Hazel O'Connor

“Entertainment for the lost and lonely” – Top of the Pops, 26 March 1981

Richard SkinnerSo it seems Richard Skinner wasn’t in Scotland all week with the other Radio 1 DJs, as the Radio Times seems to suggest. Although his evening show was billed as including sessions from Scottish bands, he must have been in That London for at least part of the week because here he is hosting Top of the Pops, and for sure the BBC wouldn’t have gone as far as to relocate the Pops north of the border for a week just so Skinner could join his colleagues in donning kilts, saying “Och aye the noo” and whatever other tedious Scots stereotypes they chose to uphold during their week away. He is still sensible Richard Skinner from Newsbeat after all, despite the ongoing attempt to improve his on-screen image. Out of his grey jumper-based comfort zone in a red checked shirt, Skinner looks as uncomfortable as ever; standing next to a couple of Legs & Co doing an energetic dance routine in tiny skirts that show off their legs – not to mention their “& co” – was never really Richard’s scene and he looks like he’d rather be off shooting haggis with Andy Peebles. Cheer up, Richard, we’ve got the cream of the current music scene on the show tonight!

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

POLECATS – John, I’m Only Dancing (#36)

Polecats…but not straight away, obviously. It’s particularly jarring that the first David Bowie song heard on the BBC Four TOTP reruns since his death in January should be a ramshackle rockabilly cover of John, I’m Only Dancing, of all things. In fact it’s only a little over a year since Bowie’s version was on the show, thanks to a 1979 reissue. Now the Polecats have done a version, looking and sounding like a spoof version of the Stray Cats on a light entertainment comedy show such as Russ Abbot’s Madhouse and produced, like the Stray Cats’ two hits to date, by Dave Edmunds. The Polecats, however, are much better at playing The Floor Is Made Of Lava, making it almost impossible to get a screen capture of singer Tim Polecat (no, really) where he isn’t just a mid-air blur. Top of the Pops didn’t do a great deal for the Polecats’ chart success; unlike the band members John, I’m Only Dancing stayed perfectly still at number 36 next week, edging up to 35 the following week before falling.

KIM WILDE – Kids in America (#2)

Kim WildeAt the other end of the top 40, here’s another chance to see the video for the début single from luscious, pouting Kim Wilde™, now at its peak position of number 2 which, for some reason, doesn’t seem to have provoked anything like the same level of outrage as when Vienna was kept out of the number 1 spot a few weeks back. Although it was the first of a nice round twenty top forty hits for Kim, none of them would ever surpass Kids in America‘s peak position and only You Keep Me Hangin’ On managed to equal it, but her Supremes cover did top the US Billboard chart so that’s something. The only remaining unanswered question is why the forthcoming new wave that Kim’s warning us about only goes from “New York to East California” – apparently the wave won’t be reaching the coastal regions of the USA, which seems a bit odd.

GRAHAM BONNET – Night Games (#43)

Graham Bonnet“Now, here’s a guy who used to sing with Rainbow!” No, it’s not one of the blokes from Rod, Jane & Freddy but Graham Bonnet, who you may remember from such unlikely rock videos as All Night Long about a year ago when we described his look as “somewhere between M’s Robin Scott and Let’s Dance-era Bowie.” Since then, as Simon “font of all knowledge” Bates gleefully pointed out last month, Bonnet has left Rainbow and gone off to resume the solo career he had before joining the band in 1979. On the face of it, not much has changed; Bonnet still looks too well groomed for a heavy metal singer (see Gillan in about ten minutes’ time for further evidence) and in fact with his short hair and slightly tinted glasses he has the air of a young Bono about him. Graham Bono. Although Bonnet’s career stretches right back to 1968 when he enjoyed a Bee Gees-penned top five hit Only One Woman as lead singer of the Marbles, Night Games would be his only solo top forty hit.

