TOTP 3rd MAR 1983

Its March 1983 and I am 14 soon to be 15 and am undergoing a full blown pop obsession. Radio 1 is permanently on in my bedroom and TOTP has become as important to me as breathing. So it’s time once more to dip into the chocolate box of delights that was the Top 40 way back when….

We’re back with David “Kid” Jensen and his mate John Peel who have now established themselves as a permanent DJ pairing. You can see that they are desperately trying to subvert the TOTP brand and format with some irreverent and witty banter (nobody would have called it “bantz” back then). Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. The opening introduction falls into the latter category for me. Witness…”We’re the joy boys of radio…” (Peel) “…chasing electrons to and fro” (Jensen) and then they do some sort of pre-rehearsed doo wop finger clicking action into the first artist Icehouse. It doesn’t impress me now, I wonder if it did 34 years ago….

Despite international recognition everywhere else, this was pretty much it for Icehouse in the UK in terms of sales success. They grazed the Top 40 later in the decade with “Crazy” but even that took a couple of releases to trouble the chart compliers. I was never sure why it didn’t happen for them. The songs are good, a charismatic good looking front man…bloody British public. Can’t trust us to ever make sensible choices…

The first video of the night comes from Forrest. Who? Come on… we all remember Forrest don’t we? No not of the Gump variety ( yes I know I mentioned a chocolate box in the introduction but it’s so not him). Forrest! Rock the Boat! That guy! OK – you could be forgiven for forgetting Forrest – he had two chart hits in 1983 with fairly faithful covers of some disco classics and that was it. Move along, nothing to see here….apart from the video below if you must….

Far more interesting though is the next single which continues to intrigue me some 34 years after its release. OMD were well known to me as a school pal had bought their previous two singles “Joan of Arc” and “Maid of Orleans” and he played them to me when I was round at his house one afternoon. Before we go any further just let that last sentence sink in …a Top 40 act that released not one but TWO songs, back to back, about a 15th century teenage girl who was canonised as a Roman Catholic saint. These guys were obviously not your average pop stars. They followed those two singles up with this track “Genetic Engineering” and its such a strange song, especially so in this purest of pop years. Its full of electronic blips and bleeps and disembodied voices and the song structure is utterly beguiling  to me. It doesn’t follow the standard verse – chorus – middle eight – format. The chorus, if there is one, is performed here through a megaphone and the lyrics are ” Babies. Mother. Hospital. Scissors.Creature. Judgement. Butcher. Engineer.”. WTF?! For years and years I was sure one of the words was “bastard” as well but apparently not. What surprised me watching this back was that Andy McCluskey is playing a guitar which seems a bit conventional for such a …well…unconventional song. OMD would continue to feature in the charts and my life for the whole of the decade.

A quick chart run down leads us into an all girl act. Its the 80s so it can only be Bananarama. Now remember I am 14 at this point so these girls made a big impression on me. I knew of them from their collaborations with Fun Boy Three but here they are out on their own with “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye”. Which one was my favourite? It was always Keren but looking back now I can see that Siobhan was the really interesting one and indeed she would go onto have the most interesting career of the three I would wager. What’s great about them is their total lack of choreography and professionalism. Sure, there are some pre-rehearsed moves in the performance but they are hardly pulled off with any precision and they just look like they are three mates having a laugh and not believing their luck.

Watching this back it reminded me of a long lost LP that I bought  – a compilation that pre-dated even the very first Now album. It took me just 2 minutes to find it on the internet from the most cursory of searches. And here it is…and sure enough there are Bananarama on the front cover. 2591807So I did own “Na Na …” via this little gem. The track listing is …not the best including as it does Galaxy and …sweet Jesus..The Kids From Fame! However it does include some great acts like Heaven 17, Fun Boy Three and of course Nick Heyward. There are also some non hits in there like “You disappear from view” by Teardrop Explodes, “Tragedy and Mystery” by China Crisis and very interestingly “A girl called Johnny” by The Waterboys. This last song was worth big credibility bonus points at school.

Anyway back to TOTP and Peel does a quick chart run down. Nothing special about this of course except check out the picture of Haysi Fantaysee at No 20. Is it me or does Jeremy Healey look like one of the Na’vi from the film Avatar?

We are then into a big soul ballad by Patti Austin and James Ingram with “Baby come to me”. It did nothing for me in 1983 and it does nothing for me now.

Next up is a reprise of that new fangled but oh so exciting Video Top 10! This would have thrilled me no end back then I’m sure. Worthy of comment here and not having been mentioned before we have “Sweet Dreams” by Eurythmics (not The Eurythmics please note!) at No 5. The video, on reflection, is absolutely bonkers including as it does Dave Stewart prancing about with a cello in a field with a cow. After the gender bending Boy George just a few months previously, we now had its “negative” if you like with the orange cropped Annie Lennox coming on like a man. You cannot explain to the kids today how newsworthy this was back in 1983.

At No 2 is “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler. Peel makes a nice little gag that references Play School as he introduces it “Lets go through the round window today…”as the camera zooms into the gothic mansion where the video is set. This video is also barnpot nonsense. Why the Hell are there American Footballers in it? It would do the trick for Bonnie though as she would ultimately go onto claim the No 1 spot from this week’s incumbent Michael Jackson and his “Bille Jean” song.

Once again this week there is no fade out music.

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 about 2 weeks from now so you’ll have to work fast if you want to chortle at the wit of Jensen and Peel and I can’t find the full programme on YouTube.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b08d7y3l/top-of-the-pops-03031983

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

Icehouse

 

Hey Little Girl

 

Via iTunes much later in life

2

Forrest Rock the Boat

 

Nah!

 

3

OMD Genetic Engineering This is in my box of 7” singles but it may be my wife’s copy

 

4

Bananarama Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye It was on my copy of the Chart Stars cassette so technically yes

 

5

James Ingram and Patti Austin Baby Come To Me No way

6

Eurythmics Sweet Dreams On CD later in life

7

Bonnie Tyler Total Eclipse of the Heart Not a chance – the song of hers on Chart Stars was the non charting follow up Faster Than the Speed of Night

8

Michael Jackson Billie Jean

 

No

 

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