Struggling to keep up with BBC 4’s relentless broadcasting schedule a bit now. Writing 3,500 to 4,000 words a week is quite a stretch! Still, labour of love and all that (not that we’ll be seeing Hue and Cry for another 4 years – or about 6 months in BBC4’s universe).
OK – lets get this out of the way from the off – why has Peter Powell chosen to wear a suit to present this episode? He’s been a perennial fashion victim in previous shows but he’s gone all formal here. Maybe somebody had a word with him. The suit itself is vile – and shouldn’t it have flecks in seeing as it’s 1983? I had a black shirt in the 80s which had pink flecks in it. I thought I looked really sharp in it. I was wrong. The other presenter is Andy Peebles – he looks a complete shambles in some sort of mustard coloured gilet over a yellow checked shirt. Meanwhile back at my house, the 15 year old me was no doubt watching the show whilst rocking a look that was the cutting edge of fashion (ahem).
First act up tonight is a band who we have seen a lot of before but not with this song which is their latest single – it’s Heaven 17 with “Crushed By The Wheels Of Industry”. This was the 4th single lifted from the “Luxury Gap” album and the 3rd to be a hit but in my view – then and now – it’s not as strong as “Temptation” or “Come Live With Me”. Don’t get me wrong its still pretty good but nowhere near as seminal as the other two which would come to define Heaven 17 – certainly their commercial period anyway. In this performance, Glenn Gregory has obviously got used to this pop star lark and looks much more comfortable up there on stage, unable to stop himself grinning throughout. At the song’s end, Peter Powell dares to challenge my stats about the band’s number of hit records by declaring “four singles released and four hits from Heaven 17 off the LP ‘The Luxury Gap’ “. Four Peter? Four? Really?
…*Checks the Guinness Book of Hit Singles* ….
…First single released from the album was “Let Me Go” which peaked at no 41. Close but very wrong Mr Powell.
Now that’s cleared up here comes the evening’s first video from Rod Stewart with “What Am I Gonna Do?” Rod was coming off the back of a recent no 1 of course (the ghastly “Baby Jane”) and this was his follow up. It’s one of those hits that become forgotten almost immediately – when was the last time you heard this played on the radio? – and this despite it going all the way to No 2 in the charts. Watching the video its hard to not come to the conclusion that Rod ( or at least the video director) had simply watched the “Rio” video by Duran Duran from the previous year and just nicked the idea wholesale. All the “action” is set on a yacht (which is undoubtedly the abiding image from “Rio”) and even the sliding black frame graphics have been pinched. Said “action” is basically Rod and pals messing about on the yacht and the whole thing is a feeble piss-poor affair from start to finish.
We then have the most bizarre intro perhaps ever witnessed on TOTP. It comes from Peter Powell and is this:
“Now these two have just got engaged…”
*points behind him to studio audience members*
*giggles to himself*
“…that’s Gordon. This is Status Quo”
What the actual f**k was that? Anyway, onto the music and it is indeed Status Quo! Even 34 years ago in 1983, Status Quo were old-timers meaning that everyone knew who they were (including myself), if only for the good time anthem “Rockin’ All Over The World”. The 70s had been their heyday but they were refusing to slink away silently in this shiny new decade that was the 80s and here they were back with another foot stomper “‘Ol Rag Blues”. I remember not minding this at the time but it doesn’t seem to have aged that well. It references The Who (“Pictures Of Lily”) early on but then seems to be trying to re-write that old David Dundas hit “Jeans On”. At least the band do have the decency to actually wear some faded jeans for the performance.
Next up is a band whose season in the sun is drawing to a close. Its JoBoxers with their 3rd and final hit “Johnny Friendly”. After storming the charts with two very strong Top 10 singles earlier in the year, this always seemed like a very lacklustre song to me and therefore an odd choice for a single release. I mean, its not terrible but there doesn’t seem to be much of a tune to it. Its just a bit of funk workout with the bass guitar to the fore but there’s no joy about it unlike the previous two singles. It made me wonder if they could have released something else at this point so I checked out their album “Like Gangbusters” on Spotify and indeed the 4th single they released (“Jealous Love” – a double A side with “She’s Got Sex”) was a much more memorable song but by the time that came out towards the end of the year the momentum had gone and it only reached No 72 on the chart. And that kids, is how pop worked in 1983 – here today, gone tomorrow.
Next up its one of those slushy ballads by a duet that seemed to be so popular during the 80s. This one is “Tonight I Celebrate My Love” by Roberta Flack and Peabo Bryson. The song is nothing special and the video is possibly the dullest ever made being just a straight performance of the song. However, there is one stand out thing about this song – is there anyone else in the world with the name “Peabo?”
Now, as promised in the last post, here comes Ryan Paris!!!! His song, “Dolce Vita”, had been a massive hit all over Europe and the UK finally buckled and yielded to its laid back beat and catchy hooks. Ryan would take this all the way to No 5 in the charts but would completely disappear almost immediately. I found it inoffensive enough at the time and there were certainly worse Euro pop atrocities that followed in its wake. Some people seemed to love it (including my wife apparently who bought it) but we are still awaiting the Ryan Paris revival.
Next is Paul Young with “Come Back And Stay”. As a follow up to his recent No 1 (“Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home)”, I thought it was a good choice and for this one, he has renamed himself as Paul Young and the Royal Family (featuring the Fabulously Wealthy Tarts). Yes you read that last bit right. The Fabulously Wealthy Tarts were backing singers Kim and Maz whose vocals feature heavily in the song and whose dance moves in this performance are quite striking. Paul has lost the suit for this song choosing instead a short sleeved shirt and black jeans which allows him to give us our first glimpse of his microphone stand handiwork. Whilst not scaling the heights of his previous hit, it did propel Young into the Top 5 and cemented his place as a star of the 80s.
Finally we are into the Top 10 countdown which leads us into UB40 who are No 1 again with Red Red Wine. Here we get the video and it’s an unusual one in that its in black and white throughout. Maybe the video director was trying to be a bit arty or maybe he was going for gritty realism. It does after all have a feel of a kitchen sink drama (“Saturday Night, Sunday Morning” comes to mind).
The play out music this week is Level 42 with “The Sun Goes Down (Livin’ It Up)”.
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 Peter Powell’s “sharp” suit and I can’t find the full programme on YouTube.
However for posterity’s sake I include the Top 40 run down below:
Some bed time reading?
|Order of appearance||Artist||Song||Did I buy it?|
|Heaven 17||Crushed By The Wheels Of Industry||Not the 7” but I have the LP its from|
|Rod Stewart||What Am I Gonna Do?||Ooh No!|
|Status Quo||Ol’ Rag Blues||No – would have lost far too many street cred points|
|JoBoxers||Johnny Friendly||No –it really was quite average|
|Peabo Bryson and Roberta Flack||Tonight I celebrate my love||Bugger – it’s on Now Vol 1 so technically yes I did|
|Ryan Paris||Dolce Vita||No – but my normally super cool wife did – go figure|
|Paul Young||Come Back And Stay||Not the 7” but I have it on a Greatest Hits CD|
|UB40||Red Red Wine||No but is on Now Vol 1 so technically yes|
|Level 42||The Sun Goes Down (Livin’ It Up)||No|