The Specials

“Take control of the population boom!” – Top of the Pops, 31 January 1980

Kid Jensen“Well hi there!” Yes, hi Kid. The artist still known as “Kid” Jensen is back again, looking more serious than last time in a jacket he might have borrowed from Simon Bates. This week Jensen fails to wish us “Good welcome”, “good love” or good anything really, maybe he’s in a strop because he’s been called in to do the show for the second time in four weeks. The top thirty machine has gone funny again, with black text on that yellow background which must have sent many a DER colour set into meltdown at the time, but try and shield your eyes from the radiation and listen to a minute of Three Minute Hero, The Selecter’s second hit and yet another hit for the 2 Tone label, which has three acts in the top thirty and was responsible for launching the career of a fourth, impressive stuff for a label that’s only been running for six months.

See the full top 40 for this week on the Official Charts Website.

REVILLOS – Motorbike Beat (#56)

The RevillosHow did that motorbike get in here? The first act on the show this week is absolutely not the Rezillos, famous for their 1978 hit Top of the Pops; they split up in 1979 and singers Fay Fife and Eugene Reynolds formed an entirely different band, promising their former record label that they wouldn’t use the name Rezillos. Enter the Revillos, a completely different band with the same singers playing exactly the same type of music. Despite having recruited a Vivian Stanshall lookalike on guitar, Motorbike Beat stalled outside the top forty and was the last hit for Edinburgh’s answer to the B-52’s, although the Rezillos reformed in 2001 and continue to record and perform, albeit without most successful member Jo Callis who spent much of the early ’80s in the Human League.

KENNY ROGERS – Coward of the County (#10)

Kenny RogersThe suspicious amount of screaming and applause at the start of this clip isn’t from the studio audience but the crowd at one of Kenny’s concerts, presumably not one in the UK where he hadn’t troubled the top thirty since his 1977 chart topper Lucille. Now, completely out of the blue, he was back in the top ten with an appalling tale of small town prejudice, gang rape and a mild-mannered gent being driven to the point where he beats three people to a pulp. Amazingly none of this seemed inappropriate for daytime radio or prime time television in 1980. All of this is delivered by Kenny, looking like Noel Edmonds’ dad in an unflattering grey suit – or perhaps it’s meant to be silver, like his beard. Of course, Kenny was never one to advocate mindless violence, or was he?

AZYMUTH – Jazz Carnival (#19)

Legs & CoAlso seemingly perfectly acceptable on TV in 1980: grown women in cages pretending to be animals. Kid Jensen even gets one of them to eat his carrot (stop sniggering at the back). Yes, it’s Limbs & Co, and with no obvious literal choreography translation of the lengthy and uninspiring instrumental Jazz Carnival coming to mind, the girls have resorted to a back-up plan and dressed up as animals, although the costumes are so vague that Kid has to introduce each one in turn explaining what they’re meant to be. Apparently realising that nobody’s listening, Jensen gives up midway through his final sentence and the ladies are released from their cages to parade around for a bit, although at one point the wolf seems to be attempting to murder the rabbit by strangulation, which seems a tad harsh. Jazz Odyssey Carnival was the only UK hit for Brazilian trio Azymuth, which will come as no great surprise.

JOHN FOXX – Underpass (#47)

John FoxxFormer lead singer of Ultravox! in the days when they had an exclamation mark on the end of their name, John Foxx is the first artist on the show tonight who actually sounds like he’s from the 1980s. Over a backing of synths on the non-specific-stringed-instrument setting and drum machine that sounds like someone hitting a cake tin with a dessert spoon, the track gives off the atmosphere of a British inner city version of Kraftwerk’s Autobahn, Foxx repeatedly bellowing “Underpants!”… sorry, “Underpass!” like a human version of Gary Numan. The rest of Ultravox, sitting at home without their exclamation mark, must have been spitting feathers, although by this time next year they had recruited Midge Ure and become more successful than Foxx ever would.

MADNESS – My Girl (#3)

MadnessThe giant “1980” sign, the comedy falling off stage, the twin pianists… yes, it’s that performance receiving a third airing on the show, after the Nutty Boys were apparently not invited back following Lee Thompson’s refusal to take his miming seriously and use a real saxophone. This performance also features on the recent 35th anniversary deluxe edition of their One Step Beyond… album, meaning it’s been aired more often in the past three months than the whole of the past thirty years. Plenty more Madness performances to come throughout the year though, and of course the band is still together (after a brief hiatus in the late ’80s and early ’90s), although sadly TOTP was cancelled before they got a chance to appear on the show to perform their 2012 single My Girl 2.

THE SHADOWS – Riders in the Sky (#52)

The Shadows“If you were watching the telly on Sunday you may have seen a fantastic programme, a twentieth anniversary celebration reunion with the Shadows and Cliff Richard.” Sorry, Kid, I was out. Never mind though, because here are the Shads with the second instrumental on the show tonight, a thoroughly inappropriate disco-ish version of Riders In The Sky. First a hit in the UK for the Ramrods in 1961, the song was written as far back as 1948 and has been recorded dozens of times by artists such as Bing Crosby, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and even, bizarrely, Deborah Harry. The Shadows’ performance is typically awkward, Hank Marvin in particular grinning like a loon as if wondering how the hell he got here again; even the Wilf Lunn figure on bass in the background can’t detract from the fact that nothing at all is going to happen and we’re just watching some blokes pretend to play the guitar.

