Batten down the hatches, the next episode of Top of the Pops is one we’re supposed to be pretending never happened. BBC Four have jumped from the 31st of May straight to the 14th of June with no explanation, filling Twitter’s #TOTP hashtag with “LOL Yewtree” and “Wasn’t this on last week?” tweets. I don’t intend to get into discussions about whether or not the BBC should be writing Jimmy Savile out of history, or even why he was still regularly hosting TOTP in 1979 when he seemed hopelessly out of his depth alongside young guns like Kid Jensen, but it seems terribly unfair for all these acts to have their performances stricken from the record simply because it was Janglebeast’s turn to present the show. Thankfully most of the forbidden episodes were repeated on UK Gold in the 1990s, so copies do turn up if you know where to look. The full episode is online here and there’s an edited version with all traces of Savile removed at the top of this page. The top 30 countup is accompanied by Tubeway Army, like Savile has any idea what that even means, and it’s interesting to note that the layout of the top 30 captions has changed, even if the photos haven’t.
THE TOURISTS – Blind Among The Flowers
Having said all that, Annie Lennox probably isn’t all that bothered about her TOTP début being swept under the carpet. Yes, that’s the Eurythmics singer in a frilly blouse, unfeasibly tight spandex trousers and amounts of blue eyeshadow that even Agnetha from ABBA would consider excessive, looking about as far removed from the sombre charity do-gooder look she favours these days as it’s possible to imagine. In the background you might also notice her Eurythmics partner Dave Stewart with ridiculous hair and an appalling moustache, looking… well, better than he did for much of his time in Eurythmics, to be frank. The music is also pretty far removed from the familiar Eurythmics sound, the dense guitars giving it the air of a Blondie outtake. The Tourists would go on to score four top 40 hits over the next year and a bit, including a top five cover of I Only Want To Be With You, before Annie and Dave made their break for freedom.
ELVIS COSTELLO & THE ATTRACTIONS – Accidents Will Happen
Yes, Mr Pink is back in a repeat of his performance from two weeks ago, which means Attractions bassist Bruce Thomas is spared an awkward reunion with some ex-colleagues later in the show. Elvis seems to have been on TOTP a remarkable number of times for someone who’s only had the one top ten hit so far; his first appearance was back in September 1977 with (The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes, since then he’s annoyed Tony Blackburn with Radio Radio and would continue to appear on the show right up until 1994’s Sulky Girl. Accidents Will Happen only got as high as number 28 but clearly made a dent in the public consciousness as Elliott’s brother Mike can be heard singing the song in a scene from ET: The Extra Terrestrial.
ANITA WARD – Ring My Bell
A proper disco classic, pausing at number 3 this week on its way to number 1. Sadly Anita’s not here, so Limbs & Co have been pressed into service again. Now let’s think about this, the song’s called Ring My Bell, so what have they come as this week? Campanologists? Quasimodo? Lepers? No, it’s worse than that – Morris dancers. Well, some kind of cross between Morris dancers and synchronised swimmers, as they’re all wearing white swimsuits but adorned with straw hats and flowers, a white handkerchief in each hand, but – guess what? – no bells. A more astute host would have made some kind of quip about Flick Colby winning the No Bell Peace Prize, but this is clearly beyond the wit of Savile who’s probably had to go off and change his underpants between takes.
THE SKIDS – Masquerade
He’s off again! TV’s Richard Jobson, the bounciest man in rock, is back with more post-punk pogoing. This week Richard wears a very fetching red top and not-quite-matching trousers, still failing to enunciate properly while bounding around like Tigger trying to stay upright on a trampoline. Guitarist Stuart Adamson concentrates on his own job while bassist Bill Simpson stands around looking monumentally pissed off. Curiously, someone in the audience seems to have an umbrella up. Isn’t that bad luck? Not if it protects you from the sweat and spittle flying off the perpetually hyperactive Jobson, I suppose. The umbrella seems to have been customised with the words “THE SKIDS” on one side; it’s unclear whether the words “I HATE” are written on the other.
LINDA LEWIS – I’d Be Surprisingly Good For You
A song from the musical Evita, which has already spawned hits for Julie Covington and David Essex in the past couple of years. This isn’t an officially sanctioned Evita spin-off though; Linda Lewis was never in the musical, she just plucked this song out of the soundtrack and claimed it for herself, although with her dramatic hand gestures and constant glare into the camera you could be forgiven for thinking that’s she’s auditioning for a part in the West End rather than lip-synching on a TV pop show in front of an unimpressed audience of teenagers. Linda was no stranger to cover versions, having scored her biggest hit in 1975 with a revival of It’s In His Kiss, itself later reincarnated by Cher. This wasn’t such a success though, struggling to number 40 and bringing her chart career to a close.
ROXY MUSIC – Dance Away
It’s the same Seaside Special performance that was shown two weeks ago, but now they’ve climbed all the way up to number 2, making Dance Away their biggest hit since the radically different Love Is The Drug four years earlier. As before, saxophonist Andy MacKay looks like the most threatening man ever to pick up a wind instrument, bassist Gary Tibbs already looks like he’s in the 1981 line-up of Adam & The Ants and everyone in the first three rows of the audience gets gunged every time Bryan Ferry flicks his hair back. Roxy Music carried on in this vein until 1982 before splitting; they began recording a new album in 2005 which eventually surfaced five years later as a Ferry solo record, not that anyone could tell the difference.
