TOTP 19 APR 1984

This post is dedicated to the memory of my old school friend Roger “Bod” Osborne who passed away suddenly. Bod loved his music (Weller and The Jam were faves at school as I recall) and was also a musician himself playing bass in local bands. He had told me recently via FaceBook that he had been reading and enjoying my blog. Rest In Peace my old friend.

After the BBC4 schedulers have very kindly been gentle with me in the last few weeks with TOTP being replaced by the Proms and some best choir in the world competition (or something), the heat is back on with two shows this week and I now only have a few days to knock two posts out before the next shows are repeated.

We’ve skipped a couple of programmes so we are now well into April 1984 and its another of those “live” broadcasts with hosts Peter Powell and Gary Davies. Somebody arty was obviously directing the cameras that day as we go straight into the acapella intro of “Free Nelson Mandela” by Special AKA from the opening titles before a swooping camera shot brings Powell and Davies into view. It probably worked well back then but now its effect is disturbing as we have zero warning before we see the DJs shockingly nasty outfits. Is that some sort of white Elvis -style jump suit Davies is wearing? Not to be outdone Powell has gone for something similar in denim. Davies is clearly shitting himself at the prospect of doing this “live” as he stumbles over his words twice in the space of a few seconds including nearly forgetting who the opening act are….

….its Special AKA Gary! Its another studio performance of “Free Nelson Mandela” the anti -apartheid anthem written by Jerry Dammers. Apparently Dammers finally met Mandela in person at a celebratory concert at Wembley in 1990 just weeks after his release. On being introduced to Dammers as the man who wrote the song, Mandela just said “Ah yes, very good”. No doubt coming from Mandela that would have felt like he’d just told Dammers that he was the 2nd greatest human being of all time (after Mandela of course). Thanks to TopOfThePops facts for that story. Loads more great stuff from that twitter account here:

Right, Thompson Twins next with “You Take Me Up” on video. Like Special AKA, we have seen this lot just the other week (though not the video)….ah this is where my chain-gang mental image must have come from as the video depicts the band as some sort of captive labourers working for an unspecified totalitarian regime. Tom Bailey really hams it up throughout but the whole thing is not a bad effort at doing something different if truth be told. The Twins were denied a No 1 by the ubiquitous “Hello” by Lionel Richie and their chart placings following this single were a classic case of diminishing returns as they never made the Top 10 again (11 – 13 – 15 – 22 then zip if we’re counting). Shame.

Brilliant! Blancmange are back! Gary Davies tells us in the intro that the last time they were on TOTP was about a year ago with the song “Blind Vision”. However, they also made No 33 in the charts at the back end of 1983 with “That’s Love, That It Is” and yes I am a pedant. This time the song is “Don’t Tell Me” and it sees the band in full on pop mode. It’s a bit like “Living On The Ceiling” part II  – there’s still the Eastern influence with a sitar player accompanying the guys on stage and Neil Arthur has opted for a bindi on his forehead. It’s a great record full of hooks and catchy keyboard riffs plus Arthur’s peculiar vocal inflections which always render their songs the right side of interesting. I always liked Blancmange. I liked their one extrovert / one introvert duo line up (see also Yazoo, Erasure,Pet Shop Boys etc). I liked Arthur’s uninhibited dancing (almost Morecambe and Wise-esque here) and of course I liked the tunes. However, despite some healthy charts numbers, they never seem to be mentioned along with the decade’s real big hitters. They are still going although Stephen “the quiet one” Luscombe has not been part of the band for some time due to health issues.

Oh crap! Queen are back! Yes, after returning  so successfully with “Radio Ga Ga”, the band follow it up with “I Want To Break Free” and yes it’s the one with that video. I never liked this one much (although I think my Dad did – I’m guessing he never saw the video!). Of course, the most shocking thing about the video was not Freddie Mercury’s fake breasts nor his thick moustache sitting atop his lip despite being dressed in a leather mini skirt and 60s style wig. Oh no, it was the fact that drummer Roger Taylor looked attractive dressed as a schoolgirl! The outrage! The single would make No 3 and is still well played on radio today…and I still don’t like it much.

