So I’m back on the TOTP treadmill with another show to review before the next onslaught of repeats starts. And after weeks of skipping shows, we actually have two consecutive broadcasts – yep back to back programmes which (hallelujah) means I’m not blogging about the same songs on a loop.
This week’s presenters are Peter Powell and Richard Skinner who have both gone for the revolting sweater look tonight.
Last week’s show started with a band trying too hard to follow up a big hit. That band was Freeez and this week the patterns repeats itself with another group doing exactly the same. This week’s desperate act is Roman Holliday who we last saw bopping about on stage to their lively hit “Don’t Try To Stop It”. Their follow up is “Motor Mania” and just like Freeez’s “Pop Goes Your Love” last week, its reeks of rehashing the original successful blueprint but getting it ever so slightly wrong. They’ve tried to cram so many hooks into two and a half minutes, they might as well have called the song “B & Q” and be done with it. It’s full of harmonised repetitions, doo wop vocals and false starts that the thing never really gets going properly. Unwisely, they’ve also ditched the sailor look gimmick and gone for a leather jacket 50s style. Lead Roman Steve Lambert is also playing guitar which I don’t remember at all and slightly subverts my mental image of the band. “Motor Mania” …ahem…stalled at No 40 in the charts, thereby denying the band the status of being an official one-hit wonder. So much for Peter Powell’s endorsement of the band afterwards:
“I’ll tell you what that band has a long way to go and they’re going to do it just nicely”
Wise words Pete. He could be a football club chairman giving a beleaguered manager the dreaded vote of confidence. Why did it fail? Too retro sounding? Maybe – they do come on a bit like a poor man’s Darts on this one. We will never know.
And another “new” song to discuss…it’s Tracey Ullman with “They Don’t Know”. This is just a great song written of course by the fabulous and much missed Kirsty MacColl. I may have been aware of Kirsty via her “There’s a Guy Works Down the Chip Shop Swears He’s Elvis” single from 1981 but I thought of that as a novelty song and possibly didn’t know back in 1983 that “They Don’t Know” was written by her. Now however, Tracey Ullman is indelibly linked to her in my mind. As well as this song, Tracey also recorded three other MacColl compositions including the rather wonderful “Terry”. Famously of course, Kirsty had to record the “Baay-byy” line for the single as Tracey couldn’t hit that note. Maybe less well known is that Kirsty’s version was stopped from being a big hit back in 1979 by a distributors’ strike preventing copies of the single getting into record shops. How different the musical world may have been had that strike never happened. Fair play to Tracey though as she does the song justice on this version which is slightly faster in tempo and is also in a different key. The video is great with the denouement of our Trace living a life of drudgery and dashed dreams whilst dreaming of dating Paul McCartney as she does the shopping is actually quite affecting. In a couple of weeks she will be No 2 in the charts separating Culture Club (No 1) from Duran Duran (No 3) – quite a feat back then.
After this we have a genuine novelty record – hold onto your pants (worn over your trousers)…here comes Black Lace with “Superman”! This is truly dreadful. If you don’t know / remember this record you are one of the lucky ones. It’s basically a line dancing song instructing the participants to perform totally unrelated actions (“go for a walk”, “sneeze”, “sound your horn”, “comb your hair”) culminating in a “superman” pose. In many ways this is Black Lace’s forgotten hit as it was dwarfed by the equally awful “Agadoo” the following year. Wikipedia tells us that they tried to have a hit with the “Birdie Song” in 1981 but the were beaten to it by The Tweets. This is the calibre of their back catalogue. Wikipedia also says that their record company went into receivership meaning the band (if you can call them a band) lost hundreds of thousands of pounds in unpaid royalties for “Agadoo”. So musical karma does exist. The 15 year old me hated “Superman” – I was a serious pop fan by now after all and this was just an insult to music!
