Hazel O'Connor

“You said it all, though not many had ears” – Top of the Pops, 28 May 1981

Simon BatesHey everyone, let’s play “good news / bad news”! The good news is, after missing a huge chunk of musical history due to presenters’ off-screen activities and someone’s inability to record a live programme for the archive, BBC Four viewers finally get to see two consecutive editions of Top of the Pops! The bad news, though, is that the first of them is hosted by inexplicable housewives’ favourite Simon Bates, sporting a beige jacket and pink shirt combo which manages to be both garish and bland at the same time. He also has a badge on his lapel but we never quite get close enough to read the slogan written on it, which is probably for the best. We’re still paddling along without a proper opening sequence other than layers of TOTP logos for three seconds, so Simes has to blurt out that we have “Kim Carnes, UB40 and so many more” over the intro to the first song. Talk about damning the show with faint praise.

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

THE POLECATS – Rockabilly Guy (#36)

The PolecatsOpening the show for the second time in a little over two months, presumably because their intros were long enough for the host to talk over, this was the Polecats’ second and final appearance on the show. Originally their first single back in 1979, this re-recording of Rockabilly Guy got them onto the show by reaching number 36 and climbed to a peak position of 35 following their TV exposure, exactly as their cover of John, I’m Only Dancing did back in March. Also, just like their first performance, lead singer Tim Polecat leaps around the stage as if wearing battery-operated trousers that have somehow malfunctioned. “I’m gonna rockabilly till the day I die, ’cause I’m a rocka-rocka-rocka-rockabilly guy!” he claims, and indeed the Polecats are still together, although guitarist Boz Boorer is probably better known these days for his work with Morrissey. The Polecats never bothered the top forty again but did score an unexpected US hit with their 1983 single Make A Circuit With Me. Perhaps that explains the trousers.

CHAMPAIGN – How ‘Bout Us (#11)

Champaign“There’s a band that made it first in America, now they’re doing so well over here!” You might have to narrow that down a bit, Simes. Turns out he’s talking about Champaign, a soul group named after their hometown of Champaign, Illinois and winners of the “That’s not how you spell Champagne” award three years running. This is one of those pseudo “Behind the scenes” videos that were popular in the early days of promo clips, so there’s lots of close-ups of mixing desks and whirring reels of tape while the band “performs” the song in the studio, all at the same time, in one take, without headphones or anything because that’s how records are made. Singer Pauli Carman seems to be taking it all very seriously, dancing around the microphone very slowly and carefully as if wading through treacle, while he and Rena Jones gaze intently into each other’s eyes instead of concentrating on mic placement. Heaven knows what the resulting recording would have sounded like – certainly nothing like the single we’re listening to. After leaping seventeen places to number 11 this week How ‘Bout Us is on a leisurely climb to number 5 so we’ll have to sit through this again in three weeks’ time.

UB40 – Don’t Let It Pass You By (#16)

UB40Up next we find UB40, “looking even better than ever and sounding wonderful with their new single!” Simon Bates there, a man with absolutely nothing to say about UB40. This was their fourth consecutive top twenty hit and fourth consecutive double A-side, though its relatively short climb up the chart means we have to pick an A-side and stick to it, rather than flip-flopping between the two as we did with The Beat a few weeks back (and indeed UB40’s previous hit The Earth Dies Screaming / Dream a Lie at the tail end of 1980). More than ever there seems to be far too many people on stage playing an hilarious number of instruments to little effect, while Ali Campbell eschews reggae’s regular Rastafarian message for a more pragmatic lyric: “There ain’t no heaven and there ain’t no hell,” he warns, “Don’t let the only world you’re ever gonna live in pass you by.” A bitter pill to swallow for fans of Bob Marley who had died just a couple of weeks earlier. Consequently this, the band’s first single on their own Dep International label, broke their run of top ten hits and peaked here at number 16.

Related:  1986 Christmas Top 40

TENPOLE TUDOR – Swords of a Thousand Men (#6)

Tenpole Tudor“Tenpole Tudor, same position as last week and here’s the way they look today.” Except of course it’s not, because this is yet another repeat of the band’s first performance from a month ago, with Ed Tudor-Pole leaping alarmingly into the air and almost kicking himself in the head before the song has even started. This was peak position for Swords of a Thousand Men and although Tenpole Tudor are generally though of as one-hit wonders (the two hits they had as double A-sides with Sex Pistols tracks in 1979 notwithstanding), in fact they graced the show another twice with the follow-up single Wunderbar in August. Due to unfortunate rostering, however, those two appearances were on Savile and Travis shows, so for BBC Four viewers the illusion remains complete and Ed remains little more than the bloke off of later series of The Crystal Maze.

VANGELIS – Chariots of Fire (#25)

Not VangelisNow, here’s a thing. Chariots of Fire was an enormously successful British film, with US box office takings in excess of ten times the film’s budget despite its rather grim setup as the story of the rivalry between a Scottish Christian and an English Jew competing at the 1924 Olympics. You can tell the film was a huge success because people are buying the theme music on a single. The theme was composed and performed by hirsute keyboard wizard Vangelis, former bandmate of Demis Roussos in Greece’s top prog rock band Aphrodite’s Child and last seen supporting Yes vocalist Jon Anderson on I Hear You Now. You remember that one, with the whole Alternative Car Park thing going on in the video. No such frippery this time around, just a montage of clips from the film over the theme tune, including that famous shot of people running on a beach, people running in a field with some mountains in the background, and people running on a running track, all of it badly interlaced so it’s almost impossible to get a clear screen capture with which to illustrate this entry. The single went to number 12 and gained a second lease of life a year later after the film won three BAFTAs and four Oscars, but this was its only TOTP moment.

