Level 42

“Look at it from my angle” – Top of the Pops, 23 April 1981

Dave Lee TravisThere’s an almighty gap in the BBC Four reruns here as we skip three whole episodes, starting with this Dave Lee Travis-fronted edition. No doubt the Daily Mail would be disgusted to realise that people ever watched it on its original 1981 broadcast, incensed to discover that some enterprising viewers had bought – or more likely rented – video recorders to enable them to watch it again at a later date, and positively apoplectic to find that thirty-five years later some reprobate had made that recording available on one of those internet website things, thus bypassing the BBC’s attempts to maintain a veneer of moral decency. Fortunately at this particular moment in time the Mail was too busy attempting to have Jeremy Corbyn hanged for treason or something, so the story failed to materialise, but it’s a useful way to cover the fact that the only copy doing the rounds has DLT’s brief introductory preamble missing. Still, beggars can’t be choosers.

See the full top 75 for this week on the Official Charts Website.
NEW! Listen to our Off The Chart podcast discussing and playing records from this weeks chart.

LEVEL 42 – Love Games (#48)

Level 42Golden days for Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy fans as, mere weeks after Liquid Gold’s number 42 hit Don’t Panic, we join Level 42 in full swing, or at least partial swing, having just begun their début performance on the show. This, the band’s third single, sees all their jazz-funk (or is it funk-jazz?) tropes already in place: Mark King’s right thumb is already a blur as he introduces his slap bass technique to the masses, while hilariously-moustached keyboardist Mike Lindup displays a pained expression as if he’s forcing out his additional vocals like a particularly difficult stool. Love Games would peak at number 38 next week but it would be another two years before The Chinese Way gave them a proper hit single; sadly for Douglas Adams enthusiasts, neither of Marvin The Paranoid Android’s singles Marvin or Marvin I Love You resulted in a TOTP appearance, despite being produced by Trevor Horn’s brother-in-law.

MATCHBOX – Babe’s in the Wood (#49)

MatchboxThanks to the phantom taper and his or her slow reflexes, we now get our first glimpse of the Hairy Cornflake this evening and by jingo, he’s put some effort in, sporting a blue jumper with a globe design based on the classic 1970s BBC1 logo, but rebranded as DLT1. Heaven forbid there should be a DLT2 on the other side. Something else nobody really wants to see any more of is Matchbox, everyone’s favourite Confederate flag-appropriating Middlesex-based rockabilly throwbacks, yet here they are again with more of the same. According to Travis they’ve “flown hot-foot – they’re still panting from the journey – all the way from Gay Paree” to be here tonight. Babe’s in the Wood – yes, that apostrophe is supposed to be there – is a very strange song, the lyrical implication being that singer Graham Fenton has murdered his “babe” and buried her “in the wood”. Fenton and band, of course, plead innocence, putting in an energetic performance to throw us off the scent, but we know what you’ve done and no amount of guitarists climbing on (and leaping off) a double bass can hide your guilt. Strictly speaking Babe’s in the Wood shouldn’t even have been on tonight as it had been as high as number 46 two weeks ago, dropped last week and gone back up to 49 this week, but we’ll let them off as this was Matchbox’s last top fifty hit and final appearance on TOTP – even a duet with Kirsty MacColl in 1983 couldn’t salvage their chart career.

EDDY GRANT – Can’t Get Enough Of You (#22)

Eddy GrantOne of those buttock-clenching moments now as DLT introduces Eddy Grant and tension fills the air as we wonder whether he’s going to attempt his West Indian accent in doing so. For once he thinks better of it, but the former Equals guitarist isn’t here to get offended anyway as this is a repeat of the performance from two weeks ago. Eddy seems to be suffering more than most from the unbroadcast (or unbroadcastable) shows in the BBC Four run; we’ve already missed five of his seven solo appearances to date, while his eighth didn’t make it to BBC Four either for reasons we’ll come to in a couple of weeks’ time. Still, it’s not as bad as the Human League who dominated the singles chart this year but only on weeks hosted by Savile or Travis, meaning that we see nothing of them at all on BBC Four until December. Bloody Daily Mail.

Related:  Chart Watch and New Releases: 9 December 2016

ROGER TAYLOR – Future Management (#55)

Roger TaylorOne of the real losses from the BBC Four run now, as Queen drummer Roger Taylor takes some time off from being badgered by Freddie Mercury about how Queen should make a disco album. While the atrocity of Hot Space was still just a twinkle in Freddie’s eye, Roger set about making his own album Fun in Space, from which this was the first single. It suffers somewhat from being placed directly after Eddy Grant as it’s a strange beast which attempts to mix rock with reggae and doesn’t really satisfy fans of either genre, much as Queen’s attempt to fuse rock and disco fell flat the following year. “You won’t need nobody else but me,” sings Taylor, which is just as well as there’s no sign of any backing musicians or singers, just Rog and his guitar which he flicks at unconvincingly. Future Management is a song about the future, which you can tell by Roger’s use of futuristic threats to “program an offer you just can’t refuse” and “rewire your mind, I’ll punch in some new points of view.” It’s a theme Taylor would revisit on Queen’s Machines (or Back To Humans) in 1984, but at least this one doesn’t include the telltale “old person confused by new technology” line “It’s bytes and megachips for tea.” Taylor would go on to have some proper solo hits in the ’90s but Future Management peaked at 49 and this was his only solo TOTP appearance.

