Shakin' Stevens

“Your hair is beautiful” – Top of the Pops, 22 February 1980

Peter PowellOh for heaven’s sake. “Direct from Lake Placid, you’re very welcome to the Top of the Pops studio and another great show!” That’s right, the Winter Olympics are still in full swing and consequently the BBC’s entire output has been relocated to a small village in New York State. No, of course it hasn’t, it’s just an excuse for Peter Powell to dress like a tit world champion skier. Very convincing, Pete. The top thirty machine has been reset to clear the weird echoey pictures from last week, removing the hazy coloured border around the photos in the process, but it’s also gone back to the bright yellow background which might explain why Powell is wearing those enormous dark glasses. Countup music this week comes from Rainbow; that’s Richie Blackmore and Graham Bonnet, not George and Zippy.

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

SHAKIN’ STEVENS – Hot Dog (#40)

Shakin' StevensThis week’s show actually turns out to have been pretty important, featuring as it does the début appearances of two hugely successful and prolific acts. This fact seems to have been lost on whoever chops the episodes down to half an hour for the 7.30 BBC Four showing though, as both débuts were lost for that edit. Here’s the first of them, the esteemed Michael Barratt of Cardiff who had already been gigging as Shakin’ Stevens for over a decade, although appearances in the stage musical Elvis! and the ’70s revival of ’50s TV show Oh Boy! increased his profile significantly and helped him to finally score a hit single. In all fairness it’s not Shaky’s best work – a love song about a girl who works on a hot dog stand, really? – but it was a foot in the door and Stevens would go on to make more than forty appearances on the show.

BLONDIE – Atomic (#3)

BlondieStorming into the chart at number 3 comes the third and ultimately most successful single from Blondie’s Eat To The Beat album, accompanied by some kind of terrifying post-apocalyptic video in which the band are reduced to performing in whatever clothes they could scavenge from the local dump, including PVC bin bags, an old Who T-shirt and what seems to be some kind of awful clown outfit complete with bow tie and curly wig. Things are so bad that they’re also forced to play the emergency version of the song, in which vocals are rationed to a single verse and a tedious bass solo is inserted to fill time; in World War II we had powdered egg, but that was nothing to the horror of the World War III bass solo. Still, we have to make the best of the situation, so get down, get funky, and remain indoors.

THE BEAT – Hands Off… She’s Mine (#48)

The BeatLike Madness, The Beat departed the 2 Tone label after one single in search of broader horizons. While the nutty boys had the time of their lives at Dave Robinson’s Stiff label, Dave Wakeling and co rolled up at major label Arista, who gave them their own vanity label Go Feet. With Tears Of A Clown barely out of the chart, Hands Off… She’s Mine was the first release on their new label and was very much more of the same. They would never emulate the success of Madness but this would see them back into the top ten, with all the required running on the spot from Ranking Roger and flailing around from rubber guitar and bass combo Andy Cox and David Steele, still half a decade away from becoming two thirds of Fine Young Cannibals.

BUGGLES – The Plastic Age (#18)

BugglesYou may well feel like you’ve heard this more times this year than in the rest of your life, but amazingly it’s still only just creeping into the top twenty. It’s a second outing for the second performance of the song, with keyboardist Geoff Downes still wearing washing up gloves as if trying to protect himself from an improperly-earthed Moog. Sadly the Buggles’ time was already almost up and they only have one further appearance on the show to look forward to, although Trevor Horn would, of course, go on to produce some of the biggest hits of the decade for acts such as ABC, Dollar and Frankie Goes To Hollywood. Before that, though, Horn and Downes would somehow find themselves assimilated into a rather unorthodox line-up of prog rock behemoths Yes. Still not quite sure how that happened.

TOURISTS – So Good To Be Back Home Again (#10)

TouristsAlso on their last legs are the Tourists, making their last appearance on the show here with another repeat of an earlier performance. They would go on to score one further minor hit later in the year with Don’t Say I Told You So before disintegrating, never to be seen again until 1983 when Annie “Petr Cech” Lennox and Dave “Ziggy Stardust” Stewart achieved their first success as Eurythmics. Sadly Tourists guitarist and songwriter Peet Coombes died in 1997, which led to Lennox and Stewart – who had been estranged for most of the decade – putting aside their differences and recording Eurythmics’ 1999 reunion album Peace. The Tourists’ other top ten hit I Only Want To Be With You was appropriated by Thames Television in 1992 and used in this evocative montage as the station closed down for the final time after losing its ITV franchise.

