Bucks Fizz

“Try to look as if you don’t care less” – Top of the Pops, 19 March 1981

Peter PowellSo the industrial dispute we were pretending wasn’t happening last week has been resolved, the audience has been allowed back out of the tiny airless booths from where they were encouraged to cheer and applaud in sound only, and everything’s back to normal. This week we’re in the safe, reliable (if somewhat over-enthusiastic) hands of Peter Powell, testing the colour capabilities of your TV set in a blue shirt with red and yellow stripes, green trousers and a yellow jacket. Not staying, Pete? Tonight also sees the primary-coloured début of one of the 1980s’ biggest groups, before they even have a record in the chart, so if you were still watching TOTP on a black and white portable set in your bedroom, you were seriously missing out.


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

SHARON REDD – Can You Handle It (#33)

Sharon ReddBut first a less welcome return to TOTP. Not sure if there’s been a clerical error, or the bag with Sharon Redd’s backing tapes in got lost on the way here, or someone from the News of the World has tipped off the Musicians Union that the BBC – that cesspit of deviance and unnatural practices – has been letting artistes lip-synch to their records instead of forcing them to re-record the tracks and lip-synch to those. Whatever the reason, Sharon Redd’s début on the show is somewhat hampered by the resurrection of the Top of the Pops Orchestra and the Maggie Stredder Singers, who it seemed we’d seen the back of following The Event last summer. Johnny Pearson and colleagues take on Can You Handle It, to which the answer proves to be a resounding “no”, so Sharon is lumbered with a version of her hit single which sounds absolutely nothing like the record. It appears possible that Redd has indeed lost her luggage on her way across the Atlantic as she’s forced to perform in an… eyecatching sparkly Lycra body suit in lieu of any real clothes. Good job someone has propped up Limbs & Co at the back of the stage to show her how we do things over here.

SHAKIN’ STEVENS – This Ole House (#2)

Shakin' Stevens“He’s got an album coming out in the same name as the hit single!” A rather simplified view of the record company politics that led to an album that had flopped six months ago, at that time named after Shaky’s previous biggest hit Marie Marie, being hastily reissued with a change of title to This Ole House to reflect the fact that his new biggest hit to date had been crowbarred in somewhere near the end of side two. And so began the shameless repackaging of a decade’s worth of recordings to cash in on Stevens’ sudden rise to fame; some of his early recordings as part of Shakin’ Stevens and the Sunsets were repackaged so many times and with so little recompense to the performers that members of the Sunsets took to reissuing the recordings themselves under the title How to be Awarded 2 Gold Records by Major Record Companies and Not be Paid a Penny in Royalties. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Here’s the video for This Ole House with the unsteady Mr Stevens fannying about in and around an old house, battering an axe into a log for no obvious reason and pointing out all the elements that he doesn’t have time to fix. Anyone got Tommy Walsh’s number?

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DAVE STEWART & COLIN BLUNSTONE – What Becomes of the Broken Hearted? (#30)

Dave Stewart & Colin Blunstone“It’s been some time since Colin Blunstone blessed the British TV scene!” That’s probably true. Certainly it had been over a decade and a half since his first hit, as vocalist on the Zombies’ She’s Not There in 1964, and almost a decade since his last solo top thirty hit, 1972’s Say You Don’t Mind. Now former Hatfield & the North keyboardist Dave “not that one” Stewart has roped him in to provide vocals on a synth-heavy cover of Jimmy Ruffin’s 1966 breakthrough hit. Visually it’s a performance of two halves as the juxtaposition of old and new is illustrated in the performers’ choice of clobber, Blunstone representing the establishment in one of the powder blue jackets Racey took to Oxfam a few months back, while Stewart sports a Public Image Ltd T-shirt to indicate that he’s the New Wave half of the duo. Of course the track is nowhere near as left field as PiL, as we’ll see in a few weeks, but it’s an interesting attempt to do something different with a classic and a useful prototype for a much bigger hit later in the year, and at least it’s not Robson & Jerome.

THE WHO – You Better You Bet (#9)

The WhoFlanked by a veritable bevy of audience members too young to remember the last time The Who were in the TOTP studio, Powell introduces Roger “Mind yer backs” Daltrey and co, but they’re not in the studio this time either as it’s another showing for their performance from two weeks ago. It’s painfully obvious that, Keith Moon excepted, they have failed to die before they got old, but despite their advancing years it’s very much business as usual: John Entwistle puts in a stellar display of inertia as a complement to Pete Townshend’s jerky, energetic performance which looks like it’s been precipitated by a combination of “marching powder” and itching powder. Meanwhile Daltrey appears to be singing live – unusual for this era of TOTP – but has a scarf on to protect his throat because it’s cold in that studio for an older person. Although this single version omits the second verse with its crass giveaway lyric “You welcome me with open arms and open legs,” it’s obvious that You Better You Bet is about, well, shagging, but Daltrey does have his moments of self-awareness amongst the bravado: “I know I’ve been wearing crazy clothes and I look pretty crappy sometimes.” Just don’t put a Village People record on while you’re doing it and he’ll probably behave himself.

STEVIE WONDER – Lately (#18)

Legs & CoNext up, “something really delicate from Stevie Wonder,” so naturally here are Limbs & Co to trample all over it. Lately is indeed one of Wonder’s more ethereal pieces – even if it does include the line “Lately I’ve been staring in the mirror”, yet more evidence to fuel the conspiracy theory that he’s not really blind – so what it really needs is the girls on a minimalist set lit by a 40 watt bulb at ground level, dressed only by a single strand of cloth and something vaguely spherical which one presumes is supposed to be a planet or the moon but in fact looks more like a wasps’ nest. Certainly that would explain why Limbs are moving around so gingerly, you don’t want a horde of stripy mentalists trying to sting you to death while you’re trying to express the horrible suspicion that your partner is cheating on you through the medium of badly lit interpretive dance.

