Tight Fit

“All I’ve learned has overturned” – Top of the Pops, 23 July 1981

Richard Skinner and his digital watch“They always say it’s ‘Welcome to Top of the Pops‘ and tonight it’s just the same as ever!” Newsbeat’s Richard Skinner there, opening the UK’s top music show with a confusingly constructed sentence that rather downplays the sense of breathless excitement that Michael Hurll has spent so much time and effort (and money) trying to generate. Skinner still looks way out of his comfort zone, having been denewsreaderified and forced into a red polo shirt (seemingly the inverse of the one he wore last time he was on) instead of his comfy grey sweater, the enforced colourisation ringing as untrue as the red light shining on the giant video screen in a desperate attempt to disguise the fact that it’s still black and white. Still, the audience seems happy enough. Presumably they don’t know who’s on yet.

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

THE VAPORS – Jimmie Jones (#44)

The VaporsAnd so we kick off this week’s show with a band I confidently predicted we’d seen the last of back in March 1980 when their sole top forty hit Turning Japanese seemed to be on every week for six months. Of course The Event scuppered their excellent follow-up single News at Ten which reached number 44 in July 1980 and now here they are again a full year later with another number 44 hit – a remarkable display of consistency if nothing else. Dressed like Nik Kershaw going to a fancy dress party as Adam Ant and having spent the past year growing a mullet of epic proportions, lead singer David Fenton takes us through a jaunty number about cult leader Jim Jones who had organised the mass suicide of over 900 members of his People’s Temple less than three years earlier. Phew, rock ‘n’ roll, right kids? This was the Vapors’ last brush with fame; Fenton would later eschew such behaviour, abandoning songs about cult leaders and self abuse in favour of a career as a solicitor for the Musicians’ Union, leaving him with a sensible haircut and a suit so grey Richard Skinner would have baulked at wearing it.

SHEENA EASTON – For Your Eyes Only (#16)

Sheena Easton“The Vapors, a great live band,” enthuses Skinner as Bad Manners’ Can Can plays in the background, somewhat underplaying the seriousness of the previous song’s message. Never mind that though, because Richard moves on with “a great bit of film now for people who like James Bond and also have a little spot in their heart for Sheena Easton.” This is the first screening of the video for the latest Bond theme, given to the Bellshill Bombshell with almost indecent haste barely a year after her first hit and putting Blondie’s collective nose well out of joint – they’d been offered the gig and had already written a song and everything. Anyway, Sheena’s video is little more than the opening titles of the movie with the credits removed – lots of watery effects, naked ladies in silhouette and Sheena herself also apparently in the nip, although we don’t see enough of her to confirm this. The clip freezes awkwardly on a frame containing half of Sheena’s face, some legs in silhouette and someone holding a gun, at which point we expect to cut back to the studio to find Alan Partridge explaining the plot of the film in unnecessary detail.

SHAKIN’ STEVENS – Green Door (#22)

Shakin' StevensThat doesn’t happen though; instead we cut straight back to Skinner in extreme close-up who passes the baton to Shaky, back in the studio with another single but doing exactly the same routine as before. A semi-circle of audience members displaying varying levels of disinterest congregate in the background as Stevens runs through his usual repertoire of finger clicks, knee bending and poor lip-synching. Green Door had first been a hit in 1956; at one point there were three different versions of the song in the UK top 30 simultaneously, two of them in the top ten, although Frankie Vaughan’s version was the most successful, reaching number 2 and outselling the original by Jim Lowe. Shaky’s version would go on to top the charts, cementing his transition from keeper of the rock ‘n’ roll flame to family-friendly light entertainer, a reputation into which he has only just begun to make inroads with his 2016 album Echoes Of Our Times.

REO SPEEDWAGON – Take It On The Run (#28)

REO SpeedwagonNext up, Richard gives us a flash of his snazzy digital watch as he introduces a band “also doing well in the charts, not only here but in America, a band called R.E.O. Speedwagon and they just wanna… take it away… now.” A sheepish grin from Skinner as he realises he’s cocked up another link but it’s too late to do anything about it. Still, not as bad as the time Jimmy Savile called them “Rio Speedwagon”. Take It On The Run was the second of three hits for the band in the UK but, like their previous one back in May, they’re far too important and American to come to the UK for TOTP so we get another video instead. None of the weird symbolism of the last one this time around though, just a straightforward live performance of a straightforward AOR track. It wouldn’t match the chart position of Keep On Loving You but it was slightly catchier and my mum liked it, so that’s something. Hello mum.

