Jona Lewie

“Won’t you believe in my song?” – Top of the Pops, 4 December 1980

Peter PowellWho remembers the great vinyl shortage of 1980? Generally remembered as a mid-’70s problem, it seems to have reared its head again this year as once more the record that played us out of last week’s TOTP is still playing at the start of this week’s edition. As we join chummy Peter Powell sitting legs akimbo on the steps at the back of the set, casually pretending to chat to one of the girls in the audience, all becomes clear: there’s a shortage of plastic because it’s all been used to make his trousers. “You’re very welcome as always on a Thursday,” he tells us, so if you’re watching the Saturday repeat you can naff off. Powell promises us a great show, “not only musically but also one or two personalities popping in.” After some of the awful, joyless guests that have been on the show recently, personalities would be a welcome change, but don’t hold your breath.


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

EDDY GRANT – Do You Feel My Love? (#9)

Eddy Grant“For starters, one for our audience here to dance to and enjoy, I hope.” Isn’t that the entire point of the show, Pete? It’s all somewhat academic anyway as Eddy Grant isn’t even in the studio, it’s a repeat of his previous performance although it does mean BBC Four finally acknowledges his solo career instead of just repeating clips of The Equals as part of Sounds of the Sixties whenever there’s a gap in the schedule. It also means we get to see his remarkable backing group which includes his mum on backing vocals, a drummer who’s just come from running a half marathon and one person whose entire job is to rattle some kind of African percussion instrument for dear life. This was the first of four top ten solo hits for Grant, five if you count the remix of Electric Avenue that turned up completely out of the blue in 2001, twelve years after his last hit.

NEIL DIAMOND – Love on the Rocks (#27)

Neil DiamondThere’s one of those signature clunking great edits in the middle of Powell’s next link, which looks like it was on the original broadcast as even Eddie Scissorhands in the BBC Four editing suite would be ashamed of this one. We can only speculate about what was removed – a dig at Eddy Grant bringing his mother and auntie along to do backing vocals, perhaps – before we’re thrown back into the middle of a sentence and Powell is introducing Neil Diamond. It’s another outing for that clip from Diamond’s movie The Jazz Singer whose soundtrack album has already made the top twenty even though the film’s still not out for ages. Unlike the original Al Jolson movie – and last week’s TOTP – nobody’s blacking up in this one, although it might have livened up an otherwise dull clip if Diamond had slipped into a Black & White Minstrel routine halfway through. After an excruciatingly slow climb Love on the Rocks eventually peaked at number 17 in January 1981, making it Diamond’s last excursion into the top twenty singles chart.

JONA LEWIE – Stop the Cavalry (#15)

Jona Lewie“Guests keep on popping into the show nowadays, which is good news,” lies Powell as he brings on two of Earth, Wind & Fire: Maurice White (Earth) and younger brother Verdine (Wind – sadly Fire couldn’t make it this evening). “Two of the… nine, I think, isn’t it?” Pete asks Maurice, who replies with a gormless “How are you?” and fails to answer the question. Earth and Wind are here to plug their latest album Faces (which has “just gone silver” – big deal, that’s about 20 sales for each member of the band), their latest non-top 40 hit single Back on the Road (“It’s taking off?” Powell asks Maurice, which isn’t really a question so he just grins and replies “Yes, very good, right.”) and their next UK tour which isn’t until next August. Having gleaned absolutely nothing from the conversation, Powell asks Earth and Wind to hang around and listen to Stop the Cavalry by “a band called Jona Lewie,” promising that they “might recognise one or two faces in the band”. We never find out if they do recognise anyone, but unless anyone in EWF was a fan of Terry Dactyl & the Dinosaurs, the Kursaal Flyers or John Otway, it seems unlikely. Stop the Cavalry wasn’t even meant to be a Christmas song, but give Stiff Records a song with the word “Christmas” in it and they’ll do whatever they can to make it so, even releasing a version with a Welsh male voice choir the following year.

KENNY ROGERS – Lady (#22)

Legs & C0After a brief chart countup from 30, including Queen’s Flash at 30 illustrated by a thoroughly unrepresentative photo of the band in their glam pomp six years earlier, we pause at number 22 for Kenny Rogers who has finally followed up his gang rape anthem Coward of the County with this limp ballad. Of course he’s not here though, Kenny only ever graced the TOTP studio once and that was back in 1970 with his band the First Edition, so… enter Limbs & Co, right? Well, sort of, except they’re not in the studio either. As the song’s called Lady and the first line includes the words “knight in shining armour” Flick has whisked the girls off on a pre-Christmas day out to Camelot (“Camelot!” “Camelot!” “It’s only a model.” “Shhh!”) where they’ve all dressed up as damsels in distress prancing around waiting for their knight to arrive, although presumably not in the same way as they do in Castle Anthrax. The knight never quite makes it to the cardboard castle, although one of the damsels does get to pick a golden pear off the otherwise bare tree in the courtyard, so that’s some compensation I suppose.

