It’s Chriiiiiiiiiiiiistmas!! Well, nearly and only in TOTP repeats land. After four consecutive shows throughout November we have skipped a couple and find ourselves on the brink of Christmas 1984. To clarify, this is not the Xmas TOTP show for that year though – presenter Simon Bates is very clear on this point although it “is a Christmassy atmosphere” he admits and to that end the first act tonight is Roy Wood doing ” I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday”. I don’t remember this being in the charts in 1984 at all. Bates informs us that the song was also re-released three years earlier (I don’t recall that either). I do remember that Slade pulled off a similar trick in 1983 when they rushed out “Merry Christmas Everybody” on the back of the huge success of their “My Oh My” single and took it back into the Top 20. Presumably there was some similar marketing strategy going on behind the idea to put out ” I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday” again.
This is not Wizzard though – this is head wizzard (a warlock?) Roy Wood out on his own backed by the Kempsey school choir that Janice Long is quick to ensure gets a name check. Kempsey you say Janice? That’s near to Worcester where I grew up. How come a school choir from Worcestershire were on TOTP? Ah well, now there’s a story….apparently the original 1973 recording featuring the Stockland Green Bilateral School from Birmingham was lost so when Roy Wood wanted to release the song again in 1981, the had to re-record it from scratch. As it was recorded in Muff (that’s his name OK?!) Murfin’s studio in Kempsey, he persuaded the local school choir to sing on it. So when you hear the song on the radio this Christmas, as you surely will, it’s the 1981 version and not the 1973 original. Or is it? If you want to read all about the myths behind this Christmas classic here’s the link….
For the record this 1984 release reached No 23 in the charts beating the 1981 version (No 41) but coming nowhere near the original’s No 4 placing.
OK – enough of all that. What’s next? Oh crap! It’s “We All Stand Together” by Paul McCartney and the Frog Chorus!!! I have tried to wipe this one from my memory but what I do recall of it was that it was god-awful. It was virtually a novelty record wasn’t it? Wasn’t it also something to do with Rupert the Bear. Let’s have a look…
Yes I was right. It featured on the animated film Rupert and the Frog Song which was produced by Paul McCartney. The film was released theatrically as an accompaniment to McCartney’s feature film Give My Regards to Broad Street. Macca must have been a big Rupert fan as he acquired the rights to the film the day after the break up of the Beatles and had been planning his Rupert movie since then.
It was regarded as a joke record at my school and anyone who displayed even the slightest sign that they didn’t mind it was instantly dismissed as feeble -minded. Harsh maybe but those were the rules back in the day.
Also Janice Long really can’t do an impression of a frog. It’s “ribbit” not “nidip” Janice! The YouTube clip seems to be the whole film so fill your boots if that’s your sort of thing….
A proper song now to rescue us from novelty and Christmas records…here’s Bronski Beat with “It Ain’t Necessarily So”. This really is a proper song as well being a George and Ira Gershwin composition from their opera Porgy and Bess.
I was very take it or leave it about this one at the time (philistine that I was) – it just seemed… well…boring I guess compared to the Hi N-R-G of “Why?” or the haunting melody of ‘Smalltown Boy”. It isn’t of course, it’s great and a very brave choice of single by the band which I can now appreciate. Hell’s teeth it has a clarinet in it! How many hits around this time featured a clarinet?!
Janice Long advises us to check out the B-side called “Close To The Edge”. Well if it’s good enough for Janice…
So what did we think? Yeah, I’m good thanks Janice. Cheers anyway.
“It Ain’t Necessarily So” peaked at No 16 and would be the last single release to feature the original trio of Jimmy Somerville, Larry Steinbachek and Steve Bronski (they released a cover of Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” early in 1985 with Marc Almond sharing vocal duties with Somerville).
Right then…here’s Spandau Ballet with “Round And Round” which as well as being the 4th and final single from their ‘Parade’ album is also a convenient segue into me talking about attending my first ever live concert.
