“A reminder of a world that doesn’t care” – Top of the Pops, 20 August 1981

Dave Lee TravisAn unusual choice for Top of the Pops presenter this week as we find ourselves watching the first edition ever to be hosted by an actual scarecrow! Ah no, sorry, false alarm, it’s just Dave Lee Travis in a big straw hat. No BBC Four showing this week then, so it’s the Phantom Taper to the rescue once more with a 1990s recording from UK Gold, complete with tell-tale raggedy stripe down the right-hand side of the picture, the remnants of old-fashioned analogue encryption. Yes, they used to charge money to let people watch old TOTP back in the ’90s. Wonder why nobody’s thought of doing that again? A channel showing nothing but the Hairy Cornflake’s editions would surely raise a two- or even three-figure sum. Until then, we’ll make do.

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

ENIGMA – I Love Music (#25)

EnigmaAnd what better way to start the show than with another medley single? I’m sure you can think of plenty, but nevertheless Enigma are back again, with the dead hand of Shakatak’s Nigel Wright still at the helm. Despite their claim to love music, here they are committing more crimes against it, following up their top eleven hit Ain’t No Stoppin’ with further cut-and-paste cabaret disco hits including Is It Love You’re After, Boogie Wonderland and Can You Handle It? Obviously we couldn’t, as the single peaked here at number 25 and Enigma were never seen again. Or were they? Despite the pleas of music lovers everywhere, Wright carried on doing this sort of thing for many years to come with varying levels of success, being the “brains” behind Mirage who were briefly popular in 1987 with hits such as Jack Mix II and, er, Jack Mix IV, and the UK Mixmasters who reached the top twenty in 1991 with a “megamix” of just two songs from the Jungle Book soundtrack. He’s also behind another medley single still to come before 1981 is out. Consider yourselves warned.

THE HUMAN LEAGUE – Love Action (I Believe In Love) (#3)

The Human League“Good stuff, eh?” leers Travis, “and that’s only the first one on the show!” We’re on firmer musical ground with this one, the League at their highest chart position to date, although they must have known they wouldn’t be seen on BBC Four as they haven’t bothered to come back to the studio. It’s another outing for the smeary performance from two weeks ago, with Phil and the girls adapting very quickly to life as proper pop stars. If they keep selling records at this rate, Phil will soon be able to afford a shirt. Mind you, with their 2016 3CD-and-a-DVD anthology A Very British Synthesizer Group selling at an eye-watering £80 a go, he should be able to afford a whole wardrobe. This clip is on the DVD, along with all the others we won’t see because of redacted hosts, but if you haven’t won the lottery lately you’ll just have to keep searching YouTube like the rest of us. Love Action peaked here at number 3 but gained another lease of life in 2002 when George Michael sampled it on his batshit Gulf War protest Shoot The Dog.

U2 – Fire (#36)

U2That’s all decades in the future, of course, and for now we have more pressing matters to worry about, such as the sight of DLT’s legs which have hitherto been kept well out of shot. Now we see that not only is he wearing a straw hat, but his shirt is knotted around his waist and his nether regions have been crammed into a pair of brown shorts. Thank the gods for low resolution VHS tape. “It’s getting a bit warm round here, gang,” he observes as he leads the crowd in attempting to stamp out the flames which have been electronically overlaid at the bottom of the picture, seemingly in vain as the camera zooms in to give the impression that the fire has quickly consumed Travis and the entire audience. But don’t worry, it’s not real! It’s just another page from the TOTP Big Book of Literal Interpretation as the flames are here to illustrate the next song. Yes, the continued absence of Travis from the BBC Four run has robbed us of yet another important milestone: the first appearance of one of the biggest bands of the next three decades. Fire was U2’s first ever hit single in the UK and, despite the studio seemingly being ablaze, we get a rare chance to see Bono and The Edge without dark glasses. The single would climb only one place in the wake of their appearance and it would be almost a year and a half before they had another top forty hit, which means no sign of them on BBC Four until 2017.

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SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES – Arabian Knights (#32)

Siouxsie & the Banshees“I tell ya,” Travis tells us, “the more I look at these acts on Top of the Pops tonight, the more I feel I’m dressed in the right clothing.” It’s not a popular view, but hear him out: “More heat now as we go out to Arabia.” If this edition had been shown on BBC Four we’ve found what would have been cut from the 7:30 edit. Reaching a peak of number 32 this week, it’s fair to say that Arabian Knights isn’t Siouxsie’s most memorable moment, and the bargain basement video doesn’t help. Crudely superimposed over some stock footage of sand dunes, the Banshees unfurl Siouxsie out of a rolled-up Persian rug, after which she flies into shot on a magic carpet. Later on, the band members have a sword fight for no clear reason. These low budget green screen antics are intercut with shots of the band actually on location, although these were apparently filmed in Marseille rather than Muttrah. Still, it’s not often you hear the word “orifices” on TOTP, so bonus points for that.

