OK so its time for another spin in the TOTP time machine and we’re approaching the end of January 1983 now. What was my 14 year old self up to? Not a lot probably. I didn’t keep a diary so I have no evidence of what was occupying me but I’m guessing I may have been coming to terms with Haircut 100 splitting up (remember I’m all about pop at this point). However, at school I would be making out that it was the break up of The Jam that was concerning me which sounded way cooler.
Anyway, here comes another episode of TOTP to cheer me up and this week the presenters are Richard Skinner and Simon “Simes” Bates. Skinner is dressed in a horrible yellow and white jumper and is the definition of “uncool” (even back then) and Bates has some sort of cheap looking brown leather jacket on zipped up as if he’s just about to nip out. They both look weird. These are the guys delivering this week’s hottest and hippest sounds into our living rooms? I doubt I would have clocked this back in 1983 as certainly my own wardrobe was nothing to write home about.
“Have we got a show for you today…everything from Bauhaus to The Beatles” announces Skinner. The Beatles? Eh? More of that later. Anyway, were straight into a studio performance with Level 42 and “Chinese Way”. Before they became a byword for all that is naff and nasty about the 80s, these guys were briefly cool and this was a tune to my 14 year old ears. It sounded quite exotic – maybe it was the Far Eastern theme. You can’t mention Level 42 without referring to Mark King’s slap bass style but that’s not what is standing out to me as I watch this back from 2017. Its keyboard player Mike Lindup’s astonishingly awful moustache. See for yourself…
Back to Skinner for a link to the first video of the night and its from the Belle Stars. To his side stands an audience member fully made up as Boy George – there was a lot of this going on round about this time. The Belle Stars offering is basically a straight performance video with some laser effects – probably quite a thing back in 1983 – and some matching white suits. My 14 year old hormones drew me to the blonde guitarist (Sarah Jane) at the time but its the other guitarist who does the speaky bits (Stella?) who seems utterly beautiful now.
Then we’re back with Simes and he’s introducing an act that I cannot recall at all. Central Line with “Nature Boy” anyone? Bates makes a right meal of the link, name checking Bobby Darin, Nat King Cole and George Benson and then makes a point of telling us what the name of the instrument is that the lead singer plays in the song’s instrumental break. Except he seems to forget what its called at the crucial moment and then remembers in the nick of time leading to an oddly stilted delivery (“it’s a …..serpent”). As for the act, well it’s all really forgettable stuff hence presumably why I couldn’t remember it.
Next up its another video but there’s a very good reason why the band can’t be in the studio as as it’s from The Beatles. The Beatles? In 1983? Yep – EMI were doing some sort of 20 year anniversary re-release campaign. We’d already had “Love Me Do” back in the charts at the end of 1982 and it was followed in Jan 1983 with “Please Please Me”. The video is basically footage of the song performed live at a concert but interspersed with some bits of clips of the lads arseing about. I can’t find that particular promotional video anywhere on the internet but I found the live concert bit. Incidentally, Richard Skinner doesn’t seem to know who’s who in The Beatles (that’s The Beatles as in the most famous band of all time) as he says “Here’s John Lennon…” when introducing the video which clearly begins with Paul McCartney talking to the crowd.
After that bit of nostalgia, we’re right back bang up to date with “new” Liverpool band China Crisis. Bates does this link and seems to be trying to proclaim himself as some sort of champion of the group by saying he’s been playing them a lot on his radio show. Then, bizarrely, he says “see what you think of them when you see them…”. No doubt my 14 year old self must have been thinking “Wow! What visual treat awaits us here then? This is going to be amazing…” Cue two fresh faced lads in casual (some may even say boring) clothes with a keyboard and a guitar.Hmm…hardly Kajagoogoo are they? Now don’t get me wrong, I loved China Crisis (still do) but they were hardly the most exciting act on stage were they? Bates is quite creepy throughout the programme and none more so than here when he finishes speaking and then just stares smiling down the lens of the camera with a spotlight on his ghostly face as the camera pulls back until the spotlight fades and he just ..well…f***s off basically. All very odd.
The weirdo presenters are reunited for the next intro when they make the most tenuous of links to the next act complete with a “WooHoo” from Skinner. Cringe! And the next act is….Wham! with “Wham Rap”. Back of the net! The 1983 version of me already knew about Wham thanks to their debut hit “Young guns (go for it)” back in late ’82 and this was the re-released follow up. Now of course we all know now about Andrew Ridgeley’s lack of input to to Wham!’s success but back then I don’t remember thinking “What is it that the other one does exactly?” even though the his lack of involvement was there in front of my eyes. Bit of dancing, bit of whooping.. that’s it. It so obvious looking back now that George Michael was the talent. But hey, this was 1983 and I was 14 and prepared to accept anything that was served up to me in the name of pop.
Up next a complete curveball…Bauhaus with “Lagartija Nick”. Now I knew of Bauhaus via their cover of Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust” but this was something else altogether. A massive swipe of Goth Rock complete with swaggering performance from the androgynous Pete Murphy. A bit of Wikipedia searching reveals this only got to number 44 in the charts so their record plugger must have done some job in getting this onto the very mainstream (at this time) TOTP. It really jars even 34 years later. Simes and Skinner look distinctly bemused and embarrassed afterwards.
Things are calmed down a bit after this with a rather nice ballad from Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes as they warble their way through that song from the film An Officer and a Gentleman. Warble might be a bit unfair as this is a rare “live” vocal on TOTP and its pretty good to be fair once you’ve got past Cocker’s trademark arms waving style of delivery.
Skinner then introduces a video from Dire Straits although he gets the song title wrong by saying “Twisting at the pool” instead of “Twisting by the pool”. You wouldn’t think it would be asking too much of the presenters to get the artist and song details right would you? You had one job….
We’re nearing the climax now as Bates does the Top 10 countdown revealing that Men at Work are the new number one this week. This was the very pinnacle of Men at Work’s career with a simultaneous UK and US number one single. Fast forward 12 months to Jan ’84 and they couldn’t buy a hit record.
The fade out music is Eddie Grant with “Electric Avenue” and that’s your lot for this episode. Looking back now, I am struck by how utterly awful the presenters are. They seem like really old men back even back then. Bates was 36 and Skinner 31 at the time of the broadcast which may seem like pensioners in today’s ageist era of Radio 1 where anyone over 25 is officially banished but even so…
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 won’t work come 20th Feb so you’ll have to work fast if you want to be freaked out by the creepiness of Bates and Skinner and I can’t find the full programme on YouTube.
However for posterity’s sake I include the Top 40 run down below also.
|Order of appearance||Artist||Song||Did I buy it?|
|1||Level 42||Chinese Way||No|
|2||Belle Stars||Sign of the Times||Not at the time but via iTunes much later in life|
|3||Central Line||Nature Boy||Did anybody?|
|4||The Beatles||Please please me||Not this 7′ but who doesn’t own the Beatles Red and Blue albums|
|5||China Crisis||Christian||Not at the time but I have the album (on vinyl)|
|6||Wham!||Wham Rap||Not in 1983 but we’ve all got a little bit of Wham in our lives haven’t we?|
|7||Bauhaus||Lagartija Nick||No – bit too out there for my fledgling pop tastes|
|8||Joe Coker and Jennifer Warnes||Up where we belong||No|
|9||Dire Straits||Twisting by the pool||Nope|
|10||Men at Work||Down Under||It was on my copy of Now Vol 1 so technically yes|
|11||Eddy Grant||Electric Avenue||No|