Top Of The Pops, 14 June 1979 – “When the time was ready, we had to sell the telly.”

Mike Read

You will have seen several of tonight’s songs on last week’s BBC Four showing of TOTP – that’s because the 7 June episode never happened and any recollection you may have of such an episode is a left-wing sponsored drug-induced hallucination. Instead here’s nice, wholesome, family-friendly Mike “Hello chums!” Read who, despite being an active UKIP supporter and the man who famously refused to play Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s Relax, hasn’t been accused of anything actually illegal and so is deemed worthy of your time. The weird thing that happened didn’t happen with the top 30 captions last week was also clearly some kind of coded message to perverts, as this week we’re back with the comforting full-frame images while the old-fashioned values of Sister Sledge’s We Are Family confirm that everything is right with the world.

MATCH – Boogie Man

MatchAll that good work is instantly undone by Match (the punchline is “your face, my arse”; fill in the rest of the joke yourself) with their terrifying cautionary tale of the Boogie Man who, it seems, is “gonna get ya”. The exact nature of his intentions are not entirely clear, but we do know that “music makes him high”. Presumably an attack from said Boogie Man will leave you in the same condition as a member of Match, so you’ll either find yourself playing weak white funk dressed in a set of industrial painter’s overalls or, like the singer, wearing an appalling flowery shirt with sub-Barry Gibb hair and falsetto and a moustache that Ron Mael would laugh out of town. Boogie Man climbed as high as number 48; Match were never seen again.

McFADDEN & WHITEHEAD – Ain’t No Stopping Us Now

McFadden & WhiteheadThey’ve turned up! Legs & Co’s lollipop lady outfits are chucked back into the wardrobe as Gene McFadden and John Whitehead put in an energetic performance, working the tiny stage for all it’s worth. Their powerful live vocals are impressive, especially in the face of extreme provocation from the TOTP Orchestra – who still haven’t come to terms with disco after all these years – and the Maggie Stredder Singers whose opening cry of “Ain’t no stopping us now” sounds like a lament rather than a boast. Whitehead, in white trousers, delivers random lines to specific audience members while McFadden does an impressive arms-behind-the-head thrust rarely performed by a man in a three piece suit.


Lene LovichThere was plenty of fond recognition for Lene’s first and biggest hit Lucky Number earlier in the year, not so much for this follow-up which very few people seemed to remember, despite it having been a top twenty hit. It’s a strange mix of new wave, disco and bluegrass, like a hoedown produced by Giorgio Moroder, and sounds very much like the kind of thing Haysi Fantayzee would find success with a couple of years later. Sadly Lene couldn’t make it to the studio, so we’re left with an unimaginative Limbs & Co routine which finds the group in their default setting: wearing swimsuits. Blue ones and also gold sequinned ones, which look a bit impractical for swimming in. Thanks to the amazing 1979 technology you are no longer required to choose a preference, as the girls are able to be on screen in both outfits at the same time! When the director isn’t gratuitously zooming in on the girls’ naughty bits, that is.


Gerry RaffertySound the Yewtree klaxon! Standing next to an uncomfortable looking girl wearing a T-shirt with the words “Night Owl” on it (something she’s clearly been coerced into wearing over her own clothes), Mike Read introduces the song by pointing at its title emblazoned across her chest. Nobody would have batted an eyelid then, but now it’s a wonder the Daily Mail wasn’t screaming “BAN THIS SICK FILTH!!!!” the following morning, which would have been ironic given Read’s reputation for high moral values. Anyway, with that we’re into a hastily conceived promo video for Billy Connolly’s former musical partner, in the top 40 for the first time since Baker Street made number 3 over a year earlier. The video director wants us to believe that we’re watching Gerry and his band recording the song, despite the lack of headphones or any soundproofing equipment, and for added realism an entire verse is shown from behind the singer’s back.

QUANTUM JUMP – The Lone Ranger

Mike Read introducing Quantum JumpPerhaps it’s a good thing that this and the previous song were excised from the 7:30 edit, as Read seems to be in danger of slipping off his usual spot on the moral high ground and tumbling down a steep hill. Read introduces this one wearing a Lone Ranger mask and hat, accompanied by someone in what we would then have called a “Red Indian” mask. At least, I hope it’s a mask. This takes us into another showing for the band’s original appearance from two weeks ago, lead singer Rupert Hine still struggling with his hair like Brian May and not afraid to use the word “poofter” in polite conversation. Hine went on to become a hugely successful record producer, working with Chris De Burgh, Tina Turner and Howard Jones, but Quantum Jump wouldn’t trouble the chart compilers again.


Edwin Starr“This next track is… a goodie!” Read announces, with clearly no idea of what it’s going to be. Sadly we don’t get any of these three but Edwin Starr, still supplementing his income with a shift on H.A.P.P.Y. Radio. Speculation on Twitter suggests that, as Starr lived in Nottingham for many years, he could be the in studios of Radio Trent (probably now merged with a dozen other stations and rebranded as Heart or Capital or some such) but why they would have needed an oscilloscope in the studio remains unclear. Did you work for a radio station in the late 1970s? Did you have a fully working oscilloscope in the studio? If so, please let me know by sending me an email with the subject line “I worked for a radio station in the late 1970s and had a fully working oscilloscope in the studio”.

