“You’re all corrupt, you’re all depraved” – Top of the Pops, 12 March 1981

Tommy VanceUp next on BBC1, another edition of Let’s Pretend Nothing’s Wrong And This Is Just A Normal Edition Of Top Of The Pops Even Though It’s Painfully Obvious That There’s Another Strike On And We’re Desperately Stringing Pre-Recorded Clips Together To Try And Pad Out Our Allotted Time Slot. Your host for this edition is Tommy Vance, still wearing the F*ck Off Tommy “Rock On Tommy” jumper he had on last time, who utterly fails to explain the situation. “Top of the Pops this week is a very, very special edition,” he admits, which we can already tell as he’s standing in front of a green screen (or probably a blue screen in those days) allowing a still photo of red and blue lights to be used as a background. But why is it such a special edition? “…Because it’s full of absolutely amazing music.” Given that all but two of the songs on tonight’s show have been on before, this statement is completely meaningless, but it’s all we’re going to get.

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


The Teardrop ExplodesAs if the obviously different opening wasn’t enough of a giveaway, it’s now abundantly clear that all is not well because we’re barely thirty seconds into the show and already we’re in violation of the TOTP rules, which clearly state that nothing gets on the show two weeks running unless it’s at number one. This – along with the rule stating that a record can’t be on the show if it’s going down the chart – was one of the fundamental stipulations that prevented TOTP from descending into chaos, at least until the late 1990s when the charts were so unstable that the rules were revoked just so they could have enough hit records to fill half an hour. In 1981 though, this rule was still very much in place, but we had forty minutes to fill and no new clips to use, so needs must. Next you’ll be feeding them after midnight. Anyway, this is the Teardrop Explodes performance from three weeks ago and even if Julian Cope wasn’t on acid this time, Dave Balfe certainly was: “I was so out of my tree on acid the first time, there was blood on the trumpet because I was banging it into my face so hard,” he admitted in a 2015 interview. Balfe subsequently founded Food Records and signed Blur, so remember kids, don’t take drugs.

KIM WILDE – Kids in America (#6)

Kim WildeThe usual pre-recorded applause plays out as we cut from the Teardrops in the studio weeks back to luscious, pouting Kim Wilde™ on video. Initially the video director eschews the Flick Colby Big Book of Literal Interpretation, concentrating instead on getting as many shots as possible of Kim looking sultry in front of some venetian blinds, but this begins to wear thin after the first chorus so we move on to shots of Kim in front of a fence with an oil drum and flashing blue police light – because that’s what the kids understand – while the rest of her band play behind the fence where America is depicted via a mural of Elvis, the Statue of Liberty and… well, what looks like a character from Bo Selecta. Come verse three we’re back inside with the blinds, but as Kim runs her hand down them, blood appears in a vaguely sinister fashion – perhaps Dave Balfe has been banging his face into them.

LINX – Intuition (#41)

Linx“Here’s the first of three great soul bands you’re gonna see on Top of the Pops tonight!” Ah, soul music, remember that? Here at The Sound of the Crowd we prefer to think of this as the first of tonight’s three BritFunk Moments™ and then briefly ponder on whether we’re overusing the ironic ™ symbol. Linx had already scored a top twenty hit with You’re Lying last autumn, but this tale of how TV’s David Grant’s mum always knew when he was being naughty would go on to become the group’s only top ten hit. Naturally they’re not in the studio, and we wouldn’t have seen them if they were, so we get the video which starts with some sepia-toned footage of David Grant as a boy (steady on, he’s not that old, surely?) doing all sorts of naughty kid stuff while his mother tries to refrain from throttling him, Homer Simpson style. This is intercut with footage of the band in 1981 on an ultra-modern pink and blue set, which now looks more dated than the “old” film. Look out also for Grant playing a toy saxophone, the kind that usually gets Madness banned from the show for a month at a time.

