Jona Lewie

“The sword of time will pierce our skins” – Top of the Pops, 22 May 1980

Mike Read“Welcome to Top of the Pops! You’ve probably got a very good close-up of my nose where I’ve been lying in the sun.” Er… no, not really. Mike Read is our host this week, and like Steve Wright a few weeks back he’s wearing a blazer which reminds me quite vividly of my youth. Wrighty’s looked like a ZX Spectrum loading screen, whereas Read’s white-with-black-and-red-stripes effort looks like the curtains I had in my bedroom around 1987. On with the show then, and because BBC Four “overlooked” last week’s DLT-fronted episode, there’s a fair amount of repetition but it’s also the last time we’ll see most of these songs on the show, what with The Event looming on the horizon like a… big, looming thing. Of course, at the time everyone was blissfully unaware of what was about to happen to TOTP, so we carry on as normal with the top thirty countup soundtracked by Lipps Inc’s Funkytown, a massive hit over the summer but restricted to a countup track this week, a playout track next week, a brief snippet on the pilot episode for the rebooted TOTP (which we probably won’t see) and a Limbs & Co routine on the Christmas Day show (which we definitely won’t see).

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

THE LAMBRETTAS – D-a-a-ance (#48)

The LambrettasOne of very few acts to have chart success on Elton John’s Rocket label apart from Sir Reg himself, this turned out to be The Lambrettas’ final appearance on TOTP although the single climbed as high as number 12. Over the summer the band’s début album Beat Boys in the Jet Age reached the top thirty and they seemed set for a third hit with next single Page Three gaining lots of airplay on Radio 1, only to be shot down when The Sun “newspaper” claimed that they owned the rights to the phrase “page three” and the Lambrettas could just about blooming well go off and find their own phrase. The single was eventually released as Another Day Another Girl but by then the momentum was lost and the single failed to reach the top forty. Although original singer Jez Bird died in 2008, the Lambrettas are still going, with original guitarist Doug Sanders on vocals and Paul Wincer (seen here auditioning for Stars In Their Eyes as The Jam’s Rick Buckler) back behind the drum kit.

MICHAEL JACKSON – She’s Out of My Life (#3)

Michael JacksonAnother outing for the fourth and joint-biggest hit from Off The Wall, but number 3 was the highest position for this tearjerker. Over the summer an unthinkable fifth single from the album, the Paul McCartney-penned Girlfriend, got stuck at the world’s worst chart position, number 41. Of course Michael’s not in the TOTP studio; he only ever performed two of his solo hits on the show, once with his brothers doing that performance of Rockin’ Robin that’s on TOTP2 every three weeks and once on his own doing Ben which is never shown despite being one of the few performances from that era to still exist in some form. Anyway, the next time Jacko would reach the top forty would be in a year’s time when Motown dug up an old blub-fest One Day In Your Life and confounded everyone by scoring a bigger hit with it than any of the singles from Off The Wall.

UK SUBS – Teenage (#32)

UK SubsYou thought punk was dead? No way! It just smells a bit. “Hang on a minute,” you say, “Teenage? Charlie Harper’s 35 if he’s a day!” Yes, the song is a kind of reverse Teenage Kicks in which vocalist Harper, indeed just a few days short of his 36th birthday at the time, reminisces about being a teenager in 1962 rather than 1980. Given Harper’s unfortunate resemblance to a fuzzy-permed Ben Elton, the whole thing has an air of Nozin’ Aroun’ about it, while his Sid Vicious t-shirt, guitarist Nicky Garratt’s regulation loose-knit jumper and Billy Idol sneer and drummer Pete Davies’ bright red hair tick off just about every punk cliché available. Nonetheless, the Subs refused to give in to fashion and continue to this day, releasing their 25th album Yellow Leader this year and still led by Charlie Harper, now a sprightly 71.

