TOTP 24 NOV 1983

Bloody hell this is relentless. When I started this blog back in January it seemed like a nice way to do something creative – watch some old TOTPs, write a few words, click publish – job done. But this two shows a week scheduling by BBC4 is brutal. I’m physically exhausted and creatively spent. I might have to reassess my commitment to this once 1983 is over with.

Talking of which we are getting ever nearer to that point. Having skipped another week we arrive in late November and the release schedules are getting very busy as record companies eye the coveted Xmas No 1 spot (back when the Xmas No 1 was a massive thing not like the sham it is today). No doubt with his eye on the prize, one of the biggest breakthrough acts of the year is up first – it’s Paul Young with his latest 45 “Love Of The Common People”. I don’t think I knew this at the time but this was actually a re-release having first been issued as a single in 1982 but it sank without trace. Like his other hits up to this point, it was a cover version again but probably not that well known to the record buying public in 1983. It had been a No 9 hit for Nicky Thomas but way back in 1970. The decision to re-release it was a good one – it had that Xmas feel to it with the sound of children’s voices in the background during the instrumental break and the lyrics were about poverty and unemployment and so pulled at the heart strings at that time of year when we are supposed to be thinking of others.

I thought it was great and not even Paul’s risky wardrobe in this performance (nasty jumper tucked into leather trousers!) could put me off. The Fabulously Wealthy Tarts on backing vocals and that swaying clasped hands dance move just completed the deal for me and I went out and bought it. Paul took it all the way to No 2 and though not achieving the Xmas No 1, he cemented his place at the top table of pop stars.

Next a very unlikely come back from someone who had been a big star but who had disappeared from view since the mid 70s. It is of course Tina Tuner with her cover version of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together”. Now I’m pretty sure I didn’t have much of a clue who Tina Turner was in November 1983 but she would have massive worldwide success through out the rest of the decade and beyond and it was this single that was the catalyst. As I say, Tina Turner had not been part of my realm of pop until this point but I did know who Heaven 17 were and I knew that they had something to do with this song (they had produced it  under the umbrella of the British Electric Foundation) so that piqued my interest. It was the lead single from her multi platinum selling album “Private Dancer” and it’s a nice cover of the Al Green classic but the original is better to my ears. She followed it up with an appalling cover of the Beatles song “Help” which barely grazed the Top 40 but then played her ace card in “What’s Love Got To Do With It” and the rest is history.

Oh blimey – next an historic appearance of seismic proportions. It’s the very first TOTP performance by….The Smiths with “This Charming Man”!  What can you say about The Smiths? The most important band of the decade? Ever? Purveyors of absolutely iconic songs with the most charismatic frontman of a generation? I was ripe for this lot. I was ready. I was primed. I was just the right age. They would speak to me and for me. They would be my band…..except….they weren’t and they didn’t. I just didn’t …get them. Yes of course now I can truly appreciate them – their musicality, their significance, their legacy. But here, in November 1983, I didn’t get it or them. Why? I don’t know really. Maybe the gladioli put me off. I would prefer their next single “What Difference Does It Make?” but I still refused to swoon over them. My wife, who is just 6 weeks older than me got them – indeed she had the Morrissey quiff hairstyle at the time. My mate Robin, was and is still obsessed. I finally caved a couple of years ago and went with Robin to see Morrissey live and he was great. Whilst working in record shops in the North West in the 90’s everyone in the band (bar Morrissey) came in at one time or another. I have a Johnny Marr story but I’ll keep that for another time. We are sure to see The Smiths again soon.

Right – do you remember a few posts back where I was talking about David Grant and his song “Watching You, Watching Me”? I mentioned that there was also a Thompson Twins in the charts at the same time that used the same chorus but they called it “Watching” instead? I said it dreadful and it was. I also said they got better eventually. Well this is eventually as they back to perform their classic “Hold Me Now”. This is a great example of a perfectly formed pure pop song. If you break down the composition it doesn’t look like anything very special in that it’s a mid-tempo song with a standard verse -chorus format and the lyrics really aren’t going to expand your mind…

“Hold me now, warm my heart
Stay with me, let loving start (let loving start)”

…but somehow it just hangs together perfectly. Maybe its the prominent bass line or the sparkling piano interjections or Joe Leeway’s high pitched harmonies – who knows? All I know is that after their previous very synth-based dance tunes, this seemed like a radical departure to me at the time. The critics took it as a definite indication that the band had gone all out for mainstream commercial success and that  may be true enough given the performance of the parent album “Into The Gap” which sold over one million copies in the US alone. But according to twin Alannah Currie the song also presented them with the problem that the record company wanted them to write “Hold Me Now” over and over again now that they had found a successful formula. Anyway, this remains one of my favourite Thompson Twins songs and it would go onto reach No 4 in the charts here.

