“I feel my spirit’s getting old” – Top of the Pops, 18 June 1981

Peter Powell“Hi folks! Welcome to Top of the Pops once again!” Well, hello sailor. It’s solid, reliable Peter Powell in charge this week, in a strangely nautical white shirt with navy blue stripes and – yes! – red trousers. A full year on from The Event which took the show off air for two months in the summer of 1980, the show still has no theme tune so Powell has to cram his opening remarks into the limited space of the first song’s intro, but rest assured Michael Hurll is working on this issue even as we speak. While he’s at it, perhaps he could organise a whip round so that the BBC can afford a colour video screen, because shining coloured lights onto the monochrome one in an attempt to pretend it’s not actually black and white isn’t really cutting the mustard anymore. Enjoy the show while I draft a stiff letter to Points of View.

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

LINX – Throw Away the Key (#32)

LinxFirst up, TV’s David Grant is back with Linx’s forgotten third top forty hit. Fresh, funky and free of the overfamiliar gimmickry of Intuition and So This is Romance, Throw Away the Key is probably their best single, although the more serious nature of the lyrics probably explains why it wasn’t such a big hit, as in performance terms it’s more of the same. Once again Grant looks like he’s just come from refereeing the snooker, even if he has taken his jacket off to prove he means business, while Andy Duncan’s drumkit has grown to gargantuan proportions, much of it completely unnecessary. The Freddie Mercury-style mic stand heroics aren’t fooling anyone, even when Grant, bassist Sketch and splendidly-named guitarist Canute Edwards get together towards the end of the song and begin thrusting towards the audience as if trying to stab them with music. If anyone gets injured, they should lock these musical hooligans up and… well, you get the idea.

PHIL COLLINS – If Leaving Me Is Easy (#27)

Phil Collins“They left the recording studio to come and do the show tonight,” marvels Pete as if this is something that professional musicians never do. Mind you, Phil Collins hasn’t, so we get to endure enjoy his performance from two weeks ago once again with the paintpot, Simon Bates impersonator and inaudible trumpeter still in attendance. No, you haven’t just got into a lift, this dreary Kenny G cast off really is Phil Collins’ current single. Despite Richard Skinner’s prediction that it was a future number 1, If Leaving Me Is Easy only climbed as high as number 17 before everyone lost interest and Collins went back to Genesis for a bit. Sadly, after a brief spell in BBC comedy Brush Strokes the paintpot’s solo career floundered and soon it too went back to its day job, being carried around carelessly by white overalled workmen.

ODYSSEY – Going Back To My Roots (#6)

Odyssey“You know sometimes you hear a record and it’s sort of love at first listen? It happened to me with this one.” This is indeed something of a classic from Odyssey who seem to be on a roll at the moment after last year’s chart topping Use It Up And Wear It Out and heartbreaking If You’re Looking For a Way Out. Unfortunately The Event deprived us of the former and we only saw the video for the latter, so this is Odyssey’s first TOTP studio appearance since their first hit Native New Yorker back in 1978. Since then Bill McEachern has taken over the role of male vocalist alongside sisters Lillian and Louise Lopez, both of them resplendent in fine gold evening dresses while Bill sports a nice smart jacket, ivory slacks and what appears to be a huge knitted tie. Going Back To My Roots peaked at number 4 next week so this was the song’s only TOTP outing apart from being the playout music two weeks ago, as well as Odyssey’s only outing to the studio this year. They’ll be back in 1982 though, and Going Back To My Roots was a hit again at the tail end of 1989 for the arduously named FPI Project present Rich in Paradise featuring the vocals of Paolo Dini, although there was also a version with vocals by Sharon Dee Clarke. Alright, calm down.

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KOOL & THE GANG – Take It To The Top (Climbing) (#22)

Legs & Co“Legs & Co are still with us, you bet they are!” Well, that’s good news, Pete, you make it sound like they might have died in some freak accident. Mind you they were “on holiday” last week so I suppose it’s vaguely reassuring to know that it wasn’t a euphemism for something terrible. Talking of something terrible, the unnecessarily parenthetical Take It To The Top (Climbing) was on its way to becoming another top twenty hit for Kool & the Gang and, like all but a handful of their most enduring hits, it was pretty unremarkable fare. More remarkable is that although they’ve changed outfits, Limbs Etc are still hoofing around the same dimly lit mockup of Stonehenge they were using as a backdrop on their last appearance two weeks ago. How curious. Were the two performances recorded in the same session, or did the BBC really keep the set in storage for a fortnight while they waited for the girls to come back from their holiday? And who thought it was an appropriate backdrop in the first place? None of these questions will ever be answered. Still, funny, innit?

