UB40

“The rude boys are dancing to some heavy heavy ska” – Top of the Pops, 17 April 1980

Jimmy SavileWell, now then. We’ve been doing pretty well so far this year with only a DLT episode omitted from the BBC Four run, but now here comes Jimmy Savile to ruin everything, so if you don’t want to read about this episode, look away now. Regardless of whatever unspeakable crimes he may or may not have committed, you have to wonder just what Savile was still doing hosting TOTP at this stage of his career. He only had one Radio 1 show a week and that was exclusively for old records. His opening cry of “Hello ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Top of the Pops and here we go with the charts and the music of Leon Haywood, yes sirree!” is typical of his insincere light entertainment approach, never using one word where seventeen will do. But anyway, let’s see what the Liberace of TOTP has in store for us tonight.


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

PHILIP LYNOTT – Dear Miss Lonely Hearts (#37)

Phil LynottAfter a decade as lead singer of Thin Lizzy, Phil Lynott struck out on his own with this first single from his début solo album Solo in Soho. For once the unnecessarily formal expansion of Lynott’s first name is not a Savile affectation but the actual credit on the record, Phil obviously experiencing some kind of Deborah Harry-esque need to be taken seriously all of a sudden. There’s not much about it that marks it out as being different to a Thin Lizzy record, especially on the back of their last hit Sarah, but Solo in Soho is hugely important in the timeline of TOTP for its inclusion of a little thing known as Yellow Pearl. Meanwhile record company politics dictate that Thin Lizzy will be back in the charts with new material in little over a month’s time, before Phil has even had a chance to issue a second single from his solo set.

BARBARA DICKSON – January February (#11)

Barbara Dickson“Yes indeed, right, now then, how about, number 11 in the charts, January, February, Miss Barbara Dickson, and how are all you ladies and gentlemen at home, very well we hope, thank you.” Dear God, it really is a baffling stream of consciousness that comes out of Savile’s mouth, isn’t it? That startlingly random collection of short phrases introduces a third showing of this Barbara Dickson performance, and with her impeccable Saturday night light entertainment credentials as musical turn on numerous episodes of The Two Ronnies you get the impression that Savile has at least heard of her, which is more than you can say for some of the acts on tonight’s show. Written and produced by the great Alan Tarney, this track provides us with a link back to the very first episode in this repeat run back in 2011 when he appeared as one half of Tarney & Spencer performing the clumsily titled I’m Your Man Rock ‘n’ Roll. Tarney went on to produce loads of pop classics including the famous version of a-ha’s Take On Me (not the original version produced by New Musik’s Tony Mansfield) and Saint Etienne’s You’re In A Bad Way.

GIRL – Hollywood Tease (#50)

Girl…and there’s a bin just over there where you can deposit all your snide comments about Savile introducing a band called “Girl”, right next to the one that’s still full of all your snide comments about the band called “Child” a couple of years back. Really, your efforts are unnecessary because Girl are perfectly capable of generating their own snide comments. Counting future Def Leppard guitarist Phil Collen amongst their number, Girl are often described as “glam metal” but in truth there’s very little glam about them, except that they discovered hair styling products ahead of most of the NWOBHM bands. With toe-curling lyrics like “Hey I’m sarcastic, I’ll treat you like a spastic,” Hollywood Tease is a graceless precursor of Spinal Tap’s Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight which plummeted down the chart after this TOTP appearance. Singer Phil Lewis later joined L.A. Guns who also recorded a version of Hollywood Tease with even lesser success.

BLONDIE – Call Me (#2)

Legs & CoAs Savile forces his way in between two young ladies, who look suitably unimpressed, we come to the mighty Blondie who have already scored a number 1 hit this year and are within touching distance of a second. Not wanting to come within touching distance of Jimmy Savile, however, Blondie are not available tonight and nobody at the record company has thought it necessary to put together a video – the one you may be vaguely familiar with was created much later to pad out a VHS compilation. Never mind… enter Limbs & Co! On a set seemingly inspired by Norman Wilkinson’s dazzle camouflage of ships in World War I, or perhaps someone just thought it looked a bit like the cover of Parallel Lines, the girls skip, bounce and perform some kind of prototype nutty dance in gangster suits and hats. Call Me comes from the soundtrack of American Gigolo which, to Flick Colby’s disappointment, turns out not to be a gangster movie. Oh well.

