After what has seemed like weeks of stagnation in the charts at the back end of 1983 combined with the post Xmas lull, tonight’s presenters Simon Bates and Peter Powell offer us six (SIX!) songs that are brand new to TOTP. Hallelujah! I offer libations to the gods of 80s pop!
Let’s get into them then and first up is Whitesnake with “Give Me More Time”. Hmm. Not quite what I was hoping for but still. Now I don’t mind a bit of soft rock on occasion but I was never very turned on by this lot. I think I only knew of their existence thanks to their minor hit “Guilty Of Love” the previous year and certainly was unaware of the heavy rock royalty origins of lead singer David Coverdale. The song though is just average commercial rock fare. I seem to recall not minding it at the time but it doesn’t do much for me now. Conspicuously the lyrics to the chorus are actually “Give me just a little more time”. Presumably Whitesnake didn’t want it to get confused with the hit song by the group Chairmen of the Board from 1970. I recall Mike Read playing it on the Radio 1 breakfast show one morning and saying the song’s title made him think of a beleaguered company chairman banging his fist on the boardroom table shouting “Give Me More Time” as the debts mount. Or maybe I’ve just remembered that wrong and all he did was say not to be confused with the Chairmen of the Board song. The graphic that appears at the song’s end top and tails the band’s name with ssssssss (see what they did there?). Anyhow, it would be another 3 years before Whitesnake would make the Top 40 again. Wonder if TOTP recycled the graphic?
Bang! Big Country are back with “Wonderland”. This was a standalone single intended to maintain their profile whilst they recorded their second album (see also “The Way You Are” by Tears For Fears) and it did the job I think. A big anthemic slab of bagpipe rock, it didn’t break any new ground for the band but it would go onto be their second highest placing single ever and a fan favourite. My only criticism would be the video is very predictable with the band playing in a snow laden epic looking landscape which we had already seen be done by both U2 and Echo and the Bunnymen the previous year. It also is a rather literal interpretation of the lyrics which mention “Winter”, “thunder”, “winds” and “darker sky”. A decent tune nevertheless.
From one Scottish band to another as we get our very first glimpse of newcomers Fiction Factory with “(Feels Like ) Heaven”. If there was a competition to find the best one-hit wonder of the 80s, I think this lot would only come second to the Lotus Eaters for me. Whilst this song has stayed with me for 33 years, the band have not and watching this back now I realise that I didn’t have a clue what they looked like. I remember thinking that their sound was very sophisticated but listening to them in 2017, it does seem quite a simple song but it definitely had / has something.
In many ways they could be said to be “Dream To Sleep” hit makers H2O part II in that they were both Scottish new wave groups with a catchy synth heavy single. Like H2O before them, Fiction Factory couldn’t sustain their initial success and disappeared as quickly as they had appeared never to be seen again……
…..or so I thought until I found this. Check this out from 2011. The bass player has the same haircut. Brilliant!
Next another plug for the Best British Video Rock and Pop award. Yes yes Simes we know all this but what we don’t know is who won?! (see post for TOTP 12th Jan 1984).
This week’s obligatory band from Liverpool, after last week’s Icicle Works appearance, is China Crisis who return to the charts with “Wishful Thinking”. I loved this and deciding I couldn’t live without it went out and bought the 7″ single. The last time we had seen this lot was with their hit “Christian” about 12 months previous. Since then they had seen two singles narrowly miss the Top 40 and also released their second LP from which this song was taken. It is their biggest hit and probably their best known song. It’s a beautiful, lilting atmospheric piece but what struck me watching this performance was how unusual to see four band members stood in a line, and that’s before we even mention that one is playing a double bass and one a clarinet. Hardly your archetypal rock ‘n’ roll line up is it?
A chart run down now and I pause to mention this as at No 40 we have possibly the first ever mention on mainstream UK TV of Madonna. This even preceded her infamous performance on TV programme The Tube by a week. How little did we know then the impact this woman would have.
A curveball next – Gloria Gaynor with “I Am What I Am”. Now I didn’t know this at the time but this is of course from the Broadway musical La Cage aux Folles. I also certainly didn’t know what a gay anthem was in 1984 but there is no doubt that this song is one. On reflection it made sense to put this song and Gloria together as she was famous for that other massive gay anthem “I Will Survive” some six years earlier so it was an obvious fit. The single would peak at No 13 in our charts so I guess you could say the plan worked albeit not a runaway success. And what did the 1984 version of me make of it all? I really can’t remember.
And now a rather big deal, at least I remember it being at the time – a posthumous release from John Lennon with “Nobody Told Me”. This was one of the last recordings he made before his murder in 1980 and was intended for the follow up album to “Double Fantasy”. That album (“Milk And Honey”) would eventually see the light of day in 1984 via Yoko Ono and this was the lead single from it. In early 1984, it had only been just over three years since Lennon’s demise so anything appearing from his vault of unreleased work was sure to cause headlines. Although the reaction was nowhere near as favourable as that received by “Double Fantasy”, the album went Top 3 and “Nobody Told Me” peaked at No 6 in the singles chart. I was 12 when Lennon was shot and killed and I remember going to Woolworths around that time and holding a (hastily released) Beatles compilation LP in my hands wondering whether to buy it or not. I put it back in the racks and never made the purchase. Had I taken it to the till, I’m pretty sure I would have become a Beatles obsessive and the release of “Nobody Told Me” would have been a monumental event in my life. Alas I didn’t and so I merely liked the song and nothing else.
At the end of the video, Simon Bates advises us “It will climb next week, watch my words”. Watch your words Simon? Surely you mean mark my words? Idiot.
This week’s No 1 is Lennon’s old mucka Macca. Yes by beautiful coincidence, TOTP are able to segue from Lennon into McCartney this week as Paul is still No 1 with “Pipes Of Peace”. Waiting on the wings though at No 2 are Frankie Goes To Hollywood. Gulp!
The play out music this week is “King Of Pain” by The Police. This was the 4th single to be taken from the “Synchronicity” LP and despite not buying said album or any of the previous three singles, I decided to purchase this. Why? There was just something about it. That spare, brittle, empty opening leading into that killer opening lyric “There’s a little black spot on the sun today”. Then at just over 1 minute the fuller production sound kicks in to take the song into that shimmering chorus. On the lyrics, here’s the guy responsible Sting who according to Wikipedia says:
“I conjured up symbols of pain and related them to my soul. A black spot on the sun struck me as being a very painful image, and I felt that was my soul up there on there on the sun. It’s just projecting your state into the world of symbolism, which is what poetry’s all about, really.”
Hell’s teeth man! Never mind King of Pain, you’re the King of the Pseuds!
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 Simon Bates messing up his lines as I can’t find the full programme on YouTube.
|Order of appearance||Artist||Song||Did I buy it?|
|Whitesnake||Give Me More Time||Nah I was a pop kid remember|
|Big Country||Wonderland||Not at the time but I have their Greatest Hits CD which it features on|
|Fiction Factory||(Feels Like) Heaven||Yes … hang on no – its not in the 7” singles box – How did I never buy this?!|
|China Crisis||Wishful Thinking||Yes sir! Present and correct in the old singles box.|
|Gloria Gaynor||I Am What I Am||No – don’t think I was the target market for this one.|
|John Lennon||Nobody Told Me||No|
|Paul McCartney||Pipes of Peace||No it didn’t really do much for me|
|The Police||King Of Pain||Yes, yes I did. What of it?|
Some bed time reading?