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HAZEL O’CONNOR – D-Days (#23)

Hazel O'Connor“Now then, we have a really… interesting record for you next,” observes Richard, although he’s clearly finding it hard to concentrate on his link because of the peculiar-looking woman standing next to him. With her thick glasses, old woman’s coat, bowler hat and lank hair, it’s clear something odd is going on and indeed, while Skinner is busy introducing “Hazel O’Connor? Really?”, the mysterious woman walks off towards the stage, sheds her coat, hat, wig and glasses and reveals herself to be – yes, you guessed it – Barbara Dickson! No, not really. In order to facilitate her quick costume change, O’Connor has foregone unnecessary items of clothing like a shirt of any kind, performing the entire song in just trousers, handless gloves and bra. No doubt it’s meant as some kind of great feminist statement but the whole thing just can’t help bringing to mind Kenny Everett’s Angry of Mayfair character. It’s probably because of the bowler hat. The spiky new wave of D-Days was Hazel’s only top forty hit that didn’t come from the Breaking Glass soundtrack; indeed, its success prompted A&M to release another single from the soundtrack a couple of months later, which we’ll come to in good time.

TONY CAPSTICK – Capstick Comes Home (#10)

Tony Capstick“You know, they say the British charts are always known for their diversity.” That was certainly true until comparatively recently, and for a prime example of just how varied the charts were in 1981, Hazel O’Connor in a bra is followed by a spoken word monologue over a brass band arrangement of Dvořák’s New World Symphony. Diversity? We’ve got it. Like Fred Wedlock, who had his moment of chart fame a few weeks back, Tony Capstick was a folk performer turned broadcaster, best known in his native Yorkshire as a presenter on BBC Radio Sheffield where he worked for over thirty years, although you may also remember him as one of the policemen in Last of the Summer Wine. Capstick Comes Home was a parody of the famous Hovis bread commercials; Capstick reminisces at length about working “a 72-hour shift” on his first day at the local mine and his father’s unreasonable response to being offered bread and butter for tea. It may not be the only spoken word single to make the chart – a recording of Wilfred Brambell and Harry H. Corbett in character as Steptoe & Son reached number 25 in 1963, while the Shamen and Terence McKenna took the far less comical Re:Evolution to number 18 thirty years later, seemingly as a bet – but Capstick Comes Home is one of very few to have reached the top three and certainly the only hit single ever to have included the line “You great, useless, spawny-eyed, parrot-faced wazzock.”

GILLAN – New Orleans (#37)

GillanStill not diverse enough for you? At the risk of sounding like J*mmy S*v*le, ‘ow’s about we take a 1961 hit for Gary “US” Bonds and subject it to a NWOBHM pounding from Ian Gillan and the Ian Gillan Band? Yes, little more than a month since they depressed us all to the brink of suicide with their warning of Mutually Assured Destruction, Gillan have another single out. This one is significantly less gloomy and aims for the good-time, no-nonsense Quo / Slade market, but lands somewhere between Surfin’ Bird and Bad News’s Warriors of Genghis Khan. It has to be said that Gillan look even more ludicrous than Bad News ever did, guitarist Bernie Tormé inventing glam punk while also sporting an eyepatch for some reason, bassist John McCoy still completely bald but with a beard you could lose a badger in, keyboardist Colin Towns in dinner jacket and bow tie, and Gillan himself with such a ridiculous mop of hair it’s sometimes hard to tell which way he’s facing. Rock ‘n’ roll, eh kids?

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LINX – Intuition (#13)

Linx“Number 13 is a number that is often unlucky, but for Linx it’s proved very fortuitous!” Imagine anyone using the word “fortuitous” on Radio 1 these days, there’d be complaints. Another outing for this video, with its arty sepia-tinted shots of TV’s David Grant’s childhood, including the young David painting the word “DOGERS” onto a wall. Such wall, many paint, wow. Other misdemeanours include flicking globules of gruel at his brother from a spoon, switching his mother’s bowl of raisins with a jar of honey so she gets a sticky hand and, as discussed in the song, stealing apples from a fruit stall. Of course David’s mum always finds out what he’s up to, because he’s doing them in full view of her. She’s not using intuition, David, she can see you. Intuition is on its way to becoming Linx’s first and only top ten hit, so we’ll actually get to see them in the studio in a couple of weeks’ time.

