27/12/2019

Top of the Pops 29 Nov & 20 Dec 1984


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. 
29 November: Janice Long: "Hello and welcome to a very live edition of Top of the Pops." Peter Powell: "And for starters one of my favourite records of the moment. It's from Nick Kershaw and it's called The Riddle!" 
[4] Nik Kershaw: The Riddle. Peter Powell is wearing a FEED THE WORLD white t-shirt. So is Nik Kershaw. So is everyone in Nik Kershaw's band. The story behind Do They Know It’s Christmas? is too well known to go into here, but this is where the single started to make its mark; four days after it was recorded and four days before release on Monday 3rd December. A quick turnaround that would allow Frankie Goes To Hollywood exactly one week at number one with The Power Of Love. It's often stated that the Band Aid video premi√®red on Top of the Pops before the single was released. That's not quite what happened. David Bowie introduced the video on BBC 1 25 minutes earlier between the end of the regional news and Tomorrow's World. You can see his introduction here https://twitter.com/BBCFOUR/status/929078810137497601 
Presumably it made more sense to show the video outside of Top of the Pops where it would be seen by a much more general audience. Top of the Pops doesn't seem any shorter this week. David Bowie's introduction and the video fit neatly into a five minute slot and presumably the regular 6.55 start time for Tomorrow's World was designed to flex back to 7pm when required. It would be interesting to see how the schedule was amended to cope. I guess they showed a few less trailers, and shaved a little time off the regional news and Tomorrow's World. (John – But what about the Riddle? What’s the answer? What??!!)

 
Nik Kershaw: The gardening was not going well.


[6] Eurythmics: Sex Crime (1984). On video. 
[15] Slade: All Join Hands. Peter Powell is up on the studio gantry to introduce Slade, and also give a brief explanation about his shirt. "The t-shirt that I'm wearing relates to Band Aid and the song that's been released for Christmas and also to help the famine in Ethiopia." Meanwhile, in the background Noddy Holder and Dave Hill can be seen pacing backwards and forwards as they wait for their cue. Noddy's wearing a FEED THE WORLD shirt but it's obscured behind his checked shirt. Dave Hill isn't wearing one at all. Possibly on the grounds that putting on the t-shirt would first involve taking off his hat.
Slade have brought along their SLADE/ALL JOIN HANDS plastic banners for the crowd to wave. They've also liberally decorated themselves and their instruments with big cardboard hands. Dave Hill has stuck three on his guitar, two like wings and the third like a tail. It looks like he's playing a long-necked exotic bird. During the instrumental Noddy Holder rummages around near the drums and produces another pair of hands, these are on sticks. He waves them around and conducts the audience with them for the rest of the performance.

[31] Tina Turner: Private Dancer. On video.


[19] Kool & The Gang: Fresh. All present and correct in their FEED THE WORLD shirts. Dave Hill and Janice Long are the only holdouts so far tonight. Take some time to admire the lurid silver lame trousers worn by lead singer James "J.T." Taylor, and wonder what the rest of his suit might have looked like if he hadn't made a last minute change of shirt. J.T. earns bonus Pop-Star points when, on the word "you" of the line "I'd give anything to spend the night with you", he remembers to point right down the barrel of the camera at the watching audience. 
[3] Frankie Goes To Hollywood: The Power of Love. On video. 
[27] Madonna: Like A Virgin. Also on video. It's unusual to have two videos back-to-back. If I was Michael Hurll (or to be exact Producer Stanley Appel, as Michael Hurll is still away) I would have followed Frankie Goes To Hollywood with Alvin Stardust and then Madonna, to keep the performance-video-performance pattern going. Although it's possible this order was chosen to allow the studio staff extra time to clear Kool & The Gang's kit off stage before (ugh) Black Lace soiled it.
[11] Alvin Stardust: I Won't Run Away. Alvin's yanked his FEED THE WORD shirt over the top of his nice neatly-ironed shirt. For some reason he's also tied a knot in the bottom corner of the t-shirt. No idea why. Maybe he was worried it looked too loose and baggy. 
[1] Jim Diamond: I Should Have Known Better. Let's draw a veil over my embarrassing prediction that Jim Diamond "won't be back in the Top of the Pops studio." [15/11/1984 edition]. He is back and he's at number 1. How on earth did that happen?A bloke in a speckled shirt can be seen beckoning people down onto the stage behind Jim. It takes a little time but eventually there's a line of self-conscious women holding hands and gently swaying to the song. (John- I think people were genuinely afraid of Jim Diamond.)Meanwhile the bloke in the speckled shirt gently waltzes with another woman.At the end of the song Jim Diamond smirks, then licks his finger and draws an imaginary 1 in the air. Fair play to him, I'd be pleased in those circumstances. 
[26] Black Lace: Do The Conga. Despite Black Lace's best efforts, nobody in the studio attempts to do-do-do the conga. 
Performance of the week: Kool & The Gang: Fresh.


