“It’s hotter than July” – Top of the Pops, 18 September 1980

Simon Bates & Olivia Newton-JohnHey ho, another week, another TOTP, but something isn’t quite right here. For once the problem isn’t housewives’ favourite Simon Bates grinning into camera for slightly too long before remembering to start speaking. “Hello and welcome to a slightly new look Top of the Pops,” he grins, hesitantly, “because of our… small problems at the BBC.” Yes, you guessed it, they’re on bloody strike again. This time it’s an actual BBC dispute rather than the Musicians Union strike which took the show off air for two months a short while back, and they’ve managed to work around the problem better than they did in November 1979 when the show was just pre-recorded clips and videos linked by an out-of-vision voiceover for two weeks. Alright, so this week’s show is also just pre-recorded clips and videos, but at least they’re linked in vision. Mind you, it’s Simon Bates doing the linking so maybe that’s not progress after all. The whole premise is very strange because although Simes is standing in an empty studio with only some lights in the background for decoration, we’re still pretending that nothing is wrong, to the extent that the usual audience noise has been dubbed on even though there’s quite clearly nobody there except a camera person, a sound person and whoever Bates can coax into the studio to pad out the show. Luckily Bates knows a lot of people.

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

XTC – Generals and Majors (#32)

XTCYep, something’s definitely not right with the show this week: we’re starting with a video. A video! Have they no respect for tradition? Never mind that it was directed by Russell Mulcahy, you don’t start with a video! Especially one like this that’s full of obvious symbolism such as the band dressed as waiters serving guns and medals on silver platters to some Generals and/or Majors. Still, it’s interesting to see Richard Branson sending himself up as one of the Generals and/or Majors, and Colin Moulding’s Mañuel impression is exquisite. This was XTC’s second top forty hit, almost a full year after Making Plans For Nigel, and like its predecessor featured vocals by guitarist Moulding rather than the band’s more regular singer Andy Partridge, which must have confused a lot of newcomers who bought up the band’s already considerable back catalogue on the strength of the two hits. Bates informs us that “BBC television has just made a stunning film about XTC” – presumably he means XTC At The Manor which was indeed broadcast a few weeks after this show first aired. Not that Simes is really bothered, it just provides him with a nice link from TV screens to cinema screens…

RANDY CRAWFORD – One Day I’ll Fly Away (#2)

Randy Crawford…because here’s Olivia Newton-John, who comes on to enormous fake applause from the non-existent audience. “I should be at the premiere of my movie,” she suddenly remembers, which in all fairness is probably preferable than being interviewed by Simon Bates. There’s an obvious edit in the BBC Four repeat to excise a clip from said movie Xanadu, presumably for financial reasons, which means we don’t get to hear Olivia gushing about how wonderful it was to dance with Gene Kelly, nor do we have to squirm through Simes asking her what it’s like having to dance in a tight skirt, to which her answer is surprisingly not “Mind your own business you creep.” Also not dancing in a skirt – other than gently swaying a little – is Randy Crawford, who’s still on her way up the chart with DLT’s favourite record. There’s no doubting the quality of Crawford’s voice, but her static performance does nothing to enliven this soporific ballad; even having three Randys on-screen at the same time doesn’t help matters. “Ooh, that lady can really sing,” gushes Olivia, who’s stuck around for a while at the behest of Simes, making her the first female to present TOTP since this repeat run began four years ago, and probably for a long time before that.

STEVIE WONDER – Masterblaster (Jammin’) (#4)

Stevie WonderAnother video, or at least some concert footage of the former Steveland Judkins performing his latest (raising the question, why hasn’t Stevie Wonder opened his own theme park? He could call it Steveland). This doesn’t look particularly out of place or mark the show out as being odd, as Stevie hadn’t graced the TOTP studio since 1974. Since then he’s had half a car seat cover woven into his hair in a style no-one ever really managed to pull off, except perhaps Nick Beggs out of Kajagoogoo. Masterblaster is a tribute to Stevie’s friend Bob Marley, albeit eight months before Marley’s death, and despite giving away the punchline to Peter Kay’s favourite joke “How does Bob Marley like his donuts?” it would go on to reach number 2, making it his joint biggest UK hit to date (alongside other number 2 hits Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday, Sir Duke and later Happy Birthday), before I Just Called To Say I Love You came along and ruined everything.

