Shown on BBC4 / Reviewed by Chris Arnsby
Richard Skinner: "Welcome to the Top of the Pops studio where today we are celebrating Christmas a little early. We've got a fascinating show with some good music, some great live bands as well, and if you're looking for clues as to what we've got on today's Top of the Pops... well how's about this for a start."
Adam & The Ants: Antmusic . The studio looks more like a pop warehouse than normal. Wide shots reveal a dark cavernous space with a small crowd huddled in front of Adam & the Ants for mutual security. Top of the Pops must have been allocated one of the larger studios at Television Centre and gives the impression that this programme is being recorded in a black wasteland haunted by the angry ghosts of failed music acts. On the plus side the extra space allows for some lovely sweeping crane camera shots. Then, in a new development, the camera cuts to the Eidophor screen and the Antmusic lyrics can be seen. Was Top of the Pops experimenting with karaoke? Finally, as the song ends, we get a lovely wide shot of the studio, but what's that sitting on the studio floor to the right of the picture? It looks like a mop and bucket.
Showaddywaddy: Blue Moon . Richard Skinner has pulled out all the fashion stops for tonight's recording. A grey jumper, grey shirt, and grey trousers really set off his grey hair. Showaddywaddy is up next in a repeat performance from 27/11/1980; then Blue Moon was at number 50, this week it's limped up to number 32. I loved Showaddywaddy when I was younger so it's sad to see their mainstream popularity fizzling out. Still they'll be back between Christmas and New Year 1980 for a BBC TV special Showaddywaddyshow (with special guest Kiki Dee), and
if the stupid useless BBC Genome site
hadn't crashed I could have told you when, and what channel courtesy of the
brilliant BBC Genome site I can reveal that this was broadcast on BBC2 Tuesday
30 December at 7.40pm between the Mid-Evening
News and Pot Black.
Madness: Embarrassment . Jermaine Jackson is briefly interviewed by Richard Skinner. "Jermaine what brings you to the UK?" Isn't it obvious? He's come to see the fabled grey man of Shepherds Bush. Jermaine's embarrassment at being asked if he's every heard of Madness ("no but I hear they're very exciting," what a professional) segues nicely into Madness' Embarrassment. The boys are back in the Top of the Pops studio for the first time in two months, and it's a very restrained performance. It's not clear if this is because the band don't feel the current song is appropriate for their normal clowning around, or maybe they've taken to heart Executive Producer Michael Hurll's endless warnings about their behaviour and threats of bans.
Status Quo: Lies . "If you think we're a bit legless tonight, it's because Legs & Co are actually rehearsing today for our two Christmas shows, on Christmas Day and New Year's day". The Christmas show was presented by J*mmy S*v*l* and Peter Powell while the New Year's one features D*** L** T**** and Tommy Vance, so neither will be seen on BBC4. Legs & Co feature three times across both shows although two of the performances are repeats (Barbara Streisand, Woman In Love from 23/10/1980 and The Detroit Spinners with the cumbersomely titled Working My Way Back To You – Forgive Me Girl (Medley) from 17/04/1980). The one original routine (Lipps Inc, Funky Town) is on Youtube, and I wonder if that was recorded as part of the edition we are watching now? It would explain Richard Skinner's earlier comment about celebrating Christmas early. Next up is Status Quo, and astonishingly it's the band performing as live on a soundstage in front of a wind machine. Just like all their other promo films.
Matchbox: Somewhere Over The Rainbow . That's Life used to be justifiably mocked
for the awkward tone change between a report on some poor person whose life had fallen apart and Cyril Fletcher reading a hilarious misprint of Toilet for To Let. Richard Skinner gets a similar moment here as he has to lurch from back announcing Status Quo, to mentioning the death of John Lennon, to talking about Christmas band tour dates, and then leaping into an interview with that chatterbox Gary Numan; who displays some fine open and relaxed body language, and clearly wants nothing more than to natter about the next band on the schedule, Matchbox. So far this show has shared largely the same structure as The Best Show Ever(TM pending) from 16/10/1980 when Tommy Vance introduced Madness, Showaddywaddy, and Adam & The Ants in quick succession. On that occasion poor George Benson was used as an anchor to drag the show to a halt, this time it's Matchbox with a phenomenally dreary cover of Somewhere Over The Rainbow. Turgid.
The Police: De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da . Oh God, please don't let De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da stick around in the charts. Repeatedly typing out De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da, is going to drive me insane. Not to mention that constantly having to use De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da in sentences makes for a really awkward reading experience. Anyway, The Police have supplied a promo film for De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da because Sting and the lads are away on location so they can't make it in to the studio to perform De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da.
Queen: Flash . The charts from 30 to 20 come after De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da. Then it's Queen with the video for Flash. All together now. "Dispatch war rocket Ajax to bring back his body!"
The Stray Cats: Runaway Boys . Another repeat from the Tommy Vance presented edition of 27/11/1980. Isn't that the one you couldn't be bothered to write up Chris, because apart from The Stray Cats you thought it was a boring edition? Shh! I don't think anyone noticed so I've probably got away with it. Top Ten Countdown: Surprise surprise. Once again Top of the Pops changes the format of the Top Ten, and there's no consistency between which songs have clips, or still pictures. Madness is somehow illustrated with a clip of their performance from earlier in the show, although this doesn't match with how I understand the show was made. (Short version: the top ten is edited first and played in as live while the presenter talks over the top, this is quicker and cheaper than building the top ten afterwards in an edit suite when you have to call the presenter back to record an additional voiceover). Unless I'm right that that this edition was recorded on the same day as the Christmas/New Year shows. In which case Madness could have been recorded earlier on a different videotape, and it was played in as live; look at how Richard Skinner doesn't appear in shot with Madness, as if they weren't in the studio at the same time. This also explains why St Winifred's School Choir gets a clip of their performance used in the charts, someone had called up the tape of the 04/12/1980 edition to play into the recording of the Christmas programme. Also, this week the bands represented by photographs don't have an additional identifying caption. All we get is the flashing Top Ten caption. Look. This stuff matters. Okay?
Number One: Abba, Super Trouper. Still feeling like a number one.
Closing Titles: Unusually Super Trouper plays out into the closing credits. The reason, Richard Skinner gets to introduce a clip of John Lennon singing Imagine. The clip is taken from Salute to Sir Lew - The Master Showman. John Lennon's last public performance recorded on 18 April 1975 at New York's Waldorf Astoria Hotel. John Lennon, singing a song about life with no material goods at a posh hotel to a bored audience at a tribute to a media mogul. Yes, it's easy to mock, but to give John Lennon some credit he was probably aware of -and enjoyed- the contradiction. I'm pleased the clip was shown. The copyright belongs to whoever now owns the ATV/ITC archive (Carlton, probably) and it would have been easy to snip it out and save BBC4 a little cash. For anyone who cares, the programme was shown on ITV under the slightly less vainglorious title of Salute on June 20 1975.
Performance of the week: Adam & The Ants: Antmusic.