Top of the Pops August 1985 mega-post!

All reviewed by Chris Arnsby
Mike Read: “Hello. [to Mike Smith] You've just got time to change... too late.” Mike Smith: “Thank you very much. Thank you very much indeed. What has got style?” Mike Read: “Peter Powell?” Mike Smith: “No, no, no, come on. What has got style? What's got good looks?” Mike Read: “Steve Wright?” Mike Smith: “No, no, no, what has got a record in the charts at the moment?” Mike Read: “Me? No.” Mike Smith: “No... with all those things welcome Five Star.”
[18] Five Star: Let Me Be The One. The new Top of the Pops title sequence is rubbish. It's just rainbow colour bars and a piercing electronic tone. No, actually this episode (downloaded from Tutankhamun's tomb https://mega.nz/folder/h0snQACa#uiNNqosfbdrfzODHsE1clw ) is digitised straight from the BBC master tape; first we get two minutes of VT colour bars, then the countdown clock (generated on a BBC Micro to judge by the chunky pixels), and finally the real title sequence. I wonder how this escaped from the archives? It's a night of two Mike's, and an exercise in clashing host styles. Mike Smith wants to be silly, and Mike Read doesn't (or can't). Or maybe I'm being unfair as I find myself liking Smith more than Read. This is the last time the two Mikes host Top of the Pops together although they both stick around for a few more years. Mike Smith would present his final show in early 1988, and Mike Read could be seen until February 1989.
Regardless. Here's Five Star. Drilled to parade ground perfection and fully coordinated in movement and clothing. They're dressed in soft versions of American Football shoulder pads, with a numeral 5 on the front in a different colour for each person. This is how the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers would look if they formed a pop group in their spare time. It's a tribute to branding, before branding was a thing.  

I've just spent 30 minutes trying to track down a half remembered Five Star comic strip, which I thought appeared in one of the IPC Media titles like Buster or Whizzer and Chips . There was one in children's magazine Look In but that's drawn in a very realistic style, while the one in my memory was illustrated in a more rounded kid-friendly way. Unfortunately, “Five Star” turns out to be nearly unGoogleable with results drowned out by the TV channel 5Star and Five Star Comics Group. A search for “Five Star Buster” just informs me that Buster is their manager's name. My memory finally coughs up the name Five Star Life which I use as a search term and find...
a) results are mainly about the same named 2014 film (the sophisticated and delightful story of one woman's quest for personal and professional fulfillment set against some of the most stunning cities and opulent hotels of the world)
b) Five Star Life was the name of the Look In strip.
I give up.
[3] Tina Turner: We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome) . On video.
[29] Gary Moore: Empty Rooms . Mike Read gets to introduce Gary Moore, “guitar hero, I taught him so much.” It sums up the difference between the two Mikes, and the reason they don't mesh as well as Mike Smith and Peter Powell. Mike Read is a dull big brother. He's not very funny and part of his limited schtick is reminding viewers that he can play the guitar (as if that's some kind of superpower). Presumably the bit where he talks about his mate Cliff Richard was edited for time. Mike Smith presents himself in a lighter more self-deprecating way which reminds me of the way Noel Edmonds used to come across on television. It also means if you disliked Noel Edmonds you'll dislike Mike Smith.
Gary Moore doesn't appear to have a drummer on stage, but he does have a guitar on a stick. He thrashes away on an electric guitar for the rock portions of Empty Rooms, and he leans over and plays the acoustic guitar on a stick when he wants to be serious and soulful for the bridge. Why can't he just put one down and pick up the other? That's obviously not rawk-n-rawl enough.
Top 40 Charts: Heading into the countdown Mike Smith plays air guitar while the world holds its breath and wonders if Mike Read will talk about himself. He does. “You probably noticed [Gary Moore] used the new fingering technique I showed him.” Say Mike R. can you play the guitar? Do you know Cliff?
Top 40 Breakers: [33] Prince, Raspberry Beret; [23] Nik Kershaw, Don Quixote; [21] Bruce Springsteen, Glory Days.
[20] The Cure, In Between Days . Throughout the performance Vision Mixer Priscilla Hoadley cuts to a low-angle shot looking up at drummer Boris Williams. Yet wide shots of the stage show no camera operator in sight. The Top of the Pops technical team are nimble and good at scampering in and out of shot, but they are not that good. My initial theory, that this must be two takes edited together, is proved wrong when I realise the drummer has a camera set up in front of his kit. This leaves keyboard player Lol Tolhurst as the only member of The Cure not to get a nice close-up. What did he do to upset the technical staff?
