The Human League

“Don’t kid yourself you’ve seen it all before” – Top of the Pops, 6 August 1981

Jimmy Savile“Ho-ho! Yes indeed! How about that!” Oops, look out, it’s Creepy Uncle Jimmy™ again, ruining another episode of TOTP with his continued unwelcome presence. This week he’s kitted out in a yellow satin top with “26.2” written on it – conspiracy theorists, feel free to work out what that refers to and let me know by the end of the episode – and a frankly disgusting pair of shorts that leave little to the imagination and must have looked pretty off-putting even 1981 before everyone knew what Savile was up to behind closed doors. Of course this was quietly dropped from the BBC Four run but the Phantom Taper comes to our rescue again with a fuzzy but watchable recording of the show. The low resolution of this illicit copy means that one doesn’t have to look at Savile in too much detail and although this is generally a good thing, if you freeze it in the right place as he discreetly reaches down behind his back and adjusts his shorts, one could be forgiven for thinking that he’s got his auld fella out. Thankfully this is not the case. Not on camera, anyway.


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

DEXYS MIDNIGHT RUNNERS – Show Me (#16)

Dexys Midnight Runners“How about we start with Dexys Midnight Runners? Yes!” Well, okay, if it shuts you up. We’re in a strange period for Dexys here: they’ve left EMI and signed to Mercury, still peddling a horn-based soul sound but amongst the ranks there are murmurings of dissent at Kevin Rowland’s latest idea, namely that the horn players should learn and play string instruments as well. Show Me and their previous single Plan B (their last for EMI) were part of The Projected Passion Revue, another of Rowland’s grand ideas that never quite came to fruition due to various factors including the change of record company; the tour was scaled down to just a handful of shows and by the time they were ready to record their second album, Rowland had moved on again. Thus Show Me remains a non-album single (although it was reworked into the Too-Rye-Ay track I’ll Show You) and peaked here at number 16. Rowland is always good value and, as ever, puts his heart and soul into this performance, using every inch of what the ill-advised long shot reveals to be a tiny, tiny stage. Not as tiny as Rowland’s tiny, tiny moustache and tiny, tiny ponytail, but still.

SHEENA EASTON – For Your Eyes Only (#8)

Sheena EastonThe usual inexplicable nonsense from Savile next as we find him amid a group of young women, flexing his biceps and urging them to do the same while crying “Muscles, muscles! Muscles!” like Molly Malone having some kind of seizure. “These ladies and gentlemen are going to be waving flags in a minute, but first of all, Miss Sheena Easton, thank you very much indeed!” he gabbles as we approach another showing of the video for the latest James Bond theme. Sheena, it transpires, was romantically involved with Richard Skinner for a while around this time, a fact Skinner failed to mention last time (they may not yet have been an item, in fairness, the timelines are somewhat vague) while John Peel had apparently taken a shine to her too, yet she spurned both of them for a short, skinny guy in a G-string and a jacket whose name rhymes with P. None of this is particularly relevant to the song or the video, but there’s not really much else to report here except that the single peaked here at number 8, continuing the curse of the Bond theme which ensured that not a single one of them ever reached number 1 in the chart. Except that one Sam Smith did, but that doesn’t count because it’s rotten.

Related:  "Try to look as if you don't care less" - Top of the Pops, 19 March 1981

TENPOLE TUDOR – Wunderbar (#36)

Tenpole TudorRemember Swords of a Thousand Men? Course you do, it still gets played all the time, yet here’s the follow-up single which seems to have been written out of history even though it became a top twenty hit. Ironically, given the general mood at the time of the BBC Four reruns in 2016 which ended in the British public voting to leave the European Union, here the “merrie olde England” feel of the band’s previous single has been replaced by an entente cordiale and although Ed Tudor-Pole notes “There is unemployment, misery, despair,” his approach is to ignore it all and pretend everything is “wunderbar”. If only this had been a hit a week earlier or later, it would have been shown on BBC Four and the result of the referendum may have been quite different. Performance wise not much has changed; Tudor-Pole’s act still consists of leaping ten feet into the air from a standing start and staring into the camera like a madman, but if you’d like to join in with the song the words to the chorus are helpfully displayed on the video screen. There are not many of them and you could probably work them out for yourself.

LOBO – The Caribbean Disco Show (#27)

Legs & Co and a bananaOn the other hand, perhaps it’s just as well we didn’t see this edition on BBC Four. With incidents of medley singles still running at an unacceptably high level, we find ourselves having to deal with this one, a compilation of Caribbean and calypso songs popularised by Harry Belafonte and the like, including The Banana Boat Song, Island in the Sun and several others you’ve never heard of before. Strangely then, it fared better than many other medleys of better known songs, going on to reach number 8. The identity of Lobo remains a mystery at this point – certainly it’s not the Lobo who had a hit with Me And You And A Dog Named Boo ten years earlier – so… enter Limbs & Co! And what a performance they turn in tonight as someone has pulled out one or two of the stops and arranged for the girls to be blue-screened over some dazzlingly unrealistic Caribbean scenery, “dressed” in bikinis and arsing about with an enormous banana. Only a couple of months left.