TUBEWAY ARMY – Are “Friends” Electric?

Tubeway ArmyClimbing into the top ten and getting its third play on the show in four weeks, it’s Tubeway Army’s only hit. Perversely, just as the band achieved success, Gary Numan would go off on a solo career which continues to this day. Here the rest of the band gets a fair chunk of airtime too and it’s interesting to note that despite the song’s status as one of the first synthpop hits, there are real drums and guitars very much in evidence. The Human League must have scoffed at this travesty, although in fairness there were no drum machines at the time which actually sounded like drums and not somebody hitting a tin tray with a wooden spoon. But if this is on, it must be time for another edition of our ongoing series “Cover Versions of Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” – this week, a strangely jazz-rock take on the song by Jack White’s side project The Dead Weather.

JANET KAY – Silly Games

Janet KayLegend has it that this was not only Janet Kay’s first television appearance, but the first time she had ever sung the song live in front of an audience. This sweet slice of lover’s rock with astonishing falsetto vocals is wasted on the TOTP crowd who are more interested in trying to see themselves on telly, but the song would climb all the way to number 2 and although it was Janet’s only hit, it would go on to chart on three occasions. A remix of the track in 1990 was released in direct competition with a cover version by Lindy Layton, late of Beats International’s number one hit Dub Be Good To Me. Lindy’s version featured additional vocals from Janet, meaning she was in the chart with two versions of the same song at the same time and appeared again on TOTP singing her only hit eleven years later.

EARTH, WIND & FIRE with THE EMOTIONS – Boogie Wonderland

Mike Read on roller skatesHere’s the boy Read again, this time wearing roller skates for no adequately explained reason. “Silly Games, and I’m going to be playing silly games on these all Friday night, which should be a lot of fun if I can keep standing up.” No further explanation is forthcoming; presumably it was some kind of Radio 1 event and you would have known all about it if you listened to the station. Anyway, here’s the video for Boogie Wonderland again, all three hundred members of the band on stage at once, and we probably won’t see this again as it’s at its peak position of number 4. Earth, Wind & Fire will be back – this is the fifth of their eleven top 40 hits – but wave goodbye to The Emotions who never had another hit.

CHAS & DAVE – Gertcha

Chas & DaveMessrs Hodges and Peacock are back again with another airing for their first top 40 hit. The ban on the word “cowson” still seems to be in place, but this time Chas forgets not to sing it the first time round while Dave, in close up, manages to resist temptation. Chas & Dave had another eight hits after this one, most famously Ain’t No Pleasing You in 1982 and Snooker Loopy with Steve Davis, Dennis Taylor et al in 1986. In fact by 1983 their popularity was such that they had their own prime time Saturday night TV show, Chas ‘n’ Dave’s Knees Up. Despite Dave’s announcement of his retirement in 2009, he was tempted back into the band – they are still a going concern and a national treasure.

SQUEEZE – Up The Junction

SqueezeMore London-centric kitchen sink drama from six years before the birth of EastEnders. This would become Squeeze’s second consecutive number 2 hit and the fifth of 23 hits between 1978 and 1996. TV’s Jools Holland is still puffing away on his cigar like a groovy f*cker as Glenn Tilbrook takes us through the whole story of a relationship: meeting the girl of his dreams, moving in together, getting a job to support her, getting her pregnant, selling the telly, becoming a father, becoming an alcoholic and watching his partner leave him for a member of the armed forces, taking their daughter with him. Bravely, Tilbrook delivers the whole thing while looking straight into camera. Pretty heavy stuff for a pop song, all told, but one that cemented Squeeze’s reputation as master storytellers.

ANITA WARD – Ring My Bell

Anita Ward“Her first record, her first hit, her first number one,” proclaims Mike Read with great optimism. In fact Anita Ward would become that rarest and most precious of things, a genuine one hit wonder who went to number one first time out and never managed to follow it up, ever. She released two albums in 1979, Songs Of Love and Sweet Surrender and a further single Don’t Drop My Love, none of which achieved any kind of success whatsoever. Here she struggles gamely against the still-not-quite-there efforts of the TOTP Orchestra whose only experience of bells is the one that signals last orders. Meanwhile, from a modern perspective, it’s amusing to watch the realisation dawn on Twitter that the song is actually quite rude. Clearly it hasn’t dawned on Mike Read yet.

“These ladies are ringing my bells,” claims Read as Yewtree klaxons sound all around him. As if to avoid any kind of arousal we play out with John Williams’ version of Cavatina, the original recording of the theme from The Deer Hunter which The Shadows have also managed to take into the chart. The effect is devastating, wiping out the entire previous forty minutes of entertainment at a stroke. Still… same time next week?

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