20 December: Janice Long: "It's fab, we're having a party. Welcome to Top of the Pops. He's very fragile." Simon Bates: "I'm not really. It's the office party. This is a Christmassy atmosphere. It's not a Christmas programme but here's a Christmas record. It's Roy Wood back on Top of the Pops from three years ago, same record, I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day." Janice Long: "With the Kempsey School."

Simon Bates: That's right."

[36] Roy Wood: I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day. This is the 1984 reissue. Not to be confused with the 1973 original or the 1981 re-release to which Simon Bates refers. Or indeed the annual re-releases since 2007 which suggest a certain cynicism from Roy Wood towards the season of goodwill.  A cynicism not comparable to anything except the annual re-releases of Slade's Merry Xmas Everybody which also began in 2007. Mind you, these days it's presumably a lot easier to re-release a single than in those dark pre-2007 times when you actually had to schlep down to a duplication plant and get physical things made. These days all you have to do is press a button, probably. The iPhone was released in 2007. Is that somehow connected with the start of annual re-releases for I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday and Merry Xmas Everybody? Does this Christmas conspiracy go all the way up to Steve Jobs? Meanwhile back in 1984... Roy Wood is supported by children who are taking their festive duties very seriously. The look of concentration as they hammer the xylophones is something to see.

BREAKING POP NEWS: As I write this the 2019 re-release sits at 29 in the chart just above Slade's re-release of Merry Xmas Everybody which languishes at 31. See you in 2020 for the rematch.

[3] Paul McCartney & The Frog Chrous: We All Stand Together. On film. Watch the promo again and wonder who faked the child's handwriting on the "This Book Belongs To" sticker in the cutaway shot. Also, someone needs to have a word with the Set Dresser about that Rupert doll splayed in the background. Straighten it up.

[33] Bronski Beat. It Ain’t Necessarily So. BBC4 have indulged in one of their patented Top of the Pops time warps and we've leapt forwards from the end of November to the last show before Christmas. Unusually neither show was skipped due to the presence of an unacceptable host. The 06/12/1984 edition was hosted by Mike Smith, whose shows are blocked by his estate. The 13/12/1984 edition featured an unacceptable guest, G**y G*****r. In 1981 G*****r's performance of A*d T**n S*e K****d Me was lopped from the start of the 15/10/1981 edition; the show instead began with the video for Thunder In The Mountains by Toyah. There appears to have been a change of policy, the two 1984 repeats featuring G**y G*****r have simply been dropped.

We're three songs in and Simon Bates hasn't told us the time yet! Come on Si, don't let us down. "It's twenty-eight minutes away from eight." Phew, everything's fine. Here's Bronski Beat. Larry Steinbachek needs to hang his head in shame for committing an eighties fashion atrocity; a baggy shirt mushrooming over a tight belt and pleated trousers.

[19] Spandau Ballet: Round & Round. The merry pranksters from camera Crew 7 are back. In 1982 a sign from them wished the audience "merry Xmas from crew 7." I missed their 1983 well wishes, or maybe for punishment they were exiled to the Points Of View Christmas Special. Anyway, in 1984 crew 7 have escaped the Light Entertainment gulag and are back on Top of the Pops. How do I know? Because the scamps have stuck a new sign on the studio gantry. Its "Merry Christmas from crew 7" message is briefly visible as the camera pans from Bronski Beat to Janice Long. A merry Christmas 1984 to you, crew 7, as well. Spandau Ballet are on video, but it's black and white video because it's more moody and artistic.


[37] The Council Collective: Soul Deep. An odd, nakedly political song released in support of the striking miners. The sound mix is poor and only occasionally do words swim out of the audio fug; TUC, working classes, solidarity, something about history.

