14/02/2016

Top of the Pops 1981 29 January



Shown on BBC4. Reviewed by Chris Arnsby
Tommy Vance: "Hi everybody. Good evening and welcome once again to Top of the Pops. This is the programme that does not hang around. Immediately we bring you the Slade and We'll Bring The House Down." Slade: We'll Bring The House Down [58]. "The programme that does not hang around". Tommy Vance predicting the future BBC4 schedule there as the programme continues its breakneck two episodes a week pace. Could BBC4 have a plan to show 1982 in the second half of 2016? There's only one way to find out. *waits*. Meanwhile, here's Slade back on Top of the Pops for the first time in years. 27 October 1977 seems to have been the last time they appeared, sandwiched between Santana and Mary Mason, performing My Baby Left Me – That’s All Right (Medley) which reached the dizzy chart height of 50. Slade still know how to work an audience and this is a great start to the programme.
Slade: Noddy's forgotten the words.

John Lennon: Woman [2]. The first single released from Double Fantasy since John Lennon's murder. It's not clear when this promo film was cut together but it's obvious that a re-edit was done in the wake of Lennon's death. There's a real jolt when archive footage of John Lennon and Yoko Ono is interrupted by the notorious photograph of John Lennon signing an autograph for his killer, grabbed from the front page of the 10 December edition of the New York Daily News. Unfortunately it doesn't have the intended impact. Instead it makes me question some of the other creative decisions, such as the inclusion of footage of Yoko Ono walking alone through the south gate of the Dakota building where John Lennon was shot. This re-edit must have been done deep in the grieving process, so I'm choosing my words with care here, but the end result is one of dubious taste. Given the nature of the song, and the timing of some of the edits - the photograph of Lennon from the Daily News appears during the line "I never meant to cause you sorrow or pain," right on the word pain- the end result is a film which makes it appear John Lennon is begging Yoko Ono for forgiveness for being killed.
The Stranglers: Thrown Away [44]. "Well in many ways it's kind of sad to see that film, but let's face it I think the inspiration of his music will live on forever," I could be wrong but I think that comment form Tommy Vance is the first personal acknowledgement of John Lennon's death on Top of the Pops since Richard Skinner introduced Imagine at the end of the 11/12/1980 edition. It's strange that none of the other presenters wanted to add their own tributes but maybe the topic was too painful, or not seen as appropriate for a light entertainment music programme. The Stranglers, like Slade, have been away from Top of the Pops. Don't Bring Harry, was the last song they played on the 06/12/79 show. Once again The Stranglers defy my expectations. Thrown Away is a bouncy little keyboard riff and Jean-Jacques Burnel growling away gnomically. Tommy Vance thinks this song is called Blown Away, the big silly.
Madness: The Return Of The Los Palmas 7 [18]. BBC cheapskates have lopped three short Star Wars clips out of this promo film. Presumably this was done in 1981 to avoid paying clearance costs for the footage.
Sheila Hylton: The Bed's Too Big Without You [46]. A reggae version of The Police single. "Coals to Newcastle," as Tommy Vance observes. Sheila Hylton does her best to grab all the attention by wearing a sparkly body-stocking but she can't compete with the guitarist who stands behind her doing deep groin thrusts on the edge of the drum podium.
Sheila Hylton: Moments later Tommy Vance was floored by a flying microphone.
Ultravox: Vienna [6]. A repeat from the 15/01/81 edition, but that was skipped because of D*v* L** Tr*v*s.
The Gap Band: Burn Rubber On Me [26]. The worst technical quality promo film seen on Top of the Pops since The Gap Bands last single Oops Upside Your Head. Somehow both films manage to look like poor quality NTSC video conversions of film material; which I didn't think was even possible but The Gap Band found a way.
Diana Ross: It's My Turn [25]. Legs & Co do a boring dance routine to a boring song. Look at the state of the studio floor, it's filthy and covered in scuff marks. Couldn't someone have pushed a mop across it?
Phil Collins: In The Air Tonight [3]. Speaking of boring, here's Phil Collins. The introduction to In The Air Tonight always fills me with enuii because I know that for the next few minutes I'll be listening to In The Air Tonight (unless of course I stick my fingers in my ears and start loudly singing Sa Plane Pour Moi). An opened paint pot sits next to Phil Collins and the eye is naturally drawn to it because watching paint dry is more interesting.
Phil Collins: He, too, was distracted by the paint.
Susan Fassbender: Twilight Cafe [29]. A jaunty pop song which never really seems to engage the audience, although they do give a round of applause at the end. The star of the performance is the constantly smiling guitarist Kay Russell. She should really team up with The Look's perpetually grinning drummer from the 08/01/81 show. Top Ten Countdown: One change to the Top Ten Countdown this week. The addition of numbers which whiz from right to left across the screen to identify the chart position.
Number One: John Lennon, Imagine.
Closing Titles: Heatwave, Gangsters Of The Groove [19]. Geoff Postner is the Director again, and Robin Nash is still temporary Executive Producer so we end with another kalaedoscopic pan round the studio lights. Michael Hurll appears to have been off preparing for his other job producing The Little And Large Show; how he must have suffered.
Performance of the week: The Stranglers: Thrown Away

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