Keith Michell

“We can ride the boogie” – Top of the Pops, 15 February 1980

Simon Bates“Thank you, Mr Voice, and welcome to Friday night, it’s Top of the Pops!” Ah, the sweet essence of BBC Four trolling Simon Bates because (a) the pre-show announcer was quite obviously female and (b) depending on which showing you’re watching it’s either Thursday evening, very early Friday morning or Saturday night/Sunday morning. To be fair (do we have to be fair to Simon Bates?) this edition was originally broadcast on a Friday due to coverage of the Winter Olympics on the Thursday, as was next week’s edition, which raises all sorts of questions about why there wasn’t Winter Olympics on the Friday evening as well. Be that as it may, someone has been fiddling with the top thirty machine again – we’re back to yellow titles on a black background but now each picture has an entirely pointless identical but smaller picture placed just to its left like a bad echo. In another bit of expert trolling the countup music is Kool & The Gang’s completely unsuitable for the Winter Olympics period Too Hot.

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

MATCHBOX – Buzz Buzz A Diddle It (#22)

MatchboxIn a small corner of Television Centre, a tiny band of misfits are still fighting the American Civil War. Quite why Matchbox were so fond of the Confederate flag is not entirely clear 35 years on, and wasn’t particularly eloquently explained even then, but despite its connotations of slavery and segregation, Matchbox continue to display it as a symbol of watered down rockabilly. They’re from Middlesex, lest we forget. In the background you’ll notice that someone has attempted to make some kind of vaguely abstract “TOTP” sign as part of their A-level metalwork course; unfortunately it appears to say “TOTO” who won’t be on the show until 1983 and even then only on video. Some work still required there, obviously.

KEITH MICHELL – Captain Beaky (#5)

Keith MichellSince his first appearance on the show two weeks ago, Captain Beaky mania has broken out, hence the appearance of various Tiswas-style placards proclaiming “Hissing Sid Is Innocent”, “Timid Toad Lives”, “Hissing Sid Hasn’t Got A Leg To Stand On” and so on. Unfortunately tonight it seems Keith Michell can’t quite hear the TOTP Orchestra careering through the musical backing with little aplomb, a state of affairs which would normally be considered a blessing except that he’s expected to recite a poem over the top of it. The resulting twenty minute free-form beatnik jazz-poetry recital is all very well but it’s not really selling the record to its target audience, which might explain why the single didn’t get any higher than this number 5 position. Hastily conceived follow-up The Trial of Hissing Sid stumbled to number 53 and Michell went back to being a proper actor, pretending none of this ever happened.

THE FLYING LIZARDS – TV (#55)

Flying LizardsFrom Captain Beaky to Captain Beefheart, or at least some vague attempt at surrealism from the group best known for their minimalist spoken word version of Money which had been a top five hit the previous summer. Desperate not to be labelled a novelty act, the Lizards are trying ever so hard to be avant garde, but everything about this performance is just annoying. While Deborah Evans-Stickland fails to lip-synch to her stilted spoken words with any great accuracy, the other band members talk amongst themselves as Chicory Tip’s Son Of My Father plays backwards on a distant radiogram. The drummer’s even holding his sticks the wrong way round! Anarchy. Worst of all, they’ve employed a children’s TV presenter in yellow dungarees to fart around on a variety of improbable instruments while simultaneously looking smug and bored. Due to some clerical error the whole tedious mess was Simes’s record of the week but failed to reach the top forty and the Lizards went back to doing novelty cover versions.

ELVIS COSTELLO & THE ATTRACTIONS – I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down (#17)

Elvis Costello & The Attractions“There’s one for anyone who thought the Flying Lizards were a one hit wonder band!” trumpets Simes triumphantly, as the single goes on to stall at number 43. Meanwhile on video here’s Elvis Costello, fresh from his success as producer of The Specials’ début album, and in fact this single almost came out on their 2 Tone label until record company politics put paid to that idea. The song had originally been recorded by soul duo Sam & Dave back in 1967 although Costello’s version puts a whole new uptempo spin on the track, leading to a video full of quite unnecessarily energetic dad-dancing in a variety of exotic locations. While the A-side was a cover, the B-side of the single was the Costello composition Girls Talk which had been a hit for Dave Edmunds the previous year. More of him in a tick.

MICHAEL JACKSON – Rock With You (#12)

Legs & Co“And now here’s Michael Jackson and Rock With Me.” Oh Simes, it’s good but it’s not right. Naturally Jacko isn’t in the studio because he’s already too important for that kind of nonsense, so instead Limbs & Co are wheeled out “as you may never have seen them before,” according to Bates, by which he apparently means “fully clothed”. Once again Flick Colby’s literal choreography idea has been vetoed so we don’t see the girls dancing around a huge boulder or a long, thin, vaguely phallic stick of candy sold at seaside resorts. No, this classic track from Jackson’s quintessential disco album quite clearly screams “ballroom dancing”. Luckily Craig Revel Horwood isn’t around to judge them or they’d all be going home.