Related:  "Girls are foreign and strange to me" - Top of the Pops, 22 January 1981

ABBA – Lay All Your Love On Me (#7)

Legs & Co“Okay Legs & Co fans, now is your time as the ladies do a very nice number to Lay All Your Love On Me!” Er, okay then. Yes, to no-one’s great surprise Sweden’s finest haven’t bothered to come to the UK to promote this one, being as it was a stopgap third single release from last year’s Super Trouper album and, for no obvious reason, released only as an “exclusive 12″ collector’s item” despite both A- and B-sides being easily short enough to fit on a 7″, so… enter Limbs & Co! Echoing the strange, vaguely hymnal feel of the song, the girls start their routine in silhouette against what appear to be stained glass windows, only to come smashing through them as the drums kick in. Don’t worry, they’re made of paper; no risky Adam Ant-style glass smashing in the studio if you don’t mind. Dressed all in virginal white, Limbs Etc cavort around the makeshift church while simultaneously clasping their hands together as if praying for forgiveness. Whether or not it was forthcoming is still unclear. Peaking here at number 7 Lay All Your Love On Me was ABBA’s least successful single since I Do I Do I Do I Do I Do back in 1975, outsold by Star Sound’s ABBA medley Stars On 45 Volume 2 yet still the biggest selling 12″ single ever at this point – at least until New Order got wind of the idea a couple of years later – and went on to further acclaim as the lead track on Erasure’s Abba-esque EP in 1992.

TIGHT FIT – Back to the ’60s (#30)

Tight Fit“There’s a very famous disc jockey face here,” Skinner warns us as we arrive full pelt into another medley hit. Everyone remembers Tight Fit for their chart-topping cover of The Lion Sleeps Tonight of course, but that’s still six months away. Before we can get to that we have to sit through this, an entirely different line-up of jobbing musicians Starsounding their way through a boom-clap-boom-clap medley of random ’60s hits. There’s a Motown-styled horn section, a mini-skirted female singer, a flower power drummer who looks like he might have been in a very early line-up of Spinal Tap, a greasy haired male singer in shades from no specific era, and the aforementioned DJ. Nobody bothers to tell us who he is – because he’s “very famous”, as Richard told us earlier – so we’ll assume it’s Emperor Rosko, the former Radio Caroline DJ who had jumped ship to Radio 1 in 1967 and was currently back on the station for a limited run. It’s certainly Rosko on the record, but this is Tight Fit so obviously that counts for very little, and as “Generic American ’60s Radio DJ” holds the microphone as close to his mouth as possible to avoid having to lip synch, it’s had to be sure. All the while the “band” behind him weld together elements of Dancing In The Street, Do Wah Diddy Diddy, Mony Mony et al. If you turn the sound down and squint a bit you could be watching the Rezillos.

Related:  1984 Christmas Top 40

VISAGE – Visage (#25)

VisageComing off the back of the number 30 hit, we can reduce the chart countup to just the top 29 this week, the captions still reassuringly wobbly as we cut between each one, before slipping back to number 25 for another video. This one, not unreasonably, focuses mainly on Steve Strange’s face, as a curious animation detailing various stages of his make-up routine is intercut with live action shots of some industrial strength posing from Strange himself. He and his two female companions pull up outside the Blitz club, are instantly admitted (there’d be a hell of a row if they weren’t) and breeze through the club while the regular punters look on in awe. There are photo shoots, Vogue magazine articles and some truly heinous haircuts, but the overall message is simply “Hello, I’m Steve Strange and I’m fabulous.” The third of five top forty hits for the group, Visage was the least successful, peaking at 21 next week.

GIDEA PARK – Beach Boy Gold (#35)

Gidea ParkMore chart action next, before Skinner gives away his serious journalist roots by referring to “the hit parade” and promising us “a bit of oldie-goldie Beach Boys sound”. If you’re of a nervous disposition look away now, because it’s another medley hit. This one is the fault brainchild of Adrian Baker, who had a hit with a cover of the Four Seasons’ Sherry in 1975 and for the past couple of years had been channeling his energy into everyone’s favourite disco idiots Liquid Gold. Facsimiles of ’60s hits were his true calling, however, and here he is fronting another anonymous band through an authentic-sounding medley of Surfin’ USA, I Get Around and even a smattering of Good Vibrations, despite looking like he’s misread the memo and come dressed as a Bee Gee instead of a Beach Boy. A clumsy mistake, especially as Baker was actually a member of the Beach Boys – or at least the Brian Wilson-free version of the touring band – at this point and would be on and off for many years to come. After a slow start Beach Boy Gold is on its way to number 11, so we’ll see it again in a couple of weeks. Sorry about that.

THE SPECIALS – Ghost Town (#1)

The SpecialsOn with the top ten countup (still with no indication of what the members of Star Sound actually look like, the use of the words “STARS ON 45 VOLUME TWO” apparently being considered sufficient) taking us to a final week at number 1 for the now defunct Specials. It’s another outing for their penultimate studio performance from three weeks back, smiling Terry Hall still lording it around the stage with a cane for no adequately explored reason. Of course Hall, with Neville Staple and Lynval Golding, would be back on TOTP with Fun Boy Three before the year was out, while Jerry Dammers’s splinter group The Special AKA wouldn’t return to the show until 1984. We play out with Limbs & Co again, this time gyrating to the aforementioned Stars On 45 Volume 2, still giving us no idea of what Star Sound look like. Come on guys, even Gidea Park showed their faces!

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