YES! YES! YES! I’m so glad we didn’t miss out on this one due to presenter issues…it’s only The Bluebells with “I’m Falling”! This is just a superbly crafted song from it’s slowly building phased intro to the scratchy guitar riff to the joyous chorus – pure pop perfection. The Bluebells hailed from Scotland coming on like the cheeky younger brother of siblings acts such as Orange Juice and Aztec Camera. I had heard of them via their 1983 single “Sugar Bridge (It Will Stand)” which had made the lower end of the Top 100 but this was the song that broke them becoming a No 11 hit. This song isn’t of course what they are remembered for though. It isn’t even that they made the Top 10 with their next single “Young At Heart”. No, what the Bluebells are really remembered for is that “Young At Heart” was used in a Volkswagen advert some 9 years later and went to No 1 off the back of it. I never liked “Young At Heart” – even the pop obsessed kid that I was in 1984 could see it was too twee for it’s own good. “I’m Falling” though was a different proposition altogether and I also loved minor hit “Cath” and non-hit “All I Am (Is Loving You)”. I also loved the fact that founding member Robert Hodgens went by the pseudonym of Bobby Bluebell and looked nothing like an 80s pop star was meant to.

Ah its that little fella again….Nik Kershaw with “Dancing Girls”! Having confessed my love of Kershaw in a recent post, I have to say that this follow up to “Wouldn’t It Be Good” did disappoint. I recall expecting the record company to have re-released “I Won’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” in the immediate aftermath of his breakthrough success but they instead went with this rather tame number from the album. It just didn’t have that irresistible appeal of its predecessor. It had all the tinkling synth effects (the blips and bleeps) of “Wouldn’t It Be Good” but it kind of feels like Kershaw by numbers and crucially it didn’t have that killer chorus. The fans weren’t quite convinced either and it stalled at No 13 in the charts which must have been a major cause for record company alarm who saw sense and subsequently did re-release the much catchier “I Won’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” as the next single which stormed to No 2. But for the moment we leave Nik (and the record company suits) pondering his next move….

And not one but two synth pop duos making a return to TOTP tonight as here come OMD with “Locomotion”. We last saw these guys over a year previously with “Genetic Engineering” from their much- slated -at -the- time- but -since -in -receipt -of -some -well deserved- favourable -revisionism LP “Dazzle Ships”  This was the lead single from their next album “Junk Culture” and it was quite a departure from their former sound. “This is almost jolly sounding” I remember thinking on hearing the track initially with its perky brass section, slinky rhythm and steel drum interlude. The UK took this new care free OMD to its hearts and duly made this a Top 5 single. Andy McCluskey is still dad-dancing throughout though.

The  Top 10 rundown follows with some good stuff (Scritti Politti, Rufus and Chaka Khan, Depeche Mode), some OK stuff (Captain Sensible) and some dire nonsense (Phil Collins, Shakin’ Stevens) before we get to Lionel Richie who is at No 1 for a fifth week with “Hello”. This week’s “Hello” fun fact is that it has been covered by Swedish country singer Kikki Danielsson who came 3rd in the 1985 Eurovision Song Contest with the magnificently titled track “Bra Vibrationer” which translates as “Good Vibrations” but really sounds like it should mean something else.

Before we get to the play out music  which is Kool and the Gang with “(When You Say You Love Somebody) In the Heart”, we get some unbelievable gratuitous sexism when Peter Powell presents his mate Gary Davies with an Easter present …cue an attractive woman in a full on bunny girl costume who Davies proceeds to pretend to snog. Sheesh….

Back to Kool and the Gang, I always quite liked this one – it’s an uplifting slice of pop funk with an almost spiritual theme which tied in nicely with its Easter release date and indeed Kool apparently attributes the band’s success to The Creator. Well that’s nice.



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 gasp as Gary Davies grapples with a bunny girl  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?


Special AKA Free Nelson Mandela Don’t think I did actually


Thompson Twins You Take Me UP No but I think it on an 80s compilation somewhere


Blancmange Don’t Tell Me No but I have their greatest hits LP “Second Helpings” on vinyl and its on there.


Queen I Want To Break Free Nah




I’m Falling Oh yes!


Nik Kershaw Dancing Girls No but I had the “Human Racing “LP its form – No you shut up!


OMD Locomotion No but I have it on their Greatest Hits CD


Lionel Richie Hello Err hello….NO!


Kool and the Gang (When You Say You Love Somebody) In the Heart


No but it’s a pleasant enough tune

Some bed time reading?




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