Shakin' Stevens

“Please keep in touch, I’ll be running along” – Top of the Pops, 11 September 1980

Jimmy Savile & Richard SkinnerNow then, now then, what ‘ave we ‘ere? An episode of Top of the Pops nominally hosted by Jimmy Savile who, lest we forget, is still number one – Public Enemy No.1, that is, so this is another show that’s gone missing from the BBC Four reruns. Shame really, as it’s a particularly odd one, with the guest presenter idea already falling apart and Sir Jim’ll just bringing in people he knows to do bits of the show seemingly at random. The closest we have to a co-host this week is Richard Skinner, at the time one of the main newsreaders on Radio 1’s Newsbeat but with some experience holding the fort after Kid Jensen decamped to the States and soon to graduate to a show of his own on the station. Within half a decade he would be making the opening announcement at Live Aid, but today on his TOTP début he just stands around being the sensible one in a grey cardigan. Savile vaguely promises us “music with a difference” (he’s certainly right there; if you squint you can just make out that he’s wearing a Splodgenessabounds lapel badge) as well as “music you expect” which, as usual, means Kelly bloody Marie.

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

THE SKIDS – Circus Games (#32)

The SkidsBut first, fire up the subtitles one last time for The Skids – “right alongside so as I could touch ’em,” Savile threatens – who are back in the studio for the final time. The pre-recorded children’s choir adds a slightly sinister touch to an already Yewtree-troubled show and while still desperately trying to unstick his shoes from the floor, Richard Jobson has come as a cricketer tonight and – ha, yes – they’ve had a good innings but this was their last top forty hit and final TOTP performance. Guitarist Stuart Adamson went on to enjoy greater success as the frontman of Big Country while Jobson formed The Armoury Show to little success and went on to pursue a career in television and, later, as a film director. The Skids, meanwhile, enjoyed a minor renaissance in 2006 when their 1978 single The Saints Are Coming was unexpectedly covered by U2 and Green Day as a charity record for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Fortunately the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ version of Working For The Yankee Dollar remains non-existent.

BLACK SABBATH – Paranoid (#17)

Black SabbathIt’s all go on the show tonight, as no sooner has Savile brought on Skinner with a clutch of mysterious framed items under his arm, Skinner introduces another guest – Diana Ross! Yes, even though she never ever turns up to plug any of her records, Miss Ross is actually here tonight, if only to accept a clutch of silver and platinum discs for her most recent releases. Savile asks her if she wouldn’t mind, instead of disappearing back to her dressing room, hanging around and mingling for a bit; “I’d like that very much,” she says through gritted teeth as if to imply that she’d rather be asked to kick a football into a goal for the World Cup opening ceremony. As Richard chaperones Diana out of Jimmy’s clutches, we return to the chart and… UNEXPECTED ITEM IN BAGGING AREA. Ten years after giving the Sabs their first hit single, Paranoid was back in the chart. By this time Ozzy Osbourne had been ousted from the band and replaced by Ronnie James Dio, this new line-up recording the album Heaven And Hell and embarking on a world tour. The Ozzy camp was displeased, however, and their loyalty saw this reissue outsell the band’s “proper” new single Neon Knights, while a live album Live At Last recorded in 1973 and released without the band’s permission outperformed Heaven And Hell on the album chart. Although the band had performed Paranoid on TOTP back in 1970, here it was represented by a grim live clip from several years later, with Ozzy in full frilly sleeved Elvis jumpsuit mode, which would have made a nice segue into the real filly sleeved jumpsuited Elvis if the running order had been arranged slightly differently.

