TOTP 23rd JUN 1983

Sometimes when I have watched one of these TOTP repeats I’ve just known that the post I write about it will take ages as there is so much to comment on.  This is one of those episodes. Where to start? Well how about at the top of the show and a namecheck for this week’s presenting duo which is Simon Bates and Peter Powell. Both of them look a state for differing reasons. Powell has gone with a braces and T-shirt combo and looks for all the world like a fashion victim but at least he has tried to look current (in 1983 that is). Bates on the other hand always looks like, after he’s done at TOTP, he’ll be going onto his local night spot for the weekly singles night.

The next thing to be said is that when Powell gives us a rundown of the acts that are to come on tonight’s broadcast, it reads like a roll call of old farts – Rod Stewart, Elton John, Mike Oldfield and The Police…OK maybe that would have been unfair on The Police back then but they had at this point been having hits since 1978 so they were hardly fresh young pop bucks. And as for the others…this was 1983 for Crissakes! Where were the shiny new pop stars that we craved?!

Well, maybe the first act out of the traps would suffice…here come Freeez with “I.O.U.” although to be fair Freeze had been around or a couple of years themselves – “Southern Freeez” had been a hit in 1981 (not that I knew any of this) and they were back with this mega dance tune with its gloriously catchy vowels inspired hook. I liked this especially the synthesised vocoder sound effect middle eight section. However, this was one of those curious re-recorded TOTP versions that didn’t include that effect and we had to make do with a standard keyboard replacement which just doesn’t work. Bates informs us that vocalist Johnny has the flu but what is more remarkable is that one of the TOTP dancers appears to be wearing an adult-sized nappy to go with her leg warmers and singlet outfit. Johnny also has one of those keyboards that you wielded like a guitar that none of us could remember what they were called at lunchtime today. A quick search of Google says it was a “keytar”. Of course it was!

Next up is Rod The Mod. My Mum is a bit of a fan but I always disliked this effort intensely. I would have known Rod for “Sailing” back then probably but maybe not a lot else. Since then I have discovered his back catalogue and some of it, like “The Killing of Georgie”, is great but this was just a turd. Lifeless mid-tempo rock by numbers. Awful. Still the public lapped it up and it would go onto secure Rodney a No 1.

Another of the establishment old guard is up next  – Elton John with “I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues”. This is a great song which I liked at the time and still do now. The 80s were a mixed time for Elton. Some hits, some misses. For every IGTWTCITB, there was a turkey like “Nikita”. This hit was during one of his hot streaks of the decade and was followed by further success with “I’m Still Standing” and “Kiss The Bride” from the album Too Low For Zero both of which I always felt were vastly inferior. I, like many others, will always associate this song with the FA Cup final of the following year. Why? Well, Elton’s beloved Watford had made it to Wembley to play Everton. Elton famously welled up as “Abide With Me” was sung. Then one camera spotted an Everton banner in the crowd that said “Sorry Elton, I guess that’s why they call us the Blues”. Genius. Obviously, had Everton lost then no-one would remember it but they won 2-0 and that banner entered football / pop folklore.

After Elton has done his bit, we get another of these bizarre European charts sections with Peel  – we had seen this done only a few weeks previously and I’m surprised that the TOTP producers brought it back to be honest. Peel is in Amsterdam this time as he trawls around the European charts starting with the Dolly Dots an all female six piece outfit who help John out with a run down of the Dutch Top 10. The No 1 sound there is “Comment Ca Va” by the Shorts. There really are no words to describe how bad this is. See for yourself…

We also then get a peak at the Swiss No 1 which I really can’t bear to comment on – its so bad it makes F.R. David look like Bowie. A proper pop star is up next in Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees who, as a solo artist, has the No 1 hit record in Germany. I don’t remember seeing this before and I’d really rather not ever have to see it again hence no video clip. Finally we get some bloke who’s just called Daniel singing a song called “Julie” and he has the No 3 hit on the European Charts. I say singing but some of it sounds suspiciously like yodelling. He also looks bit like Arnold Rimmer from Red Dwarf. And thankfully that’s it with the really bad music clips. I don’t recall this feature from back in the day and I’m hoping that it got dropped immediately after this show never to be seen again,