Yes the first gig that I ever attended was Spandau Ballet – what of it?! A quick search of the internet suggests that it was Sunday 16th Dec (so just 4 days prior to this TOTP broadcast) and was at the Birmingham NEC. How did it come about? My elder brother had a mate who, unlike most of his friends, was not a complete Paul Weller superfan and was a pop kid like me (despite being a couple of years older). He was going with some of his friends (but not my brother) so he got me a ticket and I tagged along with them.
I remember thinking I needed to buy some new clothes specifically to go to the gig so I duly trotted off to my local trendy clothes emporium one Friday after school and came back with some sort of grey canvas jacket and trouser combo. It wasn’t a great look although I probably thought it was at the time.
Finally the big day arrived and off I went with my brother’s mate and his group of friends…and that group included at least two girls in it! Bloody Hell! I hadn’t bargained on that or practised beforehand behaving like a cool person. Why it hadn’t occurred to me that a group of pop fans going to a Spandau Ballet concert wouldn’t include some girls in it I’m not sure. Anyway, I think I pulled it off or, as is more likely, they were nice girls who took pity on me and talked to me and tried to include me in the group. One of them really fancied Tony Hadley I recall.
As for the gig itself, I can remember very little about it other than there was no support and the venue lights going down and some spots starting to swirling around the arena heralding the arrival of the band. After that, I can’t recall anything though I’m sure they must have played all the hits including “Round And Round” which was my brother’s mate’s favourite. I feel sure I would have bought a tour programme but I can’t find any such thing in my possessions and despite many searches I can’t find any footage of that particular concert out there on the internet. Some things will still have to just be accessed by memory (however limited) and maybe that’s good thing. We can’t have all our memories subverted by YouTube can we?
As for “Round And Round” the song, I liked it. To my ears it sounded classy with that single synthesiser keyboard opening, those lush harmonies, the chunky but warm guitar line leading into that oh so melodic chorus. Not everyone agreed – a review in No 1 magazine described it as “well crafted tedium” and it was certainly the case that Gary Kemp was well into his artisan songwriter phase (“we’re the artisans and we’ve been crafted” sings Tony Hadley on this very song).
And the video? I can only assume that they were short on time due to the Parade tour and they had to dispense with a huge cinematic video the like of which had been produced for the previous two singles “I’ll Fly For You” and “Highly Strung”. Apart from some stilted performance shots of the band, its all down to the creative vision of the director with most of the action revolving around a classroom meets Alice in Wonderland concept. You can imagine Gary Kemp seeing the rushes and saying “Tell you what mate, do it all in black and white. Looks a bit arty then dunnit”.
The band seem to be in their paisley silk period clothes wise that seemed to be briefly popular around this time (see also Thompson Twins and Frankie Goes To Hollywood). Damn! That was the look I should have gone for when purchasing my concert outfit!
Right – that’s already 1500 words and I’m only halfway through the acts on tonight’s show. Time to speed up. Here’s a song that the least said about the better – “Soul Deep” by The Council Collective. This was essentially a charity record (another one!) put together by Paul Weller. Whilst its intentions were laudable (raising funds for striking miners and their families), the song itself was dreadful. The lyrics certainly didn’t pull any punches (“There’s brother ‘gainst brother, there’s fathers against sons, but as for solidarity, I don’t see none“) but where was the tune Paul?! And nobody needs Paul Weller rapping in their lives!
Simon Bates introduces the song by asking us to do some star spotting…what?! It’s just the Style Council with Junior “Mama Used To Say” Giscombe and Jimmy Ruffin. OK- Ruffin is a soul legend but it’s hardly Band Aid is it? The song would peak at No 24 but sadly the miner’s strike would continue in its misery until March the following year.