IAN DURY & THE BLOCKHEADS – I Want To Be Straight (#25)

Ian DuryMoving on, Savile inexplicably talks to a couple of girls with A Flock Of Seagulls hair which impresses him so much he decides to give them the top six singles – three each – but any impropriety is nipped in the bud as we bring on Ian Dury & the Blockheads, all – and you couldn’t make this up – dressed in full police uniform. As if Wilko wasn’t threatening enough in civvies. It’s the end of another era here as, only two singles after the monster hit Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick this was Dury’s last top forty hit and final TOTP appearance, although he tickled the underbelly of the chart in 1985 with the Adrian Mole TV theme Profoundly In Love With Pandora. Shortly before his death from cancer in 2000 Dury released the critically acclaimed comeback album Mr Love Pants and collaborated with long term fans Madness on their single Drip Fed Fred; Dury’s life was later chronicled in the 2010 biopic Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll. The Blockheads continue to perform and record despite their erstwhile leader’s persistent absence while Wilko, having seemingly recovered from terminal cancer, continues to be a law unto himself.

ELVIS PRESLEY – It’s Only Love (#7)

Legs & CoWhat better way to celebrate the life and career of Ian Dury than by bringing on Leo Sayer for no apparent reason to do a completely fact-free interview? “What about the new record?” “Yeah, I’m just doing a recording for it here actually.” “How’s the folks?” “They’re very good, me mum sends her regards.” After his allotted thirty seconds Leo is hooked around the neck and yanked off stage again, while Savile introduces an act he’s actually heard of, the one and only King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Mr Elvis Presley! Er, except, hang on, Elvis has already been dead for three years at this point. This would at least explain his relative lack of hits since 1977, a situation which was curtailed by this release of a 1971 minor US hit which hadn’t been a single in the UK until now. Quite why it was deemed worthy of release at this stage isn’t really clear, but it quickly became Elvis’s biggest hit since his demise and required a TOTP appearance. Elvis’s manager “Colonel” Tom Parker was an illegal immigrant to the US who feared he would not be allowed to return if he accompanied Elvis out of the country, hence the reason Elvis only ever performed in the States, so really the chances of Elvis appearing on TOTP after his death were about as good as they were while he was alive. Nevertheless Presley failed to show up from beyond the grave, so… enter Limbs & Co! Dressed in cowboy hats and the remnants of Elvis’s old white jumpsuits which had apparently been shredded following his death (other than the one acquired by Ozzy Osbourne earlier), the girls gyrate aimlessly to what would be The King’s last hurrah until the JXL remix of A Little Less Conversation returned him to number one 21 years later.

SHAKIN’ STEVENS – Marie Marie (#21)

Shakin' StevensAnother change in TOTP format now as Savile, ever the gentleman, finds a young lady who is “considering fainting” and decides he “must take her away to a place of safety.” As a nation who now knows lots of things it didn’t know in 1980 rolls its collective eyes, Richard Skinner gamely reads out some music news, concerning the release of the new Police album, the arrival of Kiss for a UK tour and a glaringly obvious edit, although whether this was in the original broadcast or the ’90s UK Gold repeat isn’t clear. The 30-21 chart countup follows, pausing at 21 for the Welsh Elvis himself, following his idol on the show for surely the only time. Although he’s been on several times already this year, this is a watershed for Shaky as this performance sees the introduction of his classic double denim look. It also provides final and conclusive proof that the video screen, a major feature of the post-strike brave new world of ’80s TOTP, is blatantly black and white. For shame. After a fortnight at number 21 this would climb to a peak position of 19 the following week, making it the first of twenty-two consecutive top twenty hits for the Shakester.

JUDAS PRIEST – United (#26)

Judas PriestBack to Skinner for more news, including Blondie who are “changing their sound because they’re fed up with rock ‘n’ roll” (an apoplectic Shakin’ Stevens is now almost certainly being forcibly restrained by two burly security guards and bundled back to his dressing room). Another quick chart countup takes us back down to number 26 for a repeat performance from Judas Priest, and it’s the end of yet another era as this was also the Priest’s last TOTP appearance. Although they continued to score minor hit singles for another thirteen years – and are still regular visitors to the album chart to this day – United was the band’s last top forty hit. Since then the Priest is best remembered for the ludicrous 1990 court case which suggested that a subliminal message in one of their songs prompted two of the band’s fans to commit suicide; and for vocalist Rob Halford’s coming out in 1998, as if anyone familiar with his leather-and-chains stage getup was still in any doubt. The band undertook an alleged “farewell tour” in 2011, but refused to lie down, releasing a further album Redeemer of Souls in 2014 which they then proceeded to tour.

