Top of the Pops 9 and 23 Dec 1982

9 Dec 1982. Watched by Chris Arnsby. Simon Bates: "Welcome to BBC1 on a Thursday night for an action packed Top of the Pops. We've got Shalamar to kick off with, over here at number 19 with Friends."

[19] Shalamar: Friends. Top of the Pops must have some money left over from the budget because this performance uses both dry ice and smoke. Unsurprisingly the effect is to gradually obscure the studio while Shalamar do their best to penetrate the fug. Shalamar singer Howard Hewett is wearing a smart Darth Vader t-shirt, and seems to be going for a Han Solo look in general with a holster slung low on one thigh. Watch out in the background -at least until it's obscured- for the bloke wearing the same white slit top as the lead singer from Blue Zoo a few weeks ago. It's possible that it is the lead singer from Blue Zoo. Damn this fog.
Shalamar wonder if the buses will still be running in this fog

[3] Renée & Renato: Save Your Love. "Every year one gimmick record gets in the charts around about Christmas time. Here's Renato." Why won't Simon Bates speak Renée's name. I instinctively feel there is history here. And what's with the sudden editorialising? He's at it again after the promo film finishes. "That has gotta be your ideal Latin lover. Would you buy a sweater from that man?" From memory, Renée & Renato became a shared national joke very quickly but it's odd to see Top of the Pops leaping on to the dogpile. I wonder if this is an attempt by Simon Bates to swipe John Peel's shtick of making sideways comments about the quality of songs and bands? If it is then his blokey man of the people persona undermines that attempt. John Peel could get away with being dry and caustic because of his repudiation as, in his own words, "the one who comes on your radio late at night and plays lots of records by sulky Belgians." Simon Bates doesn't do dry and caustic. He does popular and obvious. What follows is speculation but could Simon Bates be nursing a grudge about John Peel's prime time hire as second banana to Noel Edmonds on The Late-Late Breakfast Show? In 1982 Simon Bates had positioned himself as one of Top of the Pops two main live show presenters (David Jensen was the other) and he'd also shared presenting duties with Gloria Hunniford on a late night BBC1 show called Saturday Live. And yet when Top of the Pops Producer Michael Hurll and Noel Edmonds are hiring they go straight to Mr Sulky Belgians. It's easy to see how this could have stuck in Simon Bates' craw and made him want to show that anything John Peel does he can do better. Except of course he can't. Here's Yazoo.
Renee and Renato keep smiling despite being glued together

[13] Yazoo: The Other Side Of Love. Towards the end of The Other Side Of Love there's an electronic wipe between shots where the new picture slides in from the left of frame as if the two pictures were sides of a rotating cube. It's a fairly bog standard transition these days but it stands out because it's only used once in The Other Side Of Love. Is it hiding the join between two separate takes? Nick Moore is credited with Video Effects and I wonder if he's got a new piece of kit -or worked out how to make the Quantel effects box do something different? The picture quality drops a little as the wipe is used, as if it's somehow degrading the signal from the camera. It's odd to realise that at this stage even a simple electronic transition is still quite an involved process. Presumably Vision Mixer Hilary West has to cut from the signal from camera 1, to the signal from camera 1 going through the effects box, wipe from camera 1 to camera 2, and then cut from the camera 2 signal going through the effects box to the direct signal from camera 2.

[35] Shakin' Stevens: Blue Christmas. An unusual seated performance from Shakin' Stevens. Has he hurt his leg? Artificial snow is falling from the rafters. It's carefully positioned not to fall on Shakin' Stevens but a couple of women at the front of the crowd are covered by the end of the song.

[5] Culture Club: Time (Clock Of The Heart). Quick! There's a 47 picosecond gap in the Top of the Pops running time. How can it be filled? Luckily Junior has turned up and gives an amazingly insightful interview to Simon Bates. For the record Junior gets to say "hello," and "yes I am." Glad we sorted that out. The BBC caption generating machine is getting increasingly sophisticated. At the end of Culture Club's performance the caption is a clock face with the band name as the hands; Culture pointing to 3 and Club pointing to 6. Very clever.