LENE LOVICH – New Toy (#53)

Lene LovichWell now, here’s someone we didn’t think we’d see on TOTP again. Although she had three top forty hits in 1979, Lene Lovich is usually thought of as a one hit wonder thanks to the runaway success of her first hit Lucky Number, which was a number 3 hit two years ago almost to the day and was idiosyncratic enough to earn her a place in post-punk legend, not to mention a Barron Knights parody. Now, two years later, Lovich is back in the TOTP studio, looking like Björk’s big sister in a pink grass skirt, the same colour as her dreadlocks, plus a huge black bow in her hair with black dreadlocks sticking out of it, giving the impression that she’s being eaten by a giant bow-shaped spider. On any other day she would have been the main incredulous “Did you see that?” moment of the show, but following Hazel O’Connor in just her bra, she never really stood a chance. Of course it’s not just about appearance, the song itself wasn’t as catchy as either D-Days or Lucky Number; it peaked here at number 53 behind such classic singles as Fan’Dabi’Dozi by the Krankies.

BAD MANNERS – Just a Feeling (#54)

Bad Manners“Now here’s a man with a wonderful suntan!” Er, yes. After dressing up as Henry VIII for his last appearance, Buster Bloodvessel has taken an entirely different approach to tonight’s show, turning up in what appears to be some kind of wetsuit with, crucially, his face painted bright orange, looking for all the world as if he’s been Tango’d. As ever, no explanation is forthcoming, although if Buster is trying to sweat off a few pounds it certainly seems to be working, if the river of sweat and orange paint running down his front is anything to go by. You’ll remember that previous single Lorraine had a chorus consisting of the line “When I find her I’m gonna kill her” repeated ad nauseum, and judging by the lyrics to this one Buster’s still having woman trouble but since the chorus to Just a Feeling is simply “Just a feeling” repeated ad nauseum and there are no threats of physical violence, it would go on to be a much bigger hit. See, it’s nice to be nice.

THE WHISPERS – It’s a Love Thing (#20)

Legs & CoTime for the first part of the top thirty countup, stopping off at number 20 for another band you thought were one hit wonders. Since their first hit And The Beat Goes On reached number 2 a little over a year ago, the Whispers have had a couple of minor hits, including a strange discofied version of My Girl which made number 26 last summer. Now they’re back with a second top twenty hit but even that isn’t enough to tempt them into the studio, so… enter Limbs & Co! Resisting the temptation to dress them up as substandard tennis players unable to score points, instead Flick places the girls on a giant chess board amongst some metal blocks and mirrors in an attempt to disguise the fact that someone’s missing. Yes, Pauline has left Legs & Co, bringing an end to the original six-piece line-up that had been in place since October 1976 when they had yet to come up with a name and were listed on the end credits as ??????, a much better name than the one they were eventually saddled with. Despite Pauline’s early bath, Legs & Co would struggle on for another seven months before eventually going into administration.

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LANDSCAPE – Einstein a Go-Go (#11)

LandscapeMore chart countup action next, conveniently pausing at number 11 for another chance to see the Einstein a Go-Go video. Opening with some nice miniature model action, the video goes on to show Landscape around the turn of the century, doing all sorts of important looking experiments with test tubes, electrical equipment and what appears to be the severed head of the Ayatollah Khomeini in a fish tank. Lead singer Richard James Burgess is brought tea by a Monty Python pepperpot which he declines, causing a series of explosions. The explosions, it seems, trigger some kind of time portal leading to the band performing the end of the song in plastic costumes and make-up, the kind of things we’ll all be wearing by the year 1991. Although the song got as high as number 5, this is the last we’ll see of Landscape on BBC Four as their only studio appearance, for follow-up single Norman Bates, was on a Savile-hosted edition. Still, they were good enough to like us on Twitter last time they were on, so hello to Landscape and also their sideways tribute band Portrait.

SHAKIN’ STEVENS – This Ole House (#1)

Shakin' StevensOn with the top ten, including a clip of Capstick Comes Home which manages to feature absolutely none of Tony Capstick’s monologue, culminating in the first of four number 1 hits for Shakin’ Stevens. To celebrate, we get another chance to see that sole studio performance with the hand-jiving audience and the terribly old-fashioned six-piece line-up of Limbs & Co in the background. We play out with Bucks Fizz and watch the studio audience dancing to Making Your Mind Up; apart from the very coolest of the cool kids, everyone joins in, including one young man in a morning suit who looks disturbingly like a young Boris Johnson. Even Richard Skinner is contractually obliged to dance, shooting meaningful “Help me!” glances at the camera as it tracks past him and making a mental note to ask Newsbeat if they’ll have him back. Simon Bates is here next week, fresh from doing his Radio 1 show in the window of Top Man in Edinburgh. Wonder if he bought any new clothes while he was there?

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