“This ain’t 1823, ain’t even 1970” – Top Of The Pops, 3 January 1980

Peter Powell“Welcome to the sound of the ’80s!” enthuses Peter Powell, resplendent in a very ’70s canary yellow v-neck sweater. Of course very little has changed; despite the ten foot tall “1980” at the back of the stage where Madness are waiting to get on with it, we’re still dealing with records that were released in 1979 – or earlier, in some cases. “It’s a new year and a new chart and, as young as ever, it’s Top Of The Pops!” Powell makes a fair claim for musical integrity but then ruins it with a “Woo-hoo!” and fist pump. The top 30 countdown (or countup, really) is soundtracked by The Clash, a band who refused to appear on TOTP as it was too commercial for their punk sensibilities (although allowing their music to be used on a jeans commercial ten years later would be a perfectly acceptable career move). London Calling, at number 29 this week, plays behind pictures of such ’80s giants as The Moody Blues, The Three Degrees and Fiddler’s Dram.

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

MADNESS – My Girl (#54)

MadnessFittingly, the first act to appear on the first TOTP of 1980 is the still fledgling Madness, showcasing their just released third single. Looking impossibly young (except Suggs, who still only looks about ten years older now than he did then) the Nutty Boys appear suitably sombre for this tale of a failing relationship, the band unusually dressed identically in white jackets and bow ties. Much wailing and gnashing of teeth follows, especially from saxophonist Lee Thompson who is so upset he contrives to fall off the stage at the end of the introduction. Thompson also got the band into hot water for using a toy saxophone in his performance while Chas Smash, having no shouting or nutty dancing to do, doubles up with Mike Barson, both of them playing the same keyboard. It’s almost as if they weren’t taking it seriously. Peter Powell enjoyed it though: “If that doesn’t go top ten in the first month of this year, nothing will.” Stay tuned to see if My Girl does make the top ten, or if everything above number 11 is cancelled.

PAUL McCARTNEY – Wonderful Christmastime (#6)

Paul McCartneyAlthough various members of Wings (“The band the Beatles could have been,” as Alan Partridge once observed) appear in the video, this was actually McCartney’s first solo single in eight years and curiously found itself one place higher in the chart at the start of January than it had been during Christmas week. This is the video which you’ll have seen countless times if you’ve watched any music TV channels since the start of November, but it’s interesting to see it here in pristine condition rather than the wobbly third-generation Betamax version that gets shown nowadays. If you’re sick of hearing the song, take solace in the fact that two weeks after this episode was first shown, McCartney was in a Japanese prison cell after casually trying to bring half a pound of marijuana into the country. The drugs, he claimed, were strictly for his own personal use, suggesting a hefty pot habit which possibly explains why this song seemed such a good idea at the time.

THE PRETENDERS – Brass In Pocket (#5)

The PretendersAlthough they had scored a couple of top forty hits in 1979 (and appeared on TOTP to promote both of them), Brass In Pocket was the Pretenders’ first major success, climbing to number 3 this week and on its way to becoming the first new number 1 of the decade. Originally from Ohio, Chrissie Hynde had lived in the UK for several years by this point, having worked for the NME and also for Malcolm McLaren in his London shop. The title of the song was inspired by a dressing room encounter with Yorkshire band Strangeways; when Hynde enquired as the owner of a pair of trousers in the dressing room, Strangeways’ singer claimed they were his “if there’s brass in’t’ pocket.” Good job he wasn’t looking for his condoms. Powell seems suitably impressed by the song and claims “If that’s just a taste of what’s to come on their first album, looking forward to 1980.”

DAVID BOWIE – John I’m Only Dancing (#12)

David Bowie“The music business wouldn’t be business without Bowie,” claims Powell, which is seemingly intended as a compliment. John I’m Only Dancing had originally reached number 12 back in 1972; coincidentally it peaked at the same position this time around. This 1979 release was a double A-side with John I’m Only Dancing (Again) – a slower, funkier 1974 recording of the song bearing little resemblance to the original apart from the chorus – on one side and a remix of the 1972 original on the other. On tonight’s TOTP we get neither of these, but the original 1972 video for the song which had apparently been banned from the show on its first chart run for being too risqué. The Lindsay Kemp dance routine was certainly unusual, but now it was the ’80s and we’d been brought up on Legs & Co, we could take it.

