Tenpole Tudor

“Stay in time with the rhythm and rhyme” – Top of the Pops, 30 April 1981

Jimmy SavileFor all Michael Hurll’s efforts in dragging Top of the Pops kicking and screaming into the ’80s and turning it into a dazzling celebration of pop music instead of a dreary light entertainment show, he keeps coming up against one major obstacle: the presenters. Yes, the show had always made use of Radio 1 DJs – or the hosts associated with pop music shows on the Light Programme before Radio 1 was created in 1967 – but there was always an elephant in the room and his name rhymed with “gimme gravel”. Having been called upon to host the very first TOTP in 1964, we get to 1981 and find him still there, despite not having played any current music on the radio since at least 1973. The arguments as to whether or not BBC Four should be showing these “Yewtreed” editions rages on in various internet forums (and will do until all the tainted DJs have ended their hosting days or the run comes to an end, whenever that may be), but the number of people bemoaning the loss of Jimmy Savile’s hosting abilities is small indeed. Nevertheless, here he is, in a shiny gold tracksuit that makes the bloke from Freeez last week look like an amateur, yet displaying little knowledge or understanding of that acts he’s here to introduce. As you were, then.

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

THIN LIZZY – Are You Ready? (#46)

Thin LizzyAnd straight away things have gone weird. Phil Lynott has gotten his solo album Solo in Soho out of his system, which saw him working with busiest man in pop Midge Ure and updating his sound for the ’80s, and indeed their collaboration Yellow Pearl is about to take on an almost mythical status in the history of Top of the Pops. Now though, despite having already begun work on his second solo outing, Lynott seems perfectly happy to go back to his day job as a purveyor of slightly dated rock music. Any song that opens with the lyrics “Are you ready to rock?” is laying itself wide open for ridicule, and like Gillan before them Thin Lizzy evoke memories of the Comic Strip’s spoof metal band Bad News. Are You Ready? was the lead track on Lizzy’s Killers Live EP, an odd title given that Queen had released an album Live Killers two years earlier, and for further confusion the EP also includes a version of Lynott’s solo single Dear Miss Lonely Hearts. Who’s in charge here?

MADNESS – Grey Day (#5)

Madness“Woo, yeah, how about that?” Savile is having trouble processing sentences again, emitting a string of stock phrases to demonstrate his appreciation for Thin Lizzy and comically running out of steam halfway through his baffling and slightly creepy next sentence. “Hey, we’ve got secretaries, we’ve got students, we’ve got nurses, we’ve got, er… at number five in the hit parade, would you believe, Grey Day and Madness!” Fortunately for the Nutty Boys it looks like they’ve been banned from the show again, so we get the video for Grey Day, a single which was a pivotal moment in the band’s career. Already onto their third album, this was their first properly downbeat single – the thought-provoking lyrics to Embarrassment were obscured by a jaunty Motown stomp and even the tragic My Girl had somehow been adopted as a lads’ anthem. Despite its world-weariness, Grey Day continued the band’s run of top ten hits and the video was grimly wacky, including the classic “nutty train” image used for their 1992 career-reviving Best Of album Divine Madness, the band symbolically performing in a shop window and a bored looking SuperSuggs flying along a high street. Madness had hit their peak and there was to be no stopping them for the next few years.

THE BEAT – All Out To Get You (#22)

The BeatNot so the Beat, alas, who were still languishing in the second division while former labelmates Madness and the Specials had gone on to greater things. Having failed to make much of an impression with Drowning a couple of weeks ago, this time they’ve gone for a crack at the single’s other side All Out To Get You, which at least has a more upbeat musical setting even if the lyrics are just as depressing. Placed here directly after downbeat Madness, the similarities between the two are obvious, as is the Nutty Boys’ superiority; saddled with lyrics such as “You’re scared that your babies get born with no legs”, the Beat still lack the subtle touch that Madness have already mastered. Still, the (English) Beat persevere and overlaying a weird strobe effect draws one’s attention away from the fact that All Out To Get You just isn’t really that good. In retrospect, maybe Peter Powell was right when he declared that Drowning was the better song.