THE HUMAN LEAGUE – Love Action (I Believe In Love) (#29)

The Human LeagueAnd here’s Savile again flanked by another two women. “Aha! Now, you haven’t got to look at this young lady because she goes pink, but you can look at her because she’s bolder, you see.” Not bold enough to slap Creepy Uncle Jimmy in the face, however. “How about this one with the Human League? Thank you.” Yes, thanks to unfortunate timing and a spectacular losing streak in the presenter lottery, the League remain a mystery to BBC Four viewers who still haven’t seen them since they were four very serious looking blokes (singing a Gary Glitter song, mind you) back in May 1980. At least three of the missing performances were released as part of a DVD some years back so we can see this performance in much better quality than the rest of the show. Not that it matters, as some dolt seems to have smeared Vaseline all over the camera lens again. Anyway, having dipped their toes in the waters of pop (having removed their stilettos first, obviously) with The Sound of the Crowd, the League have struck pop gold with this one. All the classic elements are in place: Phil’s lopsided haircut; Joanne and Susan in their best frocks providing backing vocals, their own bespoke dance routines and moral support; and the rest of the band at the back prodding away at various keyboards. Lush, multi-layered synth pop with an atheist rap in the middle, what more could you want from 1981?

Related:  "The sounds are too loud and there's too much smoke" - Top of the Pops, 5 February 1981

REO SPEEDWAGON – Take It On The Run (#25)

REO SpeedwagonSo, out of all the terrible things Savile got away with during his lifetime, at least someone at the BBC has had a quiet word with him about how to pronounce REO Speedwagon. Calling them “Rio Speedwagon” is far from the most important thing someone should have stopped him from doing, but at least it’s something. Another outing for this clip of the band performing on stage, the most remarkable part of which is drummer Alan Gratzer’s microphone which seems to appear from nowhere when he’s required to provide backing vocals for the chorus and then retracts again when he’s finished, leaving him free to smash the drums and gurn at the camera. Take It On The Run eventually staggered to number 19 but this is the last time we’ll see it on TOTP and indeed the last time we’ll see Rio REO Speedwagon until their third and final UK hit Can’t Fight This Feeling in 1985.

GIDEA PARK – Beach Boy Gold (#20)

Gidea Park“Good, good, good,” burbles Savile, resting his elbow on the head of an unfortunate gentleman sitting in the audience. Chart time next, as Creepy Uncle Jimmy reads out the names on the slides while giving no indication of recognising any of them, pausing at number 20 for, yes, another of those medley singles. There’s one glaringly obvious difference between this performance of Beach Boy Gold and the previous one: none of the band has turned up, leaving Adrian Baker to stand at the front of the stage pretending to sing and play guitar on his own. No amount of double exposure camera trickery can disguise the fact that the drummer, additional musicians and backing singers you can hear on the record are nowhere to be seen. Even Legs & Co haven’t been pressed into service to fill space on the stage, it’s just one man pretending to be the Beach Boys and it looks ridiculous. Still, Beach Boy Gold will peak at number 11 next week so we don’t have to worry about it again, at least not until the inevitable follow-up single comes out in a few weeks’ time.

Related:  "Always the sound in my brain, can you hear it?" - Top of the Pops, 30 July 1981

TIGHT FIT – Back To The ’60s (#10)

Tight FitBack to Savile leaning on the head of a different audience member who looks distinctly unhappy about it. “My friend Paul doesn’t want to be famous,” says Creepy Uncle Jimmy, ruffling poor Paul’s hair, “but I’m making him famous, as it ‘appens, famous, Paul.” Yes, Jim, but not in a good way. We’re slightly out of whack with the usual 30-20-10 split, so we countup from 19 to 10 (and someone hasn’t got the memo about how to pronounce “Depeche”) before we stop off for, yes, another of those medley singles! It’s another showing of the Tight Fit performance from two weeks ago, complete with cameo appearance from some DJ or other who we think is probably Emperor Rosko (as he was on the record) although I’m sure someone on Twitter said it was actually Paul Burnett, hence the confusion two weeks ago. All this conjecture is far more interesting than the record itself, which will peak at number 4 next week, but just like Gidea Park’s one there’s a desperate follow-up single to come before we reach Tight Fit’s imperial phase next year.

SHAKIN’ STEVENS – Green Door (#1)

Shakin' Stevens“How about the top ten, ladies and gentlemen? The top ten, just now, thank you!” We leave Savile gibbering and hassling audience members for the top ten countup, which of course starts at number 9 because we just had the number 10 record a moment ago. Shaky clings on to the top spot for another week and thankfully someone’s put a video together, seemingly at very little expense, which involves lots of mysterious footage of keyholes, green doors, an old piano and so on. Shaky does make it through the green door at one point, to discover… a piano, which he proceeds to dance on top of before being unceremoniously ejected from the premises again. We play out with Visage by, er, Visage as the audience dances, a mirrorball spins and Creepy Uncle Jimmy apparently fails to get off with a lady in the audience. Don’t worry, there’ll be no impropriety next week as it’s Simon Bates at the helm.