Hell’s teeth! Its already September in the crazy world of TOTP repeat broadcasts! What happened to August? We appear to haver skipped another two shows people meaning that we were deep into the 2nd half of that long hot Summer of 1983. By this rate it’ll be Christmas before we’ve even got past the 2nd May Bank Holiday in the real world. Oh well….
By this time, the 15 year old me would have been contemplating going back to school after the Summer holidays and the altogether unpleasant thought of upcoming ‘O’ Levels. Bah! At least I still had my weekly fix of televised pop music to keep me going.
This week’s presenters are Jensen and Peel yet again and they’ve come dressed as cowboys for some reason. First up we have a band that we have seen before – it’s Modern Romance with “Walking In The Rain”. 1983 was these boys’ annus mirabilis bringing them four Top 40 hits. It was also their swansong as they would fall away completely by the time 1984 came around. After three very upbeat songs, they did did the standard manoeuvre of bringing out a slow tempo number. I distinctly remember being amazed that this was Modern Romance so soft was the sound compared to their previous hits. I think I even quite liked it. Watching it back now, I am completely distracted by the high pitch of the vocals. They are right at the top of the register. How did he do it? He, being Michael J. Mullins, who is still pedalling the “sophisticated beefcake” look here. This ballad would see them hit the Top 10 one final time. No doubt they would not have foreseen the impending downturn in fortunes – good looking lads, shiny hair, hits a plenty – the world was their oyster…ah …that fickle hand of pop fate at work again.
Talking of band’s with a different sound, here come Madness with the video to “Wings Of A Dove”. After a string of formula hits that showcased the “nutty boy” sound, this was quite a radical departure featuring as it does steel drums and a gospel choir. I liked it enough at the time but it isn’t one of my faves by them. The video, shown here due to “popular demand” according to Kid Jensen, is the usual wacky fun we had come to expect from the boys by this time.
The shot of a van being pushed out of the plane near the end was footage from a French TV advert that the boss of Stiff records had purchased the rights to with a view to one day using it in a Madness video. Impressive foresight that. My favourite bit though is that shot when Suggs(?) goes all Yoffy from Fingerbobs with his white gloved hand doing a wings motion out of the window that puts me in mind of Gulliver the show’s seagull. No idea what I’m talking about? Watch this…
An interesting artist up next who seems out of place compared to say the show’s opening two acts…it’s Gary Numan! Of course, we all knew of Numan due to his two mega hits back in 1979 – even me as a pre-pop 11 year old knew there was this weird bloke called Gary Numan who had a song called “Are Friends Electric?”. He followed this up with another No 1 single in “Cars” of course and had continued to have hits for the next few years though none as era defining as those two. By the time autumn 1983 had come around, Gary was back with a leather clad Mad Max image and a song called “Warriors”. I couldn’t remember at all how this one went, and watching it back now I know why – it’s completely forgettable. There were a couple of lads at school who swore by Numan but I couldn’t see it. Years later working in record shops, his die hard fans (or “Numanoids” as they called themselves) would be the bane of my life. They would ring up every Monday (new release day) if there was even the slightest whiff of a rumour that Numan might be be about to put something out and would then berate me when I checked the schedule and there was nothing down for him. Nutters.
Next up is …oh no…not again! Its that tedious piece of programming that is John Peel’s Euro charts run down. Listen, I’m certainly no little Englander Brexiteer and I think there is a lot this country could learn from our European counterparts but in terms of pop music in 1983 there was absolutely nothing that they could teach us. Unless you want a Dutch woman playing the flute or a French lady singing a song called “Africa Voodoo Master” that is. You don’t want to see the full videos for these do you? No I thought not. Having said all of that, there is one song in the piece that you will know and that is the huge piece of Euro pop cheese that is “Dolce Vita” by Ryan Paris. Yes – you do know it. As Euro pop goes it’s actually not completely terrible but it would form the blueprint for successive Euro pop artists having late Summer hits in the UK during the 80s. This was on the back of British tourists hearing their songs incessantly whilst on their Summer holidays on the Continent. Ryan looks for all the world like Everton’s new foreign centre back signing in his interview with John Peel but we shall see him in all his glory in the next show (you lucky people).
