We have reached mid July 1983. I’m guessing school was out by now and the glorious long hot summer stretched ahead of the 15 year old me. And all I really wanted to do was immerse myself in my little world of pop – so that meant listening to tunes on Radio 1, watching the artists on TOTP and then reading about it all in Smash Hits…oh and wondering how I would ever be able to make the leap from this little bubble to being able to talk to girls in the real world (recurring theme that one).
Well, let’s see what TOTP would be offering me around this time. We start very oddly with what looks like some sort of retrospective edit of the show as we go immediately into the first act without any fanfare – the DJs don’t introduce themselves (although its obviously Peter Powell and Andy Peebles), no listing of who is on the show tonight just BANG! Here’s a pop star for you. Well let’s not dwell too much on why this might be as it’s probably for reasons of sensitivity so lets instead dwell on the music. The first performance is from someone who probably would reject the label “pop star” – it’s only Elvis Costello with “EveryDay I Write The Book”. Ah, Costello when he wrote good songs – to my mind he seemed to lose sight of melody in some of his work much later in his career but I always liked this version of him and this song in particular. I like the clever idea of building the song around the structure of a book:
Chapter One: We didn’t really get along.
Chapter Two: I think I fell in love with you.
You said you’d stand by me in the middle of Chapter Three
But you were up to your old tricks in Chapters Four
Five and Six.
The subtlety of this seems to have been lost on the TOTP producers though. They have the resident dancers jigging along whilst pretending to read a book which the props dept felt the need to actually label “book” on the cover just in case we were all so thick at home they we didn’t get the idea.
Back to Peebles who seems very direct in his links and in some sort of rush to get it all over with as quickly as possible. He rushes us into the night’s first video which is “Double Dutch” by Malcolm McLaren. I mentioned in the last post my endless fascination with Malcolm – such an odd character – and here he is at the height of his success as an artist (although his actual contribution to the records is debatable). Watching the video back, I was surprised to actually see McLaren on camera – whenever I think about “Double Dutch” in visual terms it’s just the Ebonettes skipping troupe of the chorus that comes to my mind’s eye. But there he is (albeit briefly) with his never in vogue ginger mop hairstyle urging his cohorts to give it some more energy directly into the camera. I don’t think the album this came from (“Duck Rock”) always gets the credit it deserves with its mishmash of styles from South Africa through to hip-hop. In many ways it was a forerunner of Paul Simon’s “Graceland”. And the skipping is tremendous.
After this comes a reminder of how the world worked in the pre-digital era as Peter Powell advises us that if we want to get hold of one of the fetching TOTP T-Shirts he is modelling, then the details (and presumably an order form) are in the latest copy of the Radio Times. How quaint! After this, Pete introduces the No 2 song which is Paul Young with “Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home)”. This is the moment where Young is about to go stratospheric as he is on the cusp of a No 1 record. I remember that it was around this time that the Daily Mirror (the tabloid of choice in our house) ran a rather lazy piece on the fickle nature of pop fame and dealing with the pressures it brought when it compared Young with Nick Heyward. Basically it argued that Nick was in decline as his single had dropped from 11 to 14 in the charts whilst Paul’s had risen to No 2. It seemed very unfair to me at the time but in truth Paul Young did end up having the more successful career. Any way, Paul does another good performance here, nearly good enough to forgive his pink tie (nearly).
Back to Peebles again now for another blink – and – you’ll- miss – it link – this time into Heaven 17 with “Come Live With Me”. This time we get a studio run through of the song as opposed to the video. At this time, Heaven 17 were not a touring band (as opposed to today when they seem to be on stage everywhere all the time) and maybe this explains why Glenn Gregory seems a little unsure of himself up there. He doesn’t seem to know where to put himself and keeps looking to his band members for reassurance. Other times he seems like he’s about to burst into laughter at the absurdity of this whole pop star thing. He still looks great though.
Another studio performance next…hang on what is going on with Powell and Peebles doing their links stood next to young women in bikini tops? That’s both of them who have done it now! Anyway, if you can divert your eyes to the music (like I’m sure the 15 year old me did)…here is a great song by a great band – “Never Stop” by Echo and the Bunnymen. This was a stand alone single released to bridge the gap between the albums “Porcupine” and “Ocean Rain” and it’s a corker. From that juddering discordant intro to the shimmering chorus wrapped around a driving beat, this ticks all the boxes. Mac manages to keep his shirt in for this one although he does loosen it at one point but the McCulloch nipples remain covered up throughout. A great 80s song that probably doesn’t get enough airplay.
After a chart rundown, it’s yet another studio performance this time from Bananarama with “Cruel Summer” although I’m sure that Peter Powell introduces it as “Cool Summer”. Whatever, I’m pretty sure I will have enjoyed this performance back in 1983 – for the music obviously! Watching it back with hindsight, there seems to be a natural division between Keren and Sara on one side and Siobhan on the other which maybe foretells the split that was to come. For a start, Siobhan dips out of wearing the same matching outfit as the other two. She also seems to be improvising her own dance moves (not that the whole thing has any tight choreography to it in the first place). She also brings out a fake cardboard guitar to wield during the song’s instrumental break, again marking her out from her bandmates. I seem to remember this being re-released at the end of the decade and being a hit all over again (maybe it was used on a film soundtrack the second time around). It’s a pretty standard pop song but it does the job.
After the excitement of Bananarama we have an exquisite piece of music from Japan front man David Sylvian and Japanese musician Ryuichi Sakamoto with “Forbidden Colours”. This song was definitely taken from the soundtrack to a film – “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence” – which explored the experiences of four men in a Japanese prisoner of war camp during the Second World War. I never saw the film in 1983 and I am still yet to see it which I must correct one day. One of its stars is David Bowie though you wouldn’t know it from the video as interestingly he doesn’t feature in it at all. Its a classy track which has endured well these last 34 years – one of those songs that stops you in your tracks every time you hear it whatever you are doing.
After this we have the Top 10 rundown into the No 1 which is still Rod Stewart. Please God let this be the last week! The play out music is Donna Summer with “She Works Hard For The Money”. Now in my head I have always associated this song with the film “Flashdance” believing it to be on the soundtrack but a quick check of Wikipedia reveals that this is not the case. Maybe its because both songs were in the charts around the same time. Its an OK song but compared to sat “State of Independence” or “I Feel Love”, its nothing much to shout about.
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 the Andy Peebles and his moustache ( and who wouldn’t ladies eh?) 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?|
|Elvis Costello and the Attractions||Everyday I Write The Book||No but my wife has the album its from “Punch the Clock” on vinyl|
|Malcolm McLaren and The Ebonettes||Double Dutch||Yes – there is a 7” of this in my singles box.|
|Paul Young||Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home)||Yes indeed|
|Heaven 17||Come Live With Me||No but I have the album it came from (“The Luxury Gap”)|
|Echo and the Bunnymen||Never Stop||Can’t find the 7” but I have it on a couple of greatest hits|
|Bananarama||Cruel Summer||No I didn’t – not even for the picture sleeve|
|David Sylvian and Ryuichi Sakamoto||Forbidden Colours||The 7” is in the singles box but I think it might be my wife’s|
|Rod Stewart||Baby Jane||No but its on Now 1 so technically yes (sigh)|
|Donna Summer||She Works Hard For The Money||No but its in my iTunes Library somehow|
Want to read some more about this week’s acts?