Once Peel’s travelogue is over, we are back to the studio with…Shakatak! What?! Again?! That’s the problem with these TOTP repeats. As some of the shows are not broadcast for very understandable reasons to do with presenters which we don’t need to dwell on here, it means that some acts are shown again straight away when in reality there would have been a 1 or 2 week gap between TOTP appearances in tandem with chart placings. So after being on Thursday night, Shakatak are on again on Friday night. What more can I day about this lot? Even the TOTP dancers on this “Dark Is The Night” look like they might be about to fall asleep so soporific is the song.  I quite liked the “Change Your Mind” single that keyboard player Bill Sharpe released with Gary Numan (yes Gary Numan!) a couple of years later but then it sounded nothing like Bill’s day job band. Having checked their discography, it’s another year or so before their next Top 40 hit so we won’t have to endure another Shakatak performance for …well probably 6 weeks at the rate these re-runs are being broadcast.

A quick chart rundown is followed by another of those completely incongruous celebrity guest appearances. This time its Aussie cricketer Dennis Lillee. What on earth Lillee had to do with the UK singles chart I don’t know. Apparently the cricket World Cup was on in England at the time and Bates makes a fool of himself by wishing Lillee good luck with it before the demon bowler advises Simes that they are already out of the competition. As with previous Bates interviews, I am left asking why he hadn’t done his research beforehand?

Anyway, on with the music and it’s “Moonlight Shadow” by Mike Oldfield (with Maggie Riley) and for me it’s confession time. Yes I bought this 7″ single. Why? I’m not sure. Somehow I fell hook line and sinker for its folk meets rock guitar mash up and especially Oldfield’s winning axe solos. Now I’m pretty sure I didn’t really know who Mike Oldfield was at this time, not having been old enough to appreciate his massive selling 1973 album Tubular Bells, but it mattered not a jot as I dutifully took my money to the Worcester branch of Woolies to purchase this. Tellingly, I don’t remember playing it much once I had bought it as if the spell was broken once cold hard cash became involved. Oldfield would disappear from the charts for another 10 years or so after this until Tubular Bells 2 was released in the early 90s.

Next a band that Peter Powell really rates (as he gleefully informs us). Its H2O with “Dream To Sleep”. Yes its deja-vu time again as this lot, like Shakatak, were only on in the previous TOTP repeat the night before. These newcomers have managed to scramble up to No 17 in the chart and no doubt were hoping this repeat performance on TOTP would send them hurtling into the Top 10. Alas, 17 would be the peak for both this single and the band’s career (so much for Powell wishing them well with it at the song’s end). Who was to blame? Who knows but personally I think the guitarist’s awful moustache might have had something to do with it.

At last we are into the Top 10 run down ending with The Police who are still at No 1. The video for this one is simple but effective with Sting and that double bass an enduring image. The black and white (or is it a sepia tint) effect helps to make it even more memorable, spurning as it does the DayGlo colours that a Kajagoogoo video for example would have used.

The play out song this week is “Rock ‘n’ Roll IS King” by ELO which completes the old guard of acts on this throwback of an episode. Bates thinks its a laugh to twang Powell’s braces as they say goodnight. Hilarious.

Links and things


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 see marvel at Peter Powell’s dress sense 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?






No I didn’t actually but I though about it



Rod Stewart Baby Jane Turns out it’s on the 1st Now album so technically yes I did. I am so sorry.


Elton John I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues No but its on a Collection CD somewhere I’m sure



Shakatak Dark Is The Night I’d rather have eaten my own arm


Mike Oldfield Moonlight Shadow Yes, yes I did. Look I was young, I didn’t know any better OK?


H2O Dream To Sleep No but I’m not sure why not


The Police Every Breath You Take No but I have it on a Greatest Hits CD


ELO Rock ‘n’ Roll Is King No but every household has the Greatest hits don’t they? I am no exception.

Want to read more about the charts from June 1983…








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