Duran Duran

“Like some New Romantic looking for the TV sound” – Top of the Pops, 5 March 1981

Mike ReadNow then, here’s someone we haven’t seen since last September when he was playing second, in fact third fiddle to Leo Sayer and Russ Abbot. Now, six months later, Mike Read is Radio 1’s hottest property, having inherited the breakfast show from Dave Lee Travis, and consequently he is once again persona grata as far as TOTP is concerned. So here he is, having borrowed a jacket from Racey and some tinted specs from his great showbiz mate Cliff Richard, pointing at nothing where he thinks the TOTP logo should be before spinning around and pointing at perhaps the decade’s biggest band, introducing them on their Top of the Pops début as “spinning like an apple just outside the top forty.” Pardon?

Watch on iPlayer (UK only, available until 8 March 2016)
See the full top 75 for this week on the Official Charts Website.

DURAN DURAN – Planet Earth (#47)

Duran DuranOf course if you’re new to the concept of pop music, you would look at this lot – Simon Le Bon in an oversized shirt with a bandolier over his shoulder, Nick Rhodes and Andy Taylor sporting the frilliest of frilly shirts and the frizziest of frizzy hair which suggests some kind of terrible electrical accident in the dressing room before the show – and scoff at my assertion that Duran Duran was one of the biggest bands of the ’80s, but it’s true. It took them a couple of years and more than one false start, but they got there. Duran had been going since 1978 in various forms including an early lineup with Stephen Duffy – yes, that one – on vocals, but Planet Earth was their first single and after a slow climb to number 47 this appearance catapulted them into the top thirty. Of course it wouldn’t be TOTP if we didn’t crack open the Big Book of Literal Interpretation, so naturally someone has been dispatched to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy office to procure a model planet Earth for demonstration purposes. It’s at least more realistic than the one BBC1 used to use between programmes, so that’s something.

TALKING HEADS – Once in a Lifetime (#14)

Talking Heads“And right they are, this is planet Earth,” confirms Read, proving that despite appearances he actually does know what planet he’s on. Talking Heads next and after Limbs & Co did all sorts of baffling things to it last time we get the video this week. At first this seems like a much better deal but as we watch the greatest living Dumbartonian David Byrne do all sorts of baffling things over an unrealistic watery backdrop – having apparently secured a grant from the Ministry of Silly Walks, Byrne experiments with a number of bizarre gaits and even becomes a very silly synchronised swimming team at one point – we soon realise that the Limbs routine wasn’t that much different after all. Number 14 was peak position for Once in a Lifetime and for a long time it seemed an appropriate title as it looked like Talking Heads would be one hit wonders; they wouldn’t return to the top forty until late in 1985 when Road to Nowhere became their only UK top ten hit.

ADAM AND THE ANTS – Kings of the Wild Frontier (#6)

Adam and the AntsIn all fairness to Mike Read, as co-author of the legendary Guinness Book of British Hit Singles he does know his onions and manages to sneak in a reference to Talking Heads’ early single Love → Building on Fire, which I mentioned last time but I’m always happy to namecheck because it’s the only single I can think of with an actual arrow in the title. Read is also in his element with statistics like this: “Adam and the Ants, for the last three weeks, have had four records on the chart every week!” Yeah, take that, John so-called Lennon. This is a repeat from two weeks ago and incredibly it’s the last time we’ll ever see the Ants in the TOTP studio. Of course they have more hits to come this year, including back-to-back number ones, but because the videos for the next three Ants singles were so spectacular it was thought better to show those repeatedly rather than get the band back into the studio. By the time Adam came back to TOTP in 1982 he’d split the Ants and gone solo, so this is your last glimpse of twin drummer action in the studio, at least until Rialto came along in 1998.

