TOTP 31st MAR 1983

During the course of TOTP history there have been some iconic performances. Think Rod Stewart and The Faces doing “Maggie May” complete with John Peel on mandolin and an impromptu kick about with a football. Or Boy George and the whole gender bender controversy when Culture Club made their TOTP debut. And then there was Dexy’s Midnight Runners doing “Jackie Wilson Said” with a backdrop picture of darts player Jocky Wilson. Well, we have arrived at another such performance. Yes, it’s that episode with New Order doing a live rendition of “Blue Monday”  But we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves. First things first…

This episode’s DJ presenting twins are Richard Skinner and Steve Wright. Yes that Steve Wright. Now I have to admit that as a 14 year old I found Steve Wright funny. I did. I loved his afternoon show and I lapped up all those characters he created like Mr Angry, Dave Double Decks and Sid the Manager. Now however, I can’t stand him. He’s still on national radio (Radio 2) and he’s been phoning it in for years. Really he has. Anyway, it’s him and Skinner and the studio has been transformed into some sort of Easter fairground complete with rides. This is the height of the TOTP as “pop party” format.

Clearly wanting to subvert that format are New Order. Their single “Blue Monday”(yes yes, the biggest selling 12″ single of all time – we know!) had been around the charts for a while and when it entered the Top 10, TOTP could no longer ignore it so they got the band on. One problem though, the band, who had created quite a myth to wrap themselves in by this point, refused to mime. The solution? They would play live. That’s live as in playing and singing live! It spawned one of the seminal performances in the show’s history as the band made a right hash of the song – it really does stink the studio out. Its tinny sounding, Bernard Sumner’s vocals are weedy and strained and the band look bored and embarrassed. Thankfully its a 7″ edit that they do and not the epic 12” version  – nevertheless, if my Dad was in the room for this no doubt he will have proclaimed one of his standard sayings such as  “the bigger the rubbish, the longer it goes on”. I myself thought it sounded edgy I think.

Unusually, every artist on the show this evening are in the studio – no promo videos at all (except for the number one song) . Why? To show off the studio’ fairground design? Who knows. Anyway, it means we get to see Style Council hamming it up with “Speak like a child”. When I say “hamming it up” I mean having a private joke between themselves really. At this point the band included Tracie in their ranks before she went off to pursue her own brief solo career. I was already aware of Tracie thanks to her appearance on the last Jam Single “Beat Surrender”. Here she displays her girl next door charm with a nerd shuffle of a dance while Weller looks on amused. Apparently there was some sort of bet going on between them about doing a dance routine. Its not a great performance but reminds me of the peak of my brother’s Weller / Jam obsession as he was going to our local hairdresser weekly at this point to try and perfect the Weller bonce.

The mood is slowed right down next with the rather wonderful Mari Wilson doing a cover of the Julie London standard “Cry me a river”. This was quite a departure from her hit of the previous year “Just what I always wanted” and seemed quite incongruous in the charts at the time. I always liked it and thought it sounded classy and I suppose it just goes to show that the 80s weren’t always full of plastic pop stars with synthesizers and cheesy grins.

Back to Skinner and Wright for a link into U2. Before we get to Bono and co though, check out the guy to the left of Skinner  in full on S and M gear!  How the hell did he pass the audience dress code?! As for the song – “Two hearts beat as one”- I always thought this sounded totally inferior to previous hit “New Year’s Day” and I see nothing here to force me to revise my opinion. Indeed, we are seeing the beginnings of Bono going into full on knobhead mode.

Talking of knobheads, WTF is Steve Wright wearing in this next link? Oh it’s an hilarious Timmy Mallett style comedy hat. Bellend. Anyway, next it’s those cheeky charts imps Kajagoogoo back again with the follow up to their huge No 1 hit “Too Shy” from just the other month. This one is called…”Ooh to be Ah”?? Seriously? Yep – this is what they came up with for a follow up and similar to U2, it’s vastly sub standard compared to their previous hit. There’s no killer hook like before, there’s no strong melody…in short it sounds like a jingle in search of a song.None of this would stop it climbing into the top 10 but it was the start of the law of diminishing returns for Kajagoogoo.

Now, if I said to you the next performance is the one with the hairbrush as a microphone who would you guess it is? Yes, it’s Tracey Ullman with “Breakaway” of course. This is a great pop song done at break neck speed and with some panache by Tracey (with an “ey” as opposed to the Style Council’s “ie” version). Well known at the time for her appearances in hit comedy show “Three of a kind” (indeed Steve Wright describes her here as the “funniest woman on TV apart from Boy George” in a rather un -PC way), Ms Ullman launched a brief but successful pop career with this song. Indeed, so successful that she was voted best female singer in the 1983 Smash Hits readers poll and there is no greater accolade than that.

Now we’re into the top 10 rundown ending with a 2nd week at Number One for Duran Duran. Obviously the boys were on the run from screaming fans that week so we veiwers had to make do with the video (the only one in this week’s show). By this point Duran were well known for embracing the video as a promotional tool after the trilogy of videos from their “Rio” album and this one cranks up the pseud-ometer to eleven. What’s it all about? I have no idea but it was all very arty stuff for sure.

There’s still time for one more cringeworthy section which is basically a plug for the Kenny Everett show which followed TOTP. Kenny was pedalling his Sid Snot creation at the time and had released a novelty single “Snot Rap” which was in the charts and is the fade out music this week. “Sid” appears for a deeply unfunny interview with Skinner and Wright and you just know the latter is so desperate to be Kenny Everett at this time that it hurts. He would never come close…

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 only works for about 2 weeks so you’ll have to work fast if you want to see Steve Wright’s comedy genius unleashed and I can’t find the full programme on YouTube.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b08fsfy0/top-of-the-pops-31031983

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

Order of appearance Artist Song Did I buy it?

1

New Order

 

Blue Monday

 

I’ve got the Substance CD but I didn’t buy it at the time

2

Style Council Speak like a child

 

My brother bought it so I owned a copy by proxy

 

3

Mari Wilson Cry me a river Not this time

 

4

U2 Two hearts beat as one Ooh no

 

5

Kajagoogoo Ooh to be ah Nah – even as a 14 year old I could see through this

6

Tracey Ullman Breakaway No I didn’t actually

 

8

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

9

Sid Snot Snot Rap Oh dear no…
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