Do you know what you were doing on 1st March 1984? Well, if you are reading this and you are Sting (he might be!), you had just played your last concert with The Police for 23 years Mr Sumner. If, however, you were me (and I was) then you were watching the latest TOTP after a long hard day at school with “O” level exams looming.
This week ‘s presenters are yet again Jensen and Peel who seem to have pinched Paul King (from the band King)’s suit a good 12 months before we even knew who Paul King was. Now that’s what I call being trendsetters.
First up tonight are Matt Bianco who we only just saw for the first time the other week. As such, it’s hard finding something new to say about the group. C’mon think man! Matt Bianco…Matt Bianco…Heh! Of course, there’s always this….
Yes , long before Five Star were the victims of abuse live on Saturday morning kids TV, Matt Bianco endured the harshest of put downs courtesy of one Simon Roberts who matter- of -factly informs them that they are “a bunch of wankers“. This episode is the stuff of legend but I can’t remember now whether I witnessed this as it was broadcast live or whether my memories have been falsely implanted by its appearance on numerous nightmare TV moments shows. Whatever, it was funny as Hell.
Next is a band I hadn’t seen before despite the fact that they had been releasing records since 1978. It’s Van Halen with “Jump”. This was the US No 1 song at the time and it would also go Top 10 in this country. It was a departure from their usual sound in that it featured a synthesizer and it was this break with tradition that would see the lead singer, David Lee Roth, ultimately leave the band – musical differences and all that. We would not see Van Halen back in the charts until 1986 by which time Sammy Hagar was on vocal duties. I wasn’t that impressed by it at the time – it seemed like a dumb rock ‘n’ roll song to me…..
…however in the hands of someone else it turns into this piece of gold…
The boy wonder himself there of course. Anyway, back to TOTP and one of the strangest chart entries of the decade if not all time….here comes Alexi Sayle with “Ullo John Got A New Motor”. This is just bonkers. I, along with most teenagers in the country at this time, knew Alexi Sayle from his roles in The Young Ones which was just the funniest thing ever..ever…EVER!…when I was 15 at least. This …rap(?) though is basically random lines repeated twice so you get:
Ullo John! Gotta new motor? (x2)
He can’t half play the bongos (x2)
He’s got a record by Billy Joel (x2)
Them locks are easy (x2)
Here’s my calling card: WALLOP! (x2)
That’s a piece of balsa (x2)
You can make a model out of that (x2)
He stuck his head in a dustbin (x2)
And then ran through the launderette (x2)
Ullo John! Gotta new motor? (x2)
I didn’t get it then and I’m not sure I do now either. You have to say though that Alexi gives it his all in the performance and when he slides off the car bonnet at the song’s end, you really do believe it’s because he is exhausted.
A milestone release next as we say hello but wave goodbye to Soft Cell. This song (“Down In The Subway”) was their last single release before the band were wound up and Marc Almond continued with his cultish solo career. It seems almost anachronistic to be mentioning Soft Cell in 1984 so closely are they associated with that golden period of 81-82 when they racked up five Top 4 hits including the best seller of 1981 the ever ubiquitous “Tainted Love”. This one passed me by a bit at the time but I can really appreciate it’s value now with its gothic take on a Motown theme and woah oh oh refrain. The duo did reassemble at the turn of the century to do some new material but they will forever be associated with the 80s.
Next it’s those band wagon jumpers Break Machine again with “Street Dance”. This was just a load of old tosh and is it me or is the break dancing really lame as well? Booo! Get off!
Now this next link shows that Radio 1 DJs could be funny and clever at the same time (are you listening Mike Read?). At the top of the show John Peel had made a point about the show not featuring anything French. Now I ‘m not sure what that was all about but they return to the theme in the link into the chart rundown when Jensen says that Break Machine are No 1 in France. There then follows this:
Peel: “Don’t mention France”
Jensen: “Hey! Relax!
Peel: “Don’t do it”
Apparently, the pair of them had continued to play Frankie’s “Relax” throughout the Radio 1 ban and here they subversively name check them at a time when the show wouldn’t have them on despite being No 1. Excellent stuff.
The chart rundown itself features some really terrible entries including:
- Mel Brooks
- The Fraggles
- Manhattan Transfer
- Alexi Sayle
- Juan Martin
- Theme from Bolero (Torvill and Dean)
Dearie dearie me.
What’s in a name eh? Well quite a lot actually. The next band on had to change their name in order to get into the charts. It’s only Wang Chung with “Dance Hall Days”! They had previously gone by the name of Huang Chung but changed it as DJs didn’t know how to pronounce Huang. That seemed to do the trick and they scored their only Top 40 hit with this track. A few things to say about this lot. Firstly, they would go onto have a curious career recording film soundtracks (“To Live and Die in LA”), becoming stars in the US with hits such as “Everybody Have Fun Tonight” and “Let’s Go” and getting name checked in an episode of TV sitcom Frasier for the infamous lyric “Everybody Wang Chung Tonight”. Secondly, they managed to get a gig on this TOTP despite not actually being in the Top 40 which must have broken at least one of the show’s appearance criteria. Some serious deal must have gone down somewhere along the way. Thirdly, I remember a kid at school nicknamed ‘Paddy’ really liking this song. Why was he called Paddy? Because his surname was ‘Murray’ which sounded a bit like ‘Murphy’. Ah schooldays full of illogical low level racism weren’t they?
OK, nearly at the end of this show now and here comes Slade!!! This video, wikipedia advises me, cost £16,000 which may not sound like much today but was a lot of money in 1984. Apparently you didn’t get much for that kind of sum back then though. The production values look cheap, there is a hackneyed Scottish theme to it (tartan, kilts and cabers) and the drummer Don Powell doesn’t feature at all. A poor effort.
OK – much to the BBC’s relief I suspect, Frankie’s seemingly never ending run at No 1 with “Relax” is finally over after five weeks and we have a new song on top of the pile from Nena with “99 Red Balloons”. In the UK we had an English language version of the song and the band hated the way the translation changed the original German meaning apparently. They have a point. Check out the link below for a side-by-side translation:
Anyway, the UK record buying public took Nena to their hearts (for all of 15 minutes until they saw her armpits) and the song remains a well played 80s staple. Ah the armpits, it always comes back to the armpits doesn’t it? What does Nena herself have to say about it all? This from her 2005 memoirs:
“Can a girl from Hagen, who dreams of the big wide world and is in love with Mick Jagger have no idea that girls can’t under any circumstances have hair under the arm? Yes she can. I simply had no idea!”
So now you know.
The play out music this week is Julia and Co with “Breakin’ Down (Sugar Samba)”. I didn’t recognise this name at all but when I heard the track it came back to me. I never really liked it. The singer (Julia?) always sounded like she was on helium.
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 another chance to witness that classic bit of Jensen / Peel banter as I can’t find the full programme on YouTube.
|Order of appearance||Artist||Song||Did I buy it?|
|Matt Bianco||Get Out Of Your Lazy Bed
|I was no Simon Roberts but I also didn’t buy this either|
|Alexi Sayle||Ullo John! Gotta New Motor?||As if|
|Soft Cell||Down In The Subway||No but it’s a good song|
|Break Machine||Street Dance||No it was shite|
|Wang Chung||Dance Hall Days||No but someone did me a copy of their greatest hits CD years later|
|Nena||99 Red Balloons||No|
|Julia and Co||Breakin’ Down (Sugar Samba)
|I did not|
Some bed time reading?