TOYAH – It’s a Mystery (#16)

ToyahGah, it’s nothing but repeats on the telly these days as we cut straight from the end of the Ants performance to a close-up of Toyah’s eye from the start of her performance on the same show. The Four From Toyah EP was on a particularly leisurely stroll up the chart as Ms Willcox followed Adam Ant along the path from punk provocateur to pop icon. Indeed, Toyah and Adam had a bit of previous, having both appeared in Derek Jarman’s celebrated punk film Jubilee in 1978. Three years on and Toyah has finally found chart success with this synth-heavy and distinctly non-punk track. Unlike Adam, however, this didn’t spark a sudden influx of Toyah’s back catalogue into the chart, because much of it was distinctly difficult listening – even more so than Adam’s – and the sleeve of early single Victims of the Riddle, for example, seemed to have been designed to actively dissuade potential purchasers from putting their hand in their pocket (seriously, don’t click if you’re easily offended, have a weak stomach or aren’t comfortable with the kind of images that accompany the Russian Sleep Experiment story). No such worries with this EP though, as Toyah was on already becoming the acceptable face of post-post-punk.

Related:  Off The Chart: 16 November 1986

SHAKIN’ STEVENS – This Ole House (#29)

Shakin' Stevens“Twenty-seven years ago,” reminisces Read, “people all over Great Britain were going round buying a record by Rosemary Clooney called This Ole House.” Imagine people still being interested in music from decades earlier! The very thought. Even Shakin’ Stevens hadn’t been going that long, although he had been making records for over a decade and managed a couple of hits in 1980 before this one kickstarted his overnight success. The Beeb have done their best to hide Shaky in amongst herds of audience members, all hand-jiving with various levels of enthusiasm from “I look like a tit but I don’t care, I’m on telly” to “I would literally rather be dead.” Look even closer and you’ll also spot Limbs & Co in the background, sadly not dressed as builders but in short denim shorts and teeny white tops. None of this is necessary though as Shaky has hit his stride, rocking the double denim look with confidence, although following his scenery-climbing antics last year he’s been denied props of any kind, even a microphone for fear that he’d have someone’s eye out with the stand. Undaunted, Shaky makes up for it by keeping his right hand on his crotch for most of the performance and even repeats his trick of leaping in the air at the end of the chorus and staying there. How does he do that?

MOTÖRHEAD & GIRLSCHOOL – Please Don’t Touch (#5)

Motorhead & GirlschoolAnother cover of a 1950s hit now, as Motörhead and Girlschool (or “Headgirl”, if you will) celebrate the biggest hit single either band would ever have. This is the same performance as two weeks ago but it’s the first time we’ve seen it on BBC Four and therefore the first time TOTP viewers have seen Lemmy in action since his unexpected death just after Christmas 2015. While it’s a fitting tribute to one of rock’s greatest legends, it’s worth bearing in mind that cancer also claimed the life of his duetting partner Kelly Johnson back in 2007, and of course Motörhead’s drummer “Philthy Animal” Taylor – seen here demonstrating some remarkably fancy footwork for a man who broke his neck two months earlier – passed away only a few weeks before Lemmy. Then stop worrying about your own mortality and let this joyous blast through a rock ‘n’ roll classic cheer you up again. Although Lemmy’s demise has inevitably called time on Motörhead, Girlschool are still going and, unlike the ‘head who for the last few decades were Lemmy and whoever he could get to play with him, the ‘school still include original members Kim McAuliffe, Enid Williams and Denise Dufort and released their latest album Guilty as Sin in 2015. Not bad for a band named after a Wings B-side.

PHIL COLLINS – I Missed Again (#45)

Phil Collins“Phil Collins already has one single in the charts and he’s just about to have another!” Does the man never sleep? Yes, mere days after he was on doing In The Air Tonight, Collins is back with his second solo single and, whether by accident or design, his continued presence on TOTP can’t have hurt sales of the 2016 remastered deluxe edition of the Face Value album from which both these singles are taken. This time he’s graduated to a grand piano rather than a keyboard perched on a Black & Decker Workmate and acquired a couple of horn players, but curiously the paint pot is still there. To this day Phil denies that it was a dig at his wife running off with a painter, but whatever the story behind it, the pot of paint has now appeared on TOTP more often than Genesis. In contrast to the stark minimalism of his previous hit, I Missed Again features contributions from the Phenix Horns, brass section by appointment to Earth, Wind & Fire; consequently this song has never been covered by a gorilla.

