Adam & The Ants

“Only idiots ignore the truth” – Top of the Pops, 16 October 1980

Tommy VanceGood times afoot in the TOTP studio as we join the show already in progress with a group of generic audience members grooving unenthusiastically to Ottawan’s D.I.S.C.O.… hang on, isn’t this how we started last week? Yes, there’s a humanitarian crisis ongoing in Television Centre where dozens of people have been held in captivity for over a week. Forced to listen to D.I.S.C.O. on an infinite loop and with only balloons and streamers to eat, their movements have become erratic and uncoordinated, many of them throwing balloons skyward in the hope that one of them will manage to penetrate the roof of their makeshift prison and attract the attention of the outside world. On guard duty tonight is Tommy Vance, in a none-more-early-’80s nylon football shirt of no fixed affiliation for fear of reprisals from his captives. “Let me tell you, have we got a party or have we got a party?” he asks, in a voice which suggests that some form of medieval torture implement awaits anyone who gives the wrong answer. “Aaaaaaall… whatever is gonna break out tonight,” he adds, which clearly translates as “No-one is going to break out of here tonight,” and gives us the usual spoilers for the rest of the show, including “a gentleman called Adam and the Ants, who’s getting a big following.” Tommy, a word in your shell-like…


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

MADNESS – Baggy Trousers (#3)

MadnessWe start off with “a group called Madness and they’re in Baggy Trousers. Are you?” Vance demands of the unfortunate TOTP T-shirt wearer next to him. “No,” she says, firmly. They laugh, both realising that she’s just earned herself three days’ solitary confinement. Once again Madness have not been invited back to the studio for a further performance of their latest hit, so we get another showing for the clip recorded two weeks back, ensuring that Chas Smash doesn’t wander in front of the camera for another cheeky “Hello mum!” With Madness still a going concern some 35 years on, it’s strange to see them looking so young, fresh-faced and not bald, a bit like Queen’s The Miracle video where they got children in to dress up and perform as the band members. Except Suggs, who still looks exactly the same. He must have a portrait of Lee “Kix” Thompson in his attic.

SHOWADDYWADDY – Why Do Lovers Break Each Other’s Hearts (#36)

Showaddywaddy“Now, they always say that good things come in small packages,” announces Vance, who has clearly never accidentally poured a tiny individual sachet of artificial sweetener into his tea by mistake. “So I think I’ll introduce you to one of the nicest small packages I know, a lady by the name of Suzi Quatro!” Yes, it’s another instalment of Michael Hurll’s latest wheeze, bringing on stars to promote their latest records without actually letting us hear them. Suzi has a new single out called Rock Hard, seen here on some alternate universe TOTP as it never made it onto our version. Then there’s another of those suspicious-looking edits as the interview ends abruptly and we’re deposited straight into Showaddywaddy’s latest effort. Yes, although you remember them as a ’70s anomaly, they were still a “thing” for the first few years of the ’80s. The primary coloured suits have gone though, as they sold them to Split Enz a few weeks back, but never mind, singer Dave Bartram has managed to salvage a bright pink satin suit from somewhere. He’s also sporting a natty new ’80s hairdo which looks like two guinea pigs mating on top of his head, until one of the other band members whips the monstrosity off Bartram’s bonce – ha ha, it was a wig all along. Terrific.

BARBRA STREISAND – Woman In Love (#9)

Legs & CoIncidentally, Showaddywaddy are still going today with two original members including the splendidly named drummer Romeo Challenger, although in their heyday they were well known for having two drummers in their line-up. Thankfully punk put a stop to such extravagance and such a thing would never happen in the ’80s. We move on from such backward-looking sentimentality to a new name on the scene… hang on, what? Yes, some twenty years into her career, the inaccurately spelt Barbra has roped in the Bee Gees to write and produce what would become her biggest ever UK hit single. “You know,” begins Vance, “when you say the name Barbra Streisand you introduce into your conversation a name that means a lot of talent.” You’re making this too easy for us, Tommy, because obviously she’s far too talented to be here tonight, so in the absence of Streisand’s talent… enter Limbs & Co! Faced with a mid-tempo Gibb Brothers ballad and with no obvious literal interpretation available – the set doesn’t even have a wall for them to turn away from – the girls are reduced to twirling about in matching frocks. Mind you, Barbra doesn’t even like the song so maybe that’s all it deserves.

ADAM AND THE ANTS – Dog Eat Dog (#37)

Adam and the AntsMore bringing on stars to promote their latest records now, but in an unexpected twist Vance brings on Michael Palin to talk about Monty Python’s Contractual Obligation Album. Tommy points out that the risqué nature of much of the album has led to the IBA banning it from being advertised on TV or radio, a fact which clearly concerns Palin no end – “we’re just going to have to rely on our earnings from films, TV, books, socks, Python underwear…” As the interview progresses we gradually become aware that I Like Chinese is playing in the background, and if that’s the most inoffensive track the BBC could find on the album it’s no wonder the IBA banned it. Anyway, this leads us to the bizarre situation where one of the 1980s’ biggest pop stars is introduced on TOTP for the very first time by Michael Palin in a fake German accent. Having had all his Ants stolen away by Malcolm McLaren to form Bow Wow Wow, Adam confounded expectations by forming a new band (including two drummers which, despite what anyone else may tell you, is a fantastic forward looking brand new ’80s idea) and became the first enormous pop sensation of the decade. Gone is the bondage wear and the songs about bizarre fetishes and Nazis (for now, anyway) in favour of facepaint and self-mythology as Adam invents his own musical genre “Antmusic” and gets beaten up by a gang of skinheads after the show for his trouble.

