Shown on BBC4. Reviewed by Chris Arnsby
Simon Bates: "Hello and welcome to Top of the Pops. It's gonna be a great night because we've got some great live acts for you. We've got Gary Numan, and we've got stacks more because it's the last Christmas Top of the Pops before the Christmas Top of the Pops, if you see what I mean. We'll also have the top three selling records in Britain today and to kick us off with, here's The Beat. Over there!"
The Beat: Too Nice To Talk To . The top of the show preview of tonight's bands has gone. Is this a permanent change to the format or was there no time to edit one together? When Simon Bates says "over there" the camera cuts to a wide angle of the studio and the lights are faded up on The Beat, who begin to play. The crowd rushes across the studio in what looks like a dangerously uncontrolled way. Still there's no harm done, except for the sound of several balloons popping on the soundtrack.
St. Winifred's School Choir: There's No-One Quite Like Grandma . A repeat from the 04/12/1980 edition which was recorded without an audience. Very wise. Putting the St. Winifred's School Choir in front of the Top of the Pops audience would have been a disaster of biblical proportions. My nan hated this song. I would never have dared try to buy her a copy for Christmas. Michael Hurll is in a sadistic mood. He lets the recording play out to the very end of the performance.
The Barron Knights: Never Mind The Presents . It's Christmas so The Barron Knights have released a record. This one can be repeated on BBC4, unlike last year's Food For Thought which was snipped because the Pop Muzik parody, Chop Suey, was a collection of old Asian stereotypes. This year's song parodies Another Brick in the Wall, Day Trip to Bangor and The Sparrow. I remember thinking The Sparrow parody ("I'm only a poor little fairy/stuck on the top of the tree") was especially hilarious. My memory is that there was a more adult version of the song which on the line "then my legs fell off one, two, three" swapped the word legs for tits. However, Google is inconclusive on the subject and I suspect I'm misremembering a playground version.
The Specials: Do Nothing . Hells teeth! It's Little and Large. Will Eddie do his Deputy Dawg impression? No, we'll just have to make do with Eddie Waring. The pair are plugging their Christmas special which was shown the Saturday after this edition of Top of the Pops. It's on Youtube if you want to revisit 1980 and remember how it was a cold dark place.
Gary Numan: This Wreckage . According to Simon Bates, this was the day Gary Numan earned his pilot's license. You can tell. Gary Numan is obviously chuffed to bits, and can't stop smiling. He's the happiest man in the world.
Robert Palmer: Looking For Clues . This is a very low scoring edition of Top of the Pops. The Barron Knights are at the dizzy altitude of 27, with the rest (except for St. Winifred's School Choir) clocking in at positions 31, 34, 35, and 33. Showaddywaddy were languishing at 32 with Blue Moon, for anyone wondering.
Chas & Dave: Rabbit . [sigh] How to deal with this one? I want to be sneeringly dismissive but like with The Barron Knights I thought this was a brilliant record when I was younger, and I remember spending hours going "rabbit rabbit rabbit rabbit rabbit." Let's take it as read that I hate using the term rockney to describe what Chas & Dave do, but this does sound utterly unlike anything else in the charts, it's also very catchy, and it's fun and better than Gertcha; Chas & Dave's previous effort. Someone has issued selected members of the audience with terrifying rabbit masks and wide shots of the studio look like an early edit of Donnie Darko before the director decided that Gary Jules' version of Mad World set the mood better.
The Nolans: Who's Gonna Rock You . We dive back into the deep waters of the top forty. Will we encounter a bunch of sultry pop Sirens lurking sailors to disaster with their enchanting singing? No, it's only The Nolans. Looks like I plugged my ears with wax for nothing. This song has a nasty synthesiser riff which reminds me of the future-music which used to get played in Buck Rogers In The 25th Century.
Top Eight Countdown: Oh God it's all changed again. Michael Hurll is definitely tweaking the format which has been set in stone since Top of the Pops returned after the Musicians' Union strike. The first chart run down tonight went from 30 to 18 and linked straight into Chas & Dave; instead of going from 30 to 20 as normal. Once Chas & Dave finished rabbiting there's a weird chart stub from 17 to 11, before The Nolans, who are followed by the start of the Top Ten. This week all the singles are illustrated by clips from their promo films or videos -a sign that these are becoming standard in the music industry- and a rotating purple caption is used to give the chart number instead of the band or single name. Caption nerds may want to check out the end of the performance by St. Winifred's School Choir which was snipped from the 04/12/1980 edition and still shows the older style yellow caption which would have been added to the picture during recording; Top of the Pops doesn't keep clean caption-free footage of performances. The Top Ten then pauses at number three as a lead into...
Jona Lewie: Stop The Cavalry . Jona Lewie, like St. Winifred's School Choir, has not been invited back onto Top of the Pops so his performance is also repeated from the 04/12/1980 edition.
Top Two Countdown: The problem with splitting the Top Ten is that you can't do a top two countdown, it would be ludicrous. Instead Simon Bates stands in front of the Eidophore screen and chats about the forthcoming Christmas shows, and briefly mentions St. Winifred's School Choir at number two.
Number One: John Lennon, Just Like Starting Over. It's understandable that people would want to mark John Lennon's murder, and so his current single, which was going down, has shot up to top the charts. However what should Top of the Pops do? There's no promo to be played. The BBC could edit together a tribute, but it also seems to be Top of the Pops policy that Legs & Co have to appear each week. Okay, what about repeating the Legs & Co routine from the 27/11/1980 edition? Well, that's an option, but that routine was one of their weaker ones, and it's Christmas. Watching the final routine you can almost smell the desperation not to offend anyone, and while the sequence is not tasteless it is magnificently inappropriate. Black and white photos of John Lennon ("we must pay tribute to the man"), are cross-faded with a sequence of Legs & Co dancing in front of a Christmas tree ("we've got to get Christmas in there somehow"). Legs & Co are wearing red dresses covered in what look like mink tails ("the costumes can't be too sexy, it wouldn't be right"). The routine also manages to be boring because it's virtually shot single camera, and the dance steps are very simple ("we've got to make a decision soon because we're running out of time for rehearsal"). The mismatch between intent and content -sexy dancers doing a tasteful sad tribute dance for a murdered man at Christmas- makes this the closest Top of the Pops ever came to the Tittupy Bumpity Show; from Nigel Kneale's 1979 version of Quatermass for ITV.
Closing Titles: The camera zooms in on the star at the top of the Christmas tree and the credits play over a shot of the tree and the end of Just Like Starting Over. The closing titles have to be kept clear of the dance routine, because that footage might have to be recycled. If the song had stayed at number one then presumably the intention was to reuse this routine to close the Christmas and New Year shows.
Performance of the week: If I wanted to keep some street cred this would be either The Specials or The Beat, but in a moment of honesty which will probably come back to haunt me I'm going to say Chas & Dave: Rabbit