GILLAN – New Orleans (#18)

GillanStill, at least Roger is looking forward and trying to do something new, unlike Ian Gillan’s Ian Gillan Band whose cover of New Orleans is still climbing the chart with all the speed of a party of snails launching an assault on the north face of the Eiger. You won’t be surprised to learn that this is one of DLT’s “fave sounds”, although what he means when he introduces it as “music to do a few press-ups by” is anyone’s guess. It’s yet another showing of Gillan’s sole performance of the song from four weeks ago, with all the usual Bad News tropes present and correct, but it’s easy to forget how popular and successful (and available) Gillan were at this time; they had six consecutive top forty hits between 1980 and ’82 and appeared on TOTP for all of them (one was only a video, the rest were all studio performances) and yet they’re little more than a footnote in rock history these days, perhaps because Ian split the band in 1982 and went off to join Black Sabbath.

BARRY MANILOW – Bermuda Triangle (#23)

Legs & CoIt’s often observed that the repeat of TOTP episodes in their entirety provides a far more balanced view of the music scene of the time than clip shows which cherry pick the best bits. As a prime example of this argument, where else would you see two of the major players in the New Wave of British Heavy Metal separated by Barry Manilow? And not even Barry himself, who’s far too important to get involved in this kind of unpleasantness, so… enter Limbs & Co! Bermuda Triangle is a complex and delicately nuanced tale of mystical forces, unexplained phenomena and Barry’s “woman” running off with someone else, but strangely this version edits out the last verse which explains how someone else then runs off with Barry, leaving us with the impression that his woman has left him but he doesn’t care. Naturally the Flick Colby Big Book of Literal Interpretation doesn’t help with this but falls open at “B” for “bikinis”, so we get four of Limbs & Co in gratuitously tiny bikinis splashing around in a triangular paddling pool with half an inch of water in it. Less than six months of Legs & Co left now, choreography fans.

SAXON – And The Bands Played On (#12)

SaxonWhile DLT has to go off for a rub down with a damp edition of the Radio Times, here’s another repeat from two weeks ago. As we noted then, And The Bands Played On was Saxon’s biggest hit, and here it is at its peak position of number 12. The lyrics apparently describe the first Monsters of Rock festival at Castle Donnington the previous year, at which Saxon performed, criminally further down the bill than April Wine and the Scorpions. I mean, really. That said, in 1982 Saxon became the first band to play the festival twice, appearing slightly further up the bill behind Status Quo and, er, Gillan. Yes, them again. Anyway, And The Bands Played On is one of those songs rock bands sing about how great it is being in a rock band, thus inspiring others to form rock bands who go on to greater heights and eclipse the success of the band that inspired them to form a band in the first place. It’s the circle of life. Except for Gillan.

Related:  Off The Chart: 10 May 1984

KEITH MARSHALL – Only Crying (#21)

Keith Marshall“There you go, some good stuff for ya,” offers Travis, keen to disguise the fact that he’s forgotten what clip was just played in. Before the first part of the chart countup Travis plugs “The Greatest Disco Show On Earth”, which apparently involves “all the Radio 1 DJs” doing something or other in aid of “a special Year of the Disabled project.” Presumably this didn’t involve Ian Dury turning up to sing Spasticus Autisticus. “Make sure you’re there,” admonishes Travis, because of course we all live in London. On with the top 30 countup then, with the curiously abbreviated “Dept. S” at 30, pausing at 21 for another “one of my favourite sounds” – how convenient it is that we’re only playing DLT’s favourite records tonight. Former Gary Glitter labelmate Marshall is on another of those slow climbs up the chart, hence another repeat from two weeks ago, and like Eddy Grant earlier we miss both this and his subsequent new performance in two weeks’ time due to a reason.

FREEEZ – Flying High (#45)

FreeezTime for the “all-important middle section of the top thirty”, after which Travis patronises a hapless-looking member of the audience, getting him to say “Freeez” before patting him on the head and telling him “You’re now an official disc jockey!” Freeez, as was their wont, have changed beyond all recognition since their last appearance a couple of months ago and are now apparently led by a man in a gold lamé jacket who seems to be attempting to convince a young female to join the band. He guides the reluctant starlet over to the side of the stage, hands her his clarinet (not a euphemism) and gestures at her to get on with it, which she does, apparently with great aplomb. Meanwhile gold lamé jacket man resumes his natural place behind the keyboards and the two of them sing the song, which amounts to little more than the words “You and me flying high,” while another man eats a sandwich and drinks tea from a Thermos flask. Quite what this is supposed to achieve isn’t clear, unless it’s to turn a previously well respected BritFunk band into a Grumbleweeds-style novelty act. Flying High peaked at 35 and we won’t see them again until the summer of 1983, by which time Arthur Baker had reinvented them once again and nobody was playing comedy clarinet.

BUCKS FIZZ – Making Your Mind Up (#1)

Bucks FizzOn with the top ten, which was looking good for another all-video session until we come to Sugar Minott at number 4 represented only by a still photo of him and his massive entourage. The Fizz are still number one and we get the mini skirt routine again instead of the skirt removal routine, but this time interspersed with some scenes from the video which has the group walking around Harrods looking at flowers, and at one point Bobby G gives Cheryl Baker a pineapple (not a euphemism). We play out with four of Limbs & Co again, now with extremely flimsy shirts over their bikinis, dancing to Stars on 45 which is something else we’ve pretty much glossed over due to the unavailability of certain editions, but rest assured we’ll take the proverbial out of it in good time. Another forbidden episode next week though, so gird your loins for that.

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