DAVE EDMUNDS – Singing The Blues (#39)

Dave EdmundsAlthough he’d scored a number 1 hit with I Hear You Knocking way back in 1970, Dave Edmunds was now apparently locked into an almost incestuous relationship with Nick Lowe and their joint band Rockpile, regularly appearing on TOTP as a unit whenever either of them had an allegedly “solo” hit. Tonight Lowe – complete with fashionable 2 Tone guitar strap – is backing Edmunds on a cover of the “rock classic” which had been a number 1 hit in 1957 for both Guy Mitchell and Tommy Steele – Steele’s version knocked Mitchell off the top spot, only for Mitchell to reclaim the place a week later, and for a couple of weeks their respective versions held the number 1 and 2 positions simultaneously. There would be none of that shenanigans with Edmunds’ version though, as it’s a depressingly workmanlike run through of the song which sounds like Status Quo performing at gunpoint.

JON & VANGELIS – I Hear You Now (#8)

Jon & VangelisAlright, who threw that? Mr Car Park has been kind enough to come here this afternoon all the way from Nottingham!” Yes, it’s another (mercifully brief) outing for this mime-filled interpretive dance influenced video which must have looked incredibly naff and dated even then. In fact, despite punk having long since fizzled out, there’s a remarkable amount of the kind of thing it was meant to have replaced on tonight’s edition – disco, novelty records, avant garde smugness, pub rock and now the last remnants of prog; Jon Anderson’s role as frontman of Yes is well documented, but Vangelis had also been in the Greek prog band Aphrodite’s Child in the late ’60s, alongside the recently deceased Demis Roussos. This was the peak position for I Hear You Now but their other hit I’ll Find My Way Home would go even higher in a couple of years’ time.

THE SHADOWS – Riders In The Sky (#21)

The ShadowsAs if to demonstrate just how little effect punk had on the wider record-buying public, Simes is proudly cradling a platinum disc for The Shadows who have somehow managed to shift 300,000 copies of their String Of Hits album. While Cliff was enjoying a new lease of life with the help of hip young songwriters such as Alan Tarney and B.A. Robertson, his former backing band were content to record guitar-led instrumental covers of hits such as Heart of Glass, Bright Eyes and this cowboy standard from the late 1940s. As usual, with nothing else to do but stand there and pretend to play the guitar, Hank Marvin takes embarrassed gurning to a new level while Brian Bennett, confused and frightened by the sudden appearance of a set of electronic drums in his kit, just hits them all and hopes for the best.

MARTI WEBB – Take That Look Off Your Face (#49)

Marti WebbIt really is like punk never happened in here tonight, isn’t it? Take That Look Off Your Face is a song from the one-act Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Tell Me On A Sunday which, being too short to do anything with in the theatre, had been converted into a TV special aired a few days before this edition of TOTP. Thanks to that and the song’s cross promotion here – and despite the jarring Americanisms in the lyrics – the record rocketed into next week’s top twenty and would go on to reach number 3. Yes, Marti, lots of young guys wear corduroy pants. Despite Lloyd Webber apparently not really knowing what to do with it, Tell Me On A Sunday has been performed in various permutations over the past 35 years with singers including Lulu, Sarah Brightman and, er, Denise Van Outen.

STIFF LITTLE FINGERS – At The Edge (#45)

Stiff Little FingersAh, well, maybe punk did happen after all. Chances are you remember Stiff Little Fingers for their incendiary early singles Suspect Device and Alternative Ulster, so you’ll be as surprised as me to discover that neither of those singles charted and this was their biggest hit by quite some distance. Despite opting for the perennially controversial drummer-at-the-front stage configuration, At The Edge seems rather tame and unfocussed compared to their ultra-specific first two singles; Jake Burns is clearly still very angry about something, but it’s hard to tell what. At times it seems even Burns himself isn’t sure, as he struggles to keep a straight face throughout the performance. Even Bates seems amused by the band’s antics, allowing himself a grin in their direction before composing himself to introduce the number 1.

KENNY ROGERS – Coward Of The County (#1)

Kenny RogersAnd what a number 1 it is, surely the only time in the entire history of the charts that a song about contraception has been deposed from the top of the charts by a song about multiple sexual assault. As if to prove that nobody actually listens to the lyrics of songs, Kenny Rogers follows up his 1977 chart topper about adultery with a number 1 about a pacifist driven to extreme violence. What Tommy actually does to those awful Gatlin boys is never really explained, but he “let them have it all” so you can draw your own perverted conclusions from that. Simes bids us goodnight as we play out with “a rising climber from The Ramones”; Peter Powell is back next week with the début of one of the show’s most regular guests.

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