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PHIL COLLINS – I Missed Again (#14)

Phil CollinsAnother airing for the clip from two weeks ago, making Phil’s paintpot one of the most famous inanimate objects in television history, rubbing shoulders with the Tub of Lard from Have I Got News For You, Father Jack’s pet brick and John Entwistle. To put Collins’ solo success into perspective, this was the second of three consecutive top twenty hits from the Face Value album, a feat Genesis wouldn’t achieve until 1986 and something Mike & the Mechanics can still only dream of. Collins is also the only member of Genesis to have scored a number 1 single (and he did it twice) unless you count former Stiltskin vocalist Ray Wilson who replaced Collins on the final Genesis album Calling All Stations, but the only person who thinks of Ray Wilson as a member of Genesis these days seems to be Ray Wilson. Anyway, number 14 was peak position for I Missed Again. Will the paintpot be back for Phil’s next hit? That would be telling.

BUCKS FIZZ – Making Your Mind Up

Bucks FizzNow here’s Pete with two young ladies keen to ply him with alcohol; one has a bottle of champagne, the other orange juice. Why? Of course it’s an introduction to the UK’s 1981 entrant in the Eurovision Song Contest, Bucks Fizz. Named after the favourite drink of Nichola Martin who was involved in the formation of the group (“Good thing her favourite drink wasn’t light and bitter,” Cheryl Baker would later quip), the Fizz had cruised to victory in the previous week’s Song for Europe contest, seeing off competition from the mighty Liquid Gold, percussionist to the stars Luis Jardim and even a band called Gem whose line-up included Nichola Martin and Making Your Mind Up co-writer Andy Hill. We’ll come to the Liquid Gold song in a few weeks and Gem’s entry Have You Ever Been In Love was a hit a year later for Leo Sayer, but here are Cheryl, Mike, Bobby and Jay with the quintessential all-singing, all-dancing, all-smiling, all-skirt-removing Eurovision performance. It’s not even in the chart yet but look out for this one, I think it could do well.

VISAGE – Mind of a Toy (#24)

VisageIt’s been a good couple of weeks since Midge Ure was on the programme so here’s the video for Visage’s second hit, the follow-up to Fade to Grey which is “number one in Germany” according to knowledgeable Peter Powell. The video for this one is crammed with unsettling imagery, from grandfather clocks with Steve Strange’s face appearing in them to a terrifying puppet of Tracey Thorn from Everything But The Girl (although one presumes it’s meant to look like Steve Strange). There are children in New Romantic make-up (presumably also supposed to look like Steve Strange), teddy bears (which may or may not have the face of Steve Strange on them, it’s hard to tell) and the dismembered body parts of Bertie Bassett fall down the stairs, and Steve Strange (made up to look like Steve Strange) sings with a magnifying glass in front of his mouth, making him the only thing in the video that doesn’t look like Steve Strange. What does it all mean? Perhaps, in a way, we are all Steve Strange. Or perhaps not.

DURAN DURAN – Planet Earth (#20)

Duran DuranTop of the Pops is about charts and chartsexactlyweregonnatakealookatnow!” Calm down, Pete! He’s so excitable. Yes, it’s the first part of the top thirty countup, stopping off at number 20 for another chance to see this début performance from Duran Duran, who are not Steve Strange but do seem to have been the first act to get the phrase “New Romantic” into a New Romantic hit. It’s educational too, with its close up on the unconvincing model planet Earth just as Simon Le Bon sings “This is Planet Earth” fulfilling the BBC’s criteria “to inform, educate and entertain.” Planet Earth is on a particularly casual stroll up the chart and will peak at number 12 next week, after which there’s a bit of a lull in Duran’s chart success – next single Careless Memories stalled at 37 and will be lost to BBC Four thanks to DLT – until the promise of nude ladies gets them into the top ten for the first time in August.

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TOYAH – It’s a Mystery (#8)

Toyah“…and their début album will be due out soon!” On with the chart, followed by a new performance of the lead track from the Four From Toyah EP. Toyah the singer gives an assured performance, maintaining eye contact with the camera for uncomfortably long periods, while the rest of Toyah the band look a bit sheepish and unsure what to do with themselves. It doesn’t matter, of course, because they’re eclipsed by their lead singer and copious amounts of dry ice, so nobody’s looking at them anyway. The EP climbed as high as number 4 next week, kicking off a run of top twenty hits that ran through the entire year, ending with the inevitable sequel Four More From Toyah just before Christmas. Not a bad result for a song to which Toyah seems to be allergic – that’s why she keeps sneezing every time she gets to the chorus, isn’t it?

ROXY MUSIC – Jealous Guy (#1)

Roxy MusicThe top ten then, now accompanied by a spinning digit in the top left corner to indicate each song’s position. One day they’ll find a consistent way of doing that and also providing video clips for each song, which they still don’t seem to have the capability for. Before the number 1 Powell warns us that “Radio 1, en masse, is going up to Scotland” next week, an excursion which led to such unlikely broadcasts as Paul Burnett in Glenrothes, an edition of Talkabout from Glasgow featuring B.A. Robertson as “one of the guest speakers discussing the question of Scottish nationalism” and Simon Bates in the window of Top Man in the St James Centre, Edinburgh. Bryan Ferry probably didn’t buy his powder blue suit and pink tie from Top Man but here he is anyway, crooning and whistling his way through all six minutes of Jealous Guy one more time. Richard Skinner is here next week, which is odd as according to the Radio Times he’s supposed to be in Edinburgh.

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