17/08/2015

Top of the Pops 21 Aug 1980



Guest post by Chris Arnsby
Steve Wright: "Welcome to another enthralling edition of Top of the Pops. I'm Steve Wright and this here is Cliff Richard. "
Cliff Richard: [Neddie Seagoon voice] "Hello folks."
Steve Wright: "How come you always look so brown?"
Cliff Richard: "It's rust, mate."
Steve Wright: "Right, we'll get to that later. Let's have a look at what we've got on the show, shall we?"
Cliff Richard: "Right, why not mate?"
Nick Straker Band: A Walk In The Park [28]. This song has apparently been such a huge hit in Europe that Steve Wright needs to lay that fact on us twice. It's hard to see why. This is the most mundane song ever. "A walk in the park/I've got to get some sense back into my head/I'm in the dark/And I can't see where I'm being led." What's next a song about having a bath? Or letting in the cat? Or making some nice toast. "I'm making toast/I need something with beans for my tea/I don't mean to boast/But I'm good at making toast, me."


Sheena Easton: Modern Girl [25]. Two songs in the top 40 at the same time, 9-5 is at number two. Not many people can have done that. Modern Girl starts with a verse about a couple and their morning routine, so does 9-5. Is Sheena Easton contractually obliged to sing about people eating breakfast? Modern Girl is the lesser song of the two. Midway through the first chorus and Sheena Easton is already going "na na na na na, na na na na na, na na na na na." The songwriter was in a hurry to get home.  Check out the fancy camera move at the start of the performance. As Steve Wright's introduction ends the camera pans left and rotates round a piece of scenery until it is facing back in the opposite direction for the start of the song. 
The Jam: Start [3]. A video artfully performed in a box with moody lighting shining through slats. The colour looks like it has been boosted as well. It's very stylish but The Jam don't realise that David Bowie has raised the bar.
Shakin' Stevens: Marie Marie [32]. Shakin' Stevens performs Marie Marie to an empty Top of the Pops studio; presumably there were concerns that his gyrations would inflame the studio audience, like the stories about Elvis Presely only being allowed on television if he was shot from the waist up. This is the Shakin's Stevens I remember trying to imitate in the playground, and the anticipation of waiting for him to do the thing with his knees is like wondering how long it will be before Mary Berry says, "lairs" in The Great British Bake Off
The Clash: Bank Robber [24]. One of Legs & Co's better routines. Yes it suffers from the heavy hand of Flick Colby interpreting the lyrics but there's some prop work involving cash, and notes, and guns (and a nice visual gag where Lulu bites the end off her gun to reveals it is edible), and the lighting is really good with lots of shadow play on the backdrop; take a bow Ron Bristow.
Billy Joel: It's Still Rock And Roll To Me [30]. Very murky contrast on this video.
Hazel O'Connor at home.
Hazel O'Connor: Eighth Day [27]. Around 1982 my English teacher played this song in the classroom and encouraged us to write a story based on the lyrics. My effort was heavily influenced by the story The Tower King, in the relaunched Eagle comic. A solar powered satellite designed to beam energy to Earth is struck by a meteor and begins bathing the planet in strange cosmic rays (I'd also been reading a lot of Fantastic Four comics). The cosmic rays make nuclear power stations explode, which sets off fault lines and causes cataclysmic earthquakes and generally everyone has a really bad day. I don't remember what mark the story was given. Vision Mixer Heather Gilder plays around during the first verse of the song. It looks like she uses Quantel to freeze an image, and overlays that frozen image onto the continuing live action. The result is a weird sporadic visual stutter which fits the tone of the song but is slightly distracting. The effect isn't applied after the first chorus, presumably it was giving Michael Hurll a headache.
The Piranhas: Tom Hark [9]. Promoted from the start of the show slot, to the lets-show-off-the-scale-of-the-studio slot. The penny whistle introduction to the song looks fantastic with the band brightly lit in the middle of a huge shadowy crowd, and a big eidophor projector screen to one side. The performance is slicker this time out, but the lead singer still looks a little haunted. I remember this song used to bug me as a child. I felt the lyrics were too simplistic. "You have to laugh, or else you cry." Other emotional states are available The Piranhas!
Kelly Marie: Feels Like I'm In Love [8]. This week Kelly Marie's dancers have come dressed as Cat from Red Dwarf. The gold top hats are a good look. (John- Did you know this song was written by Ray Dorset of Mungo Jerry who also wrote `In the Summertime`?)
Cliff Richard: Dreamin' [20]. Cliff Richard has been the best guest presenter so far, look at the competition, but the moment he has to take off his presenting hat and put on his singing hat just underlines the redundancy and awkwardness of the idea. It looks like favouritism if the guest presenter has a song in the charts. If Cliff Richard, then why not Sheena Easton or Dick Slexia The Piranhas' drummer? If, like Elton John or Roger Daltrey, they don't have a chart song then why are they there? A question I repeatedly asked myself during last week's edition. Why not choose any random yahoo who happens to be walking past the studio; Michael Palin, or Patrick Moore, or Judith Hann? These existential questions aside, Dreamin' is not too bad, and it benefits from some good visual presentation. The picture cross fades from the band without Cliff Richard, to Cliff and dry ice sans band, to everyone together.
The Top Ten: There's an odd glitch in the top ten. The current format is to start with a video clip playing in a small box, while the rest of the screen displays the chart information. The image in the box is then cross faded to fill the whole screen. The transition between video clips isn't quite working properly and when going from one song to another there's a very brief moment when the next video clip appears full screen before it fades into the box. I'm guessing that what seems a relatively simple process on screen is probably much more complicated in the studio gallery, and what we're seeing is a side effect of having to manually fade from one clip to another, to a chart information slide plus the clip, to the clip full screen, and so on times ten.
Number One: David Bowie, Ashes To Ashes.
Closing titles: Electric Light Orchestra, All Over The World [11]. The programme credits are superimposed over a wide shot of the studio and the background footage jumps when Phil Bishop's Producer credit appears. Closer inspection reveals his caption is actually a freeze frame. What happened? As Ron Bristow's caption for Lighting appears an audience member stands up, to the right of the letter g in the word lighting. Silhouetted against the backdrop he slowly works his way up the stepped seating area. First he waves. Then he raises his arms in a slightly self-conscious fist pump. Next the whole image jumps as we cut to the freeze frame, and suddenly this audience member is right at the top of the seating area with his right arm extended. Then the picture jumps back to a moving image and the unknown audience member is further to the right, almost centre screen. Did he make an obscene gesture that had to be cut? He must have done something which wasn't spotted at the time and the only solution was to grab a single frame of Phil Bishop's credit and use that instead.
Performance of the week: Kelly Marie: Feels Like I'm In Love.

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