So due to missing out the 17 Nov show, we now have an act we only just saw in the last broadcast. It’s someone who Simon Bates predicts will be a “massive star both sides of the Atlantic” – err no he wasn’t Simes – it’s Marilyn of course with “Calling Your Name”. It’s pretty much a carbon copy performance of his debut outing but watching it back it’s pretty clear Marilyn wasn’t overly blessed with dance moves but then maybe he didn’t need to be as he was relying on his appearance to dazzle people. The other thing that struck me about the song is that it suddenly and unexpectedly felt like it could have been a hit for The Monkees. No? You can’t hear it? That bit of a twang after the final tumultuous chorus? Oh well….

Definitely not sounding like The Monkees are the next band who are Simple Minds with “Waterfront”. This is simply EPIC! I loved this at the time and also the following singles “Speed Your Love To Me” and “Up On The Catwalk”. As such I went out and bough the LP they were all from “Sparkle In The Rain” (on white vinyl no less for all you record collector geeks!). From its single note bass line intro to its crashing drums to its immense guitar sounds, it screams MASSIVE from start to finish. As a 15 year old I was still trying to formulate an image for myself and although I think Jim Kerr looks great here, it was his band mate and guitarist Charlie Burchill whose look I thought I could adopt. His hairstyle was achievable (i.e. it wasn’t dyed or needed a can of Cossack hairspray a day to maintain its shape) and he just looks cool the way he handles his (ahem) axe here. Did I pull off this look? I really can’t remember  – maybe any old school friends who are reading this can tell me….

Another video now and this would have gone down a storm with the Mod community in my hometown of Worcester (including my Weller obsessed brother)…it’s the Style Council with “Solid Bond In Your Heart”. After a couple of distinctly un -Mod sounding singles, here Weller calls directly to the Jam Army with a song that was at one stage going to be the final single release for his old band. Indeed their is a demo version of it on The Jam box set “Direction Reaction Creation” if you’re interested. In the end Weller went with “Beat Surrender” but here he reactivates “Solid” for his new vehicle. In many ways it was a backwards step that went against his rationale for breaking up The Jam which was to pursue a different sound with Style Council. Then again maybe he thought it was just too good a song to waste. Certainly it was right up my brother’s street and I must admit I liked it enough too. The video is also shamelessly made to appeal to his existing fan base depicting a retro soul event complete with Weller and Mick Talbot in appropriate outfits and Weller even arrives on a scooter. All in all it’s a nice little package of image and sound but one which Weller would leave far behind as the decade progressed.

Unfortunately Billy Joel is still No 1 with “Uptown Girl” so we have to endure his video again and that, like the song, is piss weak. It’s a really lame concept (grease monkey pulls sophisticated woman) and the dance moves are awful (to be fair to Billy the first thing he said to Christie Brinkley on meeting her was “I don’t dance”).

The play out music this week is Eurythmics “Right By Your Side”

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 that iconic Smiths TOTP debut 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?


Paul Young Love Of The Common People Yes sir


Tina Turner Let’s Stay Together Not the 7” but its on Now Vol 1 so technically yes


The Smiths This Charming Man To my shame no – look I’m sorry OK?


Thompson Twins Hold Me Now No but I must have it digitally surely


Marilyn Calling Your Name No


Simple Minds Waterfront Not the 45 but I bought the album it was from


Style Council Solid Bond In Your Heart No but my brother did so I owned a copy by proxy


Billy Joel Uptown Girl Not likely – but it’ s probably on a Greatest Hits CD somewhere


Eurythmics Right By Your Side No but its on a greatest Hits CD I’m sure

Some bed time reading?







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