ENIGMA – Ain’t No Stoppin’ (#17)

Legs & CoFrom an Oscar-winning piece of music to an award-losing piece of bandwagon hopping from Enigma – not the German new age act who scored a number 1 with Sadeness in 1991, but Shakatak producer Nigel Wright who was first out of the blocks with a UK answer to Stars on 45. Ain’t No Stoppin’ is a medley of disco hits including, naturally, McFadden & Whitehead’s Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now, Chic’s Le Freak, Odyssey’s Use It Up And Wear It Out and numerous others, many of which we’re mercifully spared here. Of course, being a studio group of session musicians they’re not here to perform their Frankensteinic creation, so… enter Limbs & Co! Dressed sparingly in gold trimmed body stockings and capes, they shed the capes after the first song in the medley, leaving themselves almost stitchless as they shimmer, clap and gyrate for the remainder of the performance. Perhaps we should be thankful; as we’ll see in the coming weeks, not all studio-based medley groups are this camera shy.

HAZEL O’CONNOR – Will You (#23)

Hazel O'Connor“That’s an absolute disgrace,” blusters Simes, a huge grin on his face, “now you know why I wear glasses.” Before the ghastly connotations of that statement can sink in we’re onto the next song. For the sake of Mr Bates’s eyesight it’s a good job that unlike her last appearance on TOTP when she stripped down to her bra, Hazel O’Connor is in a more restrained mood for this performance. Draped despondently over the back of a chair, Hazel bemoans her social inadequacy and ponders whether her new love interest will stay over or go home. Not sure that sax solo is going to convince him to hang around. Nine months on from Eighth Day, her first hit from the film Breaking Glass, this is another single from the soundtrack (“two years later, quite literally,” according to Simes, who simultaneously coins one of Smashie & Nicey‘s best catchphrases while being spectacularly chronologically inaccurate) and despite having moved on, changed record labels and gamely attempted to put some distance between herself and the film, O’Connor is in the studio to promote Will You anyway. A hit single’s a hit single, after all.

Related:  1980 Christmas Top 40

COAST TO COAST – Let’s Jump the Broomstick (#30)

Coast to CoastTime for a bit of hot chart action, and despite having had “quite literally” (i.e. a fair bit short of) eighteen months’ experience on the Radio 1 Top 40 show in 1978-79, Bates still can’t quite come to terms with announcing both act name and song title within the allotted time for each chart position. Following this, it’s the unwelcome return of another band unfairly categorised as a one-hit wonder. Months after the event Twitter remains awash with victims still unable to even hear mention of the phrase Do The Hucklebuck without instantly having the song implanted in their brain for days on end, so to combat that here are Coast To Coast with another cover of a decades old song, this one made famous by Brenda Lee in 1961. We’ll see it again in a couple of weeks – unless you’re watching BBC Four, of course – so for now let’s concentrate on the far more interesting story of how this song was used as the basis of a lip-synching competition on ITV pop show Ready Steady Go! in 1963; the winner, as chosen by Paul McCartney, disappeared with a boyfriend a few years later, prompting front page headlines and inspiring McCartney to write She’s Leaving Home. Unfortunately the only headlines Coast To Coast ever inspired were when frontman Alex “Sandy Fontaine” Giannini died in 2015. At least he actually sang on this one.

KIM CARNES – Bette Davis Eyes (#10)

Kim CarnesThe middle section of the chart next, with Simes still not telling us anything we can’t see on the screen, followed by a second showing of the video for Kim Carnes’ only UK top forty hit. The lights in Kim’s apartment are still broken and casting shadows of Bette Davis on the wall, the thousands of extras are still slapping each other and the floor for no adequately explained reason, and Kim is still singing “what it takes to make a pro blush” instead of Jackie DeShannon’s original “make a crow blush” which is apparently an old saying from the US Midwest, so you can stop arguing about that now. Bette Davis Eyes topped the chart in twenty-one countries, including the US where it spent nine weeks at number 1 and became the biggest selling single of the year. In the UK it had to be content with a number 10 position, although it gains several kudos points for inspiring Half Man Half Biscuit’s 1986 indie chart topper Dickie Davies Eyes. If you listened to Radio 1 as much as I did in 1981, Kim’s next single Draw of the Cards will be burned into your brain as DLT played it incessantly on his show, but it only made number 49 and Carnes never returned to TOTP.

ADAM AND THE ANTS – Stand and Deliver (#1)

Adam and the Ants“That’s Kim Carnes and she’s never actually seen Bette Davis, but it’s her own song and it’s great.” Simon Bates there, making up facts on the spot without a shred of evidence to support them. Still, having dispensed with number 10 we count up the top nine, again with uncomfortably long video clips of the songs as we have 36 minutes to fill and only ten full songs on the show this week. With no movement at all in the top six it’s “a funny old chart,” Bates postulates, “mainly because of the bank holiday, I guess, people have been buying records or not, as the case may be.” That’s how the chart always works, Simes. It means another outing for the Stand and Deliver video, with Adam still robbing people at gunpoint, jumping through a closed window and hassling the nobility at the dinner table, yet not being hanged for his crimes because that’s dangerous. We play out with the crowd dancing to George Harrison’s All Those Years Ago, his first solo top twenty hit since 1973 and a heartfelt tribute to the recently slain John Lennon, with drums by Ringo and additional backing vocals by Paul making it essentially a stealth Beatles reunion and a thoroughly inappropriate record to dance to. Still, at least we never found out what Flick Colby would have done with it.

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