07/08/2019

Top of the Pops 19 July 1984


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Richard Skinner: "Hello and welcome to Top of the Pops where the music may be recorded but the stars are all here live and here in person." Peter Powell: "On the stage you're going to see Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Divine, Billy Idol, Blancmange, but for starters The Mighty Wah! and Come Back!"

[28] The Mighty Wah!: Come Back. The Mighty Wah! finally make it on to BBC4. Their previous song Story Of The Blues got all of 90 seconds airtime on the repeat of the 03/02/1984 edition. The full performance went unrepeated as it featured on an edition blocked by the estate of Mike Smith [06/01/1983]. Of course, on that show the band appeared as Wah! Lead singer Pete Wylie has got through more band names than Spinal Tap; Wikipedia lists Wah!, Wah! Heat, Shambeko! Say Wah!, JF Wah!, The Mighty Wah! and Wah! The Mongrel. It's entirely possible Pete Wylie isn't taking seriously this whole being a pop star thing. Regardless of name, The Mighty Wah! are the ideal band for Peter Powell. They've even got his preferred punctuation built into their name.



[5] Prince: When Doves Cry. On video.

[33] Billy Idol: Eyes Without A Face. A static performance from Mr Idol. He's only human. He can't move and curl his lip at the same time. Billy might have benefited from spending more time practising miming the song and less gazing lovingly into a mirror. He gets confused by the echo effect on "face.. face.. face" the first time round, and then seems surprised by the second appearance of  the chorus. There's also an awkward moment when he silently thrashes away at his guitar until the other guitarist (who is paying attention) leaps forwards and the guitar solo begins on the soundtrack. Lost in guitar ecstasy Billy also forgets when the solo comes to an end and until he can catch up with the lyrics he is forced to lick the fretboard of his guitar. Which is  exactly as vile to watch as you might expect.

[30] The Kane Gang: The Closest Thing To Heaven. I'm sure The Kane Gang are all really nice and kind to their mums and everything but they can't compete with the person at the front of the stage who is wearing a brightly-coloured comedy baseball cap. One of the ones with a foam arm holding a hammer which is hitting the cap wearer on the side of the head.

This type of comedy hat probably has a technical name but so far it's proved resistant to my attempts to google it. In desperation I tried "Timmy Mallett hat" which pulled up a lot of images of the former Wacaday host in everything except the comedy-foam-rubber-mallet-hand-head hat I'm searching for. So all I've managed to establish is that this is the one hat that Timmy Mallett won't wear. Who is wearing the hat? It's not an early sighting of Timmy Mallett, or Steve Wright trying to sneak into the Top of the Pops studio in krazy incognito headgear. It's not even Henry the Janitor. It's literally just an ordinary young woman who has worked out the best way to stand out from the rest of the audience.


[39] Blancmange: The Day Before You Came. The last Abba song recorded becomes what could have been the earliest Abba cover version to chart if it wasn't for 1981's excremental Stars on 45 single More Stars. A hideous Abba medley which appropriately enough reached number two. Only Canada and Switzerland displayed less taste than the UK and allowed the song to slouch its way to number one.

The Blancmange version changes Abba's reference to frighteningly highbrow author Marilyn French into the more accessible Barbara Cartland. Both songs reference Dallas although Blancmange could have used a more topical 1984 series like Automan or Manimal.

[26] Divine: You Think You're A Man. Was Top of the Pops scared of Divine? Not Simply Divine by Bernard Jay, Divine's former personal manager, recounts how a post-Relax BBC tried to ignore You Think You're A Man to avoid becoming involved in yet another controversy over censorship, and also generating yet more free publicity for a single. According to Jay the BBC waited until "they could no longer ignore [Divine's] song. They ran out of excuses to give to our very anxious and insistent production team... Following the transmission, the TV station's switchboard was, supposedly, flooded with over a thousand calls, angrily complaining about 'that fat lady' their children had been exposed to that evening; 'it was disgusting, obscene'."

Is it true? You Think You're A Man appeared on Top of the Pops two weeks into its chart run so there's a whiff of print the legend about the idea that the BBC tried to ignore a potentially troublesome song. However, I could well believe that the performance generated a flood of complaints; one talking head on The Story Of 1984 suggests a figure of 12,000 complaints. It's notable that two weeks later the song is featured as the backing track to the closing titles. This does suggest that Top of the Pops felt obliged to feature the song again but preferred to relegate it to the slot often reserved for bands who were unavailable or too cheap to record a video.

Divine cuts a startling figure, squeezed into a dress slit up the side of his thighs, balancing on high heels, topped off with a beehive hairdo, and growling a song about boys who think they are men. This is not something you see weekly on Top of the Pops. It's a barnstorming performance and the crowd rightly eat it up.

[11] Thompson Twins: Sister Of Mercy. On video.

[1] Frankie Goes To Hollywood: Two Tribes. The Top of the Pops version of Two Tribes is slightly different to the single. It's missing the orchestra from the introduction. Possibly this is a relic of the deal with the Musicians' Union which generated work for session musicians by requiring bands to mime over a newly recorded backing track -you can't include an orchestra if there isn't visibly one on stage. Anyway, regardless of why the Top of the Pops version sounds different to the single, this week Holly Johnson mimes along to the introduction and puts in little hand gestures to act out where the orchestral crescendo should be. Later, Paul Rutherford, pulls out a replica hand-gun and waves it around. Do you think that's wise?

[25] Shannon: Sweet Somebody. Closing titles and audience dancing.



Retrospective-missed-out-performance-of-the-week 12/07/1984: Neil, Hole In My Shoe.

Performance of the week 19/07/1984: Divine, You Think You're A Man.

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