, still in his pre-Uptown Girl phase when he was routinely referred to as “Billy Jo-elle.” Surprisingly Wright gets the pronunciation right this time, although he gets the title completely wrong, introducing “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll” after he and Cliff have indulged in an Elvis-style lip-curling contest. It’s Still Rock ‘n’ Roll To Me is a strange beast, seemingly written as a call-and-response duet but sung by Joel alone, giving him the appearance of a madman who keeps talking to himself. Interestingly though, the video seems to have a live vocal from Joel – certainly a different vocal take to the one on the record – and his willingness to shoot the video on an undressed set in the middle of a scene-shifters strike does him immense credit. Hedging his bets, Wrighty pronounces it “Jo-elle” on the way out of the video but then pronounces it properly in the next sentence. Make your bleeding mind up!

HAZEL O’CONNOR – Eighth Day (#27)

Hazel O'ConnorHe pronounces it properly in the top thirty count-up too, but then spoils it all by affecting an appalling West Indian accent for Bob Marley at number 23. If we’re ticking boxes that covers “casual racism” and we can also tick off “casual sexism” as Wright introduces “the lovely Hazel O’Connor”, who proceeds to perform the deeply sinister Eighth Day with an intensity which suggests she could snap Wright’s scrawny neck if she wanted to. The song, which describes an apocalyptic scenario in which man creates machines in to do his menial work, only for them to become sentient and really pissed off, comes from the equally unsettling film Breaking Glass which starred Hazel alongside Phil “Parklife” Daniels, Mark “Zaphod Beeblebrox” Wing-Davey and Gary “well, at the moment I’m in Roxy Music but there’s a good chance I might get a transfer to Adam and the Ants next year” Tibbs.

THE PIRANHAS – Tom Hark (#9)

PiranhasAnother case of old meets new now as Cliif tries to come to terms with the Piranhas. “I do believe it’s their first single, but I could be wrong, in which case it’s their second single. Either way… it’s their single.” Well done, Sir Cliff. In actual fact Tom Hark was the Piranhas’ fourth single, but the first one to come anywhere near the chart. This time around they opt for a more conventional stage presence with drummer Dick Slexia relegated to the rear of the stage and required to play his drums with sticks rather than fish as in his first appearance. He’s still topless though, for no obvious reason. Meanwhile saxophonist Zoot Alors is dressed as Joe 90 dressed like Captain Scarlet. Sadly this is the last time we’ll see the Piranhas for two years until they return with their other hit Zambezi, a cover of a ’50s instrumental with newly penned lyrics – anyone see a pattern forming here?

KELLY MARIE – Feels Like I’m In Love (#8)

Kelly Marie“Now we’ve got another lady coming up, in fact our third lady…” Cliff is appalled, as you might imagine. “Is nothing sacred?” he blusters in what we’re expected to assume is mock outrage. The real problem here is nothing to do with the fact that they allow women in the charts now, but more that Kelly Marie is this week flanked by what appears to be two of the Black & White Minstrels. This is going to be on loads of times over the next few weeks (although BBC Four will skip a couple of those, so, you know, every cloud) and it hasn’t even got anywhere near number 1 yet, so here’s another chance to hear Elvis Presley’s version from beyond the grave. Kelly’s career after this hit was amazingly consistent – not in terms of chart positions, but over the next two years she released eight more singles, all of which had the word “love” in the title. We’re getting ahead of ourselves though, so with a tip of the hat to the audience members gamely attempting to pogo to the track, we move on. “Who’s next?” Wrighty calls out. “I dunno, some old… somebody next.”

CLIFF RICHARD – Dreamin’ (#20)

Cliff RichardWhat you did there: I see it. A swift cut to Cliff’s backing band missing their singer, then to Cliff missing his backing band, and then the two together. This was the only time in this short period of celebrity guest hosts that one of them had to nip out halfway through to go and sing, and clearly Cliff isn’t quite sure of the protocol. The weather is too nice for him to be wearing his jacket, but because he’s had to move between stages he’s got nowhere to hang it up so he’s had to bring it with him, tossing it casually over his shoulder but also holding on to it lest it should slip off and become lost forever in the dry ice, or even worse, one of the thieving pogoing types in the crowd should half-inch it. Dreamin’ is another of those songs from the difficult period when, regardless of your opinion of Sir Cliff as a person, he was releasing some great pop songs which are very hard to dislike. I mean, it’s no Devil Woman, obviously, but it’s pretty good. You probably shouldn’t be calling women up at five in the morning though, Cliff, that’s not going to get her on your side.

DAVID BOWIE – Ashes To Ashes (#1)

David BowieThe top ten countup is still being tinkered with; it’s now becoming horribly complicated with the video clip inset into the slide where the still picture would go, before fading into the same clip in full screen, for each song. Just tell us what the songs are, we’ll understand! There’s still absolutely no bass on the Gap Band clip either. “What a top ten,” enthuses Cliff, now returned to his hosting position, “I’ll never get into it.” Last week’s highest new entry has deposed ABBA at the top of the chart; it’s that old familiar Ashes To Ashes video piece of film again but what you may not know is that the padded cell set was first used for a performance of Space Oddity on Kenny Everett’s ITV show the previous December. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Meanwhile, Cliff’s off to South Africa for a month, a revelation which we don’t dwell on, and we play out with the crowd milling around to ELO’s All Over the World. It’s the return of an old favourite hosting duo next week, so no doubt Twitter will be appalled.

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