SPLODGENESSABOUNDS – Two Little Boys (#40)

SplodgenessaboundsYou have to feel for Splodgenessabounds. They scored their first and biggest hit back in June when The Event was keeping TOTP off air: the A-side Simon Templar, based around the lead character from TV action series The Saint, was overshadowed by one of the B-side tracks, the fantastically insistent Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps Please, the success of which took the single to number 7 (for completeness’ sake, mention should be made of the EP’s third track, Michael Booth’s Talking Bum, the inclusion of which quite probably kept the record from getting any higher). Now their one and only TOTP appearance has been stricken from the public record thanks to Operation Yewtree feeling the collars of not only the show’s host, but also the artist most associated with the song they chose for their novelty cover version follow-up. Released with the catalogue number ROLF 1, Splodge’s version of Two Little Boys is an anarchic yet affectionate rampage through the last number one of the 1960s, each member of the band determined to bag themselves as much screen time as possible, including hefty keyboardist Winston Forbe who at one point picks up his equally hefty keyboard and parades around the stage with it. This TOTP performance helped the single shoot to number 26 the following week but then it started to fall and Splodgenessabounds never troubled the top forty or TOTP again.

SPLIT ENZ – I Got You (#27)

Split Enz“I tell you what,” chortles Savile, “it’s all happening tonight… let’s hear it for the Bee Gees!” Yes, it’s yet another random celebrity guest moment as Maurice and Robin Gibb are shoved onstage for a completely pointless, rambling interview. With nothing new for the Gibbs to promote, even Savile isn’t sure where this is going. “Er, listen, I tell you what I’ll do with you… see the group over there, do you recognise ’em?” “……No.” Hardly surprising unless the Gibbs had spent a while in New Zealand lately as even though one or two of them went on to become pretty famous in the next decade, you’d be hard pressed to pick them out of the line-up. Dressed in different coloured suits like a new wave Showaddywaddy, Split Enz make their TOTP début with what would be their one and only UK top forty hit. We’ll see them properly on BBC Four after the annual lengthy summer break for the Proms, but it’s not giving away too much to say that the famous ones are Neil and Tim Finn who went on to find greater UK success with Crowded House in the early ’90s, by which time even the Bee Gees had a vague inkling of who they were.

KELLY MARIE – Feels Like I’m In Love (#1)

Kelly MarieBefore Savile can bring on any more random pop stars with nothing in particular to contribute, we get on with the top ten, now completely without numbers, just the act’s name superimposed over a performance clip – can we please just pick a way of doing the top ten and stick to it? Anyway, the Bee Gees don’t know what’s number one either, and why would they? As Kelly Marie and her black & white minstrels get wheeled out again for the 27th time, still using that strange mix of the track that’s not quite the same as the 7″, Ray Dorset must be fuming that Elvis is in the top ten with a completely different song and not this one. The more I listen to that spoof, the more it sounds like Tom Jones. Anyway, with the number one taken care of there’s nothing more to do except for Richard Skinner to stand around looking uncomfortable between Savile and two Bee Gees and for him to get hit in the face with a balloon as we play out with Queen’s Another One Bites The Dust. Another baffling and completely different episode of TOTP next week, oh yes.

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One comment on ““Please keep in touch, I’ll be running along” – Top of the Pops, 11 September 1980

  1. out of curiosity i watched the splogenessabounds totp appearance on youtube (without the sound on). and to my great amusement, as if it wasn’t already like the black hole of calcutta with so many people writhing about on a tiny stage, after a minute of so a dog appears on it. and immediately gets inadvertebtly kicked in the face by the flailing feet of one of the manic guitarists! but our canine hero soldiers on regardless, plodding around the stage wherever he can find any space. a classic moment…

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