Simon Bates in correct chart prediction shock! Yes, Bates predicted something music related that actually happened. Whilst introducing “I Want To Know What Love Is” by Foreigner, he called it a future No1 and he was right! It wouldn’t make No 1 until the new year when I think it might have been the first new chart -topper after Band Aid, taking 5 weeks on the Top 40 and 7 in all from release date to get there. I must admit I didn’t remember it being around as a single in 1984 – its a 1985 tune in my head. I didn’t know much about Foreigner bar that they were the band who did that “Waiting For A Girl Like You” song a few years before and this new one was unlikely to convert me into a fan. It’s a bit of a dirge and seems to plod along for an eternity before it all gets resolved with the gospel choir finale. The only thing that is interesting about it is that Tom Bailey of the Thompson Twins plays keyboards on it which I had forgotten until Janice Long’s reminder.
Talking of whom….here is Tom and the other Thompsons (or should that be Twins?) with “Lay Your Hands On Me”. This was the band’s 8th consecutive Top 40 hit and their 5th in 1984 (if you include “Hold Me Now” ). They were at the top of their game and yet…it could be argued that this was the point where the rot was starting to set in. Previous single “Sister Of Mercy” had stalled at No 11 halting their run of Top 5 hits but then it was the 4th single from the album so that could be explained away.
However, “Lay Your Hands On Me” was brand new material – the first single from a forthcoming album – and although it stuck rigidly to their successful pop formula (it’s basically a re-write of “Hold Me Now”), it only made No 13 on the charts. Maybe it had just got caught up in the Xmas rush or maybe it was the Band Aid effect…or maybe it was something more terminal.
Unfortunately for the band it was the final theory. The album took another 9 months to arrive and by that point it was all a bit too late. That album (“Here’s To Future Days” ) did achieve gold sales but it was a massive step down from the double platinum “Into The Gap” and the band’s fortunes were never to revive. For the record, I quite liked “Lay Your Hands On Me”.
And so to the No 1 and it is of course Band Aid. We all know the story and have all seen the video hundreds of times but it’s still a good Christmas song (certainly the best of all the other versions of it) and you can’t explain to people who weren’t there at the time or who were too young to appreciate it what a spectacle it was to see all those huge pop stars on the same record. Wikipedia advises that Rick Parfitt and Francis Rossi of Status Quo recorded some vocals but they were deemed unusable. You can make your own jokes up.
Did I buy it? Of course I did – I had a social conscience thank you! Years later at Poly the subject of Band Aid came up in a conversation where someone in the group admitted he hadn’t bought the single and had simply taped it off the radio. We were all appalled.
For some reason the play out music this week is “Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker Jr despite it having already reached its commercial peak and was now coming down the charts. I blame Simon Bates and his Christmas office party vibe.
|Order of appearance||Artist||Song||Did I Buy it?|
|Wizzard||I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday||Not in 1984 but we all have this on a Xmas CD somewhere don’t we?|
|Paul McCartney and the Frog Chorus||We All Stand Together||“Isn’t that Frog Chorus song brilliant?”…said nobody ever.|
|Bronski Beat||It Ain’t Necessarily So||No|
|Spandau Ballet||Round And Round||No but I had the LP “Parade”|
|The Council Collective||Soul Deep||I’m guessing my brother bought it out of loyalty or maybe due to political conscience but probably never played it|
|Foreigner||I Want To Know What Love Is||Nope|
|Thompson Twins||Lay Your Hands On Me||Nah|
|Band Aid||Do They Know It’s Christmas?||Of course|
|Ray Parker Jnr||Ghostbusters||Nay, nay and thrice nay|
OK – here’s the thing – the TOTP episodes are only available on iPlayer for a limited amount of time so the link to the programme below only works for about another month so you’ll have to work fast if you want to see Simon “Nostradamus” Bates in action as I can’t find the full programme on YouTube.
I make no claim to the rights of this show and all ownership and contents including logos and graphics belongs totally to the BBC.
Some bed time reading?