SHEENA EASTON – When He Shines (#42)

Sheena EastonWith a few more stock phrases and one of those unspellable grunts of which he was so fond, Savile moves proceedings along and introduces the new Sheena Easton single. Having been the hottest property in pop last summer when she had two singles in the top ten, Sheena very quickly discovered how fickle the business we call “music” can be when her fourth single Take My Time stalled at number 44 in February. Taking no chances with the follow-up, EMI have chucked out a ballad and made sure they got her booked on TOTP in its first week on the chart. Dressed in a top and impossibly tight trousers made out of offcuts from Savile’s gold tracksuit, Sheena emotes her way through a limp ballad over an electric piano backing on a track seemingly designed with little else in mind other than securing her the next Bond theme, so at least that worked. That independent lady eating a tangerine on the underground seems a million miles away.

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DEPARTMENT S – Is Vic There? (#28)

Department S“Now something completely different, ladies and gentlemen, number 28 in the charts, where is that Vic?” Dunno, Jim, have you tried looking behind the sofa? Paddling leisurely up the top forty, Is Vic There? is represented by another showing for the band’s début appearance from two weeks ago, singer Vaughn Toulouse (what you did there: I see it) still using the microphone as a telephone receiver and howling like a dog for no apparent reason in the middle of the song. This would prove to be Department S’s only top forty hit, yet despite their subsequent lack of success and Toulouse’s early death in 1991, the band is still going; the surviving members reunited in 2007 to record a cover of Alvin Stardust’s My Coo-Ca-Choo, which is particularly ironic given Toulouse’s apparent channelling of Stardust in his microphone technique here. The band failed to complete recording of their proposed début album Sub-Stance in 1981 before splitting, but a proper album from the current line-up is mooted for release in 2016.


not Ennio Morricone“We’re giving you value and variety!” proclaims Sir Jim’ll as we link incongruously from a new wave band named after a ’60s TV show to an orchestral piece used as the theme to a TV drama about David Lloyd George. Naturally composer, orchestrator, conductor and former trumpet player (citation needed) Ennio Morricone is still somewhat reluctant to appear on TOTP, and Limbs & Co are committed to interpreting another song a bit later on, so we have to make do with a baffling film made up of clips of a beach at dawn, some waves, some 1920s photographs of people in various states of discomfort (see photo), some aeroplanes, horses running across a field, some rocks, the Houses of Parliament, two men with moustaches, some 1920s women, a tree, some hills, a house, a terrifying close-up of the face of a statue, some ancient film of a funfair of some kind, a seagull, a coastal scene and a lot of men in bowler hats. What any of this has to do with the music or David Lloyd George is anyone’s guess, but if you’d like to explain any of it please send your answers on the back of a ten pound note.

SPANDAU BALLET – Musclebound (#13)

Spandau Ballet“How about a touch of Spandau Ballet?” No, Jimmy, your touch is not welcome here. Spandau Ballet, of course, are always welcome, although it would have been nice if they’d taken a leaf out of The Beat’s book and come back to run through Glow, the other song on this double A-sided hit. Not that they’ve come back to do Musclebound either; this is a repeat of their performance from way back at the start of April, so everyone’s still wrapped up warm in various off-cuts of cloth, the strap on Martin Kemp’s bass is still so short the instrument is almost touching his chin, and John Keeble is still dwarfed by a drum kit the size of Norwich. Still, at least it’s not as baffling as the video. Musclebound (and Glow, let’s not forget) became Spandau’s second top ten hit next week when it peaked at number 10; better (and much, much worse) was still to come from the former Blitz kids, surely the best band ever named after the death throes of hanged Nazi war criminals.

QUINCY JONES – Ai No Corrida (#27)

Legs & CoOops, look out, Savile’s wedged himself in between two women again. “You see these two young ladies here? During my last announcement, you couldn’t see, but they were trying to tie my shoelaces together so that I’d fall over.” Seems fair enough, in retrospect. We press on with “the chart music of Quincy Jones and the ecstasy of Legs & Co!” Not sure about ecstasy, it looks more like a bad acid trip as Limbs – still reduced to a quartet for some reason – prance around in body stockings that leave even less to the imagination than the bikinis they had on last week. Something for the easily pleased dads, there. Ai No Corrida (literally “I am not a hallway”) was written by Chaz Jankel from the Blockheads, who released it as a solo single in 1980. Fresh from his success as producer of Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall album, Quincy Jones covered the song for his own album The Dude and was rewarded with his first UK top thirty hit under his own steam, which may be the same steam emanating from the edges of Limbs & Co’s dancing space.

