TOTP 10th FEB 1983

A quick recap of what is going on here. I, a 48 year old man, am reviewing the rerun TOTP broadcasts which have reached early 1983. I am doing this in a thinly veiled attempt to reclaim my youth via nostalgia and to avid the onset of a full blown mid-life crisis. Well it’s not hurting anyone and its cheaper than therapy.

So here we are in February and the resident DJ presenters this week are Janice Long and Pat Sharp. Yes, that Pat Sharp – he of the extraordinary mullet. However we join him here at a time before he has had a chance to grow it and to be fair to him, mullets are a good 18 months off being the regulation hairstyle for Britain’s young men by my reckoning (well if my own mullet adventures are anything to go by). Also, he sounds like a 12 year old child here. I’m not even sure if his balls have dropped.

First up and its the Belle Stars again. See this is the thing with the charts in the 80s – songs hung around for ages and were therefore on TOTP numerous times before reaching their peak which is what the Belle Stars are doing here as they breach the top 3 for their pinnacle chart position. When I worked in Our Price in the 90s, chart single buying was a nightmare as due to record company discounting, singles would get their peak volume of sales in the first week before the price went up the next week. Consequently, songs went straight in at number one frequently (something that was an absolute rarity in the 80s) and then fell down the charts immediately. A quick check of the charts archive shows that the Belle Stars took 6 weeks to reach No 3 and then hung around the top 40 for another 3 weeks before dropping out. Those were the days my friends…

OK – whats next? A video for the Jennifer Warnes and Joe Cocker single for the movie “An Officer and a Gentleman” . The video is basically a straight performance interspersed with clips from the film. I didn’t catch the film at the cinema at the time so I wouldn’t have clocked this but  having seen it numerous time since, the video pretty much spells out the plot of the film (complete with ending!!) which seems counterproductive to promoting the idea that people might want to go and see it. Anyway I can’t find the actual video shown on TOTP so you’ll have to watch the show on iPlayer or take my word for it.

After this we have a seminal 80s TOTP moment with the  debut of Thompson Twins! Now I know that similar to Level 42 (more of them later), this lot were slammed as being everything  that was wrong with 80s pop music. I’m not entirely sure why. Sure, some of the songs were lame, but some of them were straight up well produced pop songs like this one “Love on your side”. Was the image too much for people? Come on it was the 80s after all. Anyway judge for yourselves…

Following this we have a true legendary act. It’s only Depeche Mode! Legendary you say? Yes sir! The longevity, the worldwide sales, the constant pushing of their own musical boundaries…I had a discussion with a work colleague recently who wasn’t having it that DM were an influential band but no less a name than The Killers name check them as a source of inspiration so….Anyway back to TOTP and here they are performing “Get the balance right” – not a classic by even the most ardent of fans standards but it does the job. And hang on…who’s that 4th guy at the back? That is of course Alan Wilder who replaced Vince Clarke when he jumped ship after “Just can’t get enough”. He was my favourite band member at the time – I liked his look and he had an understated coolness about him. Wilder would remain a band member until 1995.

It’s video time next with an example of what I would come to know as American AOR but at the time all I knew was that it was that “Africa” song by some hairy guys called Toto. The video tries to be all charismatic and bewitching with some atlas, books and African masks motifs but actually the song doesn’t really benefit from any of it. I remember quite liking it at the time and it’s still very evocative of that era for me even now.

And now here’s Pat Sharp with the lamest of lame links that doesn’t even make any linguistic sense. Here it is in full…”Right, question time for you now, if you take the number 24 and turn it around you get 42, in this case Level 42!”. OK – where is the question in that? It’s a statement albeit one which makes very little sense. Basically Level 42 were at number 24 in the charts that week which is sort of like 42. That’s it. That’s the basis of the link. Bloody Hell Pat! That’s shit!  I would like to think that even my 14 year old  self (or is it 41?) would have found that cringeworthy.

A video exclusive next…and its a behemoth…”Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson. Even allowing for the fact that 34 years have passed, this apparently ground breaking video still leaves me as cold as it did back in 1983. And I was never that keen on the song either. In fact, I was never that keen on the whole “Thriller” album. So much had been written about the Michael Jackson story including the “Thriller” phenomenon that I don’t feel the need to add too much more to it here. Except…why is the video supposed to be so era defining? Is it the flag stones that light up? Is that it? Maybe the dancing was astonishing back then but the march of time has certainly jaded my take on it all.

Back in the studio now, and after we have (supposedly) lifted our jaws off the floor after Jacko’s turn, we are treated to that Central Line lot again – you know the bloke with the… err….”serpent”. By anyone’s standards this lot would be an anticlimax but this is utterly soporific. Next!

Ooh there’s lovely – those nice boys from China Crisis are back with their lilting ballad “Christian” –  “I wonder what they will wear this week?”  I no doubt wondered to myself back in 1983. Ah- they’ve turned up as trainee accountants. Still they were all about the music and not fashion weren’t they?

A quick Top 10 rundown follows  to reveal that… the Number One sound is still Men at Work. Fair dinkum mate! This was the 3rd week for them. That seemed to be the standard amount of weeks for a number one in 1983. Anything less dulled the acclaim slightly.

The fade out music is …”Jailhouse Rock ” by Elvis? “WTF!” I no doubt would not have said back in 1983 as firstly the phrase had not been invented and secondly my Mum is the biggest Elvis fan so if she was in the room at the time she would not have taken lightly my (a) swearing and (b) swearing about Elvis.

Disclaimer

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 after the next 15 days so you’ll have to work fast if you want to check out a pre-mullet (and possibly puberty) Pat Sharp and I can’t find the full programme on YouTube.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b08bqfct/top-of-the-pops-10021983

However for posterity’s sake I include the Top 40 run down below (not including video chart though).

Order of appearance Artist Song Did I buy it?

1

Belle Stars

 

Sign of the Times

 

Not at the time but much later in life via iTunes

2

Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes Up where we belong

 

Nope

 

3

Thompson Twins Love on your side I did not

 

4

Depeche Mode Get the Balance Right Not the 7” but it was on the first Greatest Hits LP I bought in 1985

 

5

Toto Africa Negative

6

Level 42 Chinese Way No

 

7

Michael Jackson Billie Jean

 

I think we know the answer is no for this one

 

8

Central Line Nature Boy What do you think

9

China Crisis Christian Not at the time but I have the album (on vinyl)

 

10

Men at Work Down Under It was on my copy of Now Vol 1 so technically yes
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