FERN KINNEY – Together We Are Beautiful (#23)

Fern KinneyFunny how things work out, isn’t it? If you have a good memory for tedious no-hit wonders you might remember Steve Allan who was on the show just over a year ago doing an even slower, less interesting version of this song. Now former session vocalist Fern Kinney has done a version and it’s inexplicably about to become a massive hit, prompting Allan to put his foot through the television set and send the BBC the bill. Fern’s performance is lacklustre, not helped by the combined might of the TOTP orchestra and the Maggie Stredder Bellowers feeding the song through a mincer, but something must have clicked with the public because – spoiler alert – it’s on its way to number 1 in a couple of weeks.

RAMONES – Baby I Love You (#8)

Ramones“From the west coast of the States, produced by Phil Spector, a sound that’s so big it’s gonna go massive!” Yes Pete, maybe you should have rehearsed this link beforehand, hmmm? Despite sounding nothing like anything else the Ramones ever recorded, Baby I Love You has already gone as massive as it ever would, peaking at number 8 this week, a chart position the Ramones would never even come close to again. For all their street cred over the intervening 35 years, the band never had another top fifty hit in the UK – selling more T-shirts than records in the past decades – and all the band’s original members have now died, the only surviving member from this line-up being drummer Marky Ramone who, thanks to Spector’s… unorthodox recording techniques, doesn’t actually play on the song.

THE WHISPERS – And The Beat Goes On (#2)

Legs & CoDid The Whispers ever actually exist? If so, someone at their record company needs to get them to make a video or get a on a plane because this is the second time in three weeks Limbs & Co have been drafted in to dance to their hit. Even with The Beat in the studio this week, Flick Colby has resisted the temptation to make the girls dance around them, instead going for a fairly aimless routine with the girls in big jackets and sparkly trousers dancing atop huge sticks of rock. No, Flick, Rock With You was last week! And The Beat Goes On couldn’t quite make the final leap to number 1 but the Whispers had a few more hits including another top ten smash It’s A Love Thing in about a year’s time.

CLIFF RICHARD – Carrie (#6)

Cliff Richard“We don’t talk anymore about Cliff not having a hit,” observes Powell, and indeed Cliff was going through a surprisingly successful period in which he released some truly great pop records. This is one of them, although the video doesn’t do him any favours – he’s asking random strangers “about a friend, I’ve her picture, could you take a look?” He holds up his hand – there’s no picture. Oh Cliff, she never really existed, did she? Never mind, come and have a seat here, just slip your arm through here, the nice men in the white van will be here in a minute. Carrie climbed to number 4 and remains one of Cliff’s finest moments, before he sank back into the easy listening mire later in the decade.

IRON MAIDEN – Running Free (#46)

Iron Maiden“Who said heavy metal music was dead?” No-one, Pete, in fact 1980 was perhaps heavy metal’s most successful year chartwise, with the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) movement gaining a foothold and the likes of Saxon, Judas Priest and Motorhead all scoring regular top twenty hits. Leading the NWOBHM charge, here’s the TOTP début of Iron Maiden, although they don’t look exactly as you might imagine. For one thing, who the hell’s that singing? Still eighteen months away from recruiting Bruce Dickinson, Running Free features the little remembered Paul Di’Anno on vocals, who performed on the band’s first two albums before being dismissed when his drug use became a liability. Naturally, as a fascinating and historically vital performance, it was cut from the 7.30 edit, proving that whoever edits these down to 30 minutes knows nothing about music history.

KENNY ROGERS – Coward Of The County (#1)

kenny RogersA second and final week at the top for Kenny with a song that, although almost forgotten now, embedded itself into the public’s consciousness at the time to such an extent that “comedy” duo Little & Large used it in a trailer for their new series broadcast immediately following this show’s original broadcast; the horror of Eddie Large crooning “Everyone considered him the coward of the County Council” is something that has never left me. Anyway, now Tommy has paid the Gatlin boys back for what they did to his Becky (whether it be by shooting them, punching them repeatedly in the head or sodomising them, the lyrics don’t specify which) we can all move on and forget this ever happened. We play out with Brian Pern Peter Gabriel’s Games Without Frontiers and look forward to some sensible hosting from Kid Jensen next time on the proper day of the week.

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