KELLY MARIE – Hot Love (#22)

Kelly Marie“Where do they get the energy?” marvels Vance, now standing in front of a TOTP logo which fills most – but not all – of the screen, leaving him looking like he’s standing a foot in front of your TV screen. If you squint a bit, and close one eye, and try and convince yourself you’re looking at a 3D display. Then there’s a humorous moment as Tommy tries to decide where the video was made – “shot outside on a, well, I suppose you could call it somebody’s, er, well, football field, maybe, a sort of backyard football field?” – as a desperate link to the next clip. It’s another repeat from a previous TOTP, despite Vance’s best efforts to pretend it’s actually happening live, even pointing into thin air as he pretends that Kelly Marie “is over there with some Hot Love.” She’s not, though, because her Top of the Pops career is over and this repeat of the clip with her flunkies in full Highland dress is merely prolonging the agony. After Feels Like I’m In Love and Loving Just For Fun, this was her last top forty entry; next single Love Trial made number 51 while further releases I Need Your Love, Don’t Stop Your Love, I Feel Love Comin’ On, Love’s Got A Hold On You and Don’t Take Your Love To Hollywood all bombed. Perhaps a change of subject matter might be in order.

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FREEEZ – Southern Freeez (#8)

Freeez“I love all that Scottish disco dancing but I don’t think I’d like to do it with the swords there!” Your loss, Tom. Time for the second BritFunk Moment™ and a third showing for this Freeez clip. Number 8 was peak position for Southern Freeez and we covered Ingrid Mansfield-Allman’s solo outings with Ian Dury and various Blockheads last time, so what became of the rest of Freeez? They discovered samplers and had a massive hit with the Arthur Baker-produced I.O.U. in 1983, then split up. Bass player Peter Maas subsequently reformed the group without any other original members, adopting a poppier sound reminiscent of late-period post-Limahl Kajagoogoo (that’s a compliment, honest) and releasing singles like 1985’s That Beats My Patience without success, but they returned to the chart in 1987 with remixes of I.O.U. and Southern Freeez. How does one do the Southern Freeez anyway? If only they’d included instructions within the song like Coast To Coast did.

STATUS QUO – Something ‘Bout You Baby I Like (#9)

Status Quo“Now, how’d you like to know what happens in the average headbanging fella’s day?” Well, if anyone can supply that kind of information, it’s got to be Tommy Vance. The average headbanging fella in question is apparently a mechanic, has long unkempt blond hair like Rick Parfitt and, naturally, loves Status Quo. We know this because he has Quo posters all over the walls of the garage where he works. What Mr Average Headbanging Fella doesn’t know is that every time he looks away from the posters, they come to life and the Quo start banging out Something ‘Bout You Baby I Like. Curiously, this happens to all the Quo posters he passes, and there’s a remarkable number of them: stuck to a fence on his way home from work, in the window of a local record shop, on the back page of the Melody Maker which he’s reading in the bath, on his bedroom wall, even on the side of a double decker bus. Funny, you’d think he’d be able to hear them. Amusingly though, it doesn’t matter because it turns out he’s off to see the Quo in concert that night, inflicting almost certain concussion upon himself alongside numerous other average headbanging fellas. He needn’t have bothered, he could have just looked at the posters, yet somehow after the show he manages to get backstage and meet the band in their dressing room, because the Quo are all about the average headbanging fella.

BEGGAR & CO – (Somebody) Help Me Out (#15)

Beggar & CoAnd so, with grim inevitability, we fade from the Quo into the third BritFunk Moment™ and it’s yet another showing for this clip, still with the bloke standing up into shot with a script. This was the second week at number 15 for the unnecessarily parenthetical (Somebody) Help Me Out, the highest position not only for this record but for any record by Beggar & Co and/or Light of the World. Indeed, other than a guest spot on Spandau Ballet’s Chant No.1 (I Don’t Need This Pressure On) in the summer of ’81, Beggar & Co’s only other hit was Mule (Chant No.2) in the autumn. Good job they passed the hat round at the start of this clip then, and those instruments should fetch a bob or two down Cash Converters. Remarkable as it may seem, Beggar & Co is still a going concern, albeit a slow moving one, releasing most recent album Sleeping Giants in 2012. “I wonder if I went out and bought a hat they’d actually let me get into that band?” ponders Tommy.

LANDSCAPE – Einstein A Go-Go (#38)

LandscapeAt last, something we haven’t heard on the show before! Landscape are “a new band to me, but I think some of the faces might be a little bit familiar to you.” No, Tommy, not really, but you might have heard of singing drummer Richard James Burgess, who had already made a name for himself as producer of Spandau Ballet’s early singles and would go on to handle production duties for Adam Ant, Five Star and even Colonel Abrams’ 1985 proto-house hit Trapped. Back in 1981 though, Einstein A Go-Go was Landscape’s first hit and lead single from their shamelessly titled second album From the Tea-rooms of Mars to the Hell-holes of Uranus. Its Syndrum and synth-heavy arrangement was remarkably in step with the times for a band formed as far back as 1974, although the “You better watch out, you better beware, Albert said that E=MC²” motif is rather too close to Bowie’s “My mother said to get things done you better not mess with Major Tom” for comfort.

