Depeche Mode

“You’ve got to get up to get down” – Top of the Pops, 25 June 1981

Simon BatesRush rush, busy busy, rush rush, busy busy! A combination of a condensed thirty minute show due to Wimbledon fortnight, the continuing lack of a proper opening sequence and a poorly chosen first song with a short intro means that poor Simon Bates has to forego his usual measured delivery and barely has time to bark “Busy programme, here’s Gillan, no laughing matter, to kick off Top of the Pops!” before we’re into the first act. Still, the unfortunate audience members crammed in under the video screen next to Simes – his exciting, colourful striped shirt hidden discreetly beneath his regulation beige jacket – probably aren’t too worried as it means they only have to stand in his vicinity for three seconds before he’s whisked off to do the next link. Every cloud and all that.

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

GILLAN – No Laughing in Heaven (#32)

GillanOf course, with Simes at the helm, it’s never quite clear if what’s coming out of his mouth is a knowing twist on the facts or just blatant nonsense, so we can’t tell if he thinks Gillan’s latest hit really is called No Laughing Matter or if he just doesn’t find the band’s rarely-heard bawdy humorous side to his taste. Could legitimately be either. Anwyay, here’s Ian Gillan and his always available band, who seem to be on Top of the Pops more often than the logo at this point. No Laughing in Heaven starts out like it’s going to be a warning of the dangers of sin – “I was a wild man,” Gillan informs us, “drinkin’, smokin’ messin’ around with women, lots of women… no, not swimmin’! Women! Women! The last point is emphasised with a bras d’honneur from Gillan, albeit the British version which means “Wahey!” rather than the one in use elsewhere which means “Up yours!” So Ian renounces his decadent past, snuffs it and ascends to Heaven, only to discover that Heaven is actually an austere, humourless place and not conducive to any kind of partying. A cautionary tale, then – follow the straight and narrow and go to Heaven with a monumentally pissed off Ian Gillan, or enjoy yourself and go to Hell with the rest of the band. Except maybe Colin Towns, who’s playing keyboards on a church organ so may yet be saved.

ELAINE PAIGE – Memory (#9)

Elaine PaigeSo either it’s really humid in the studio tonight (perhaps a result of the “demonic flames” special effect superimposed over Ian Gillan) or someone has decided that a smear of Vaseline on the camera lens would improve Simes’s appearance no end. It does make him harder to see, so that’s something. Anyway, you’ll be glad to know that “Elaine Paige, the Evita lady, has finally made it,” according to Bates, for whom 20 months in the lead role of a major West End musical and a Laurence Olivier Award mean nothing until you’ve had a top ten hit (but then he thinks it’s at number 6 this week; his cue cards must be upside down). This is a second showing of the strange video clip from two weeks ago which requires Elaine to sing her song while walking down an indoor street lined with cats eyes (not real ones, despite the oblique reference to the song’s origins) and finish the song by sitting on a dustbin. Despite having apparently “made it”, Paige’s only other top forty hits would be the deathless I Know Him So Well with Barbara Dickson in 1985 and a re-recording of Memory (to tie in with the film version of Cats) which reached number 36 in 1998.

Related:  "Following the footsteps of a rag doll dance" - Top of the Pops, 4 June 1981

KIRSTY MacCOLL – There’s a Guy Works Down the Chip Shop Swears He’s Elvis (#40)

Kirsty MacColl“There’s a lady around who’s doing a kinda different song, a kinda different sound as well.” While you’re parsing that sentence here’s Kirsty MacColl with her first hit single but not her first TOTP appearance – those of you with good memories will recall she took the place of one of Jona Lewie’s backing singers on his first performance of You’ll Always Find Me In The Kitchen At Parties last year. Kirsty seems to be one of those acts who should have been much more successful than she was, but always seemed to be thwarted by record company politics or record distributors going on strike just as her 1979 single They Don’t Know was about to hit the shops. At this moment, though, for once the stars were in alignment and Kirsty found herself with a hit single. Despite Simes’s promise of a “kinda different sound” it actually fits perfectly with the Matchbox-led rockabilly revival of recent months, although the presence of a black guitarist in a massive stetson wouldn’t have pleased many Confederate flag wavers. Bates’s prediction that the record was “going to go into the top ten immediately” also turned out to be wrong as it only climbed as high as number 14. Still, apart from that, well done Simes, spot on.

