We have landed in February 1984 (having skipped a week due to presenter issues) and are once more in the capable hands of Messrs Jensen and Peel. The studio audience sound suitably ready to explode with excitement and we are off with the first act of the night who are….Musical Youth?! No way! Really? They were still having hits at this point? I thought we had probably seen the last of them with their late flurry of activity and the end of ’83 when they scrambled to some mid chart placings on the backs of Desmond Dekker (“007”) and Donna Summer (“Unconditional Love”). But no! Here they are again. This surely must be their last TOTP appearance?
Yes, yes it is. Thought so. This single (“Sixteen”) was one one of a number of tracks released as a 7″ from their second LP “Different Style!” which was a massive flop compared to their debut album (1982’s “The Youth of Today”).
This particular performance is a curious thing. For some reason , the band chose to go with youngest member Kelvin Grant to do the vocal where he sings about being 16 when in fact he was actually 13 years of age at the time as opposed to regular lead singer Dennis Seaton who was actually 16. There’s also an uncredited female vocalist who duets with Kelvin and its all very unsettling.
Of course there is a very sombre tone and indeed tragic outcome to Musical Youth’s footnote in the story of pop music so I shouldn’t be too flippant. You can read about it in Alexis Petridis’ excellent piece in the Guardian below:
From that piece comes this quote from the band’s Michael Grant:
“After the band broke up, I read this article in one of the tabloids saying Musical Youth were has-beens. I was 16 years old. All my friends are leaving school, going into jobs, starting their lives, doing all that sort of thing, and you read this article saying you’re a has-been.”
A chastening tale indeed. Fare thee well Musical Youth….
RIght, here comes one of the decade’s most memorable songs and indeed videos – Queen with “Radio Ga Ga”. It’s difficult to recall a time now when we weren’t all familiar with this song but this was something of a comeback for Queen. Their previous album (1982’s “Hot Space”) had not been well received by the fans and the singles from it had not performed well (not counting “Under Pressure” with David Bowie which was a separate project although included on the album). They hadn’t released any singles in 1983 so this, the lead single from album “The Works”, had quite a bit riding on it. The inclusion of the word radio in the title and chorus was too much for Radio 1 to resist and they played the hell out of it thereby contributing to its rise to No 2 in the charts.
It is well documented that the song makes a statement about the rise of TV (and in particular MTV) over radio . So it’s somewhat ironic that they came up with such an iconic video to promote the song. The Metropolis themed black and white footage gives way to the red, black and white colours of the concert section with the band leading the audience in some synchronised over-the-head clapping. This scene would be replicated at Live Aid when Queen cemented their return to the top table of rock and pop. And what did I think of it all? Well, I wasn’t a massive Queen fan ( I mainly knew of them from their hit “We Are The Champions” which was the ubiquitous soundtrack to nearly every single moment of sporting glory) but it had an appeal of sorts thought not enough for me to want to buy it. The band would go onto be omnipresent in 1984 with 3 further hit singles taken from the album, plus a Christmas single plus a Freddie Mercury solo single! I like John Peel’s lame joke in the link that he knew the band when they were just called Princess, thereby pre-dating the arrival of an actual bona fide pop star called Princess by some 18 months.
LOOK AT THE STATE OF THIS BLOKE! Yes, it is the one and only Matthew Wilder with his never to be repeated hit single “Break My Stride”. Possibly one of the most unlikely looking pop stars ever, Mr Wilder somehow managed to get this ditty to No 4 in the UK charts and No 5 in the US. I mean it’s catchy enough but it’s almost nursery rhyme -esque in its simplicity. I recall this performance probably for the novelty of his use of the studio audience to be his impromptu backing band (albeit without any instruments). It’s almost as if he needed some moral support on stage to get him through it. And what is going on with that moustache?! Enough already!
Next another plug for the Best UK video award at the upcoming Rock and Pop Awards show. In previous posts I have discussed how I have been unable to find out who won this award despite trawling the internet. However, I saw someone on Twitter this week say it was “Pipes Of Peace” by Paul McCartney which makes sense with it being a very recent (at the time) and memorable video so let’s take that as the truth.
Right, on with the show and here’s a band we only just met for the first time the other week but who are still climbing the charts – Fiction Factory with “(Feels Like) Heaven”. The lead singer looks like Deacon Blue’s Ricky Ross or rather his uptight elder brother. Apparently he now works in IT at Dundee University. I also work at a University but I’m pretty sure there are no ex pops stars from the 80s in our our IT department although there is someone with a Bowie obsession. And someone called Gary Moore (not that one).