SHEENA EASTON – Modern Girl (#8)

Sheena EastonTalking of coming along and ruining everything, here’s Simes again, trying to chat up an unimpressed Olivia by mentioning that Stevie Wonder had recently done a tour of the UK. Realising he has no way of linking this fact to the next song, Simes – ever the professional – decides to brazen it out. “Talking of that, and talking of ladies who’ve really made it…” Stevie may have long hair, Simes, but as far as I know he’s all man. Simes goes on to fail to impress Olivia by comparing her to Sheena Easton on the basis that they’re both female, explaining the story of Sheena’s career to date with increasing fervour until one might expect him to start wildly gesticulating, Magnus Pyke style. He doesn’t though, because that would be interesting. Instead we’re treated to a yawnsome third outing for Modern Girl, making it seem terribly unfair that 9 To 5 only got one. Did you know she had two records in the top ten? If DLT were here he’d tell you that, although 9 To 5 had dropped to number 11 this week so it wouldn’t have worked.

NICK STRAKER BAND – A Walk in the Park (#20)

Nick Straker BandSo, with music restricted to videos and previously shown clips, how else to fill up the time? Well, with some pop news, of course. Having exclusively revealed that Sheena’s next single “should be One Man, One Woman” (maybe it should, Simes, but I’m afraid it’s good but it’s not right) he goes on to show us the cover of the new Police album Zenyatta Mondatta but wisely stops short of attempting pronounce its name. “Talking of tours,” which we weren’t, The Dooleys are on tour, as is Cliff Richard. But never mind that, Simes, what about the chart? Obligingly, Bates takes us from 30 to 20, where we pause for another outing for the Mike Batt Simon Farnaby Nick Straker Band. We’ve established that the musicians on the record – essentially the members of New Musik – aren’t the people miming to the track here, but we never did work out whether that was Stig from the Rutles pretending to play drums. Anyone?

MADNESS – Baggy Trousers (#21)

MadnessFunny how things turn out, isn’t it? It’s a good (or bad, depending on your point of view) thing that BBC Four managed to squeeze this episode in before the summer break because, well, I’m afraid Jonathan King has turned up. Not only that, he’s brought with him some baffling thing which is only ever referred to as “an irritating game from New York”. It’s a Rubik Cube. Yes, Jonathan King was the first person to bring the Rubik Cube to British television; within a year it would be so ubiquitous that the Barron Knights would be doing songs about it. Anyway, after the next bit of the chart we get the video for Madness’s Baggy Trousers which saves getting the band into the studio so they can get banned again. We’re also treated to some genuine baffling 1980 censorship as the line “Gone to fight with next door’s school” is mysteriously edited, the word “fight” being replaced by a corresponding syllable from another line of the song so Suggs now appears to sing “Gone to not to next door’s school” which is utterly meaningless but at least doesn’t encourage fighting in the playground. Playing the saxophone in mid-air, on the other hand, is perfectly acceptable.

BILLY JOEL – It’s Still Rock ‘n’ Roll To Me (#15)

Billy JoelAs I mentioned earlier, Simes knows lots of people, and who better to pad out this performance-light show than… Lynda Carter? Yes, just as comic book superheroes are all over the cinema screens these days, they were all over TV in the late ’70s and early ’80s, and Lynda here was famous for portraying Wonder Woman. What’s that got to do with TOTP? Oh, of course, she’s got a record out. On Motown, no less, and maybe 14 years from now if the TOTP repeats are still going and we get to see I Want You by Inspiral Carpets & Mark E. Smith, I’ll tell you the story of the time The Fall almost signed to Motown. Anyhow, one of the benefits / misfortunes (delete as appropriate) of this strange TOTP format is that we don’t get to see Limbs & Co, as the powers that be have decided to show the video for It’s Still Rock ‘n’ Roll To Me again rather than dig the L&C interpretation out of the archive. This seems to have been in the chart for months but still hasn’t gone any higher than number 15; in fact it would climb one place higher next week before falling. We won’t see Billy in the chart again for another three years, but by jingo what a comeback that will be.

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

Kelly MarieWith only eight performances on this week’s show, we still have plenty of time for Simes to ask Olivia all sorts of pertinent questions about her pets and her new single with Cliff Richard (“Whose idea was that, yours or his?” “Mind your business, four eyes.”) before the top ten count-up and, yes! A fifth outing for Feels Like I’m In Love, whose presence is now about as welcome as that of David Cameron in a pork butcher’s. Sadly Elvis couldn’t shift Kelly Marie off the top with his posthumous hit It’s Only Love, but as this is her last week at number 1 here’s a last reminder of what Feels Like I’m In Love would have sounded like if the song’s intended recipient hadn’t snuffed it before getting the chance to record it. The fake audience gives Olivia a standing ovation as she disappears off to her film premiere, Simes wishes us “lots of luck until next week’s Top Of The Pops” and we play out with Queen’s Another One Bites The Dust for the second week in a row. What do they have to do to get on the show proper? Maybe we’ll find out after the summer break…

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One comment on ““It’s hotter than July” – Top of the Pops, 18 September 1980

  1. Hi, whoever you are.
    Has anyone at your end recorded this TOTP edition (Sept 18 1980) like I did?

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