GEORGE BENSON – Love x Love (#21)

George Benson“Every once in a while you see a band who are gonna make it, and I think they will,” prophecises Vance, making this the only time in history that a prediction of success from a TOTP host hasn’t proven to be an instant kiss of death. No time to bask in that glory though as we’re on to the Tedious News Section™ and after a quick plug for Stevie Wonder’s new album Hotter Than July, Tommy wheels on Dollar who, it would seem, have just got engaged. To each other. The body language between the alleged happy couple is amazing, Thereza Bazar happy to show off the ring (“How much did it cost him?” asks Vance, dispensing with any semblance of tact) while David Van Day is more concerned with showing off the copy of the duo’s new single which he just happens to have with him. Of course it was all a publicity stunt, the duo never actually married and remain happily not married to each other 35 years later. After the first part of the top 30 countup (The Specials’ Stereotype still doesn’t have a title, incidentally), we pause at 21 for film of George Benson with his special high-waisted guitar performing Love x Love which of course is pronounced “Love times love” and not, as a certain cigar-smoking tracksuit-wearing DJ once insisted, “Love ex love.”

MATCHBOX – When You Ask About Love (#10)

MatchboxAs Tommy introduces the next part of the chart countup, one of the jackasses in shamrock T-shirts who’ve been making nuisances of themselves throughout the show (and one or two previous outings, although they’ve been easy to ignore until now) has positioned himself directly behind Vance and appears to be doing some kind of Nazi salute. If you’re going to do that, son, have the courage of your convictions and don’t pretend you’re just stretching out your arm to scratch your head. Talking of white supremacists, the Confederate flag is still very much in evidence on Matchbox’s double bass, although what it has to do with this limp love song isn’t obvious. This is another showing of the band’s performance from two weeks ago and thanks are due to Neil Barker who points out that the reason this sounds so Buddy Holly-esque (as noted on its first showing) is that it was actually a hit for The Crickets back in 1960. Perhaps Graham Fenton’s bequiffed, bespectacled look is an artist’s impression of what Holly himself would have looked like in 1980. Or perhaps not.

BAD MANNERS – Special Brew (#25)

Bad Manners“Now,” begins Tommy, “I’m going to introduce you to a band who’ve had countless hit records and the length of this guy’s tongue continually still foxes me.” Countless hit records? I know certain Radio 1 DJs of this era have a reputation for not being the most intelligent beings on the planet, but I always had a great deal of respect for Vance and it saddens me to discover that he couldn’t even count to three. With a forced chuckle he introduces Buster Bloodvessel and chums, who start out in fairly normal clothes, Buster himself in a white boiler suit relaxing in a rocking chair as if he’d just finished painting a particularly high and difficult ceiling. Then, by the magic of early ’80s television, the screen flashes twice (without so much as a FLASHING IMAGES warning, dear me, how did that get past compliance?) and suddenly there are palm trees everywhere and everyone is wearing grass skirts. Nobody knows why. Special Brew, despite the alcoholic connotations of its title, was the nearest Bad Manners had come to a proper pop song rather than a breathless, baffling ska knees-up, and even Buster’s channelling of Val Doonican doesn’t seem out of place (apart from the bit where he tries to eat the microphone) until a couple of minutes in when everything speeds up and he’s out of the rocking chair and dancing like a lunatic. How anyone who exerts that much energy on stage could still carry so much body mass is a mystery which plagues us to this day.

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

The Police“What’s between 9 and 1? This is!” For some reason the top ten countup is ignoring Matchbox at number 10 and starting at 9, and they seem to have misplaced Status Quo’s performance from last week as they’re represented by a still photo instead of a clip. Best of all though is the baffling appearance of Sweet People at number 4 with their hit Et Les Oiseaux Chantaient which is nothing more than some ambient synth noodling with birdsong on top of it, making it surely the least memorable top five hit of the entire decade. Meanwhile Don’t Stand So Close To Me is enjoying its fourth and final week at number 1 and I think we’ve done very well to get this far without mentioning the sole release from The Police’s final recording sessions, Don’t Stand So Close To Me ’86 – the video may require another flashing images warning and may be a startling example of style over content, but at least Sting doesn’t get his kit off in it. As we play out with – guess what? – D.I.S.C.O. again, Tommy foolishly mentions that DLT will be hosting next week, meaning that his final link gets cut from the BBC Four rerun because we can’t have that, can we? Fortunately we have the internet so nothing is ever truly lost if somebody wants to share it, as you’ll find out next week.

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