RUPERT HOLMES – Escape (The Pina Colada Song) (#27)

Rupert HolmesAnother repeat performance from “one of the cleverest songwriters around today” according to Kid. It’s very easy to mock this tale of attempted newspaper-ad-based infidelity, and to judge Rupert for being so eager to cheat on his “lady”, but in the interests of fairness I feel the need to point out that it was his missus who put the advert in the paper in the first place, so really its the female protagonist who wants someone who has half a brain and likes shagging on the beach, so when the beardy twonk turns up to meet her it’s really no more than either of them deserve. Serves her right for marrying a Steve Wright lookalike in the first place. This is Rupert’s last appearance on the show as, sadly, we don’t get to see his second and superior hit Him later in the year.

THE RAMONES – Baby I Love You (#36)

The Ramones1-2-3-4! Oh… right. By far the New York punk legends’ biggest hit in the UK, despite – or perhaps due to – sounding nothing like any of their other releases, this cover of the Ronettes’ 1964 hit was produced by Phil Spector, who also co-wrote the song and produced the original hit version. Due to Spector’s… let’s say “idiosyncratic” production methods, none of the band appear on this track (or much of its parent album End Of The Century) other than singer Joey Ramone; Spector – a convicted murderer, let’s not forget – was apparently prone to waving a pistol around in the control room while producing the album and made guitarist Johnny Ramone repeat his guitar parts hundreds of times at gunpoint. Still, the end result was a commercial success and probably 90% of the people you see wearing Ramones T-shirts these days think all their songs sound like this. The band’s next and final appearance on TOTP was in 1995 performing two tracks from their farewell album Adios Amigos.

JON & VANGELIS – I Hear You Now (#15)

Jon & VangelisFrom the album Short Stories, half of whose tracks clock in at over five minutes long, this was the first hit for the ongoing collaboration between Yes vocalist Jon Anderson (soon to be replaced in Yes by Trevor Horn of all people) and Greek synth wizard Vangelis of Chariots of Fire fame. Sadly the video has dated very badly, seemingly featuring Rowan Atkinson’s mime Alternative Car Park from Not The Nine O’Clock News prancing around in a bodysuit made of the sky and frolicking on a now very valuable analog synthesizer, not to mention three Harlequins playing non-existent violins. I Hear You Now and 1981’s I’ll Find My Way Home were both top ten hits, but perhaps Jon & Vangelis’s best known song is State of Independence which became a hit for Donna Summer in 1982.

BILLY OCEAN – Are You Ready (#46)

Billy Ocean“Well, one thing we have on this programme tonight is plenty of variety,” offers Kid by way of apology, “and I reckon it’s time to get things moving again!” This, apparently, requires the introduction of Billy Ocean, who had reached number 2 twice in 1976 and ’77 with Love Really Hurts Without You and Red Light Spells Danger but hadn’t been in the top forty since then. He wouldn’t make it with this one either, the second song on tonight’s show which fell short of the number 40 spot; the combined might of the TOTP Orchestra and the Maggie Stredder Singers would see to that. Consisting of little more than the words “Are you ready? Are you ready to go?”, Billy turns in an amiable performance on his small podium surrounded by disinterested audience members, but the song is of little consequence and it would be another four and a bit years before he returned to the top forty with 1984’s Caribbean Queen.

NEW MUSIK – Living By Numbers (#20)

New MusikDespite Jensen’s opinion that the next act “have a really bright future ahead of them”, this would be the biggest hit for New Musik; follow-up singles This World of Water and Sanctuary both peaked at number 31 and singer Tony Mansfield would soon be spending more time producing other acts than concentrating on his own band. Having said that, Living By Numbers and indeed the whole From A To B album from whence it comes are great records. This is the same performance from two weeks ago, the studio still isn’t painted and they still don’t want your name. New Musik released three albums in total; the last, 1982’s Warp includes a song called All You Need Is Love and another song called All You Need Is Love; the latter, it pains me to say, being one of the weakest Beatles cover versions ever recorded.

KEITH MICHELL – Captain Beaky (#40)

Keith MichellWell now, how to explain this to a 21st century audience? The brainchild of recently deceased writer Jeremy Lloyd, best known for TV sitcoms such as Are You Being Served? and Allo! Allo!, Captain Beaky was one of a number of poems about anthropomorphic animals, set to music and narrated by celebrities such as Harry Secombe, Peter Sellers and Twiggy for a 1977 album. Two years later Noel Edmonds caught Tony Blackburn playing the title track on Radio 1’s Junior Choice and snatched the record off him to play on his own show, sparking a craze which would involve books, TV shows and even a West End musical. Esteemed Shakespearean actor Keith Michell was chosen to tell the tale of Captain Beaky and his band, the single eventually eclipsing his own musical career which consisted of one number 30 hit in 1971.

THE SPECIALS – Too Much Too Young (#1)

The SpecialsBringing a particularly diverse edition of TOTP to a close, Kid Jensen brings on Radio 1’s newest recruit Rupert Holmes Steve Wright to introduce the number 1; with his “fashionable” chinstrap beard Wright looks more like a lightweight Kenny Everett than the Weird Al Yankovic lookalike we’re used to these days. The Specials have rocketed from number 15 to the top of the chart with their Special AKA Live! EP; it’s only the second EP and only the second live recording ever to reach number 1 but strangely there still isn’t enough time to play the last verse with all its birth control references in it because Kid has to close the show and play out with Queen’s Save Me, the band’s last release before Freddie Mercury grew his infamous moustache. We’ll see the video for this next week with Wrighty at the helm, but for now it’s good night and good love.

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