[6] Lionel Richie: Truly. A repeat from the 25/11/1982 edition. Skipped by BBC4 because it was presented by D*v* L** Tr*v*s.

[21] Soft Cell: Where The Heart Is. Marc Almond has two patented moves for this song. A wagging finger for the line "Mother loves to be concerned/Using lessons that she learnt." For the line "Fathers never understand/When children have the upper hand" the move is a more aggressive palm-up rising fist clench. Take that Dad! That's for making me wash the Ford Anglia twice a month!
"You're not bad Elton.." "Ha, ha Frank"

[22] David Bowie & Bing Crosby:  Peace On Earth – Little Drummer Boy. OK, now I worry I'm going nuts. I'm sure I remember seeing this video on an earlier Top of the Pops repeat, but Wikipedia -and indeed the entire internet- insist that although the performance was recorded for a 1977 Bing Crosby special it wasn't released as a single until 1982. Who do I believe? My memory, which is a flawless record of everything ever, or the entire information elite? Regardless, the video is an interesting study in clashing performance styles. David Bowie clearly wants this to be a more intimate performance. He makes several attempts at eye contact with Bing Crosby but he's up against an old pro who is having none of it. Bing Crosby gazes manfully into the middle distance.

[1] The Jam: Beat Surrender. Repeated from the 02/12/1982 edition.

[7] Blancmange:  Living On The Ceiling. Gordon Elsbury is credited as Director this week. 

23 Dec 1982 Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. David Jensen: "I'm feeling festive and I hope you are as well as this Top of the Pops celebrates and looks at the last chart of 1982. And, we kick off with The Maisonettes and this is Heartache Avenue."

[39] The Maisonettes: Heartache Avenue. Excitement! There's been a tiny change to the Top of the Pops opening titles. Previously the Top of the Pops logo was on its own slide with a black background, and the titles used to strobe when cutting between the logo and the flying records. Now someone has worked out how to superimpose the logo over the records. Does it looks better? It looks more professional and slightly less rough, which is probably all the BBC cared about. This was a live show. The first since September. Starting in March 1982 Top of the Pops usually attempted one live show a month. Although there were two in March and probably two in September. BBC Genome and the Popscene database disagree on a few of the live show dates; most notably the 15th anniversary edition of 30/09/1982. Why where there no live shows in October and November? Who knows? It might be something as basic as an agreement that Top of the Pops could have one live edition each month, and the dual episodes in March and September meant two other months needed to lose their live slot.
[3] David Bowie & Bing Crosby:  Peace On Earth – Little Drummer Boy. A repeat of the clip from Bing Crosby's Merrie Olde Christmas. Gloomy Christmas Fact: this 1977 special was recorded five weeks before Bing Crosby's death.
[28] Incantation: Cacharpaya (Andes Pumpsa Desi). "It's snowing outside the Television Centre," David Jenson excitedly informs the audience at home. Frankly I'm much more excited by the new studio stage used by Incantation. It's a massive structure consisting of a raised stage set between two bridges. It's shown off to great effect in a 45 second long (an eternity by Top of the Pops standards) crane shot in which the crane is wheeled under one of the bridges and then spins around giving a birds eye view of the studio. Watch out for the Zoo dancers who are confused about the difference between South America and Greece and are doing Zorba the Greek style dancing. Oh, and also watch out for a new electronic effect. Top of the Pops has used Quantel to do picture-in-picture shots before but here we have picture and picture-in-picture. Over a wide shot of the studio we have the output of two different cameras inlaid in their own frames. It gives a kind of two-window advent calendar look to the screen. Robin Lobb is credited with Video Effects, and he's earned his Christmas bonus.
[2] Shakin' Stevens: Blue Christmas. The transition from Incantation to Shakin' Stevens is very smooth. When Incantation finish the camera pans across the studio to find David Jensen -almost lost in the audience- who introduces Shakin' Stevens. In one unbroken shot the camera cranes over to find him ready to start singing on the bridge occupied moments before by Zoo's Zorba-the-Greeking dancers. It's very slick for a live show. If you study some of the wide studio shots towards the end of Incantation's song you can see a denim clad figure lurking halfway up the stairs waiting for his moment to dash on and look like he's always been there. Two surprise guests in the Top of the Pops studio are Simon Groom and Peter Duncan from Blue Peter. Simon Groom can be seen in profile as the camera lumbers towards Shaky after David Jensen's introduction. Simon Groom turns, spots the camera, and taps Peter Duncan's shoulder. The pair gaze into the lens briefly (and drunkenly? Surely they haven't been in the BBC bar since 5.40 when Blue Peter finished?) before looking mildly guilty and shuffling out of the way. Too late! BIDDY BAXTER SEES ALL! Once you know where the pair are in the studio -Peter Duncan is wearing a distinctive and slightly unfashionable tank top- you can go back and spot them earlier in the show. He's visible in some of the wide studio shots of Incantation. You can admire his unselfconscious (and definitely not drunken) dancing and hand waving.