BONEY M – I’m Born Again (#36)

Boney M“They’ve come to Top Of The Pops!” remarks Powell, as if this was an unusual occurrence. Of course Boney M had been frequent visitors to the show over the last three years, with a run of nine consecutive top ten hits including the massive sellers Rivers Of Babylon/Brown Girl In The Ring and Mary’s Boy Child, still two of the ten best selling singles in UK history having sold almost four million copies between them. Nothing lasts forever of course; this lame attempt at another Christmas hit limped to number 35, its overtly religious lyrics striking a chord with only a fraction of the audience who bought Lena Martell’s One Day At A Time just a few weeks earlier. Even Bobby Farrell, despite having given his James Brown afro a trim and bought a nice suit instead of a lycra bodystocking, fails to enliven proceedings, doing little other than sway from side to side. Boney M would only achieve one more (very minor) top 40 hit after this, a damp squib of an ending to a once brilliant career. Still, only eight years until Milli Vanilli come along.

THE BEAT – Tears Of A Clown (#17)

The BeatJust like Madness, The Beat released their first single on The Specials’ 2 Tone label before being seduced by another. Like The Specials, Madness and most other 2 Tone acts they seem somewhat overstaffed, especially with Ranking Roger doing little other than holding a tambourine and offering a cod-Jamaican accented “Tears of a clown” just as the song fades. Also, like Madness, they’ve been plonked in front of the massive 1980 so that we don’t forget what year it is. This skanking version of Smokey Robinson & The Miracles’ 1970 number 1 was the first of five top ten hits for The (English) Beat; their début album I Just Can’t Stop It would include a cover of Andy Williams’ Can’t Get Used To Losing You which became their biggest hit when it was eventually released as a single in 1983 just before the band broke up.

FIDDLER’S DRAM – Day Trip To Bangor (Didn’t We Have A Lovely Time) (#3)

Fiddler's DramAnd this is why the UK chart is so important: there’s room for everybody, no matter how awful. Fiddler’s Dram were a motley collection of folkies from Kent including a guitarist with the biggest afro ever seen on a white man and a singer whose Received Pronunciation accent suggested she didn’t even know where Bangor was. It’s on the north coast of Wales of course, although there was some controversy and angry noises from the local council when it was alleged that they had actually gone to nearby Rhyl which didn’t scan so well. 35 years on it’s hard to imagine how they could all have had lunch for under a pound, unless they just shared an Asda own-brand Pot Noodle. Unsurprisingly this was the only hit Fiddler’s Dram ever managed, although various members are still performing as part of The Oysterband and the song was recently appropriated by Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer for their BBC Two sitcom House Of Fools.

KURTIS BLOW – Christmas Rappin’ (#30)

Kurtis BlowAnother Christmas song? Really? It’s neither the biggest Christmas hit nor the biggest rap hit in the chart this week, nor is it the best single called Christmas (W)Rapping (we have to wait another 35 months for The Waitresses to make the chart and even then they only reached number 45), nor indeed is it Kurtis’s biggest hit (that would be If I Ruled The World in 1986). As with much early rap it bares a disturbing resemblance to Anthony Carmichael’s The Rapping Song from the BBC comedy Look Around You (made in 2005 but set circa 1980). Still, Christmas Rappin’ was the first rap single to be released on a major label and Kurtis has dressed up for the occasion in a natty three piece suit, so it’s only fair to give him a chance. Interestingly, according to the top 30 countup in this clip, Anthony Carmichael’s rival Tony Rudd took his song Machadaynu to number 1 just a few weeks earlier, but we didn’t see it in the 1979 TOTP reruns because it never actually happened.

