Dexys Midnight Runners

“You think you only know me when you turn on the light” – Top of the Pops, 16 July 1981

Peter Powell“Hi folks, welcome to this week’s edition of Top of the Pops, it is jam packed with good music!” Peter Powell there, rudely jabbing his finger into your face to emphasise just how jam packed the show is. As well as being the first “proper” edition of TOTP in the clattering-drums-swooshing-synths-and-flying-records era after last week‘s nostalgia fest, it was the first “new era” show in the BBC Four run, where the non-appearance of the last of the old editions and the first of the new meant that the dawning of the new age appeared to have gone completely unremarked upon, as if you’d just imagined it. Not everything is new though, as there are a couple of repeats left over from the dark days of two weeks ago and Powell is wearing one of the TOTP T-shirts that were shamelessly advertised on the show as far back as last October, which seems like the Dark Ages compared to this.

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

SAXON – Never Surrender (#26)

SaxonTalking of the Dark Ages, the New Wave of British Heavy Metal seems like a lifetime ago; okay, it was only about eighteen months but since then the shiny futurism of the New Romantics has rendered NWOBHM all but nwobsolete. Consequently this the last we’ll see of Saxon on TOTP, but they’re going out in style, singer Biff Byford resplendent in standard issue studded leather wristbands and tunic, although the green neckerchief seems somewhat surplus to requirements. The song, meanwhile, is regulation fare about being born on the wrong side of town and having to fight prejudice and hardship in order to prevail, you know the one. Appropriately enough, although this became Saxon’s last top twenty hit, the band is still going to this day, fighting against injustice, prejudice and people who make fun of studded leather wristbands.

THIRD WORLD – Dancing on the Floor (Hooked on Love) (#12)

Third World“They’ve got an LP coming out pretty soon, so look out for that!” Thanks for the warning, Pete. Next it’s another outing for the Dancing on the Floor (Hooked on Love) video, as seen two weeks ago (or not if you’re a BBC Four viewer), so more concert footage with lead singer Bunny Rugs – sadly not his real name – sporting a hardhat for some reason, and more of the band frolicking on a tropical sun-kissed beach, although there does seem to be a breeze getting up so it might actually be Scarborough, it’s hard to tell. As with Saxon, Third World were enjoying their final top twenty hit here – it would go on to spend the next two weeks at number 10 – but their other top ten hit, 1978’s Now That We’ve Found Love would return to the chart in 1985, with help from a Paul Hardcastle remix. Also like Saxon, the band refused to surrender to diminishing record sales and is still together, although sadly Bunny Rugs passed away in 2014.

DEPECHE MODE – New Life (#19)

Depeche Mode“I remember a single called Dreaming of Me by a band called Depeshay Mode…” No you don’t, Pete. Still fighting the good fight against people without a basic grip of French pronunciation, Depeché Depeche Mode return for a second performance of their breakthrough hit. It’s all very modern and futuristic of course, which you can tell by the strange strobe effect applied to the picture by simply reducing the frame rate to about 12fps. Dave Gahan’s curly quiff is reaching epic proportions in the mid-summer studio heat, although Martin Gore has turned up in a trenchcoat and trilby hat, which is probably the most he’s ever worn on Top of the Pops. Because it’s the future Andy Fletcher has a handheld Casio VL-1 keyboard (as made famous by the Human League’s Dare album and infamous by Trio’s Da Da Da) and there’s even a tiny computer monitor at the back of the stage whose sole purpose seems to be to display the band’s name over and over again. If only Saxon had thought of that.

Related:  "You said it all, though not many had ears" - Top of the Pops, 28 May 1981

THE JACKSONS – Walk Right Now (#30)

Legs & Co“We like to try and keep you as active as we can on a Thursday night,” smirks Powell, “and here’s Legs & Co to do just that!” No idea what this means, unless he’s suggesting that we should Walk Right Now away from the television and go and do something else for three minutes while Limbs plc go through another of their “routines”. With a song title like Walk Right Now you’d probably expect Limbs’ routine to consist of little more than walking about a bit, but in fact it’s much more complex than that – it involves spinning, bending over and even some arse-shaking as well as a large amount of walking. The most remarkable part of the performance isn’t the dancing, but the set which appears to be some kind of stone-walled prison cell or castle dungeon, albeit with red fluorescent-lit steps leading up to it. After their recent cavorting around a Stonehenge-type structure, it’s hard to establish just what was going on in Flick Colby’s imagination, but with the multi-headed spectre of Zoo looming on the horizon, perhaps she was trying to subliminally plant the idea that Limbs & Co was a treasured institution that should be treated with respect, like a prehistoric monument.