Heeeeere’s Thomas! Yep – it’s finally that time for the madcap antics of maverick pop star Thomas Dolby with “Hyperactive!” I had heard of Thomas via his single of two years previous “She Blinded Me With Science” which although not being a hit in the UK had been massive in the US partly thanks to the bizarre video that featured Magnus Pike (whose voice was also on the record). I hadn’t particularly liked that song (bit too out there for me) but “Hyperactive!” I found much more palatable. I’m sure I must have found the video quite arresting and indeed, although it may look lame in today’s CGI world, it would have been ground breaking at the time. I used to work with a guy in Our Price who described Dolby as the apprentice to David Bowie’s master and I can sort of see what he means. Years later I would attempt a version of “Hyperactive!” with a work colleague in an attempt to describe who Thomas Dolby was to a younger co-worker. Kids eh? “Hyperactive!” would go onto be Dolby’s biggest hit in the UK and he would not make the Top 40 for another 8 years despite follow up single “I scare Myself” being a stone cold classic. The record buying public eh?
Stand well back! The Thompson Twins chart career is about to go super nova! Yes, after ending 1983 with a Top 3 hit in “Hold Me Now”, Tom Bailey and pals seized their moment and followed it up with this monster “Doctor! Doctor!” What is it with this week’s show and exclamation marks in song titles by the way? This would also be a No3 hit and established the Twins as major players at the card game of Top 40 placings. At the time I thought it was an OK song but not as strong as “Hold Me Now” but it’s one of those songs that puts me in mind of a particular period namely mock ‘O’ levels and listening to Mike Read’s Radio 1 breakfast show. Like Queen before them on this week’s show, the band would go onto be all over 1984 and their stock as chart stars was never higher.
Next up is a chart rundown which only goes to highlight some of the great singles going down the charts that we won’t be seeing (due to presenter issues presumably) such as “S.O.S” by ABC, “Speed Your Love To Me” by Simple Minds and “What Difference Does It Make?” by The Smiths. Balls.
Straight in at No 12 we find Duran Duran with “New Moon On Monday”. This was the second single to be lifted from their “Seven and the Ragged Tiger” LP. The first single (“Union of the Snake”) had performed adequately but no more clambering to No 3 but if that was seen as a disappointment then that was nothing compared to “New Moon On Monday” which only just scraped into the Top 10. I remember being surprised at this as I thought it was much better than “Union” but on reflection, although it has a fantastically rousing chorus, the rest of the song is fairly pedestrian. The video is a mini epic that doesn’t quite work depicting, as it does, the band in underground rebel movement mode fighting the good fight against some unnamed military oppressors. Apparently the band hate this video and they spent most of the time cold, bored and drunk on the shoot. As a result, there are some hilarious scenes of them “dancing” whilst half-cut. As such it’s worth checking out the full video below (it was cut short in the TOTP broadcast). Ignore the first 45 seconds which is pure pretentious wank and instead go to 4:09 onwards. You have never seen a pop band look so awkward. The disappointing chart placing proved to be a blip for Duran and their next (and final) three single releases under the classic line-up reached No 1, No 2 and No 2 again. But more of all that later no doubt…
Next we have the Top 10 countdown leading up to the No 1 which is Frankie Goes To Hollywood with “Relax” not that we get to see it of course because the BBC have banned it! Yep, the great “Relax” controversy was at fever pitch at this point. Although the blame is put squarely on the shoulders of Mike Read, the BBC had already decided to drop it from their playlist and extended the ban to include TOTP. Hence we have the ludicrous situation where the Top 10 countdown leading to the coveted No 1 spot ends with just a picture of the band and no performance. This travesty went on for the whole of the single’s five week residency at the top of the charts and was only rectified on the Xmas show when they were allowed to perform the song as part of the year’s review.
So what did we have to play out the show instead? Unbelievably this week it is “Spice of Life ” by Manhattan Transfer. Yes, instead of seeing the hottest band around perform the hottest sound around, we got some clapped out old jazz vocal group from the last decade (remember “Chanson D’Amour”?) with their last ever whiff of chart success. It stank then and it still stinks now (the situation not Manhattan Transfer…although…)
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 young people dancing to Manhattan Transfer as I can’t find the full programme on YouTube.
|Order of appearance||Artist||Song||Did I buy it?|
|Queen||Radio Ga Ga||No sir I did not|
|Matthew Wilder||Break My Stride||Ahem…NO!|
|Fiction Factory||(Feels Like) Heaven||I am ashamed to say not|
|Thomas Dolby||Hyperactive!||No but my wife has the LP its from “Flat Earth”|
|Thompson Twins||Doctor! Doctor!||Actually I didn’t|
|Duran Duran||New Moon On Monday||No but I ended up buying the parent album “Seven and the Ragged Tiger”|
|Manhattan Transfer||Spice of Life||Yes – this coincided perfectly with my light jazz period and I was struck by its….NO OF COURSE NOT!|
Some bed time reading?