UB40 – One in Ten (#16)

UB40Back to the studio now, although we seem to find Travis standing next to a girl in school uniform, so maybe that’s not such a good idea. Never mind, time for a little bit of politics as UB40 offer up their take on the Specials’ Ghost Town. The title One in Ten refers to the unemployed percentage of the West Midlands workforce in the summer of 1981 and is a prime example of how important UB40 were in the first few years of their career. That said, the band seems to be doing more than its fair share in attempting to restore Birmingham to full employment, with not far short of ten people crammed onto the tiny TOTP stage. This was the second single on the band’s own Dep International label which they set up so they could have full control over their music, an admirable venture backed up by the release of Present Arms In Dub, the UK’s first commercially successful dub album, a couple of months after this. Unfortunately they then signed a distribution deal with Virgin and everything went karaoke shaped.

RANDY CRAWFORD – Rainy Night in Georgia (#30)

Legs & Co“Control yourself! Stop it!” admonishes Travis as if he’s not enjoying being jostled by a crowd of females. More dubious sentiments follow as we’re introduced to “a bunch of my favourite women: we’ve got Legs & Co and Randy Crawford, what more could you ask for?” A restraining order, perhaps? Anyway, Dave has rather spoiled the surprise but you won’t be totally astonished to learn that Ms Crawford hasn’t made it to the studio today, so… enter Limbs & Co! And the Flick Colby Big Book of Literal Interpretation falls open at “R” for “rain”, so the ladies are dressed in PVC raincoats and hats (and mini skirts, strangely enough, and stilettos rather than wellies) on an unconvincing street set with overlaid artificial rain effect, as it would be far too expensive and dangerous to actually hose them down with all that electrical equipment around. Of course the song dictates a nighttime effect, so the scene is lit by just a few street lamps to disguise the fact that everything’s made of cardboard. Morecambe & Wise’s Singing in the Rain sketch it is not. There are lots of Coca Cola ads on view though, so that must have paid for the set. Rainy Night in Georgia is on its way up to number 18 so we’ll see the proper video in three weeks’ time, except we won’t because of presenter issues.

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TENPOLE TUDOR – Wunderbar (#20)

Tenpole TudorBack to the inappropriately dressed DLT – not just for the rain, but for life in general – to guide us through the first part of the chart countup, kicking off at number 30 with Randy Crawford again. It’s nothing but repeats on the BBC. We find a convenient stopping-off point at number 20 for Tenpole Tudor with another song that’s been erased from BBC Four’s version of history. It’s the same performance as two weeks ago, with Ed still threatening to do himself a mischief by leaping seven feet into the air at the slightest provocation, while wearing the sort of eyebrow and cheekbone defining make-up employed in the very earliest days of television back in the 1920s. Sadly this is the last we’ll see of Tenpole Tudor; the single peaked at number 16 next week, follow-up Throwing My Baby Out With The Bathwater reached number 49 and they were gone, although Eddie released a solo single The Hayrick Song in 1983, shortly after the remainder of the band had released a single as The Tudors, Tied Up With Lou Cool. Neither is particularly great, so thank goodness The Crystal Maze came along.

LOBO – The Caribbean Disco Show (#10)

LoboTime for an ad break on UK Gold, the Phantom Taper’s editing of this sparing us much of Travis’s preamble into the middle bit of the chart, which in all probability is no great loss. We stop off at number 10 for “a bit of fun from Lobo.” Yes, it’s another bleeding medley, but it seems they’ve tracked Lobo down and forced him into the studio this week, so we’re spared more Limbs Etc antics with inflatable bananas and what have you. With no evidence to the contrary, we’ll assume that this is the real Lobo, in unfeasibly frilly shirt and unpleasantly tight trousers, running through his montage of The Banana Boat Song, Island in the Sun, Coconut Woman, Jamaica Farewell and the unfortunate Judy Drowned. Incredibly the full 12″ version is eleven minutes long, so think yourself lucky we’re on a tight schedule. Unsurprisingly this was Lobo’s only UK hit; we didn’t fall for follow-up singles Lobo’s Gospel Show, The Soca Calypso Party or his presciently titled 1985 single Does Anybody Care? I’m sure we all know the answer to that one.

SHAKIN’ STEVENS – Green Door (#1)

Shakin' Stevens“Right now, it’s time to have a look, in finality, at the top ten!” announces Travis, forgetting that we’ve just done number 10 so it’s actually a look at the top nine. We find Shaky at number one “for the third week running,” although if you’ve been counting you’ll find that it’s actually the fourth week Green Door has been at the top of the chart, an achievement which we celebrate with another airing for the song’s first performance when it was a lowly number 22, way back in July when Shaky still wasn’t quite sure of the lyrics. Never mind, he’ll be gone next week. We play out with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – not a phrase you often hear – as Hooked on Classics proves to be the world’s most difficult record to clap along to. Richard “Sensible” Skinner is in charge next week, so there’ll be no shenanigans, thank you very much.

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