Dexys Midnight RunnersNow then, last time Kevin Rowland and chums were on TOTP was last Christmas, with the nascent Mk II Dexys fumbling through the original line-up’s biggest hit. Since then they’ve released a minor hit single Plan B and changed record labels, returning to the top forty for the first time in a year with this single. While the band’s image has changed since the Geno days, with sweatpants and white T-shirts now being standard uniform in place of donkey jackets and docker chic, the sound still owes a great deal to the ever-present horn section and despite the spiv ‘tache and horrific little pony tail, Kevin Rowland is still very much Kevin Rowland, perhaps the most intense lip-syncher the show has ever seen. Show Me was on its way to the top twenty but it’s all too much for Peter Powell who seems to be feeling the strain. “The pace is hitting us,” he admits, breathlessly, “but we can relax just a touch and listen to the brand new single from Kate Bush.”

KATE BUSH – Sat In Your Lap (#15)

Kate BushEr, no we can’t Pete, because Kate’s new single opens with thunderous drums and Kate, although seated on the floor at the start of the video, waving her arms frantically as a dunce’s cap sits on the floor in front of her. At the end of the first verse a hand comes into shot and swipes the dunce’s hat – perhaps it’s for Pete, because this isn’t relaxing at all. Kate rollerskates unsteadily towards the camera flanked by two other figures in pointy hats and white robes – could be the KLF, could be the Pet Shop Boys, it’s not clear. Then Kate’s on the floor doing her crazy arm dance again, this time flanked by two jesters. Fortunately she ducks out of the way just as some kind of satyr leaps over her, and we’re back to the rollerskating chorus again. A brief interlude in front of a tunnel of smoke and laser beams before we return to the dancing, but now there are four satyrs all banging sticks on the ground. And more rollerskating. What does it all mean? Who knows? Sat In Your Lap peaked at number 11 and would be Kate’s last single for over a year; she would have a four year wait for her next top forty hit.

Related:  Off The Chart: 1 December 1981

BAD MANNERS – Can Can (#3)

Bad MannersAt least Pete has calmed down a bit as he leads us through the first part of the chart countup before asking “Can you can the can?” Er, no, Pete, it’s not Suzi Quatro but another showing for Buster Bloodvessel’s remarkable cartwheeling, high kicking performance from two weeks ago. He’s surprisingly nimble for a man whose gimmick is that he weighs somewhere in the region of a double decker bus, what’s his secret? Is he actually a skinny man in a fat suit? I think we should be told. This was the third of four straight weeks at number 3 for Bad Manners’ joint biggest hit, the Bloodvessel buttocks firmly wedged in third place for a month while other top five hits shuffled awkwardly around them. At least we don’t have DLT laughing hysterically at the end of the performance this week.

SPANDAU BALLET – Chant No.1 (I Don’t Need This Pressure On) (#18)

Spandau Ballet“That epitomises what pop business is all about,” asserts Pete; presumably he’s referring to the life-affirming joie de vivre of the whole performance and not just the close-up shot of Buster’s pantaloons at the end. On with some more charts, before returning to number 18 and if you’re keeping a diary, this is the moment Spandau Ballet started wearing suits, although Steve Norman is rebelling by refusing to wear a shirt under his jacket. Meanwhile Tony Hadley appears to have been smeared with Vaseline, or perhaps he really is just very sweaty. It’s a tight squeeze in there after all, as Spandau are joined on an unusually cramped stage by the horn section of Beggar & Co, or is it Light of the World? Chant No.1 was the first single from the band’s second album Diamond and marked a shift from Spandau as cold, arty New Romantics to Spandau as sophisticated soul boys, a shift which wasn’t fully appreciated by their fans as their next two singles both stiffed. Still, this one would become their biggest hit to date and Beggar & Co would later attempt to wring a little extra success out of it by calling their next single Mule (Chant No.2).

THE SPECIALS – Ghost Town (#1)

The SpecialsIt’s one of those weird shows where the host says goodnight before we’ve even done the top ten, a decision which never really seemed to fit properly, like doing the closedown announcement and playing the national anthem before the late film. We’re also still persevering with the idea of having short video clips of each record in the top ten except for some which are randomly represented by zooming in very slowly on a still photo of the artist (or, if desperate, the Stars on 45 logo). The Specials are still number 1 but, as they broke up in the dressing room last week, here’s the video again in all its driving through dingy streets and throwing stones in the river grimness and, as the show seems to have petered out early this week, here’s a bonus Spotify item: a version of Ghost Town from one of those unrelated Top of the Pops albums of recent hits recreated at little expense by session musicians – in this case, a number of very white session musicians who can’t even get the words right, let alone the accents.

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