B.A. ROBERTSON – Kool In The Kaftan (#19)

B.A. RobertsonIf tonight’s episode had been shown on BBC Four, the Twitter feed would still have singled out B.A. Robertson as the most objectionable person on the show, now then now then, goodness gracious, how’s about that then. This is the third showing of Robertson’s performance and it’s not getting any better, his sarcastic attack on hippies and flower power about as relevant in 1980 as a song making fun of Blazin’ Squad would be in 2015. Mention should be made of Robertson’s backing band though, who are so heavily reliant on facial hair and wackily playing keyboards with stiff arms like a robot, they’ve been stuck in a far corner of the studio while B.A. does his thing on a podium twenty feet away. It’s possible the guitarist is under some kind of restraining order. We will see Robertson again in a year or so, but until then let’s remember the time somebody gave him his own TV show and got him to interview Annabella Lwin from Bow Wow Wow. That went well.

THE SELECTER – Missing Words (#26)

SelecterBack to Sir Jim’ll, his cream suit, black tie and white hair causing him to almost (but, sadly, not quite) disappear on the Limbs & Co dazzle stage. It’s another repeat for the only 2 Tone act on the show tonight; Pauline Black and the band try and put a brave face on things but it’s always hard to appear dignified when your stage has been replaced by a trampoline. This was the band’s last top thirty hit unless you count the appearance of On My Radio on 1993’s 2 Tone EP which also collected tracks by the Specials, Madness and The Beat. The Selecter have one more TOTP appearance to come, turning up in August on a show co-hosted by the one and only Mr B.A. Robertson. But I’m telling you the plot! Better get Jimmy back on, his calm, measured demeanour always brings an air of sensibility to the proceedings.

THE RUTS – Staring At The Rude Boys (#51)

The RutsOh dear, Savile’s lost it. Having no understanding of the song or its title, he pulls the most alarming face (see above) to illustrate “staring”. In fact the song is not about a headmaster glowering at some unruly pupils but describes a group of right wing skinheads attending a 2 Tone gig in order to pick a fight with the ska fans (or “rude boys” in Jamaican street slang). Although singer Malcolm Owen cuts a rather menacing figure with his suedehead haircut, polo shirt and Dr Martens boots, the Ruts were vociferously anti-racism; their biggest hit, 1979’s Babylon’s Burning dealt with the riots in Owen’s home town of Southall following the death of a protester during an Anti-Nazi League demonstration. Sadly, although it gets another showing in a couple of weeks’ time, Staring At The Rude Boys was the band’s last TOTP appearance; Owen died of a heroin overdose in the summer of 1980.

PRETENDERS – Talk Of The Town (#8)

PretendersMore jagged black and white lines, it’s as if this episode was set up as a test of MPEG encoding. It’s another showing for the video, Chrissie Hynde and band presenting a vision of the future by strumming moodily on a set that looks like the result of a damaged LCD monitor. After the number 1 success of Brass In Pocket it quickly became apparent that the Pretenders were not going to be regular visitors to the top of the chart; Talk Of The Town peaked here at number 8 and the band only managed another four top ten hits in their twenty-four year chart career, although Hynde would return to number 1 in 1985 helping out another band on this week’s show whom she had discovered and helped to secure a record deal. Clue: it’s not the Nolans.

DEXYS MIDNIGHT RUNNERS – Geno (#12)

Dexys Midnight RunnersAs previously noted, the Pretenders clip features some very odd low angle shots which are all very well in the context of the video but should not under any circumstances be recreated with Jimmy Savile; please don’t click here to see the result. Focus instead on Dexys Midnight Runners, already on their third TOTP appearance, all twenty-seven of them crammed onto a tiny podium so that when Big Jim Paterson’s trombone is at full stretch it’s in danger of taking Kevin Archer’s eye out. In the two weeks since their last appearance Kevin Rowland has grown a bum-fluff moustache, pre-empting the upper lip caterpillar Freddie Mercury is about to unleash onto an unsuspecting public in a few weeks’ time. Geno is, of course, on its way to becoming one of the biggest hits of the year although Rowland’s idiosyncratic delivery means that many of the lyrics are still indecipherable 35 years on.

