Top of the Pops 1981 currently on BBC4. Watched by Chris Arnsby
Richard Skinner: "They always say it, welcome to Top of the Pops. And tonight it's just the same as ever. Great music tonight, starting off with a brand-new hit for The Vapors. It's called Jimmie Jones."
The Vapors: Jimmie Jones . The Vapors (must remember to drop the U) return with a song about the defensive tackle for the Dallas Cowboys. Or possibly the other Jimmie Jones who played defensive end for the New York Jets. Or possibly the other, other Jimmie Jones who was a running back for the Detroit Lions. (John- He was actually a pelican wrangler from Hartlepool)
Sheena Easton: For Your Eyes Only . "A great bit of film now for people who like James Bond, and also have a little spot in their heart for Sheena Easton. For the first time on British television." The dullest theme song to the dullest Roger Moore James Bond film -myself, I always preferred Moonraker. This is Maurice Binder's title sequence without the credits, and the end result looks oddly like a really high budget Legs & Co dance sequence.
Shakin' Stevens: Green Door . A song which annoyed me as a kid. The lyrics do a very good job of setting up the mystery of the green door, and then a lousy job of actually explaining what's happening. I felt that verse two should really begin with Shakin' explaining that he is now opening the mysterious green door and then giving a full, through, and accurate account of everything that he can see.
REO Speedwagon: Take It On The Run . Richard Skinner unexpectedly channels Simon Bates' uncanny ability to mangle a song title, "REO Speedwagon and they just want to Take It Away Now." The video for this song is bland concert footage. The director obviously couldn't be bothered to make the song seem exciting in any way, but then neither could the band.
Abba: Lay All Your Love On Me . Vision Mixer Chris Gage is let down by the limitations of 1981 technology. Flick Colby has choreographed a routine which involves Legs & Co bursting through a paper wall as the song's drumbeat starts. The intent is to use the Quantel box to capture this as a strobe effect but the freeze frames are all slightly too far apart to give a sense of motion between the still images; the murky lighting doesn't help, the shot of Legs & Co jumping through the wall is a mess of black and dark blue shapes.
Tight Fit: Back To The Sixties . People in 1981 were obsessed with song medleys. Stars On 45, Enigma with Ain’t No Stopping, and now this; Tight Fit pre-Lion Sleeps Tonight. It's rubbish. Marvel at the berk chosen to do the Wolfman Jack bit of the song who just waggles his head as he stares gormlessly into the camera. A lesser actor might have pretended to speak the words. Occasionally poorly chosen stock footage plays on the black and white Eidophor screen behind the band. This includes Elvis leaving Brooklyn for Germany in 1958 that famous sixties date. The song is called Back To The Sixties, Top of the Pops, not Back To The Oh-This-1950s-Footage-Will-Do-The-Bar's-Open.
Visage: Visage . Remarkably Visage can't make it in to the Top of the Pops studio, but luckily they've made a video. This is the one where Steve Strange wears a hat.
Gidea Park: Beach Boy Gold . What could be worse than one dismal medley? How about two. A bunch of blow-dried twits pretend to sing Beach Boys songs and grin like this makes them the Emperors of All Music.
Top Ten Countdown: Finally, some unity in the presentation. The Ten Ten Countdown, now manages to look like the Top Twenty, and Thirty, and all the singles are represented by a still picture. Let us never mention this topic again.
Number One: The Specials: Ghost Town. A week before the big Royal Wedding and the sound of the summer is more like a memento mori. This is a repeat from the D*v* L** T*v*s presented 02/07/1981 edition when The Specials performed the single in the Top of the Pops studio -and then reportedly broke up the band afterwards in the dressing room. Interestingly the band don't seem to be performing on a proper set. The scaffolding on view is actually different bits of the lighting rig, and the back wall of the studio is visible rather than being covered as normal by a black cyclorama. Signs of another BBC strike in the curtain pulling department? Failure to assemble part of the set in time? Or an attempt to make the studio look edgy and post-industrial?
Closing Titles: Starsound, Stars On 45 Volume 2 . Unusually Legs & Co are brought back for a second routine to close the programme, presumably as an alternative to the Top of the Pops disco which normally closes the show. Unfortunately they are dancing to yet another medley.
Performance of the week: Shakin' Stevens: Green Door