AC/DC – Rock ‘n’ Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution (#17)

AC/DCThe countup is very strange this week as Powell returns to the chart but only takes us from 21 to 17, where we find AC/DC represented by a photo of the band on the show in 1978 with by now deceased vocalist Bon Scott. After Scott’s death in February 1980 (shortly after the band’s last TOTP appearance) he was replaced with almost indecent haste, the band considering Noddy Holder for the role (an appointment which would have changed Christmas forever) but finally employing Brian Johnson, the former Geordie singer (although of course he remains a Geordie singer, but is no longer the singer in Geordie). Less than six months after Scott’s death, the new-look AC/DC released Back in Black which went on to sell fifty million copies, making it the second biggest selling album in history after Thriller. Here we get the video for the album’s second single, a performance clip which – apart from the obvious change of frontman – features all the usual AC/DC traits including guitarist Angus Young in full schoolboy uniform and a song about how great rock ‘n’ roll is, proving that despite Scott’s demise it was business as usual for the band, as it has been ever since.

ST WINIFRED’S SCHOOL CHOIR – There’s No-one Quite Like Grandma (#16)

St Winfred's School ChoirTwo consecutive acts on TOTP performing in full school uniform? That must be a first, right? After the third half of the countup we return to number 16. “At Christmas all sorts of things happen in the British charts,” observes Powell, and he’s certainly not wrong there. Some members of St Winifred’s School Choir had already performed on Brian & Michael’s 1978 number 1 Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs but now they were back for a crack at the big time in their own right. Ten years earlier Clive Dunn had topped the charts with Grandad and now the music industry thought we were finally ready for a similar record for granny too, albeit a saccharine drenched one with all the nostalgic melancholy of Grandad sucked out of it. Tempting as it is to mock a lisping eight year old in a hideous pink frock and the gang of grinning loons with awful haircuts behind her, there’s little point because all their schoolmates will surely have done it more effectively than I ever could. There’s No-one Quite Like Grandma would go on to commit one of the worst chart crimes in history, denying a dead man the Christmas number 1 spot, as a result of which St Winifred herself was decanonised early in 1981.

THE BOOMTOWN RATS – Banana Republic (#3)

Boomtown RatsRemember how Powell promised us “personalities” at the start of the show? He’s now backpedalling furiously and pretending he only promised us “guests”, because here’s Mike Oldfield in a terrible green velour tracksuit to mumble about his latest single, a double A-side release of Sheba and Wonderful Land which utterly failed to chart. He does get to introduce the Boomtown Rats though, not that they really need Oldfield’s patronage. The reggaefied introduction to Banana Republic sees the Rats framed by some cartoon palm trees, because nobody has worked out that the lyrics are about Ireland and not some insignificant Caribbean state. Bob Geldof is his usual grandstanding self, wearing a daft hat and eschewing conventional microphone techniques, but the rest of the band do occasionally get a look in by throwing themselves to the front of the stage and jostling for position. This was the Rats’ last top ten hit but they still have a couple of smaller hits to come.

ABBA – Super Trouper (#1)

ABBADespite being top of the singles and albums charts at the same time with identically titled records, everything’s still relentlessly grim in ABBA land, although they’re still “feeling like a number one.” You should have gone before you left the house. Of course Super Trouper was used as the basis for the famous Not the Nine O’Clock News “tribute” Supa Dupa, written by Richard Curtis and Howard Goodall before they became part of the establishment. In fact there’s an obvious parallel between ABBA and NT9OCN; both their legacies have been reduced to a handful of over-familiar pieces with ABBA Gold becoming the biggest selling compilation album in history and the re-edited mid-’90s compilations of Not the Nine O’Clock News still running on various digital channels, while dozens of other works lie forgotten on ABBA’s neglected albums and Not’s original (apparently unrepeatable) series. Still, that’s progress. Earth and Wind have long since left the building but Mike Oldfield is still here to prop up Powell as he bids us farewell to the strains of Diana Ross’s I’m Coming Out. It’s a solo hosting début for Richard Skinner next week, by which time the music world will have changed forever.

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