After the Euro sojourn we have a video from prog-rock giants Genesis. I didn’t know much of Genesis in 1983. I’d liked “Paperlate” a year or so before but I wasn’t really aware of their history. This single though appeared like a sledgehammer (pardon the weak Peter Gabriel reference) to the charts, blasting a way into the Top 5. It’s such a bleak sounding song with its hard driving drum beat and the frankly creepy “Ha ha ohhh” near demonic cry from Phil Collins. The disturbing uplighting in the video gives him a look of Ray Liotta in “Good Fellas” it seems to me. The singles that followed this from the parent album were altogether more poppy sounding making this look even more like an odd choice as the song to announce their comeback. Within three years they would go full on pop/rock with their “Invisible Touch” album but this remains a weird song.
At the top of the show we saw Modern Romance employing the “old uptempo song – uptempo song – slow ballad” method of releases and next up we have another band doing the same as we get Big Country with “Chance”. This is a great song – one of their best in my opinion. They really nail the anthemic feel without losing their USP of those “bagpipe guitars”. This is an odd performance of it though. For some reason Stuart Adamson chooses to mime without the prop of a guitar and instead goes in for some very unconvincing dancing which is basically swaying his arms about a bit and shuffling on the spot. The other elephant in the room (or possibly elephant’s trunk) here is Adamson’s packet. Having chosen some very tight white jeans to wear for the occasion, you can’t help but notice the enormous bulge around his crotch. When I saw David Bowie in 1987 at Roker Park in Sunderland, he was supported by Big Country and the female friends I went with were agog at the Adamson appendage, even viewed from distance in a huge stadium gig.
OK – enough of the smut. We’ve time for one more act before the new No 1 (ooh!) and its those fifties throwbacks The Stray Cats with “(She’s) Sexy + 17” (I said enough of the smut!). I knew a little of The Stray Cats as they had a run of hit singles in 1980/81 with “Runaway Boys”, “Rock This Town” and “Stray Cat Strut” and this was their comeback single. However it was a false dawn as the single stalled at No 29 and was the last time they would breach the Top 40 on these shores before disbanding a year later. Looking back at them now they look great but I think tastes had moved on a little in that short passing of time between ’81 and ’83 and they were maybe seen as a little old fashioned compared to say Duran Duran. Lead singer Brian Setzer would go onto form The Brian Setzer Orchestra (well nobody else were going to were they?) and receive critical acclaim for their 1998 album “The Dirty Boogie” (one last time…enough of the smut!).
OK – here comes the new No 1 – a cover version by a group from Birmingham who all fell out so badly that there are now two different touring versions of the same band. Have you guesses it yet? Yes it is of course UB40 with “Red Red Wine”. I quite liked this at the time (the 12″ version that Peter Powell played one evening was especially good) but it has been so played to death in the intervening years that it’s one of those songs that is almost unlistenable (see also “Tainted Love” by Soft Cell). This release seemed to draw a line under their previous politically charged back catalogue and saw them go hell for leather for straight out commercialism. The album this was taken from (“Labour of Love”) was all cover versions and would yield another 3 hit singles for the band (though none as big as RRW). It was also at this point that the serious music press seemed to turn against the band and they became an easy target for their “white man reggae’ where once they had been seen as cutting edge. I still like a lot of their early stuff but I’m not sure I will ever come back to this one.
The play out music this week is “Confusion” by New Order which is one of those often forgotten tracks that come out in the wake of a huge previous hit that dwarfs future releases for a while (“Blue Monday” obviously being the huge hit in this case). I quite like “Confusion” though.
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 Peel and Jensen arseing about in cowboy costumes 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?|
|Modern Romance||Walking In The Rain||That would be a no|
|Madness||Wings Of A Dove||No but I have it on a Greatest Hits CD somewhere no doubt|
|Gary Numan||Warriors||Hell No! I’m no Numanoid!|
|Big Country||Chance||No but I have the Greatest Hits CD I’m sure|
|Stray Cats||(She’s) Sexy + 17||No – bit too retro at the time|
|UB40||Red Red Wine||No but is on Now Vol 1 so technically yes|
Some bed time reading?