TOTP 08 MAR 1984

An observation: re-watching these old TOTP broadcasts, reviewing them, analysing them, writing about them…does all this spoil our memories of them? After all our memory shifts and re-edits and our recollections do not always stand up to rigorous examination when confronted with the facts. Are we destroying our own histories?

Too deep? Ok, f**k that s**t, let’s do TOTP! This week we have the return of Richard Skinner and Gary Davies. They are dressed in black and white which Davies uses for a particularly weak pun. They both look apalling even by 80s standards. Also making a return is someone we haven’t seen for a while – Phil Fearon and Galaxy! The last time we saw Phil he was wearing a gilet and was going under the name of Galaxy. Now he’s wearing a vivid red suit and has promoted himself to take top billing for this new song which is “What Do I Do?”. Given that he’s been away nearly a year, the sound he has come back with is very similar to his previous hits. Well, it is Phil Fearon we’re talking about here not David Bowie so he was hardly likely to surprise us with some goth rock number was he? Even so, this is almost identikit pop by numbers. As usual though, the British record buying public were deceived into basically buying the same record over and over again thereby sending this single to No 5 in the charts. Phil still has his faithful backing singers with him but this time they are armed with maracas (indeed Phil uses one as a fake microphone at one point- what a card!). It all has the look of a cheap UK version of Kid Creole and the Coconuts. The whole sorry affair finishes with Phil leading his coconuts Galaxy and the studio audience on a conga through the set. Just awful.

Richard Skinner then reappears and says “If you fell like dancing, this is the show for you.” but instead of some massive dance anthem he goes onto introduce “Joanna” by Kool and the Gang! Now it may be a pleasant enough mid tempo ballad, but would this be anyone’s first choice of a song to dance to? I suspect even narcissistic brides called Joanna would baulk at choosing this as the first song to dance to at their wedding. We’ve already seen this video once so lets move right onto…

….ah…its the Weather Girls with “It’s Raining Men”. So after having gay anthem “I Am What I Am” in the charts recently, we get another one straight away. The Weather Girls were disco legend Sylvester’s backing band (originally called Two Tons O’ Fun as name checked by Gary Davies) and this song was a massive hit all around the world in the previous 18 months with the UK finally succumbing in 1984. I mean I get its status as a camp classic and everything but for me its become one of those unlistenable songs caused by overly err…”heavy” rotation on radio playlists. It was revived by Gerri Halliwell in 2001 who took it to No 1 (one place better than the original) no doubt aided by her “Flashdance” inspired video. It didn’t really resonate with the 15 year old me but again, I probably wasn’t the target audience.

OK  – here comes Tracey Ullman attempting to follow up her massive commercial success of ’83 with more of the same in ’84. You’ll recall that she scored huge hits with covers of Kirsty Maccoll’s “They Don’t Know” and Doris Day’s “Mover Over Darling” and the formula is repeated here with a cover of the Madness song “My Girl” retitled “My Guy’s Mad At Me”. Its a decent attempt but it doesn’t really add anything to the original and seems to rely solely on another humorous video with obligatory celebrity cameo. So after Paul McCartney in “They Don’t Know” we get Neil Kinnock in this one. With all due respect to Neil, he was never going to have the same wow factor as Macca and the whole things falls a bit flat as reflected in its peak chart position of 23. For any one reading this young enough to not know what that odd shaped thing Tracey keeps holding to her ear is, that’s an old style telephone and no it’s not funny.

Now we get our first glimpse of a major new star who would go onto have a career full of longevity and success. This is Sade with “Your Love Is King”. The word had been out on Sade for some time – so much so that when she finally emerged into the glaring lights of the charts, it was as if she was a fully formed, bona fide pop star. I say she, but Sade were actually a band just like  Blondie, Toyah and Nena before them. This was their debut single and would also go onto be their biggest ever hit. Of course, Sade were more about albums than singles and the LP this song came from (“Diamond Life”) was the ultimate must -have album of 1984. It was the torch bearer of sohisti-pop – a horrible term that seemed quite wide in its parameters including everyone from Bryan Ferry to The Style Council to Simply Red. It became known as the “coffee table” album so called because it was supposedly on every social climbing wannabe cool cat’s coffee table. The term became derogatory in its meaning and today “coffee table music” is even in the Collins English Dictionary, defined as “unadventurous”. What did I make of it? Well, it was a nice enough sound but it didn’t really inspire me – it didn’t grab you like, I dunno, “68 Guns” by The Alarm or something. It was just…well…nice I suppose. I preferred the other big single from the album (“Smooth Operator”) but even then only marginally. Maybe I just wasn’t sophisticated enough – well I was only 15 at the time to be fair to me.