Top 10: [10] Jaki Graham, Round & Around; [9] Trans X, Living On Video; [8] DIre Straits, Money For Nothing; [7] Kool & The Gang, Cherish; [6] Opus, Live Is Life; [5] Harold Faltermeyer, Axel F; [4] Sister Sledge, Frankie; [3] Tina Turner, We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome); [2] Eurythmics, There Must Be An Angel (Playing With My Heart).
[1] Madonna: Into The Groove. On video.
[11] Billy Idol: White Wedding. Audience dancing and credits.
Performance of the week: The Cure, In Between Days.
Simon Bates: “It's three minutes to eight, welcome to Studio 3, a live Top of the Pops on a Thursday night with Amazulu, Dire Straits, and Madonna.” Richard Skinner: “You've stolen my line. We're going to kick off the best show on television with Amazulu. Here we go.”
[25] Amazulu: Excitable . Richard Skinner and Simon Bates have formed (or been formed into) a loose double-act. Since the 04/10/1984 Top of the Pops the pair have been teamed as hosts for six of the nine editions presented by Skinner. This may account for some of the slightly long suffering expressions he displays during Simon Bates' introduction, and also the fact that this is Richard Skinner's last regular hosting gig on Top of the Pops. He's come a long way since his first appearance in November 1980, and arguably he reached his career peak in July 1985 with the opening announcement for Live Aid , “it's 12 noon in London, 7am in Philadelphia, and around the world it's time for Live Aid...” Richard Skinner departs Radio 1 for Capital in early 1986, and returns after Radio 1 becomes Radio1 FM and stays until 1991. He'll even crop up on a couple more Top of the Pops but not in the company of Simon Bates.
What's the lowest paid job in the Top of the Pops studio? Apparently it's the camera operator who hunches in front of Amazulu's drummer to grab a grand total of four low angled shots in a three minute performance. When The Cure were on last week the programme sprang for the cost of a tripod to prop up the camera, such lavish spending is a thing of the past and it's now the job of the person who costs less than a stand.
[4] Dire Straits: Money For Nothing . On video and edited to remove the second verse with its contentious language. This seems to have been done in 1985, rather than for the BBC4 edit.
[31] Princess: Say I'm Your Number One . The great, long, red-legged scissorman who edits Top of the Pops for BBC4 is enraged by not having any editing to do so far. In his fury he snips out a technical fluff caused by Richard Skinner's microphone failing at the start of his link out of Dire Straits. I'm sure it will be fine, and the edit won't be noticed because the hosts won't call back to it later. (They will).
Princess is wearing a themed number one earring. Her dresser has been paying attention and the numeral 1 is even in the correct font to match the BBC1 logo. Well played.
Top 40 Charts: Oh no! The editor's chickens have come home to roost. Simon Bates calls back to Richard Skinner's microphone failure. Who could have seen that coming?
Top 40 Breakers: Is this the night of 1001 technical glitches? Skinner and Bates seem mildly hysterical, and coming out of the Top 40 Charts, Richard Skinner is more interested in something going on to his right; or maybe he just doesn't want to make eye-contact with his co-star. There's an odd comment from Simon Bates, “here they [the breakers] come right now... I hope,” which gets a knowing chuckle from Skinner and suggests there's something amiss in the studio, or maybe the playback kept going wrong during rehearsals.
Top 40 Breakers: [36] Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, Too Many Games ; [28] Phil Collins, Take Me Home. “Here's the ultimate pose. It's Phil Collins' new video shot in every capital in the world,” says Simon Bates as a shot of Sydney appears on screen. Followed shortly by a scene of Phil Collins in New York. Maybe Simon Bates means, the video is shot in every capital in the world plus Sydney and New York ; [7] UB40 & Chrissie Hynde, I Got You Babe.
[30] Go West: Goodbye Girl. If the point of the Top 40 Breakers is to highlight songs that are just coming into the charts then the placing of Goodbye Girl and I Got You Babe don't make sense. Surely the number 30 song should be in the Breakers, and the number 7 song should be played in full? Does Stanley Appel (standing in for Michael Hurll who is away preparing for the return of The Noel Edmonds Late Late Breakfast Show ) owe Go West a favour?
Top 10: [10] Sister Sledge, Frankie; [9] Opus, Live Is Life; [8] Kool & The Gang, Cherish ; [7] UB40 & Chrissie Hynde, I Got You Babe; [6] Billy Idol, White Wedding ; [5] Madonna, Holiday ; [4] Dire Straits, Money For Nothing ; [3] Tina Turner, We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome) ; [2] Eurythmics, There Must Be An Angel (Playing With My Heart) ;
[1] Madonna, Into The Groove. Simon Bates giggles madly as the clip of Eurythmics is whizzed off-screen (courtesy of Quantel). What is going on tonight in the studio?