THE EVASIONS – Wikka Wrap (#31)

The EvasionsThis, on the other hand, is “kinda different”: permanently leisure-suited journalist and broadcaster Alan Whicker, known for his series of travelogue documentaries Whicker’s World, comes to the TOTP studio to narrate an in-depth 3 minute documentary about “Funk: where rhythm is life and life is rhythm, man.” Of course it’s not the real Alan Whicker but composer Graham de Wilde doing a reasonable impersonation. His vocal mimicry and delivery of “some of the lingua franca of the funk business” works well over a proper BritFunk Moment™ which owes a significant debt to Tom Browne’s Funkin’ For Jamaica but visually he resembles an unwell Michael Fish, which rather spoils the effect. Still, in a vintage/terrible (delete as appropriate) year for novelty records Wikka Wrap was better thought out and less irritating than most and made it to number 20; it gained a new life fifteen years later when it was sampled on Coolio’s hit 1, 2, 3, 4 (Sumpin’ New). Meanwhile, in a bizarre twist of fate, a piece of music de Wilde wrote as part of his day job was adopted as the theme to the 1984 series of Whicker’s World and another piece of the puzzle of the general interconnectedness of everything in the universe fell satisfyingly into place.

RANDY CRAWFORD – You Might Need Somebody (#28)

Randy Crawford“Three months ago he was out of work, now he’s got a hit single!” That’s not what it says on his website, Simes, but obviously you know best. On with the first part of the chart then, including Tom Tom Club at number 30 whom Bates announces with the emphasis on the second word as if it were a man called Tom whose surname was Tomclub. Which it isn’t. This tedious statutory requirement over with, Simes burbles at great length about Randy Crawford at number 28, “a great example of ladies being back in the charts again,” because we all remember how bad things were when female singers were banned from the charts. This is another showing of Randy’s performance from two weeks ago but, like the Human League, she’s fallen foul of bad scheduling and all four of her other TOTP appearances this year are Yewtreed, so this is the last time we’ll see her in the BBC Four run unless by some miracle they make it as far as 1987. “That really does show how many good ladies there are in the charts and how many good records there are by ladies.” Please, Simon, do yourself a favour and stop talking.

Related:  Off The Chart: 13 May 1980

DEPECHE MODE – New Life (#43)

Depeche ModeAfter the middle section of the chart Simes has the pleasure of introducing us to a new band and cops all the stick for mispronouncing them as “Depeshay Mode”, although everyone did it at the time and it took a good few months, if not years, for the realisation that it was “depeche” and not “depeché” to sink in. So, with oscilloscope traces overlaid on the picture and a radio cassette recorder startlingly similar to one my grandad used to own propped up on a table at the back of the set, Depeche Mode make their TOTP début looking like they’ve found a box of random leather goods in the corridor and decided to try them on. Received wisdom is that the band started out looking and sounding impossibly twee before slowly metamorphosing into the stadium rock behemoth we now know and love, but in fact they’re more readily identifiable as Depeche Mode here than at any other point over the next year and a half as they found themselves blundering down an increasingly fruitless pure pop route before backtracking and starting to bang bits of metal together. Dave Gahan even started wearing a bow tie, for Christ’s sake. No such shenanigans here though, just classic synthpop with a slightly sinister edge.

MICHAEL JACKSON – One Day In Your Life (#1)

Legs & CoThe top ten then, with Hazel O’Connor still only in still photo form (for which there must surely be some explanation, it can’t be coincidence every week) and Simes informing us that “the Evita lady, Elaine Paige, is back in the top ten” even though this was her first ever week in the top ten and Bates himself was marvelling that she’d “finally made it” not twenty minutes ago. All sorts of commotion at the top of the chart this week as Smokey Robinson’s Being With You has been knocked off the top by a six year old Michael Jackson remnant, still the only time in UK chart history that a Motown single has replaced another Motown single at number 1, so to celebrate this momentous occasion… enter Limbs & Co! Hang on, didn’t they “dance” to this three weeks ago? Yep, they did, but Jacko obviously hasn’t made a video and certainly isn’t going to waste his time promoting some detritus from his old label, even if it has given him his first solo number 1 hit, so Flick Colby gets another crack at it and comes up with exactly the same routine but with Limbs Etc in proper frocks instead of recycled Domestos bottles. That done, Simes makes his excuses and disappears into the crowd like a rubbish magician as everyone dances to Quincy Jones’s Razzamatazz, including some fairly shonky camera work towards the end but don’t worry, that will never go out on air.

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