JONA LEWIE – You’ll Always Find Me in the Kitchen at Parties (#27)

Jona LewieIn the interests of accuracy, we asked Twitter if Jona’s opening statement was true. Is he really no good at chatting up? Does he always get rebuffed? Apparently so, according to one correspondent: “He was chatting me up in a small canteen at a Blues Festival, but some mad old bag kept talking to me and he got bored and walked off. So annoying. 🙁 I was being polite as thought she was a friend of his, but next time I’ll tell ‘friends’ to f**k off so I can shag a pop star.” So it seems it’s true. Maybe it’s because people keep mistaking him for Fred Harris off of Chockablock / Micro Live / End of Part One. No Kirsty MacColl this week but at least Fred Jona does get off with one of the backing singers, presumably not one who was married to Stiff Records boss Dave Robinson because he didn’t get dropped from the label and he’ll be back with an even bigger hit at Christmas.

KAREL FIALKA – The Eyes Have It (#52)

Karel FialkaSo while Jona and his new lady friend dance out of the kitchen, Mike Read is left to do the washing up. Seems fair. Next up tonight is the Scrabble-tastic Karel Fialka, looking and sounding like something Czechoslovakia might have speculatively entered into the Eurovision Song Contest in an attempt to emulate Kraftwerk, or at least Belgium’s Kraftwerk-alikes Telex. Like Telex, the Indian-born, half Scottish, half Czech Fialka scored exactly one top forty hit in the UK, but this wasn’t it. In fact he would have to wait another seven years for his hit, the supremely irritating Hey Matthew. The Eyes Have It is much better, all biscuit tin electronic drums and squelchy synths, and if you listen hard enough it sounds like it might have subconsciously influenced Camper Van Beethoven’s subsequent indie classic Take The Skinheads Bowling. Despite this The Eyes Have It became one of those “special” records that actually went down the chart the week after it was on TOTP. See you in 1987 then, Karel.

THE SPECIALS – Rat Race (#18)

The SpecialsHaving solved the problem of unwanted pregnancy with Too Much Too Young a few months back, laughing Terry Hall and his chums are back to tackle the problem of… students. Hang on, is this right? Yes, apparently so. Bloody students, eh? Going to university, studying hard, getting really good, well paid jobs. “I got one Art O-Level, it did nothing for me,” complains Hall, which suggests that he should have stuck in and worked harder at school, then he might have got a few more. A double A-side with Rude Buoys Outa Jail, Rat Race went on to reach number 5, becoming the fourth of seven consecutive top ten hits before the original line-up’s split in the summer of 1981. We won’t see their next single Stereotype on TOTP though, not because of The Event but because it’s terribly rude.

COCKNEY REJECTS – I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles (#45)

Cockney RejectsHang on, this lot were on two weeks ago with a completely different song and now they’re back! Is this the hardest working band in punk? No, it’s just unfortunate scheduling really. With The Greatest Cockney Rip-Off still at number 30, we switch our attention to the Rejects’ cover of a music hall number from 1919, but don’t panic, they haven’t gone all Toy Dolls on us. I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles is, of course, the anthem of West Ham United, having been adopted as such in the late 1920s in reference to a player who bore a resemblance to the subject of a painting used in a famous soap advertisement. With West Ham reaching the 1980 FA Cup Final, the Rejects decided to support their team by releasing their own version of the song. The Rejects’ version reached number 35, became their last top forty hit and effectively finished off their career, not because it was a novelty cover version but because it marked them out as West Ham supporters, which led to most of their subsequent gigs descending into violence orchestrated by supporters of other teams. As if that wasn’t bad enough, it didn’t even do as well as the West Ham team who took their own recording of the song to number 31 five years earlier.

GARY NUMAN – We Are Glass (#10)

Gary NumanAlthough his commercial success had already peaked, Gary Numan remained a surprisingly regular presence on TOTP, appearing at least once every year between 1979 and 1987. He’s only on video tonight though, and the easily shocked among you may wish to sit down because despite clearly being some kind of alien from the future (about 1982, by my reckoning), Numan is seen playing a guitar. You remember those, right? Apart from that there’s lots of smashing of glass and messing about with laser beams, but no synthesisers in evidence anywhere in the video. So much for the future, it might as well be a 1970s Queen album. We Are Glass smashed (ha!) into the chart at number 10 this week and climbed as high as number 5, making it Numan’s biggest hit single after Cars.

