TOTP 23rd MAR 1983

When I started off doing this blog about TOTP broadcasts from 1983, I had no idea how time consuming it would be – it’s like having a second job trying to keep up with BBC4’s schedule. The watching, the writing, the remembering; I’m nearly punch drunk with it all…and talking of punches….

This week’s show kicks off with Joboxers and “Boxerbeat” after a mortifyingly awful intro from this weeks’ presenters “Kid” Jensen and John Peel who inform us that this is a…wait for it…”live” broadcast (or at least it was at the time). I’m never quite sure why we are meant to be enthralled by “live” versions of shows that are not normally broadcast in this way. For example when Eastenders does a live show. I’m sure if you were actually on the set and saw all the planning that goes into executing a live broadcast it would be fascinating but apart from the odd muffed line the finished product is nearly identical to what we always see. Anyway, back in 1983, I’m not sure that the 14 year old me would have got the significance of this. Maybe I thought all the acts would be performing “live” which clearly they are not…

As for Joboxers, I remember liking this at the time. Its a real foot stomper with a driving back beat that never quits until the last note. Looking back now I can see how influenced they were by Dexys both in sound and image but I don’t think I picked up on this at the time. Its a really energetic performance especially from front man Dig Wayne. The band’s image has an “On the Waterfront” theme and I remember being impressed by the boxing plaster accessory Wayne has. Indeed, so much so that I thought I would try out an accessory of my own to complete my “look”. I went for a short pencil stuck behind my ear which made me look more like a joiner than a Joboxer. Needless to say I ditched this idea after just one outing. As for Joboxers, this debut single would propel them to No 3 in the Top 40 and we would see them again throughout 1983 but, like Kajagoogoo, they would be gone come the year’s end.

A promo video is up next and it’s a biggie…”Let’s Dance” by David Bowie. Its a massive song and a massive moment of the 80s as Bowie is back and with probably one of the most memorable songs and videos of the entire decade. Not that I knew much about Bowie back then. I mean I knew he was a huge name and he’d been around for ages but I knew very little of his back catalogue at this stage. My God though Bowie looks cool in this even with peroxide blonde hair…

Meanwhile back in the studio, here come Orange Juice with “Rip it up”. This is a belter of a tune and marked the commercial peak for Edwyn Collins and his mates who despite a back catalogue of consistent quality would never again trouble the Top 40 chart compilers. Edywn would of course return in the mid 90s with the massive and quite unexpected commercial success of “A girl like you” before suffering two cerebral hemorrhages which temporarily halted his musical career whilst he under went rehabilitation. If you get a chance read his partner Grace’s account of this traumatic period of his life “Falling and Laughing: The Restoration of Edwyn Collins”. I’m not sure the rather literal interpretation of the song by the TOTP dancers does anything for the performance here though.

After the very fresh faced Mr Collins and co comes a bit of an old stager in Leo Sayer. Back in 1983 I would have known Leo Sayer as one of those artists who was a staple of the light entertainment schedules although to be fair to him he had enjoyed enormous success both here and in the US during the 70s with his disco styled offerings and big ballads. This single, “Orchard Road”, fell into the latter category and in truth is a bit of a dirge and not well remembered I would wager. My memory of this song is of a playground discussion where we all dissed poor Leo to high heaven at which point Mark Seckham felt the need to advise us that his Mum was a Sayer fan. This of course only validated everything we had been saying. Nobody wanted to admit to enjoying music their parents liked!

 OK – the next act have arrived and they’ve brought some bagpipes with them! Well not really  – it is of course Big Country and their single “Fields of Fire (400 miles)” which the music press dubbed “bagpipe rock” presumably because of their squealing guitars and out and out Scottishness that they wore like a badge of honour long with their trademark checked shirts. This is a great performance again only marred by the incongruous TOTP dancers, some of whom seem to be doing a barn dance including a spot of dosie doe-ing. It dawns on me now that I saw two of tonights acts live in the 80s …at the same concert. In 1987 David Bowie played Roker Park in Sunderland where I was at Poly. It was a big deal for such a legend to play Sunderland (as opposed to the more fashionable Newcastle) but in truth, it wasn’t Bowie’s finest hour. He came on late and his first words to the crowd were “Good evening Newcastle”(oh dear). In my view (whisper it) he was outplayed that night by Big Country who supported him.

A quick chart run down follows and then….a seminal moment in my pop following career as Nick Heyward performs “Whistle Down the Wind”. I love Nick Heyward – a deeply underrated musical treasure and this was his first solo single since leaving Haircut 100. Now remember I said earlier that this was a “live’ broadcast of TOTP but it certainly didn’t mean the artists themselves were performing live? Here’s the proof as Nick, concentrating hard on looking all sulky and serious, misses his cue and forgets to mime the opening line! To his credit he takes it in his stride but as his first public appearance as a solo artist, it’s not a great start. 1983 was Nick’s best year commercially but my following of his career  would sustain throughout the 80s and is still going strong today.

Another big moment follows Nick as after another chart rundown we have Altered Images with “Don’t talk to me about love”. Having fallen away slightly in terms of sales, Clare Grogan and her pals returned with this slick piece of majestic pure pop. Ah…Clare Grogan (sigh) – if you are a male in your late 40s reading this, you will also no doubt be staring whistfully at the screen . Clare was very…err important in a lot of young boys adolescence I’m guessing and this performance did nothing to dent that. It turns out she was also the muse for Spandau Ballet’s Gary Kemp to pen “True”. Get in line Gary, there’s a queue…

And so to the number one and it’s Duran Duran with “Is there something I should know?”. Now, it probably wasn’t the coolest thing to admit to liking Duran at my school (especially as it was an all boys school and this lot were seen as a teeny bop group) but there was so much more to them than that. I did like them but I kept it well off the radar of the credibility police in the playground. This was their first chart topper and it went straight in at Number 1 which was a rare phenomenon at the time. There is a school of thought that says this single signified the peak of their powers during the 80s and you can see why. It was the first release after they had gotten big with the “Rio” album so the timing was right but the song itself stands up with a strong chorus although the “nuclear war” lyric still jars. And I so wanted my hair to look like Simon’s.

The titles this week run against a performance by David Joseph. I have no idea either…


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 2 weeks so you’ll have to work fast if you want to witness those TOTP dancers totally misjudging the songs they are dancing to and I can’t find the full programme on YouTube.

However for posterity’s sake I include the Top 40 run down below.

Order of appearance Artist Song Did I buy it?






Its on an 80s compilation somewhere in my home…


David Bowie Let’s Dance


No but I couldn’t resist Modern Love from the Let’s Dance album when that came out



Orange Juice Rip it up I think its in my 7’ singles box but again might be my wife’s copy



Leo Sayer Orchard Road Did you not read this bit of the blog?!



Big Country Fields of Fire (400 miles) I have a Greatest Hits CD with it on


Nick Heyward Whistle Down the Wind Of course



Altered Images Don’t talk to me about love


I must have…surely…



Duran Duran Is there something I should know? It was on my copy of Now Vol 1 so technically yes


David Joseph Can’t hide your love No!

Some bedtime reading?



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