And now a band enjoying their biggest ever hit with a Beatles cover. It can only be Siouxsie and the Banshees with “Dear Prudence”. We have seen a fair bit of Siouxsie this year already with her offshoot band The Creatures but here are the full line up (including the Cure’s Robert Smith). I don’t think I knew the Beatles original at this time but I really liked this version. It has a beefier rock edge to it that the original doesn’t and combines that with a great psychedelic feel which the video emphasises. Witness the band stumbling about with some garish colour and negative image effects and…..WHOAH!!! SIOUXIE’S ARMPITS!! I’d forgotten about them! Yes – a full 6 months before Nena would make headlines for her hirsuteness, Siouxie was rocking a similarly hairy look. Whatever – it’s a great cover and we shouldn’t be distracted by such superficiality.
Here comes a ballad from George Benson who is following the tried and tested “two fast ones followed by a slowie” formula by releasing “In Your Eyes” which was the title track from his album. It’s a nice vocal and includes the line “we’re drifting safely back to shore” which I always liked. The video is as dull as Theresa May though.
Talking of dull, here are another lot who have made the TOTP studio their second home in this year. Bucks Fizz had already had two hit singles in 1983 and here they are again with “London Town”. It’s a weak effort though and sounds like a filler song from a musical – in fact now I think about it, it puts me in mind of “One Night In Bangkok” from Time. The performance seems to push this idea with Bobby doing the lead vocal dressed like a character from Guys and Dolls. Possibly off the back of this , he would go on to record the theme tune for a BBC show called “Big Deal” a couple of year later about a small time gambler played by Ray Brooks (other wise known as the voice of Mr Benn). The girls do their best to look all sultry whist the other fella seems to be a complete spare part and spends the entire song sat on a chair. It would only reach No 34 in the charts and this lowly position would signal the death knell for Bucks Fizz ‘s most commercial period and they would only return to the top 10 one more time three years down the line.
Right – anyone remember Lydia Murdock? She did that “reply” song to Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean”. No? Thought not. In 1983, the UK (as was the whole world) was in the grip of Jacko fever following the release of his monster selling album “Thriller”. The single “Billie Jean” had already been No 1 here and Lydia did a song called “Superstar” from Billie Jean’s point of view. So using the backing of the original track, Lydia sang:
I’m Billie Jean and I’m mad as hell
I’m a woman with a story to tell
You know just who you are
It was an oddball idea but I think I just accepted it at the time as we’d already had the original song , then Club House with “Do It Again / Billie Jean” which combined Jacko’s song with a Steely Dan number and now this. Talk about flogging an idea to death.
OK – now one of the biggest and most recognisable songs of the whole decade…”All Night Long” by Lionel Richie. I thought this was a great song at the time and I think it still stands up well now. This was the lead single from his huge “Can’t Slow Down” LP and has that great Caribbean rhythm that runs throughout it. It’s quite joyous really and easily the best of the singles taken from the album. In all five songs were issued as singles from “Can’t Slow Down” as Richie seemed to be trying to emulate Jacko’s “Thriller” singles release strategy. Beware though, the horrors of “Hello” (both the song and the video) were only six months away…..
And with that we arrive at the No 1 which for the 4th (of six) weeks is “Karma Chameleon” by Culture Club. Instead of the studio version, we get the promo video this time. If you’re hoping the visuals will distract you from the shiteness of the song, you’ll be disappointed as that’s crap as well.
The play out music is “Say Say Say” by Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney. After a cameo from Paul in the Tracey Ullman video and Lydia Murdock’s rip off of “Billie Jean” earlier, it seems the proper thing to do to give them some official exposure in their own right. It’s not one of Macca’s finest but when you consider that a year down the line he will release “Frog Chorus”, we shouldn’t nit pick.
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 if you do remember Lydia Murdock 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?|
|Roman Holliday||Motor Mania||Nah|
|Tracey Ullman||They Don’t Know||No but is on Now Vol 1 so technically yes|
|Black Lace||Superman||Do I really need to answer this?|
|Siouxie and the Banshees||Dear Prudence||My singles collection confirms no but I thought I did|
|George Benson||In Your Eyes||No|
|Bucks Fizz||London Town||Ooh no|
|Lydia Murdock||Superstar||I didn’t much care for “Billie Jean” so why would I buy this rip off|
|Lionel Richie||All Night Long||There is a 12” of this in our house but I think it’s my wife’s|
|Culture Club||Karma Chameleon||No – it’s a shower of shit|
|Paul McCartney / Michael Jackson||Say Say Say||Nope|
Some bed time reading?