The Specials

“In this great future you can’t forget your past” – Top of the Pops, 9 July 1981

Jimmy Savile and Phil LynottTime for a celebration, as Michael Hurll has got his abacus out and decided that we’ve reached the 900th edition of Top of the Pops. Blow up the balloons! Break out the streamers! Bring on the dancing girls! And then send them all home again because like all special TOTP occasions it involves Public Enemy No.1 Jimmy Savile, so there’ll be no celebration for you today, BBC Four viewers. But wait! Don’t pop the balloons just yet because The Phantom Taper has clearly recognised the importance of this edition and set the Betamax running in order to preserve the occasion for posterity, including the BBC1 continuity announcer promising us “a new signature tune”. This may be overstating the case slightly as the snippet of Phil Lynott’s Yellow Pearl that will herald each edition from now until the spring of 1986 isn’t really a tune at all, merely fifteen seconds of clattering drums and ominous synth swooshes as some brightly coloured 7″ singles (without holes in the middle, for some reason) are hurled out of a cloud of dry ice. Still, it’s better than what went before and would go on to become perhaps the show’s most instantly recognisable opening sequence.


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

KIRSTY MacCOLL – There’s a Guy Works Down the Chip Shop Swears He’s Elvis (#16)

Kirsty MacCollAnd so, with a job lot of lightbulbs hastily arranged into a “900” shape above the still monochrome giant video screen, the show’s first ever host enthuses about the “new credits, new pictures” and thanks “Mr Thin Lizzy” for “writing the new sig tune for us.” With a sheepish grin, Phil Lynott – for ’tis he – gets to his feet and shows great restraint by shaking Savile’s hand rather than punching the mad old bastard in the face on live television. Thirty seconds in and that’s Phil’s contribution over and done with as we open the show proper with Kirsty MacColl, resplendent in a multi-coloured plastic dress that Limbs & Co would kill for. Sadly she’s backed by what appears to be a gang of Shakin’ Stevens clones and rejects from Matchbox. There’s even a couple of comedy Elvis impersonators stationed by the video screen, one in ’50s Elvis red jacket and the other in ’70s Elvis white jumpsuit, because nothing says “exciting new era for Britain’s top music TV show” like a rock ‘n’ roll star who’s been dead for four years. There’s a Guy Works Down the Chip Shop Swears He’s Elvis peaked at number 14 next week and it’ll be ages until we see Kirsty on TOTP again, so make the most of it.

RANDY CRAWFORD – You Might Need Somebody (#12)

Randy Crawford“Oh yeah! Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah! Hey, how about that?” Look out, here comes Savile again, invading Kirsty’s stage as she wisely backs off in order to avoid him. Time for Sir Jim’ll to go off on one at great length about how he was the first person to host TOTP back on New Year’s Day 1964 and introduce a montage of what little footage survives from that era. It’s the usual suspects of course: The Supremes, Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas, the Dave Clark Five, the Beatles… hang on, the Beatles? Surely all their TOTP performances were junked long ago? Well, yes, it’s a couple of brief clips of the Fabs doing I Want To Hold Your Hand and Twist and Shout, clearly not on TOTP; the latter wasn’t even a single in the UK for one thing. “We could put films on even in those days,” offers Savile, lamely. Back to 1981 now with Randy Crawford, back in the studio for a new performance of You Might Need Somebody after we’ve already seen the first once twice and it’s still only made number 12. This is the last time we’ll see it on TOTP as it peaked at number 11 next week, to the great disappointment of DLT, no doubt.

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TOM TOM CLUB – Wordy Rappinghood (#10)

Legs & CoThe celebrations continue; Savile’s getting the band back together as Pete Murray and Alan Freeman join him on stage to form “three quarters of the original team” of presenters, specifically so he can embarrass them with a clip of themselves hosting the 1967 Boxing Day show, not that any of them looks any more ridiculous in 1967 than in 1981. This is backed up with another montage of clips, this one much faster paced, set to M’s Pop Muzik and seemingly featuring ever major act to have appeared on TOTP in the colour era, from Slade to Dollar, the Bee Gees to B.A. Robertson and even Public Enemy No.2 Gary Glitter. Those were the days indeed, as Pete Murray talks briefly to Mary Hopkin and Sandie Shaw before beckoning the dads closer to the screen as “it’s time for the heavy breathing.” Yes, enter Limbs & Co in skimpy outfits to shake their bodily parts vaguely in time to the Tom Tom Club’s Wordy Rappinghood as if to prove just how little progress has been made in terms of equality over the past 900 shows – did Ruby Flipper die in vain? Wordy Rappinghood peaked at number 7 next week so this was the only time it got on the show and Simon Bates probably still thinks it’s by a man called Tom Tomclub. Incidentally the song’s chorus is based around the traditional children’s song A Ram Sam Sam which was once recorded by Public Enemy No.3 Rolf Harris, so we could be on for a Yewtree full house here.