[43] Imagination: Changes. A typically understated and subtle performance from Imagination. By an amazing stroke of misfortune all three of them have packed skimpy latex leggings instead of trousers, and they've all also forgotten their tops. What are the chances of that happening? Still the show must go on. A mysterious illuminated 7 rocks from side to side on the left of the stage. What can it mean? All becomes clear at the end of a lovely panning crane shot when a perspex ornament engraved with the words "Merry Xmas from [camera] crew 7," passes in front of the camera. I'll bet that wasn't there in rehearsal.

[26] ABBA: Under Attack. "A film they recorded in Sweden," says David Jensen. It's an odd awkwardly staged performance. For some reason the audience are facing away from ABBA.  A couple of people have twisted around to watch but most people have their back to the group. It looks like the audience are ignoring them. (John- Abba’s last single actually.)
[33] Keith Harris & Orville: Orville’s Song. A late entry for worst song of 1982. Or possibly an early entry for the worst song of the 1980s. It's ghastly. A sickly sentimental song. When Keith Harris cloyingly promises to mend Orville's broken heart it's a wonder the audience don't all simultaneously vomit. Not that there is much of an audience. This was clearly recorded earlier in the day because Top of the Pops would never risk putting simpering Keith Harris in front of the live audience. Instead he has to perform to a group of stony faced small children, and the audience cheerleaders who are paid to pretend to love the song.

[1] Renée & Renato: Save Your Love. I'll be glad when this song drops out of the charts. Not because it's bad, it's Mozart compared to Orville's Song, but because it's always a pain trying to find the é symbol. A merry prankster has dubbed a swanee whistle over the shot of Renato's rose toss. Hilarious. But the fun doesn't stop there. Renato has popped into the Top of the Pops studio dressed as Father Christmas.

[8] Modern Romance: Best Years Of Our Lives. David Jensen sticks around for the crowd dancing scenes at the end of the show and so does  Renato. What a trooper. Simon Groom and Peter Duncan are both taking more care to stay off camera, but I think you can just glimpse Peter Duncan dancing his heart out in the bottom right corner of the screen as Dionne Warwick's name appears in the captions. And there's Simon Groom pumping his fist at the camera -just to the right of the 2pm Christmas Day caption- before the fade to black.

1 comment:

  1. For the very little that its worth, ‘Where The Heart Is’ is - I sometimes think - my favourite Top of the Pops performance ever, the alternating pink and blue lighting, the distressing and compelling nature of both the tale and the performance of the teller. That churning, queasy, compressed synth arrangement is just right for the material too, I’d maintain.

    These entries are always great, though I miss the awarding of a performance of the week for each show.