Top of the Pops 19 & 26 March 1981

TOTP 1981 currently showing on BBC4. Reviews by Chris Arnsby


Peter Powell: "Hello! Welcome to yet another edition of Top of the Pops! And we've got a great show lined up! We've got The Who! We've got Roxy Music! We've got Duran Duran! And if you can handle that lot then hopefully you can handle this because live on Top of the Pops tonight it's Sharon Redd and Can You Handle It!"

The song playing in the background is the first song of the show, that's become Top of the Pops standard operating procedure. Naturally it raises some eyebrows when the introduction to Can You Feel It is used to provide backing for Peter Powell. Has the BBC got them live in the studio? The Jacksons! (or John Lennon and His Four Ringos as Danny Baker memorably described them at this phase of their career) Surely Top of the Pops isn't going to break with all procedure and open with one of these newfangled pop video-thingies? No, as is revealed by the awkward transition into Sharon Redd's Can You Handle It?. Was someone playing a funnee joke based on the similarity of the two song titles? Has Michael Hurll changed yet another aspect of the programme? We may never know. 
Sharon Redd: Can You Handle It? [33]. The Maggie Stredder Singers pick up a credit at the end of tonight's programme, presumably it's for their work on this song which sounds very different to the other versions available online.

This Ole House is clearly just too tiny for giant Shakin' Stevens

Shakin' Stevens: This Ole House [2] Shakin' Stevens has been allowed outside on 16mm film to make a promo so artless and obvious it must have been directed by Flick Colby. "Ain't got time to fix the shingles" [point at shingles], "ain't got time to fix the floor" [point at floor], "ain't got time to oil the hinges [point at door]". Etc. Less singin', more fixin', then your house won't let in rain, smoke, cold, fog, basilisks, and so on.

Dave Stewart & Colin Blunstone: What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted? [30]. A different Dave Stewart to the one you and Annie Lennox are thinking of.

The Who : You Better You Bet [9]. Repeated from the 05/03/1981 edition.

Stevie Wonder: Lately [18]. You know the drill by now, this is a slow song so everyone has to look sad/constipated and do faux ballet. The lighting by Henry Barber works really well, and looks very good for Top of the Pops. Check out the moment when Lulu, her face completely in shadow, turns to face right and the edge of her profile is highlighted while her face stays dark. It's a shame that this is a boring dance to a boring song. And what has been hung at the back of the stage? It looks like a ball of dung.

Phil Collins: I Missed Again [14]. Another repeat from 05/03/81

Bucks Fizz: Making Your Mind Up [not in chart]. Bucks Fizz get an early preview two weeks before the Dublin hosted Eurovision Song Contest. It's a brilliant, happy pop song. No wonder the United Kingdom won. Henry Barber provides some more excellent lighting; silhouetting Bucks Fizz in orange at the start of the song.

Visage: Mind Of A Toy [24]. Cripes. It's all gone a bit Un Chien Andalou, but luckily without the eye or the ants.

Duran Duran: Planet Earth [20]. And a third repeat from 05/03/81. There's a very nifty edit here that cuts out the whole second minute of the song between "you're looking at Planet Earth," and "bop bop bop bop bop bop bop bop."

Toyah: It’s A Mystery [8]. Ooh. A new Quantel effect. I don't think we've seen this one before. This effect is a like a comet tail which radiates out from the centre of the screen. It's used a couple of times, once on a wide shot of the studio which gives the impression that the audience is being eroded away by the power of Toyah's hair dye.
Toyah: She's given up on the Mystery already, see

Top Ten: Just for once the Top Ten countdown has the same presentation as last week. The spinning number to indicate chart position has obviously found favour with Michael Hurll.

Number One: Roxy Music, Jealous Guy.

Performance of the week: Bucks Fizz: Making Your Mind Up


Richard Skinner: "Yes it's an action packed Top of the Pops tonight with twelve fantastic acts. We start off with a hit from the Polecats."

