05/04/2020

Top of the Pops 7 Mar 1985


These are unprecedented times and we must all “adopt, adapt, improve” (in the words of the Round Table Society). With that in mind we're going back through the mists of time, courtesy of a Youtube channel called Top Of The Pops- 80s who have just uploaded a 1985 edition of Top of the Pops which was spurned by my digital box for no good reason.

Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. John Peel, “Hello we're the westenders and welcome to another Top of the Pops. It's a rather special Top of the Pops actually because it's Shakin' Stevens fiftieth birthday” Janice Long, “No. You've got it wrong. It's his fiftieth appearance on Top of the Pops. And it's Shakin' Stevens, well done mate, at number 15 Breaking Up My Heart.”

[15] Shakin' Stevens: Breaking Up My Heart. I've written before (ie, I can't remember when) about my surprise at the long chart shadow cast by Shakin' Stevens. In my memory he was always an early 80s phenomenon but here he is striding into the second half of the eighties like a denim-trousered colossus. The song is not vintage fifties pastiche Shaky, in fact it sounds like a Cliff Richards cast-off, but it is more upbeat than his previous single Teardrops. It's good to have back a more upbeat and mobile Shakin' Stevens back in the studio. He remembers to do the thing with his legs where he drops to his knees and springs back up, and he also gets bonus points for his comedy collapse at the end. Shakin' Stevens’ first Top of the Pops appearance came all the way back in the long ago time of 22/02/1980 when he appeared performing Hot Dog, sandwiched between Rainbow (All My Loving) and Blondie (Atomic).




[5] Madonna: Material Girl. On video. Missing from Youtube (copyright reasons), which accounts for the abrupt cut from Shakin' Stevens mock collapse to John Peel introducing Jermaine Jackson. You know the video. It's the one where a millionaire Hollywood producer must trick Madonna into thinking he's a penniless farmer so that he can kiss her; RIGHT ON THE MOUTH!

[18] Jermaine Jackson: Do What You Do. Shakin' Stevens appeared on the main Top of the Pops stage, smiling and dancing and surrounded by an audience who are clearly having a great time. That's not for a serious artisté like Jermaine Jackson. Jermaine Jackson spurns the kind of crowd-pleasing bourgeois hackery that might be displayed by someone called, let's say, Michael, for example. No. It's time to break out the star filters and dry ice, and let Jermaine gaze soulfully at the back wall of the studio. Jermaine sings, “I was crazy for you/You were crazy for me/How could something so right go so wrong?” (John- probably poor wi-fi) Jermaine has a lot of questions but no answers. It's that kind of song. He must have been dumped by someone who prefers balloons to standing ankle-deep in dry ice. At the end of the song the caption reads j/e/r/m/a/i/n/e j/a/c/k/s/o/n which now just looks like the world's worst nested folder structure on a hard drive.

Top 40 Breakers: [37] Loose Ends: Handing On A String; [31] Go West: We Close Our Eyes; [20] Philip Bailey & Phil Collins: Easy Lover.

[11] David Cassidy: The Last Kiss. Here's David Cassidy, and he also wants to be smooth and soulful but Jermaine Jackson has used all the dry ice. What's a Technical Co-Ordinator to do? Fortunately Nicholas Witchell is presenting The Six O'Clock News so the BBC has a huge stock of Vaseline for smearing on the camera lens. Lighting Director Warwick Fielding lights the studio with great slabs of red and purple, and the smeared result looks suitably blurry and atmospheric. At the end of the song Janice Long confesses, “I'll have you know that I had him on my bedroom wall.” Leading John Peel to quip, “that seems to indicate a degree of agility I didn't believe you capable of.” The ad-lib generates a really nice moment of camaraderie between the two presenters as Janice Long starts laughing and gives Peel a mock-outraged punch; which sets Peel off.

[10] Howard Jones: Things Can Only Get Better; [9] Bruce Springsteen: Dancing In The Dark; [8] King: Love And Pride; [7] Prince: Let's Go Crazy; [6] Ashford & Simpson: Solid.

[5] Madonna: Material Girl. Here's the problem with the new Top of the Pops format. By front loading the show with full songs, the last third becomes clips. It would make more sense to show the Material Girl video here, but then you lose the studio performance/video/studio performance sequence. Unless you add a different video between the first two songs, but that means dropping one of the performances by Shakin' Stevens, Jermaine Jackson, or David Cassidy. Or I'm looking at this wrong. The advantage of filling that last third of the show with clips is that is speeds up the pace. A dull studio performance punctures the atmosphere, and in the olden days if that was followed by a dull number one then the viewer could leave thinking Top of the Pops had become boring. Now, if you don't like a song it's gone, and replaced by another, and another, and another, and... here's the number one song.

MTV launched in 1981. A European clone, Music Box TV, started in 1984. We're two months away from Dire Straits singing “I want my MTV” at the start of Money For Nothing. And less than a month from the start of Channel Four's parody, The Max Headroom Show. Michael Hurll is no fool. The public expectation of a programme like Top of the Pops is changing (even if the public themselves are barely aware of it yet) and what we're seeing is him slowly transforming Top of the Pops from a light entertainment show to a music show.

[4] Stephen Tin Tin Duffy: Kiss Me; [3] Commodores: Nightshift; [2] Elaine Paige & Barbara Dickson: I Know Him So Well.
Elaine and Babs: "I am not coming over there! You come here!!"
 [1] Dead Or Alive: You Spin Me Round (Like A Record). Dead or Alive have been propped up on the smallest stage possible, in a far corner of the studio. The results are a little disappointing, Pete Burns doesn't really have the space to cut lose with his full snake-hips spinning. His opening flamenco routine, complete with flower in the mouth, is also lost in the murky yellow lighting.

[25] Daryl Hall & John Oates: Method Of Modern Love. Why are Dead Or Alive exiled to the farthest corner of the studio? Because the biggest studio stage is required for the closing shots of the audience dancing, and on a live show there's no time to get the band off and the audience on. Roll credits, it's nearly time for Only Fools And Horses.

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