CHAMPAIGN – How ‘Bout Us (#5)

ChampaignOh Pete, with all this unexceptional mid-paced balladry and funk-lite, you are really spoiling us! Reeling from a close-up shot of Powell which reveals that his sailor’s shirt seems to have the word “SUPERTRAMP” embroidered on its left breast, which is odd as Supertramp didn’t have any records out in 1981, we are expertly distracted with another showing for this “here we are in the recording studio making our hit record” video from Champaign. Number 5 was peak position for this track, propping up a rather grim top five which never gets above 109 BPM. Was the weather really too hot to dance in June 1981? Anyway, Champaign completely failed to have any other UK hit singles apart from the 1984 number 76 hit Off and On Love, so this is the last we’ll see of them, although singer Pauli Carman is still hawking a line-up of Champaign around, having released four albums since 2008, so you never know.

SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES – Spellbound (#23)

Siouxsie & The BansheesYet more repetition with another showing of this performance from two weeks ago – was everyone on holiday apart from Limbs & Co? Spellbound had spent two weeks at number 23 but this repeat of the band’s annual TOTP performance pushed the single all the way to its peak position of 22. As before, the leather-clad Siouxsie crawls around the stage and cracks her microphone lead like a whip, while the uncommonly ugly lad leaning on the stage at the start of the clip is dealt with out of shot during the performance and is conspicuous by his absence by the time the song ends. What could have happened to him? Perhaps he was ritually sacrificed by Limbs & Co under their Stonehenge-type monument. More Banshees later in the year, but only on video and only on a DLT-hosted show, so in BBC Four terms it never happened.

THE SPECIALS – Ghost Town (#21)

The SpecialsOn with the first part of the chart countup (with REO Speedwagon at 29 and Coast to Coast at 28 both doing the same arms akimbo showbiz pose in their photos) before we stumble across one of the year’s most important records at what seems a surprisingly low début position. No Specials in the studio this week though, so we get the video in which the band piles into a Vauxhall Cresta and cruises some of the dingiest, most dilapidated parts of London. I wish I could say there was more to it, but no, that really is all that happens, except for the bit at the end where they stand on the bank of the Thames throwing stones into the river, but we cut back to the studio before then. At this distance it’s easy to take Ghost Town out of context and remember it as a semi-novelty hit, with its foreboding organ chords and almost comical Tarzan-like wailing in what passes for a chorus, but in the context of a full TOTP – especially one as downbeat as this – the utter bleakness of the record is rekindled. Won’t someone lighten the mood? Please?

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IMAGINATION – Body Talk (#19)

Imagination“The Specials are back with a vengeance,” says Powell, rather spoiling the mood by placing his hand on the head of the girl seated in front of him and pulling her head backwards so she has to look up at him. Strange behaviour for a grown man. Anyway, after the next part of the chart Imagination return to the studio, not so much to lighten the mood as to set it on fire and dance naked around the flames. The electric piano from last time has been taken away for deep cleaning so this week Leee John has been afforded an actual grand piano, on condition that he doesn’t polish his nether regions on it. Leeeee just can’t help himself though; miming the keyboard part with a smouldering wink to camera, he wanders back to the front of the stage while the piano is still playing and produces a handful of glitter from somewhere. Apart from his gyrating, this week Leeeeeee is the very model of decorum, handing a rose to a member of the audience and even sipping champagne from a tray on top of the piano. He has forgotten to put his shirt on though, which is rather careless. Once again Errol Kennedy comes out from behind his drums – which also magically play on – and produces a cane and more glitter. Still, at least the piano remains unsullied.

SMOKEY ROBINSON – Being With You (#1)

Smokey RobinsonIt’s such a desolate edition of TOTP this week that even Peter Powell can’t wait to get home, saying goodnight even before he’s started the top ten video countup in which a full 50% of the acts are represented only by still photos. No such luck when we reach number 1 though as we have to watch Smokey Robinson wandering aimlessly around his house before walking down to the sea and drowning himself. Don’t do it Smokey, she’s waiting for you back at the house! Not running down to the beach to stop you though, I can’t help noticing. As well as being Smokey’s only solo number 1, Being With You was his final top forty hit although he did have a handful of minor successes throughout the ’80s including Tell Me Tomorrow and Just To See Her. It’s all change at number one next week though, so we’ll never find out what happened at the end of the video.

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