Top of the Pops 1981 currently on BBC4. Watched by Chris Arnsby
Simon Bates: "Welcome to the summer and the Top of the Pops on a Thursday, with Duran Duran and Girls On Film at number six, over there."
Duran Duran: Girls On Film . Wait a minute! Duran Duran started Top of the Pops with this song last time. Oh, BBC4 has skipped a week because of J*mmy S*v*l*. It's unfortunate that two back to back shows should have such similar line ups (*spoiler 5 songs out of the 10 this week also featured on the last BBC4 edition*). Still, it could be worse the skipped show featured Gidea Park with their "song" Beach Boy Gold followed by Tight Fit "performing" Back To The 60s. Two diabolical song medleys one after the other; the survivors must have envied the dead. Last "week" (note to self, don't do "that" again) I rightly criticised Duran Duran for being boring and competent. Luckily this week Simon Le Bon is wearing a hideous stripped shirt and headband combination, and he's skipping round the stage like a tiny child. Oh, and check out the Duran Duran caption at the end of the performance. It's massive. They've taken a regular caption and blown it up to occupy the whole screen. I don't think we've seen that before.
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra: Hooked On Classics . It's appropriate that Simon Bates is presenting this edition of Top of the Pops. When he did The Golden Hour on Radio 1 I used to get mildly irked by one of his jingles which went "back through the mists of time..." before playing a song from two years ago. So join us now as we go back through the mists of time to a song which -last time on BBC4- was the subject of a particularly grotty Legs & Co routine. No Legs or Co this time, instead we get to watch a selection of stock film clips. It's not clear if this is an official promo film or something the BBC have knocked together. Most of the clips are of people dancing but also featured are some men playing croquet on pogo sticks; the very definition of a whole bunch of silly asses. Also noteworthy is what must be a clip from a Shirley Temple film, but the brief shot of two men gazing at a small child looks more like Kiddystare; the spoof Channel 4 programme from The Day Today's sketch Attitudes Night.
Soft Cell: Tainted Love . It's Marc Almond, looking a lot like a young Steve Punt. If only the bloke on the keyboard resembled Hugh Dennis this might look like a Mary Whitehouse Experience spoof. Best bit: the screen is divided into quarters and the output of four different cameras is run through the Quantel box by Vision Mixer Chris Gage.
Kim Wilde: Water On Glass  A repeat from the 30/07/1981 edition.
Bill Wyman: (Si Si) Je Suis Un Rock Star . As is this.
Startrax: Startrax Club Disco . Here's a change for Legs & Co. Instead of dancing to a rubbish classical music medley they are dancing to a rubbish pop music medley. Actually song aside this is pretty good. Designer Geoff Powell has run with the disco theme and designed a disco style catwalk, with the audience on either side and Simon Bates sitting at the end in the DJ Booth watching over proceedings like a trendy judge. Even Flick Colby raises her game. The song is a Bee Gees medley and during the brief snippet of Tragedy she refers back to the chair/clown routine Legs & Co used when they danced to the song in 1979. Well played Flick Colby. Well played.
Aneka: Japanese Boy  In 1981 cultural appropriation was just something that happened to other people. Geoff Powell has decked the stage out with Japanese paper lanterns. There's a symbol projected on the back of the stage which looks like Kanji but doesn't seem to be anything obvious like Japan or Boy. Aneka -if that is her real name- is dressed as a Geisha. (John- Her real name is Mary Sandeman and this song sold 5 million copies. Not interesting but true) Oh, and the spotlight on the back of the stage could conceivably represent a rising sun. Taking all this in as the performance starts I experience that traditional queasy middle-class anxiety that I might be about to watch something unacceptable. Luckily this isn't entirely the case. This is no Barron Knights' Food For Thought but Aneka's raiding of the dressing up box is causing the meter on the Unacceptability Detector to tremble. All that said, the song itself is great. A ludicrously infectious piece of pop. Listen to it at your peril. You'll be humming it for the rest of the day.
ELO: Hold On Tight . On video. Here's a small mystery, I thought I remembered the video for this song and that it featured lots of roller coasters from the riders point of view. I was wrong. The video is designed as a series of Coming Attractions for spoof black and white film adventure serials. It doesn't quite work, for a number of reasons. Most obviously because it's shot on video not film and so it just looks wrong. The editing never quite feels fast enough to match the pace of the song. A hand-held camera is used to record some of the adventure segments, so again there's a mismatch between what the video wants you to see and the way it's presented. Lastly, the video features some terrible CSO which makes the whole thing look cheap.
Number 1: Shakin' Stevens, Green Door. Shakin' Stevens has been lured back to the Top of the Pops studio by the promise that Legs & Co will dance with him. What's notable is not Shakey, or Legs & Co -they're dressed in green, natch- it's the way Simon Bates is projected on to the big black and white Eidophor screen. He looms over the audience like the Controller from the Doctor Who story The Macra Terror. Sadly the camera cuts away before he is attacked by a giant claw.
Closing Titles: UB40, One In Ten. Simon Bates, fresh from revolutionising the entire gas flow of the Top of the Pops studio, bids us good night. The audience are a little more rambunctious tonight and the Top of the Pops disco which normally closes the show descends briefly into mass waving at the camera.
Performance of the week: Aneka: Japanese Boy.
Performance of the week: Aneka: Japanese Boy.
|Aneka today. Really. It is!|