Polecats: John I'm Only Dancing [36]. So there are two rockabilly acts called [something]cats? That seems untidy. I thought this band was the Stray Cats. There should be a musical equivalent of the old Equity rule that two actors couldn't perform under the same name. It's a brilliant cover of the David Bowie song, and an energetic performance to match. Fans of unusual camera angles (i.e. me) will find much to admire in the opening shot of tonight's Top of the Pops. It's a view across the studio from one stage to the Eidophor screen in the background, with the Polecats playing on the audience pit in the middle. Two of Legs & Co funk their stuff in the foreground while Richard Skinner looks awkward and tries not to flinch; Richard Skinner is wearing black trousers and a chunky, lumberjack style red and black shirt. He doesn't look like he's dressed himself to be honest. (John- A little factette here is that The Polecats members included future Morrissey co-writer Boz Boorer)

The Polecats only had one smartphone between them
Kim Wilde: Kids In America [2]. Another chance to see the video.

Graham Bonnet: Night Games [43]. It's the man with the least rock and roll name ever. Graham Bonnet. There isn't enough black leather in the world to make that name awesome. Graham Bonnet, who used to be in Rainbow.

Hazel O'Connor: D-Days [23]. As Richard Skinner introduces Graham Bonnet the camera pans up and over his shoulder. We get a brief glimpse of an odd looking woman in a hat who gurns and waves frantically at the camera. She's back during the introduction to Hazel O'Connor and...Oh it is Hazel O'Connor. The camera follows her across the studio and on stage where she divests herself of her cunning disguise -black hat, coat, wig, and glasses- and proceeds to sing D-Days in her underwear. Halfway through the song there's a good new electronic effect courtesy of Vision Mixer Chris Gage and Nick Moore on Video Effects. It looks like a combination of the Quantel comet tail effect and the howlaround generated when you point a camera at a television displaying its own image; as used for the old Doctor Who title sequence.

Tony Capstick: Capstick Comes Home [10]. "The British charts are always known for their diversity," says Richard Skinner through gritted teeth as he introduces Capstick Comes Home. An hilarious spoof of the Hovis adverts. Words cannot begin to describe the unrelenting tedium. It's shot in tight close-up to stop you seeing the audience flick v's at Tony Capstick. You can hear them though. An occasional cough cuts through the dead studio atmosphere. There's an ugly silence as the song trickles to a halt broken just slightly too late by Floor Manager Tony Redstone's cry of "okay" as he prods some applause out of the comatose teenagers. Feel free to reel back in amazement when you discover this song got as high as number 3.

Gillan: New Orleans [37]. "It's hard to follow that", says Richard Skinner introducing the band given the thankless task of applying CPR to Top of the Pops. Gillan manage this with aplomb. It's a good job they're not singing their previous single Mutually Assured Destruction; a gloomy plea for nuclear disarmament. That's Gillan. Gillan. Not Gillian, as I persisted in typing constantly when writing up the 12/02/82 Top of the Pops. (John- Wasn't that deliberate?) Check out Guylian's guitarist who has come dressed as Jareth the Goblin King from Labyrinth.(John- Come on, you know the band's really called Gallon)
Gillan play on despite being shelled by anti-rock protesters

Lynx: Intuition [13]. A repeat of the video.

Lene Lovich: New Toy [53]. It's an odd coincidence that Lene Lovich and Hazel O'Connor both feature in tonight's programme. D-Days really sounded like a Lene Lovich song and reminded me of Say When from 1979. Lene Lovitch has come dressed as grass-skirted spider queen. It's a good look.

Bad Manners: Just A Feeling [54]. Buster Bloodvessel on the other hand has decided to paint his head orange. This is not a good look. He's an enormous sweating man at the best of times, now it's not clear if he's sticking out his tongue or having a medical emergency. Gaze in horror as the orange make up runs from his sweating head and stains the front of his rubber deep sea diving suit. Did I forget to mention he appears to be wearing a rubber deep sea diving suit?

The Whispers: It's A Love Thing [20]. It's Legs & Co time. No one is painted orange or dressed as a grass-skirted spider queen. Yawn.

Landscape: Einsten A Go-Go [11]. Another repeat for the video. Marvel at the shoddy CSO in the final shot.

Top Ten: The presentation has changed again. It's much simpler. Just a number fading in and out to show the chart position. Songs with promos get clips, songs with no video or film just get still images.

Number One: Shakin Stevens, This Ole House. A repeat of Shakey's performance from the 19/02/81 edition.

Performance of the week: Polecats: John I'm Only Dancing.

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