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TALKING HEADS – Once in a Lifetime (#14)

Legs & Co“A few weeks ago we showed you this great bit of film featuring Legs & Co, and also some amazing choreography by Flick Colby.” Well, now we know there’s something going on, because everyone knows Limbs & Co’s routines were made up on the spot and designed to be seen once and once only. The last Legs routine to get a repeat showing was the remarkable “DANGER – LADIES AT WORK” routine to the Detroit Spinners’ Working My Way Back To You on the New Year’s Day show, so for this one to be repeated three weeks after its original showing it must be astonishingly good, or Michael Hurll must be desperate. Not only that, but we’ve broken the rules again because we saw the video for this last week too. Are we really that short of clips? Anyway, this was the second week at number 14 for Once in a Lifetime which was its peak position, making it the second biggest of only three top forty hits for Talking Heads. They split after their 1988 album Naked, ironically their biggest hit album in the UK, but reformed without David Byrne as The Heads in 1996, scoring a minor hit with Don’t Take My Kindness For Weakness which featured Shaun Ryder on shouty guest vocals.

KIKI DEE – Star (#17)

Kiki Dee“That really is a great piece of video there, shot – would you believe it? – in this very studio.” Sorry, Tom, but it wasn’t really, was it? We know you’re in a tiny presentation studio and not the normal TOTP location, why must you lie to us? At least the strike that we’re not talking about can’t mess up the top thirty countup – although Vance can, as he’s still insisting on calling Slade “The Slade” – after which “we jump to position number 17 and meet Kiki Dee who is a Star!” It’s the same clip as before, of course, with the enormous KIKI DEE lights so that you don’t forget who you’re watching. Star would peak at number 13 next week, bizarrely matching the highest position of her other two biggest solo hits Amoureuse and Loving and Free. Unlucky for some, indeed. Although her biggest hits were duets with Elton John, when Kiki and Elton joined forces again for a strange slow motion cover of Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever later in 1981, it sank without trace.

COAST TO COAST – (Do) The Hucklebuck (#5)

Coast To Coast“I think I echo the sentiments of all BBC radio disc jockeys when I say that she is greatly respected, even by those on Radio 3, would you believe?” No. On with the chart countup then, followed by “a bit of a knees-up and a party”, which is Vance-speak for another unnecessarily parenthetical hit. (Do) The Hucklebuck – forlornly inviting the response “(No) I won’t” – is at its peak position of number 5 so here’s one more outing for Coast To Coast. Still, it gives us a chance for more remarkable facts about singer Sandy so-called Fontaine – if you think he looks vaguely familiar, it’s probably because you’ve seen him in the recent film Legend, or in TV shows such as The Musketeers, Prime Suspect or even The Bill. Yes, after Coast To Coast split, the erstwhile Sandy Fontaine reverted to something closer to his birth name, Alex Giannini, married Harry Secombe’s daughter and took up acting, eventually following in the footsteps of Spandau Ballet’s Gary and Martin Kemp by starring in a movie about the Kray twins. Sadly this turned out to be his last film role as he died suddenly in October 2015. Hopefully these facts have prevented (Do) The Hucklebuck from getting stuck in your head this time; if not, don’t worry, it won’t be on again.

ROXY MUSIC – Jealous Guy (#1)

Roxy Music“Everybody in the country by now knows exactly how to do that dance!” Yeah, Freeez, that’s how you get people involved with your dance craze. Time for the top ten, which Tommy is especially pleased to note still includes Motörhead and Girlschool – “As great a combination as egg and chips,” Vance reckons, which is praise indeed – and due to the lack of audience, we get a respectful silence instead of the usual fake applause as Roxy Music’s only UK number 1 single ever reaches the top and the official period of mourning for John Lennon is resumed. The video again, of course, but unusually with the credits right at the end making the show a fixed length this week, instead of the usual arrangement whereby the credits roll and the music keeps playing, so presentation could show as much or little as necessary to keep the BBC1 schedule on track. No chance of that tonight, you’ll sit and listen to Bryan Ferry whistling for three minutes and you will enjoy it. Back to relative normality next week; sorry about that.

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