If I was more conspiracy minded I'd point out that Paul Weller and Dee C Lee's opening verse is crystal clear on the 12'' version uploaded to Youtube, but the sound is also muddied on Youtube's copy of Soul Deep performed on The Tube; so it looks like The Council Collective just needed better sound mixing on their live performances.

[26] Foreigner: I Want To Know What Love Is. https://www.oed.com

[20] Thompson Twins: Lay Your Hands On Me. Joe Leeway appears to be playing a specially modified bannister.

After the performance Simon Bates gets in a quick plug for the Thompson Twins' appearance on "BBC1 on Christmas Day morning," that must be on the first of Noel Edmonds' Christmas-Noel-Live-Up-The-Post-Office-Tower shows.

[1] Band Aid: Do They Know It's Christmas. On video. It's not easy to get them all in the studio you know.


[15] Ray Parker Jr: Ghostbusters. Ghostbusters has an odd chart history. The single first charts in August and does well, climbing to number 2. It then slowly descends to number 46 and starts to climb again following the film's eventual release in December. Top of the Pops has never really known what to do with this single. The video got one showing on the 13/09/1984 edition, but apart from that it's been restricted to the end of show audience dancing and credits. Maybe the BBC was wary of being seen to promote the film.

Performance of the week: Thompson Twins: Lay Your Hands On Me



Traditionally the Christmas Day Top of the Pops is a best of the year show. With that in mind I'm playing Michael Hurll for a Day to compare his line up with mine; collected from the year's Performance of the Week selection.



Michael Hurll: 25/12/1984

Frankie Goes To Hollywood: Two Tribes

Howard Jones: What Is Love?

Duran Duran: The Reflex

Nik Kershaw: I Won’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me

Culture Club: The War Song

Thompson Twins: Doctor Doctor

Jim Diamond: I Should Have Known Better

Wham!: Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go

Paul Young: Love Of The Common People

Duran Duran: The Wild Boys

George Michael: Careless Whisper

Frankie Goes To Hollywood: The Power Of Love

Thompson Twins: You Take Me Up

Frankie Goes To Hollywood: Relax

Band Aid: Do They Know It’s Christmas



Me:

Adam Ant, Apollo 9 

Nik Kershaw: The Riddle.

Sade: Your Love Is King.

Thompson Twins: You Take Me Up.
Billy Ocean: Caribbean Queen

George Michael: Careless Whisper.

Divine: You Think You're A Man.

Duran Duran: The Reflex

Alexei Sayle: Ullo John Gotta New Motor?

Break Machine: Break Dance Party.
Alphaville: Big In Japan

The Weather Girls: It's Raining Men

The Special AKA: Free Nelson Mandela

The Stranglers: Skin Deep.

Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Two Tribes.



Michael Hurll's line up is constructed with one eye on getting as many Band Aid singers as possible into the studio. There's a whole essay in this, but as this entry already stretches to the crack of Doom I'll try and be brief.

There were three Top of the Pops over Christmas 1984. The live 20/12/1984 edition, another live show on Christmas Day (at least The Radio Times says it was live, and who am I to argue?) and what seems to be a pre-recorded edition hosted by Lenny Henry on 27/12/1984; on Youtube.

When Band Aid perform live on the Christmas Day edition there are two main groups of singers. The crowd around Paul Young (including a visibly and understandably emotional Bob Geldof) and, on a separate stage the crowd around Sting.

It seems simple at first. The singers around Paul Young appear on the Christmas Day edition, and those around Sting all appear on the 27/12/1984 edition.

Therefore the 27/12/1984 edition was pre-recorded before the live Christmas Day edition. Band Aid singers from that edition were recorded and played back into the live broadcast somehow. (I'm not a technical guy. I don't know how they did it).

Except, closer viewing reveals Bananarama (27/12/1984) are near Paul Young. The Thompson Twins and Nik Kershaw (both Christmas Day) stand by Sting (who is doing a poor job of keeping his lyrics sheet off camera). Meanwhile Spandau Ballet and Black Lace (27/12/1984) are up on the gantry still decorated with the "Merry Christmas from Crew 7" sign (20/12/1984). I'm so confused.

So, maybe the 20/12/1984 edition went out live, and the set was left standing until Christmas Day to be reused for that edition. Band Aid gathered in studio for the live edition and right afterwards the 27/12/1984 edition was recorded on Christmas Day. That seems expensive and complicated, but I don't have any better theories. Oh, and watch out for Paul Weller's brilliant Bono impression.


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