BOB MARLEY & THE WAILERS – No Woman, No Cry (#9)

Bob MarleyFuther nostalgic shenanigans ahoy as Savile introduces “the gentleman member of the original quartet,” David Jacobs, “wearing the same suit, I might tell you.” Yes, while Savile looks like he’s fallen through a jumble sale, Jacobs is immaculate in suit and tie as he delivers one of the most eye-watering links in the show’s history: “It’s quite extraordinary to think that the 600th programme saw a man who’s actually in this week – good to have back Bob Marley.” Apart from the fact that Jacobs plainly hasn’t the faintest idea who he’s introducing, and despite the obviously hilarious A Christmas Carol-related japes that could be had by introducing Jacobs to Marley (with Savile as Scrooge, no doubt), sadly Bob Marley isn’t in the studio this week, chiefly because he died two months ago. This live version of No Woman, No Cry was the band’s first UK hit back in 1975 and had been reissued to cash in on commemorate Marley’s recent passing. Thankfully it’s accompanied by footage of Bob and the Wailers performing the song in concert so we don’t have to watch Limbs Etc dancing around his coffin, alternately dabbing their eyes with an imaginary handkerchief and wagging their fingers reproachfully.

MOTÖRHEAD – Motorhead (Live) (#14)

MotorheadBack in the studio, Savile has found Alan Clarke and Tony Hicks from The Hollies, who haven’t been on the show since 1974 but will find themselves with an unexpected hit single in two months’ time and an even less expected number 1 hit before the end of the decade. They’re “holding a cake that Paul and Linda McCartney have sent for us,” so Christ alone knows what’s in it. After a pointlessly brief interview about something only Jimmy Savile actually understands it’s on with the first part of the top 30 countup in its new Yellow Pearl configuration, now with music slow enough to allow even the jangly one to read out the song titles as well as the artists’ names. That done, we get another live clip, this time for the lead single from Motörhead’s legendary No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith album. Motorhead was in fact the last song Lemmy wrote for his former band Hawkwind circa 1974, but when he was ejected from the group for being on the wrong kind of drugs he took the song with him and used its title as the name for his new combo, having established that his preferred band name “Bastard” was unlikely to secure them much airtime. This live recording went on to reach number 6 in the chart, making it the band’s biggest hit single (the St Valentine’s Day Massacre EP with Girlschool notwithstanding).

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IMAGINATION – Body Talk (#6)

ImaginationUp next, a riveting interview with pop’s Mr Personality Bill Wyman. “I was on the first one, I might as well be on this one,” he grins while showing little sign of pleasure or even basic metabolic function. He should be happy, having somehow avoided being tarred with the Yewtree brush despite his well publicised relationship with Mandy Smith, although her sordid tales of underage carnal adventures with Wyman are less of a stain on her character than her atrocious cover of the Human League’s Don’t You Want Me in 1989. That’s all in the future though, and once Jimmy has reminded Bill of how he looked back in 1964 (not much different, in all honesty) it’s back to the present for the middle section of the chart. Up next, oh dear, Imagination are back for a third crack at Body Talk, now apparently set in some kind of harem with the members of the band and their attendant female consorts all dressed appropriately. Well, not particularly appropriately, or even strictly “dressed” in some cases, but you see what I mean. Body Talk would peak at number 4 next week after a remarkable ten week climb up the chart.

THE SPECIALS – Ghost Town (#1)

The SpecialsA final look back at the past now as Alan “Fluff” Freeman stands beside that board with the week’s top twenty on it, as seen in that photo of Savile from the first TOTP. It’s a very odd chart, with the Beatles’ I Want To Hold Your Hand at number 1 and four other Fabs records in the top twenty including their Twist and Shout EP and even the album With The Beatles at number 14, alongside such luminaries as Kathy Kirby, Los Indios Tabajaras and The Singing Nun. “That was in the past,” Fluff reminds us, “but now let’s go along to the future!” On with the countup from 10 to 2, pausing for a brief interview with Adam Ant in, let’s be honest, a see-through shirt. He confirms to Savile that he “might have” seen the first TOTP before introducing the Specials who are all together in the TOTP studio for the very last time, having famously acrimoniously broken up in the dressing room. Whether this happened before or after the show is unclear, but for once even Terry Hall is having trouble keeping a straight face which suggests that the deed has already been done and a weight has been lifted off the collective shoulders of those who would soon splinter into the Fun Boy Three. That messy business dealt with, it just remains for Jimmy to hand out TOTP logo-shaped trinkets as souvenirs to his co-hosts while another cake with dozens of candles on it poses a fire hazard in front of them. What happened to the one the McCartneys gave them is anyone’s guess. We play out with Stars on 45 2, an ABBA medley to complement Star Sound’s recent Beatles medley, and hope that Savile will be gone by the 1000th edition in 1983. Spoiler alert: of course he won’t.

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