A quick chart rundown follows full of new entries most of which are on the show but that’s not the reason to pause for a moment. No, its to wonder at the caption for the aforementioned Sade at No 37. In big bold letters above Sade’s picture it says SLADE! Unbelievable! Richard Skinner is so embarrassed he has to draw even more attention to it by trying to make out its a deliberate mistake. Its not quite up there with the whole Dexys /Jocky Wilson fiasco of 1982 but its pretty bad.

OK – one of those new entries next and its possibly this act’s most well known song – “Robert De Niro’s Waiting” by Bananarama. We’d not seen the girls since last Summer but now they were back with this catchy ditty. In recent months, as part of the massive media operation that has surrounded the reunion of the original band, it’s emerged that this song is actually about date rape which I’m pretty sure none of us ever knew at the time. Siobhan seems back in line in this performance with regulation matching outfits to the fore and no rogue dance moves. I don’t mind it but I much preferred the other chart hit to namecheck an actor at this time  – “Michael Caine” by Madness. The song would make No 3 in the charts and remains their joint biggest hit.

Right, maybe we should now address the shameless self promotion going on in this show by one Gary Davies. You’ll recall that Davies liked to style himself as Radio 1’s eligible young bachelor with his “young , free and single” catchphrase and housewives choice appeal. In this show, he cultivates his “medallion man” image not once but twice though why, in brand new and shiny 1984, he thought a decidedly uncool image from the 70s was a winner only he will know. That said, I didn’t mind him and his lunchtime show although the USP for that was the fact that he got to give the new Top 40 chart its first airing on a Tuesday lunch time rather than Davies himself.

OK – bit of a treat coming up – an artist performing live rather than miming. The artist in question is Howard Jones and the song is “Hide and Seek”. When this show was shown again as part of BBC4’s archive schedule, there was not a lot of love for HoJo’s performance on my Twitter timeline. Personally I think it’s great. Some sweeping piano playing, a haunting melody and a plaintive vocal…what’s not to like? Ok, he could have lost the dry ice, I’ll give you that. My guess is that the record company were panicking as the single had only got to No 12 after the previous two had made No 3 and No 2 so they wanted something special to give it an extra push hence a live performance on the biggest pop music show around. Unfortunately for Howard (and his record company execs) it didn’t work as the single stalled at No 12 and would get no further. Shame.

The No 1 is next and it’s Nena with “99 Red Balloons” on top of the pile for the 2nd of a respectable 3 week run. After the revelation in the last post that the band hated the English language version of the song, my research tells me that despite giving over 500 concerts over a 30 year period, Nena has never performed  “99 Red Balloons” live, preferring to always do the German version (“99 Luftballons”). Take that Brexiteers!

The play out music this week is Mel Brooks with “To Be Or Not To Be (The Hitler Rap)”. After last week’s comedy effort by Alexi Sayle, we get another example of the genre, this time by American comedian and director Brooks. This was taken from his film of the same name and I’m pretty sure I didn’t know what to make of it at the time. Nowadays I am much more familiar with the Brooks cannon with “Blazing Saddles” a personal favourite. TOTP shows some of the video then cuts away to the studio audience dancing along  – it looks a bit odd to be fair.


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 behold Gary “Medallion Man” Davies in his full glory as I can’t find the full programme on YouTube.

I make no claim to the rights of this show and all ownership and contents including logos and graphics belongs totally to the BBC.


Order of appearance Artist Song Did I buy it?


Phil Fearon and Galaxy What Do I Do?


Oof no!


Kool and the Gang Joanna Nope


Weather Girls It’s Raining Men No


Tracey Ullman My Guy’s Mad At Me It’s OK but why buy this when you could have the original?


Sade Your Love Is King No – ah I see my wife has the LP though. Err…delete what I said about wannabe cool cats from your minds


Bananarama Robert De Niro’s Waiting Catchy but not enough to catch my attention (or money)


Howard Jones Hide and Seek How did I not buy this?


Nena 99 Red Balloons No


Mel Brooks To Be Or Not To Be (The Hitler Rap)


Take a wild guess

Some bed time reading?








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