TOTP 28th APR 1983

It’s late April 1983. The £1 coin has just been introduced in England and Wales, Flashdance is on down at  your local cinema and Manchester United and Brighton and Hove Albion have just booked themselves a place in the FA Cup final (back when it actually meant something). In the world of ..ahem…”music”, Luxembourg have just won the Eurovision Song Contest for the 5th time. And me? Well, I’m probably pre-occupied with the realisation that I will never look like Simon le Bon and that my beloved Chelsea might actually get relegated to the old Division 3 for the first time in their history (they didn’t).

Thankfully, here comes Thursday night and TOTP to brighten my mood and this is the 999th edition. And its also one of the oddest. More of that later though. Reliable double act John Peel and David “Kid” Jensen are our hosts tonight and it is them whom we will have to blame for the weirdness to come.

It all starts off in a fairly standard way though with a jolly, frothy pop tune courtesy of Galaxy with “Dancing Tight”. Ah Galaxy…sorry..make that Galaxy featuring Phil Fearon…no wait that should be Phil Fearon and Galaxy…or is it just Phil Fearon? Yes this confusing pop act had hits in the UK under 4 different monikers! Essentially it was all about main man Mr Fearon but he appears here with two backing singers as Galaxy. It was a fairly slight tune back then and seems even more so in 2017.  Apart from the name game Phil seemingly loved to play, the only other thing of interest here is his tumbling routine which I’d forgotten about but which pre-dates JLS’s Aston Merrygold’s back flips by some 25 years.

The next act gives little warning of the truly bizarre sights that will be beamed into our living rooms before the show is over as it’s Sweet Dreams our entry in the aforementioned Eurovision Song Contest. As Peel advises in his intro, they came 6th in the contest which nowadays would be seen as a great result but back then was very disappointing. It would be the last time the girl /boy line up and its various combinations was used in the 80s for Eurovision. I’m pretty sure this was also the last time we would see Sweet Dreams sleep walking through this routine on our TVs and we could all sleep soundly again. Zzzzzz….

After those two examples of nondescript pop by numbers which, let’s be honest, fitted perfectly into the TOTP remit, we are thrown a massive curve ball next. It starts with Jensen telling us he’s been on holiday (so?) and then we go into a report entitled “Far East Charts”. What happens next is basically Jensen doing a piece on the current state of pop music in China and South East Asia. Why? Apparently it really was just that Jensen was on holiday and the TOTP producer asked him to record a piece for the programme. Not being able to present TOTP whilst away but wishing to retain his TV profile, Jensen was only to glad to do so. And so we get this…it starts off in Singapore like a travelogue with descriptions of the beauty of the place and a reference to the Raffles Hotel. We then get told by Jensen that basically there isn’t much of a “modern music” scene round these parts at which point the whole thing becomes self defeating. He follows this up by declaring that “pop music is not really as important for Asians as it is for us in the UK”. What is this all about then David?

Well, we are presented with some very random clips of Asian artists including one group called China Doll doing a song called “Chasing the Dragon”. Now I’m pretty sure the 14 year old me didn’t know about the phrase “chasing the dragon” and its drug connotations but surely someone at the BBC did? No doubt there must have been many “angry from Cambridge” type letters to Points of View about this. I can’t recall what I made of this short lived feature back in 1983 but I do like the rather quaint reminder of the pre-digital world when Jensen says “In Singapore, Eurythmics and ABC have recently enjoyed very good LP reviews in the local press”. Finally, we are “treated” to a clip of  “heartthrob” sing and dance man Lam who is presumably Singapore’s answer to Leo Sayer. Its all very peculiar and feels incongruous within the TOTP pop party format.

However with some rare TOTP joined up thinking the programme glides seamlessly into the next act which is The Creatures with “Kiss the girl”. The Creatures were of course an off shoot from Siouxsie and the Banshees and this track, with its minimal percussion sound giving it an Eastern flavour, goes some way to framing the previous Far East Charts section (well sort of). I was never sure about “Kiss the Girl”. It was a bit too out there for my pop tastes at the time. I much preferred their follow up “Right Now”.