[5] Madonna, Holiday. Two back-to-back songs by the same artist. I don't think anyone has managed that before.
There's more Simon Bates madness before Holiday starts. He pulls a lump of gum out of his mouth, smirks, and shows it to Richard Skinner who then nudges Bates in the ribs and says “come on... you're on.” Bates makes a surprised “ooh,” and then launches into his DJ patter while Skinner laughs. It could be prearranged banter, but Simon Bates has never struck me as that kind of person. Right now he looks like someone struggling in the face of rising hysteria.
The camera pulls back from the pair and Bates pops the gum back in his mouth (charming), and this time it's Richard Skinners turn to laugh,and give Bates a comedy clout round the ear. Yes, something was definitely up in the Top of the Pops studio tonight.
After the credits have finished, and the live show has presumably gone off air there's another odd moment during the closing audience shots. Vision Mixer Carol Abbott cuts to a cheerleader wearing a black and white outfit, and we watch her dancing for a few seconds before the camera pans away and across the audience. Suddenly the camera lurches back twice to return to the same cheerleader. Next the camera abruptly drops to point at the floor and pans away. A pair of feet walk through the empty shot before the picture tilts up to focus on a different pair of dancers. Then there's a zoom into the audience dancing on a gantry but the blurry dancers in the foreground keep obscuring the shot. Still on the same camera, the picture pulls back, and pans right to hold on the audience dancing. This last shot is then held until the picture fades to black.
For this whole sequence we're watching the output of a single camera which is behaving as if it's lining up shots normally, then repositioning for another shot, and so on and so on but we stay on the same shot even in the points where the Vision Mixer would normally cut away to another camera.
It's as if there's a breakdown in communication between the control gallery and the studio floor; the gallery don't know what's being recorded to tape; the cameraman isn't told to stop moving his camera; Simon Bates isn't cued properly and doesn't know when he's live; Bates and Skinner don't know exactly when the Top 40 Breakers are being played in, hence the “I hope” comment; even the (edited out) microphone malfunction could all be symptoms of the same problem.
Tonight's Floor Manager Hilary Bevan-Jones is now a BAFTA and Emmy award winning Producer, maybe someone can ask her what happened at the next industry shindig. 
 Performance of the week: Amazulu, Excitable.
Dixie Peach: “Good evening and welcome to another edition of Top of the Pops.” Peter Powell: “On the show tonight we've got Madonna! We've got UB40 and Chrissie Hynde! We've got Phil Collins in the studio! And for starters this is King!”
[39] King: Alone Without You . An over-excited King fan has transgressed and stepped up onto the stage. It's one of those low key dramas which plays out right on the edge of wide shots. It would go completely unnoticed except Floor Manager Ian McLean happens to tap her on the arm and gently guide her off stage just as the camera is panning behind her.
[3] UB40 & Chrissie Hynde: I Got You Babe . On video.
[28] Phil Collins: Take Me Home. Phil Collins looks twitchy and self-conscious onstage by himself. He might seem more at ease seated at a piano or if he at least had the security of a band to take some of the focus off him. Unfortunately Phil Collins has entered the phase of his career which Wikipedia pithily describes as “1984–1989: No Jacket Required and commercial ubiquity.” He's no longer Phil Collins, singer, he's Phil Collins, Pop Star. He could do with spending some time with a movement coach, but Pop Stars don't do that sort of thing.
[40] Total Contrast: Takes A Little Time . Total Contrast are a dapper pair of lads who I'm struggling to find anything to write about. Dixie Peach says they are “from London,” so there's that...
Top 40 Charts: Top of the Pops feels becalmed, as if in the wake of Live Aid the entire UK pop industry has gone on holiday; with the exception of Phil Collins. The programme has entered one of those unfortunate periods when the majority of new entries and climbers are unavailable in studio. Is it possible to build a better playlist? Maybe. I'd try the following:
Total Contrast at the start of the programme (I'm not dropping them from their one Top of the Pops appearance. I'm not a monster). Followed by Running Up That Hill on video because Kate Bush doesn't do Top of the Pops (not since Wow, 22/03/1979 hosted by D*v* L** Tr*v*s); then Nik Kershaw, if he's willing to come into the studio; and then Phil Collins, as he made the effort to be free tonight. King can go into the Top 40 Breakers in place of Kate Bush. There's now time to play longer than usual clips of The Cars, UB40 & Chrissie Hynde, and Madonna's Holiday because we've already featured two of the Top 10 songs in full and the rest are going down*. Feeling daring? Then free up more time for those three songs by cutting Into The Groove short. It's on it's third week at Number One and everyone's bored of the video.