BILLY PRESTON & SYREETA – With You I’m Born Again (#24)

Billy Preston & Syreeta“Now, who better for Billy Preston to sing with than Syreeta?” asks Powell, presumably rhetorically. Of all the people who have laid claim to the title of “the fifth Beatle” over the decades, Preston has a better claim than most; he’s the only person to have had a co-credit on a Fabs single, having played keyboards on Get Back in 1969. Just over a decade later he would return to the top ten with this duet with Syreeta Wright, ex-wife of Stevie Wonder and a Motown recording artiste in her own right. For all their musical pedigree, the song is an interminable dirge with a tempo of about 3 bpm which kills the show’s momentum stone dead; no amount of virtuoso piano flourishes (and there are plenty) from Preston can revive it. Boney M didn’t move about much either when they were born again but at least they seemed reasonably happy about it.

CHIC – My Feet Keep Dancing (#21)

Legs & CoAs if to prove that nothing has changed with the dawn of the new decade, here come Legs & Co with their usual brand of literal choreography. The song’s called My Feet Keep Dancing so naturally we open with a shot of the girls’ feet, but unfortunately their appendages can’t dance on their own and even Flick Colby wasn’t literal enough to amputate them. The camera pulls out to reveal that the feet are indeed still attached to their respective legs, although the dancers’ impossibly tight costumes mean that their feet, encased inside impractical looking fur-lined boots, are the only parts of their bodies not on display in alarmingly graphic detail. The song itself isn’t even one of Chic’s best; it seems that by writing and producing hits for everyone from Sister Sledge to Diana Ross to Johnny Mathis, they had forgotten to keep anything in reserve for themselves. My Feet Keep Dancing would peak at number 21 and bring Chic’s run of hits to an end.

DR HOOK – Better Love Next Time (#58)

Dr HookTo be fair to Fiddler’s Dram for a moment, here comes an equally motley crew from the other side of the Atlantic. Fresh from an unexpected number 1 hit with When You’re In Love With A Beautiful Woman, the eponymous Dr Hook arms himself with an ambitious four maracas which he shakes with unnecessary gusto while exchanging “how the hell did we get here” glances with singer Dennis Locorriere. At no point is it explained what Hook actually doctored in, or at what point during his doctorate he came to lose an eye. Of course we’re perpetuating a popular myth here: “Dr Hook” is the name of the band, not the eyepatch wearing proto-Bez figure Ray Sawyer. Despite sticking to the same easy-listening-disco-lite template as its predecessor, Better Love Next Time couldn’t repeat the chart topping success although it did climb to number 8.

PINK FLOYD – Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2) (#1)

Pink Floyd“We don’t need no education!” “Yes you do, you’ve just used a double negative.” Yes, a mere twelve years after their last hit single, the Floyd are still clinging on to the top spot with their recent Christmas number 1. No surprises here, as everyone in the entire world is familiar with the video: a long panning shot of London, some children, a teacher, some more children being fed through a mincing machine, hammers, walls and the Bash Street Kids choir who ain’t needing no edyookayshun or nuffink. By the end Peter Powell has managed to lose his canary yellow jumper somewhere, almost looking like he might be “down with the kids” as he wishes us a good week. We play out with Rose Royce’s Is It Love You’re After, over which you are now legally obliged to quote lines from Theme From S-Express.

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2 comments on ““This ain’t 1823, ain’t even 1970” – Top Of The Pops, 3 January 1980

  1. At least Kurtis Blow’s inclusion meant we got to hear Johnny Pearson & The Vernons Girls attempt call-and-response hip hop before Michael Hurll gave them their P45s

  2. i’m a compulsory viewer of the archive totp’s and also a regular contributor to angelo gravity’s totp blogspot – i’ve just stumbled onto this and really enjoyed reading this excellent review of the first edition of the 80’s. looking forward to getting up to speed with the rest of the backlog, and will then avidly follow in the hope it will last as long as the reruns…

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