KOOL & THE GANG – Jones vs Jones (#31)

Legs & CoSo, it’s 1981, the pop video has become an essential part of record promotion, Michael Hurll is on a crusade to make Top of the Pops relevant to an increasingly sophisticated audience and the spotlight inevitably shines on Limbs & Co. With so many other options now available, how can a troupe of dancing girls justify its continued existence as part of the nation’s premiere TV pop music show? Well, since Kool & the Gang aren’t in the country to promote their new single and they don’t seem to have made a video, here’s Flick’s chance to shine with a sensitive routine to illustrate a heartbreaking tale of a failing marriage… ah, no, she’s just dressed half of Limbs & Co up as brides (in wedding dresses without skirts, because they’re cheaper that way) and the other half as men. Presumably they’re meant to be the grooms, but in fact they look more like mobsters; also, for some reason the trousers of their expensive suits only come down to their knees and – this is the clincher – they all have painted on moustaches. Because they’re men. As if that wasn’t bad enough, we get the full range of the girls interpreting for the deaf, holding hands and then letting go at the line “So here’s where we let go” and even doing the twirling-fingers-at-the-temple sign to indicate the word “crazy”. The devastating breakup of a marriage reduced to pantomime farce. This may just be the point at which Limbs & Co danced themselves out of a job.

Related:  Off The Chart: 12 October 1984


The Teardrop ExplodesNo time to reflect on the horror of the previous dance routine though, as we’re straight into the first part of the top thirty countup followed by the video for Reward. An enormous horn section speeds into a desolate courtyard, all packed into a jeep as if desperately escaping from Dexys Midnight Runners, while Julian Cope, wrapped in one of his gran’s curtains, wanders around shouting into thin air. The horn section then goes off to have another adventure while Cope meanders off on his own. He finds someone hiding in a derelict building, but leaves him there, exiting the building and almost getting run over by the horn section coming back the other way. Then suddenly everyone is inside, warming their hands over some candles. It’s getting late, so everyone piles into or onto the jeep and it drives off, in violation of countless road traffic laws. You just don’t get this sort of thing from Limbs & Co.

THE WHO – You Better You Bet (#35)

The WhoWatch yer backs! After the middle part of the top thirty we’re treated to a rare TOTP appearance by some actual rock legends. This is the first time The Who have been in the studio since 1973, although we did see a live clip of Substitute when the single was a hit again in 1976 and the video for Who Are You was shown in 1978 (repeated on BBC Four in 2012 complete with a “strong language” warning as they didn’t quite manage to completely fade out Daltrey’s “Who the f**k are you?”). Since then drummer Keith Moon has passed on in tragic but ultimately predictable circumstances (the fact that an entire section of Moon’s Wikipedia page is headed “Exploding toilets” tells you all you need to know about his lifestyle). With former Faces drummer Kenney Jones filling his shoes the new, tamer Who are back for one final appearance on the show with what would be their last top ten hit. Nice of Roger Daltrey to make the effort even though the Clash aren’t on the show.

JOE DOLCE MUSIC THEATRE – Shaddap You Face (#1)

Joe DolceOn with the top ten then, complete with a slide on the video screen which reads “Top Ten Time” in the classic TOTP font and a different logo overlaid over the clips which simply reads “Top Ten”, although it disappears halfway through the countup for no apparent reason. Much consternation as Ultravox are held at number two by the American-born Australian Italian and we get yet another showing of his only visit to the TOTP studio. Dolce is now apparently a serious poet and essayist, although surely only among people under the age of 35. Have a look at his piece Biblical Imagery in the Songs of Creative Infidels if you’re having trouble getting Do The Hucklebuck out of your head, which you are now because that’s what we play out with tonight, over shots of the audience dancing, swaying or just jumping up and down vaguely in time to the music. In fact the only person in the studio who seems to be enjoying the experience is Mike Read himself, mouthing the words and enthusiastically fist pumping at the appropriate points. Make the most of this audience participation because it’s another entirely different kind of TOTP next week.

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