THE NOLANS – Don’t Make Waves (#34)

The Nolans“She’s not old enough to join in but the rest of them are, down there, my goodness yes.” Yup, it’s the infamous link where Savile has his arm around the 15-year-old Coleen Nolan, later cited as evidence of his heinous sexual predatory nature, although watching the clip without prejudice it has to be said that his gesture looks more protective than pervy. Anyway, the elder Nolans are back wit the follow-up to their megahit I’m In The Mood For Dancing which means the TOTP Orchestra gets pressed into service again. Despite its appropriate similarity to the Hues Corporation’s Rock The Boat, Don’t Make Waves isn’t a patch on their previous hit, but it does provide the special effects person with an unmissable opportunity to fiddle with the picture settings in order to produce a wave effect at the bottom of the screen. Didn’t they tell you not to do that?

UB40 – Food For Thought (#4)

UB40Along with heavy metal, reggae was also undergoing something of a revival in 1980, spurred on by the obvious reggae influences of bands like The Clash as well as the hugely successful 2 Tone movement. Although it seems a bit early for Jimmy Savile to be referring to them as “the great UB40,” the Brummie collective went on to become one of the decade’s most successful acts. Their success was so great that there are now two rival factions of the band: while a depleted version of the band continues to trade as UB40, while their original lead singer released a 2014 album Silhouette ponderously credited to “Ali Campbell, the legendary voice of UB40, reunited with Astro and Mickey”. Ironically both acts now rely heavily on cover versions, so here’s the band when they were young, fresh and important before they discovered karaoke.

SHAM 69 – Tell The Children (#47)

Sham 69“If the kids are united they will never be divided!” Unfortunately by 1980 most of “the kids” were united in the belief that Jimmy Pursey was an irritating gobshite. Tell The Children was at least an attempt to move on from their dated, shouty punk style; a slice of dated, shouty rock with a wheezy saxophone section. Pursey is clearly still very, very angry about something although as usual it’s not clear what. “We gotta tell the children! We gotta let ’em know!” he bellows earnestly, without actually mentioning what it is we’ve got to tell them. Perhaps it was that they should buy more Sham 69 records as this number 45 smash was their last hit, a shameless 2006 World Cup cash-in re-recording of Hurry Up Harry as Hurry Up England notwithstanding.

DETROIT SPINNERS – Working My Way Back To You / Forgive Me Girl (#1)

Detroit SpinnersIt’s a second and final week at number one for the Spinners with their alleged “medley” of Working My Way Back To You and Forgive Me Girl, a song written by Michael Zager which appears to be exclusive to this track, making it not so much a medley as “I’ve written a new middle eight for an old song and I want 50% of the writing credit.” Zager is best known for the Michael Zager Band’s Let’s All Chant and for discovering Whitney Houston when she was 14, but not in the way Jimmy Savile discovered Coleen Nolan when she was 14. We play out with Bobby Thurston’s Check Out The Groove, a song destined to cause confusion in the charts for the next few weeks, but we’ll come to that on next week’s Steve Wright fronted show.

One comment on ““The rude boys are dancing to some heavy heavy ska” – Top of the Pops, 17 April 1980

  1. Steve, great blog as usual, liking your take on each weeks show. For some unfathomable reason I checked on Colleen Nolan’s birthday and she wouldn’t turn 16 until the following March. I thought there was some rule about her not being able to join until she was 16 but she will have replaced older sister Anne by the time the next single comes along in September. Anyway, I digress, what I really wanted to say was I never knew there was an earlier version of Take On Me and WOW this mix is fantastic. Kind of brighter and poppier. Wonder why this version wasn’t a hit….

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