TOTP 7th APR 1983

OK – I’ve nearly caught up with BBC4 ‘s breakneck screening schedule for their 1983 TOTP archive (except that I write this blog in the knowledge that there is another one due on in 1 hour!). So lets get this one down and quickly!

This week it’s another one of those “live” broadcasts although presenting Radio 1 DJ Simon Bates puts out a disclaimer early doors by saying “Now all of the bands are here but some of them may be miming tonight” and finishes with the leering visage of a smiling assassin. I genuinely would not even trust that man to put my bins out. His partner is Peter Powell who seems to be wearing some sort of hessian tabard.

First up are Dexys Midnight Runners with “Celtic Soul Brothers” On the back of the massive success of “Come on Eileen” and the “Too Rye Aye” album, this song had been re-released. It was originally put out as the first single off the album (i.e. pre-Eileen) but bombed. This 2nd coming would take it into the Top 20 (just). The 14 year old me already knew of Dexys because of their 1980 number 1 “Geno” ( I think my elder brother had a tape with it on) but this phase of the band felt more like they belonged to me although we would not see this line up commercially again. Now I say band but really we are talking Kevin Rowland here. I find Kev an intriguing character. I’m never quite sure if I buy into his blistering sincerity or whether I think it’s all an act. At the start of the Millennium I  worked with someone who was Dexys mad and who got quite close to their inner circle but he became very disillusioned when he finally got to be in Rowland’s company. Never meet your heroes eh?

Back to smiling Simes and…hang on…isn’t that bloke next to him Leroy from “The Kids from Fame”? It is you know. According to Bates the rest of the cast are in the studio too. In case you had forgotten, “Fame” the TV series (as opposed to the film it was based on) became a huge hit in the UK and dovetailed neatly with TOTP as it was on straight after it on a Thursday night. The “kids” are on tour in this country at this point in 1983 and are obviously trying to maintain links with TOTP. Maybe the ticket sales were slow…

After a cringeworthy but mercifully brief chat between Bates and Leroy we are into a video from Culture Club for “Church of the poison mind”. By this stage, Culture Club were a very big deal and I remember this single being the first of theirs that I really liked. It’s essentially a Motown pastiche (although I wouldn’t have described it as such in 1983) and features Helen Terry on backing vocals (before she embarked on a very brief and not very successful solo career in 1984).  Occasionally at work I do a surreptitious pop quiz in the  office by email to relieve the boredom. Only one person could name Helen Terry as Culture Club’s backing singer despite me dropping a major clue that she shared her surname with a Chelsea FC legend. Fame – she is a fleeting thing…

Talking of Fame, here’s another one of those “Kids from…” this time Lori Singer aka Julie. Powell asks her about the tour and where its playing to which Singer replies “Wembley Hall” amongst other places. Wembley Hall? Did she mean Wembley Arena? Surely not Wembley Stadium? Wembley Hall makes it sound like somewhere that might have a jumble sale every 3rd Thursday of the month. A quick check of Google shows they did play Wembley Arena and the Royal Albert Hall. Blimey!

Back to the studio for Joboxers and “Boxerbeat” which by now is at No3 in the charts. Its another energised performance by Dig Wayne and his pals but what I notice most watching it back are the awful TOTP dancers. Predictably, some of them are armed with boxing gloves for a “quick jab” routine to sync with the drum breaks but also there seem to be some couples doing a mash up of the Mud “Tiger Feet” routine and some sort of German slap dance (which google informs me is called the Schuhplattler).

There follows a quick chat with “Danny Kid from Fame” and then we are into a very bizarre happening….Twister Sister! How on earth did this come about? For some reason this lot caught the public’s attention 34 years ago for a brief time. Were they a parody? Now at the time I wasn’t very familiar with the heavy metal genre but did any “grebos” (as we called them in Worcester) really take Dee Snider and pals seriously? Very odd. Mercifully I don’t think my Dad was in the room for their turn. Heaven only knows what he would have said….

We then have a chat with Debbie Allen the “Fame” choreographer who also plays the dance teacher in the TV show and PP yet again goes on obsessively about the reaction of the UK fans to the tour. Give it a rest Pete. He then introduces the video for “Beat it” by Michael Jackson. I always liked this one so much more than Billie Jean…

Now then, here comes Tracie  fresh from appearing with the Style Council just the week before with her own single “The house that Jack built”. Tracie was the “girl next door” – one of our own. You could see loads of girls who looked like her on any given Saturday down Worcester High Street. After all she only broke into the music business by replying to an advert. Any of us could do that…I liked this at the time but it hasn’t aged well and seems slight and a bit trite to me now.

After a chart run down comes a deeply creepy man. FR David with “Words”. Why this was such a big hit I have no idea. Its banal, wimpy and vapid…and I think I liked it at the time! I’ve grown up a bit since then.

After another chart recap we go back to no 15 where Nick Heyward awaits us. No doubt I would have been very excited about this in 1983 and listening intently to everything Peter Powell had to say about him. It probably went like this:

PP: He’s currently finishing his album…

Me: Good, good…

PP: He’s also going to do a video in New Orleans in a week or two for the new video

Me: Interesting and good…

PP: But for now listen to this called Whistle Down the Wind…Nicky Heyward

Me: WHAT?! Nicky Heyward. Who calls him NICKY? How’s that meant to help him become a mature solo artist? NICKY?!

Anyway, Nick does his best to show he’s moved on from being a pin up pop star by wearing a suit (albeit a cheap looking one) and giving it his all. Excellent stuff.

Bates does his checking his watch trick again to show it really is a “live ” broadcast and then we are into the top 10 run down culminating in David Bowie who has knocked Duran off the top spot with “Let’s Dance”.

We have time (yes we do Simes) for one last act and its Big Country with “Fields of Fire (400 miles)” and we are treated to the odd sight of the Kids from Fame cast pretending to wig out to some bagpipe rock and some TOTP dancers doing what looks like barn dancing?  “Its been a good party” says Peter Powell. It sure was…

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 those pesky “Kids from Fame” and I can’t find the full programme on YouTube.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b08fsgyp/top-of-the-pops-07041983

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

Order of appearance Artist Song Did I buy it?

1

Dexys Midnight Runners

 

Celtic Soul Brothers

 

I’ve got it on a greatest hits somewhere

2

Culture Club Church of the poison mind

 

I’ve got it on a greatest hits somewhere

3

Joboxers Boxerbeat I’ve got it on an 80s compilation I think

 

4

Twisted Sister I am (I’m me) Ooh no

 

5

Michael Jackson Beat it I have it on a greatest hits promo CD from Our Price days somewhere

6

Tracie The house that Jack built My Weller obsessed brother bought it so I owned it by proxy

 

7

Nick Heyward Whistle down the wind Naturally

8

David Bowie Let’s Dance No

9

Big Country Fields of Fire (400 miles) I’ve got it on a greatest hits somewhere
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