Back to Peel and Jensen and apparently the unconventional nature of tonight’s show is not finished yet . After the eccentricity of the Far East Charts we get Peel presenting his solo item  – the European Charts or the Eurovision charts as he mistakenly announces it initially. What?! No doubt it must have felt like stumbling into a parallel universe back in 1983. This wasn’t what I was used to at all. Where were the cheesy grins, the TOTP dancers and the mainstream pop? Watching this in 2017 though I am surprised to find that the first band on are a British act called Cook da Books from Liverpool. Hang on. I remember Cook da books – Janice Long was a big champion of theirs but they never got any commercial success in the UK. Apparently it was a different story in Europe though. The song they play (“Your Eyes”) is a very melodic ballad that sounds like it could have been written by Neil Sedaka. Apparently it was from the film “La Boum 2” and made major stars of Cook da Books in mainland Europe.

We then get a very irreverent chart run down from the sardonic Peel and then things take a very surreal turn as there follows a clip of a duet between some woman and Bobby Ewing from Dallas ! Yes actor Patrick Duffy  (or The Man from Atlantis if you prefer) is singing (after a fashion) on TOTP! What maniacal world is this we have strayed into?  I can’t find the TOTP clip on Youtube but here is the song in full if you’re feeling brave…

Finally we get Nena and “99 Luftballons” which was tearing up the European charts a full 12 months before it would do the same in the UK. Of course you can’t mention Nena without mentioning armpits and even in this 30 second clip we get an eyeful  and they really are nearly as hairy as Peel’s beard.

Finally we are back to the UK charts and some proper music and this one is great. Its Tears For Fears with the re-issued “Pale Shelter”. This song is to my mind one of their best and its hit status this time around proved to me that the band were here to stay. And check out that great 80s bass Curt Smith is wielding. Its a Steinberger XL 2 apparently (I had to look that up obviously) and it looks so cool! Also how many songs do you know that include such lofty lyrics in the chorus as “and I can’t operate on this failure”Majestic.

After a quick chart run down from 21 to 11 we get what by my reckoning is a 3rd outing for Kissing the Pink and “Last Film”. Their progress up the charts had been crab like. It took 7 weeks before it broke into the top 40 and then its chart positions read 39 – 32 – 29 – 24 which is where we join the band in tonight’s show. This performance, which is exactly the same as the previous two,  would push it to 19 where it would stay for 3 weeks before dropping out of the charts forever. We would never see Kissing the Pink in the Top 40 again.

Then its the Top 10 countdown leading into the new number 1 from Spandau Ballet with “True”. The video really is quite dull it has to be said especially if you compare it to the visuals of their great rivals Duran Duran but hey, you can’t argue with being Number 1!

The play out music is “Friday Night” by the Kids from Fame and its appalling.

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 another month so you’ll have to work fast if you want to witness the true outlandishness of the Far East and European charts and I can’t find that clip of them or the full programme on YouTube.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b08h9ct9/top-of-the-pops-28041983

However for posterity’s sake I include the Top 40 run down below and for some reason it includes Kissing the Pink (again).

Order of appearance Artist Song Did I buy it?

1

Galaxy

 

Dancing Tight

 

Oh crap! Just checked and it’s on the Chart Stars album so technically I bought this! Damn it!

 

2

Sweet Dreams Never Giving Up Oh double crap! Just checked and it’s on the Chart Stars album so technically I bought this too! Hell’s Teeth!

 

3

Creatures Kiss the Girl No – bit too out there for me

 

4

Tears For Fears Pale Shelter Not in my 7” box but it’s certainly in my CD collection

 

5

Kissing the Pink Last Film No but I should have

6

Spandau Ballet True Not on 7″ but I have it on CD certainly. Don’t you judge me!

7

Kids from Fame Friday Night NO! NOOOOO! This is on Charts Stars as well! I am truly horrified!
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