JUNIOR MURVIN – Police and Thieves (#35)

Junior MurvinIf The Clash will not come to Top of the Pops, then Top of the Pops must come to The Clash! Er, or something. Originally released in 1976, Junior Murvin’s Police and Thieves quickly gained reggae classic status, especially as it summed up the mood of black Britain after a perceived heavy-handed police presence at that year’s Notting Hill Carnival led to the festivities turning into a riot. The following year it also became a punk classic when The Clash recorded it for their début album. Quite why Murvin’s version took so long to enter the chart isn’t clear, but now here he is on TOTP, looking frankly startled at suddenly having to mime to a four year old song and having to improvise a “trying to stay upright on a moving bus” dance routine which doesn’t really befit such a significant record. Playing bass on Police and Thieves is one Boris Gardiner, who in 1986 would score a much bigger hit than either Junior Murvin or The Clash (jeans ad-related reissues aside) when I Want To Wake Up With You went to number 1.

AVERAGE WHITE BAND – Let’s Go Round Again (#17)

Average White Band“This is number 17… what are you doing?” Ah, if only all the TOTP presenters had been so admonishing when a female audience member attempted to put an arm around them, we wouldn’t be in this mess. This was the Average White Band’s second and final top twenty hit, the only other being their début chart entry Pick Up The Pieces which reached number 6 five years earlier, and although the AWB version of Let’s Go Round Again peaked at number 12, leather-clad mid-90s pop goddess Louise took the song into the top ten in 1997. Unlike this song’s first appearance on TOTP two weeks ago, the band has been persuaded to come to the studio this week so Limbs & Co are not required to spin around in circles or push clock hands in an anti-clockwise direction. Talking of Limbs & Co, where have they got to this week?

THE MASH – Theme from M*A*S*H (Suicide is Painless) (#6)

Legs & CoWhat’s going on here then? As you’ve probably worked out, this is the theme from the 1970 film M*A*S*H, which begat the enormously popular US TV series which in 1980 had recently finished its eighth season. Originally released in 1970 as The Song From M*A*S*H when it made no impact on the chart whatsoever, the popularity of the TV series, plus repeated plays on Noel Edmonds’ Sunday morning Radio 1 show, propelled it into the chart a full decade later. Of course The Mash can’t be on TOTP because they never really existed, so… enter Limbs & Co! Legend has it that the movie’s director Robert Altman wanted the song’s lyrics to be mind-numbingly stupid, so he got his teenage son to write them. No such excuses here for Flick Colby who, faced with all sorts of reasons why Limbs & Co can’t interpret the song literally on early evening television, grabs hold of the opening line “Through early morning fog I see…” and sticks the girls out in a foggy yet still unrealistic grassy knoll. Note that, because nobody can see them, L&C have chosen not to go out in the usual skimpy outfits and instead are wearing all the clothes they own, all at once.

MATCHBOX – Midnite Dynamos (#26)

MatchboxSuicide is Painless was, of course, later covered by the Manic Street Preachers for a charity album organised by the NME. What’s not so well remembered is that, in the UK at least, the single was a double A-side with another track from the album, The Fatima Mansions’ unprovoked assault on Bryan Adams’ (Everything I Do) I Do It For You, and if you thought the Manics’ cover was disrespectful you’ve clearly never heard the other side. Moving on, it’s another showing of the Lidl Showaddywaddy’s performance from a couple of weeks back, amazing costume change and all. Last time I hinted that they had made a record with someone else who appeared on the show, so now it can be revealed: Matchbox’s final single release, 1983’s I Want Out, was a duet with Kirsty MacColl. Of course we’ll see more of Kirsty on TOTP over the years, but be warned, Matchbox have a massive top five hit to come in the autumn.

JOHNNY LOGAN – What’s Another Year? (#1)

Johnny LoganOne final week at the top for Rodney Trotter Johnny Logan and he’s back in his white jacket and blue slacks from a couple of weeks ago. Of course J-Lo will be on TOTP again with his next hit and second Eurovision winner, but we won’t be seeing that until 2022. At least that one doesn’t have a sax solo. We play out with Jermaine Jackson, the errant Jackson brother who absconded from the Jackson Five and stayed with Motown when the others moved record labels, forcing them to change their name to The Jacksons. He’s enjoying his first solo hit with Let’s Get Serious, while Mike Read is off to get his blazer made into a deckchair. Kid Jensen is your host next week, with a show which turned out to be the end of an era for more reasons than the one that was intended.

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