SISTER SLEDGE – We Are Family
It’s true, they are. Produced by Chic’s Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, the sisters’ We Are Family album was so successful it was still producing hit singles five years later. After a false start with the top twenty hit Mama Never Told Me back in 1975, He’s The Greatest Dancer had been their first top ten hit in April and this was on its way up there too. Like the Roxy and Blondie clips this seems to have been sourced from an entirely different programme, this one apparently called “Rock Planet”. Unfortunately, by dressing the girls all in red and with judicious use of blue lighting and bubbles, the show gives them the appearance of a group of singing lobsters. What a shellfish attitude.
THE SUTHERLAND BROTHERS – Easy Come, Easy Go
You may remember these two from the early days of the repeats when Arms Of Mary seemed to be on the show eighteen weeks in succession. At that time they were The Sutherland Brothers And Quiver, which always seemed to be an uncomfortable arrangement between two entirely different bands who had been forced to merge and couldn’t decide on a new name. Since then Quiver had been losing members at an alarming rate until reaching the stage where there were less people in Quiver than the Sutherland Brothers. Gavin and Iain Sutherland, now Quiverless, reached number 50 with this ballad before calling it a day, keeping out of the way of Quiver’s former bassist Bruce Thomas who, having been sacked from the band, was now enjoying huge success as a member of The Attractions.
DOLLAR – Who Were You With In The Moonlight?
Returning for another performance are David and Thereza, gazing lovingly into each other’s eyes while singing a song of suspicion and resentment. They manage to get through the song while exuding the same level of sincerity as Sonny singing I Got You Babe to Cher with his arms crossed and a smirk on his face. The number remains two lines of chorus in search of a song, but things will improve in a couple of years when Trevor Horn takes over and delivers genius pop hits like Mirror Mirror and Videotheque. Dollar split in 1988, after which David Van Day enjoyed solo success as 50 Cent. No? Please yourselves. Lest we forget, here’s a clip from 2003 TV show Reborn In The USA which shows just what a top bloke David really is.
NICK LOWE – Cracking Up
Nick Lowe had been a stalwart of Stiff Records in their early days, releasing the first single on the label and producing albums for The Damned and Elvis Costello. Lowe responded to David Bowie’s 1977 album Low by releasing an EP titled Bowi and scored his first hit in 1978 with I Love The Sound Of Breaking Glass. On Cracking Up Lowe was joined by long time musical partner Dave Edmunds (of I Hear You Knocking fame); both would continue to have individual hits while simultaneously being members of the band Rockpile. Cracking Up just stumbled into the top 40 but we’ll probably see more of Nick later in the year with his second biggest hit – presenters and court cases permitting.
ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA – Shine A Little Love
So many beards, so little time. Yes, it’s the video again, complete with Jeff Lynne’s Google Glass prototype, promoting the first hit from ELO’s massive selling Discovery which would become the first album ever to spawn four top ten hits in the UK. Presumably Jeff needs his enormous sunglasses to shade his eyes from the weird orange glow that seems to follow the band around; it’s not entirely clear if the backdrop is meant to represent the desert at sunset or the surface of Mars. As well as being ELO’s fourth consecutive single to peak at number 6, the song reached the same position again in 2005 when it was used as the basis of Lovefreekz’ dance hit Shine. There were no beards in that video.
EDDY GRANT – Living On The Frontline
A solo début performance for Eddy Grant, although he had already appeared on TOTP several times as guitarist in pioneering multi-racial group The Equals, whose Baby Come Back topped the charts in 1968. After leaving the band for a solo career he set up his own Ice Records label (which you can see him shamelessly promoting on his T-shirt) and for this, his first hit, recruited a Bez-like figure whose only job apart from dancing like a loon was to remember to play a four-note keyboard bass riff once every four bars. Eddy would go on to have bigger hits with I Don’t Wanna Dance and Electric Avenue in the early ’80s, by which time the TOTP caption writers had learned not to spell his name as “Eddie”.
BLONDIE – Sunday Girl
A third and final week at the top for this track, although Blondie would go on to have another three number 1 hits in 1980 and another out of the blue in 1999, bringing their total to six. It would be wildly optimistic to expect this repeat run to still be going in 2034, so their last number 1 Maria is here. Meanwhile, twenty years earlier, we’re still persisting with the “Top Pop” performance – is that supposed to be a picture of Debbie in the back of the set? – so here’s footage of the band actually performing the song on TOTP, albeit the Christmas Special which, hopefully, we’ll be allowed to watch if Peter Powell and Kid Jensen manage to stay clean until December.
That’ll be all for this week then, we play out with Donna Summer’s Hot Stuff which Limbs & Co have already danced to. Please don’t be afraid to watch the edited version at the top of the page; there really is no Savile in it at all. Incidentally, I was able to put this edit together in about an hour using domestic PC software, so if someone can explain what’s stopping the BBC from doing the same (given that they’re editing the shows down to 30 minutes anyway) I’d be fascinated to hear it.