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THE TEARDROP EXPLODES – Treason (It’s Just a Story) (#56)

The Teardrop ExplodesUp next, a second visit to the TOTP studio for Julian Cope and associates, so it’s time once again to play “Guess who’s tripping this week?” Cope is at least sufficiently in charge of his faculties to spot the camera, which he stares directly into throughout this otherwise unremarkable performance, although his all black getup suggests he might be off to do a bit of puppetry straight after the show. Treason had first been released in January 1980 on the indie Zoo label, run by the band’s manager Bill Drummond (later of the KLF) but after the top ten success of Reward a few weeks back, the song was given a second shot at success and this re-recorded version went on to become the band’s second and final top twenty hit, although thanks to the Yewtree lottery we saw absolutely nothing of it on BBC Four. The performance is met with a flurry of unintelligible nonsense from Savile, including an inevitable “Yes indeed, as it ‘appens,” amongst which it transpires that some Royal Marines have given noted philanthropist Sir Jim’ll a cheque for £3,000 for Stoke Mandeville, the hospital noted for its spinal injuries unit with which Savile was closely associated.

TENPOLE TUDOR – Swords of a Thousand Men (#37)

Tenpole TudorAllowing this Mike Smash-style “I do a lot of work for charity but I don’t like to talk about it” moment to pass, we crack on with the first part of the top thirty countup, Savile here taking a leaf out of Simon Bates’s book by just reading out the artiste names and not bothering with the song titles, and announcing R.E.O. Speedwagon as “Rio Speedwagon” into the bargain. Back to number 37 though for what is apparently Tenpole Tudor’s first TV appearance, even though they’ve technically had two hits already: the Sex Pistols’ 1979 singles Silly Thing and The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle were released as double A-sides with the Tenpole Tudor tracks Who Killed Bambi? and Rock Around The Clock. Slightly more sensible than those – only slightly, mind – Swords of a Thousand Men was a rip-roaring blast of medieval rockabilly, lead singer Ed Tudor-Pole performing some cripplingly energetic leaps and making the supposedly outrageous Teardrop Explodes look depressingly lame. That’s showbiz.

THE HUMAN LEAGUE – The Sound of the Crowd (#53)

The Human LeagueA bit more of the chart next, before we descend to the depths of number 53 for a band who are barely recognisable as the studious Kraftwerk disciples who somehow managed to sneak onto the show almost a year ago even though their Gary Glitter cover was only at number 72. Since then half the band has left to become the British Electric Foundation, leaving only singer Phil Oakey and slide projector operator Adrian Wright to take on the band’s name, debts and touring commitments. How gutted Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh must have been then to see the new Human League back on TOTP doing what could almost be mistaken for a pop song, still cocking a snook at traditional musicianship by having a bank of reel-to-reel tape decks ostentatiously playing in the background, but augmented by two teenage female vocalists Oakey spotted in a Sheffield disco. The new line-up’s first release Boys and Girls had made it to number 48, already higher than any of the original band’s singles, and The Sound of the Crowd was on its way to the top twenty two years before BEF and their alter ego project Heaven 17 could do the same. Still, isn’t that a great name for a website?

BUCKS FIZZ – Making Your Mind Up (#1)

Bucks Fizz“Yes sirree! Now then, how’s about, ladies and gentlemen, we could do with some more musical news, and let’s have a look at some more charts with some more great sounds.” Oh, shut up Jimmy. The top ten then, again with Sugar Minott and Starsound letting the side down by not having a video clip to go with their chart placing – come on, even Ennio Morricone can manage it and he’s 52! The Fizz are still number 1, appearing on the show for the sixth time in seven weeks which is highly irregular given that it’s only their third week at the top. Thanks to the phantom taper’s editing skills it’s not clear exactly which performance was shown this week, but we suspect it was probably the Harrods video as partially shown last week, in which Cheryl hopefully demonstrates to Bobby exactly what he can do with his pineapple. Another unbroadcastable edition next week, but unusually for non-Yewtree related reasons.

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