Thin Lizzy

“He is a song that’s not easy to write” – Top of the Pops, 14 May 1981

Tommy VanceThat idea of showing two editions of TOTP a week on consecutive nights seemed great at the start of the year. Quickly, though, we ran into problems due to the, shall we say, unavailability of certain episodes. Miss out a show between Thursday and Friday and you run the risk of a very repetitive Friday night edition full of songs you already heard the previous evening. This week, however, it’s kind of worked to BBC Four’s advantage. We may have lost almost an entire month since last night, but it does mean that all but one of tonight’s songs are new to the BBC Four run, when in fact only one is new to TOTP itself. This figure is made less remarkable by the fact that tonight’s show is somewhat truncated, due to last Saturday’s FA Cup Final ending in a 1-1 draw and the concept of the penalty shoot-out not yet having been introduced to the competition, meaning that Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City are required to do the whole thing again tonight. Naturally football takes precedence over music when you’ve only got three TV channels, so this week’s TOTP has been optimistically branded a “Cup Final Special” despite having been unceremoniously hacked down to a cosy nineteen minutes. Poor Tommy Vance must be wondering what he’s done wrong: last time it was his turn to host there was a strike on, and now he’s got to whip up enthusiasm for a “special edition” that’s only half the show’s normal length. On top of that, it’s his last hosting gig until some time next year. It’s enough to make a fella paranoid.


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

THIN LIZZY – Are You Ready? (#24)

Thin LizzyIt doesn’t help matters that the opening sequence – still just three seconds of the TOTP logo on a bed of smaller TOTP logos – is soundtracked only by the start of Thin Lizzy’s Are You Ready?, which is just Phil Lynott asking “Are you ready to rock?” in a terrifying mid-Atlantic accent. Luckily Lynott’s next attempt at a theme for the show would be more successful. Yes, for the second time in three weeks the show opens with Lynott and co doing a studio performance of a track from a live EP, one of those strange 7″ releases that played at 33⅓ RPM rather than 45, inevitably resulting in a comical meeting of Thin Lizzy and the Smurfs at some point when one of the Radio 1 DJs failed to pay attention to the label. John Peel, of course, was notorious for playing records at the wrong speed and would often attempt to cover up such an error by claiming that the record sounded better at that speed. No such shenanigans on TOTP though as Thin Lizzy run through the lyrically remarkable (but not in a good way) Are You Ready? again at the right speed, although as we’ve only got 19 minutes maybe they should have played it at 45 after all.

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SHEENA EASTON – When He Shines (#23)

Sheena EastonSo, with the usual eleven or twelve songs slashed to just six, this may be the only ever edition of the show where all songs appear in ascending order of chart position, and one has to wonder if tonight’s running order was deliberately chosen for that reason. Certainly it hasn’t been chosen for entertainment purposes, as we move from unremarkable rocker to unremarkable ballad. At least it offers us a glimpse of the Savile-hosted edition from two weeks ago, Sheena’s gold spandex strides still the most notable thing about the performance. Despite sounding like it was written for Shirley Bassey who then turned it down, When He Shines reached number 12 in the chart and paved the way for Sheena’s Bassey-reject Bond theme For Your Eyes Only in a few months’ time. Whatever it was that attracted Prince to the Bellshill Bombshell, it certainly wasn’t this song. Perhaps it was the trousers.

DEPARTMENT S – Is Vic There? (#22)

Department SThird time on the show for this and it’s still only at number 22, but at least Department S have come back for a new performance of their hit. Vaughn Toulouse is still holding the mic sideways like a phone receiver, although the other end isn’t at his ear so he wouldn’t be able to hear the other end of the conversation, which might explain why he keeps having to ask if Vic is there. This was peak position for this single and the last we saw of Department S on TOTP; Toulouse went on to release Fickle Public Speaking under the name Main T Possee in 1983 and contributed to the Style Council’s charity record for striking miners Soul Deep the following year, although he doesn’t seem to be involved in the TOTP performance for that. Still, at least we don’t have to talk about TV’s Department S star Peter Wyngarde and that time he released an album, especially as the second track on side one was called Rape. They definitely don’t write ’em like that anymore, and with good reason. Seriously, don’t click on that link if you’re easily offended, or even difficultly offended. Really, just don’t.

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KIM CARNES – Bette Davis Eyes (#20)

Kim CarnesInto the chart countup indecently early then, stopping off at number 20 for, as Thomas the Vance correctly points out, “a song originally recorded by Jackie DeShannon,” although her end-of-the-pier 1974 recording is virtually unrecognisable as the brooding synth-based monster Kim Carnes turned it into. Carnes isn’t in the studio and, crushingly, we just don’t have time for Limbs & Co this week, so we get the video which involves Kim and her unfeasibly large backing group singing in a terribly draughty and badly-lit room. We’re so short of time that we have to lose the whole of the second verse and chorus, so why there’s suddenly a group of badly made-up extras slapping each other in the face to the beat is never fully explained, but the video was directed by Russell Mulcahy so I suppose that makes it okay. How can she have Bette Davis’ eyes anyway? Davis was still alive at the time so it wasn’t an organ donor situation like the Adverts’ Gary Gilmore’s Eyes in 1977. Maybe it’s a metaphor for something. I do hope not.

TENPOLE TUDOR – Swords of a Thousand Men (#10)

Tenpole Tudor“That lady’s an ace singer!” Praise indeed from Tommy as we dive headlong back into the top 19, pausing at 10 for wild, staring future Crystal Maze host Ed Tudor-Pole and his motley crew. More angry leaping and pointing ensues. Having been briefly mooted as a possible replacement for Johnny Rotten in the Sex Pistols, common sense prevailed and Tudor-Pole was now free to pursue his own life of unhinged medieval tomfoolery, unleashing the band’s début album this week under the title Eddie, Old Bob, Dick and Gary, weirdly presaging Adam & The Ants’ Ant Rap six months from now. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves again! As previously discussed, this exciting special edition of TOTP doesn’t have time for Limbs & Co, but they can be found dancing behind Tenpole Tudor in oversized shirts and not a lot else. Swords is on its way up to number 6 so really, Edward, there’s no need to look so angry.

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ADAM AND THE ANTS – Stand and Deliver (#1)

Adam and the Ants“Eddie out of the band goes for Spurs, Legs & Co go for Spurs, my mate Andy Peebles goes for Manchester, me, I go for Spurs… and you go for the charts!” Oh yes, that’s right, it’s a Cup Final Special and not just half a show, so we’d better crowbar in some kind of reference to the feetballs that’s coming up in about five minutes’ time. And what better way to telegraph the fact that you know nothing about football than to refer to either City or United as simply “Manchester”? Still, on with the top nine, with clips of unusually generous length this week failing to disguise the fact that 19 minutes isn’t an appropriate duration for the show and there isn’t enough time to squeeze in another full song but we still have about two minutes left over. Extra points for the clip of Limbs Etc dancing to Stars on 45 at number 3, using the entire Stars on 45 song but none of the other songs in the medley so as to avoid having to deal with the thorny business of licensing Beatles songs, even in 1981. We play out with the Stand and Deliver video again, this time with the hanging scene inelegantly removed because you can’t be trusted not to mimic everything you see on television, you useless idiots. Back to full length next week, which is no great cause for celebration because DLT is hosting again. Oh, and spoiler alert: Spurs won.

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