How about it Michael Hurll? Do I get the job?
Top 40 Breakers : [38] Dio, Rock ‘N’ Roll Children; [33] Baltimora, Tarzan Boy; [9] Kate Bush, Running Up That Hill. Top 10: [10] Nik Kershaw, Don Quixote; [9 ] Kate Bush, Running Up That Hill; [8] The Cars, Drive; [7] Billy Idol, White Wedding; [6] Eurythmics, There Must Be An Angel (Playing With My Heart); [5] Dire Straits, Money For Nothing; [4] Tina Turner, We Don't Need Another Hero (Thunderdome); [3] UB40 & Chrissie Hynde, I Got You Babe; [2] Madonna, Holiday.
[1] Madonna, Into The Groove : On video.
[27] D Train, You’re The One For Me: Peter Powell is suddenly wearing a headband. He's been in Kenya with some Venture Scouts from Bolton and he promised “the crew” he'd wear the headband on Top of the Pops. I'm sure “the crew” expected he'd wear the headband for the whole programme but putting it on for the last 30 seconds certainly meets the legal definition of what he promised if not the spirit. Who “the crew” are is not clear; the technical team who accompanied Peter Powell to make his report for the Saturday Breakfast Show; the Venture Scouts; or the people they met in Kenya? We'll never know.
Performance of the week: If I have to choose.... if I have to choose then Total Contrast, Takes A Little Time.
Steve Wright: “Good evening!! I'm Steve Wright he's Gary Davies!! Welcome to Top of the Pops!!” Gary Davies: “We've got a brilliant show for you. Don't move away from your TV. We've got Princess, Kate Bush, Baltimora, but first to get us under way Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam with I Wonder If I Take You Home.”
[15] Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam: I Wonder If I Take You Home. Here's a song with an odd chart history. I mentioned Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam in the write up for the 02/05/1985 Top of the Pops; back in the mists of time (© Simon Bates, Golden Hour Inc. a fully-owned subsidiary of Northrop Grumman). At the time I was freediving into the depths of the Official UK Top 40* to locate the UK's 1985 Eurovision entry, Love Is, at 74 in the chart.
Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam, to give the group it's full name Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam With Full Force, at that time were at 60 in a seven week chart run which never troubled the top 50; going 87, 60, 53, 54, 65, 67, 75. Then the song slipped out of the charts to “bubble under” as the kool kidz kall it. Two months later the song reappears in the charts for week ending 03/08/1985 at 53 and starts climbing again. We're now four weeks into an 11 week run which will see the song peak at 12.
[5] The Cars: Drive . On video.
[11] Baltimora: Tarzan Boy. Imagine the state of Fuengirola nightclubs in 1985 when the DJ awkwardly shifts from playing I Wonder If I Take You Home to Tarzan Boy. There's barely time for the lagered-up lads to finish pretending to break dance and dust down their clothes before doing mock Tarzan yodels and pounding their chest. In the studio the real drama is taking place behind Baltimora (if that is his real name). A leggy brunette -let's call her Jane- dances with the audience cheerleader who wasn't quick enough to hide when Floor Manager Iain McLean appeared clutching a gorilla suit and orders from Michael Hurll. But wait! In a twist no one saw coming, it's Jane who ends up pursuing the gorilla round the glittering palm trees. What an angle! The real question is, is this the same gorilla suit used when Tight Fit performed The Lion Sleeps Tonight on the 28/01/1982 edition? Let's wait for the report from the boys and girls in forensic video analysis.

Meanwhile behind Baltimora and Jane and the gorilla, another mini-drama is taking place. Some of the audience have been given pom-poms to shake uncertainly and told to stand on the gantry steps down to Baltimora's stage, but they're not in quite the right place! Michael Hurll's vision of an endless pop-party trembles to its roots and he sits in the studio gallery crushing cigarettes in one hand and snarling into the studio talkback microphone, “more fun! Make it look like the XXXXs are having more XXXXing fun.” The studio crew leap into action and a headphone-wearing member of the team is briefly seen shoving audience members around until the Partyometer reads 15,000 Funks per Million.
The results of the forensic video analysis are disappointing. Trying to get a clear image of the 1982 gorilla suit is like trying to photograph Bigfoot. It probably isn't the same costume unless it's been upgraded while in storage.
Top 40 Breakers : [40] Dan Hartman, I Can Dream About You; [36] Mai Tai, Body & Soul; [34] Marc Almond, Stories Of Johnny.
[4] Kate Bush: Running Up That Hill. “Kate Bush doesn't do Top of the Pops,” I confidently asserted last week. My least accurate prediction since 15/11/1984's dismissal of I Should Have Known Better by Jim Diamond with “Jim won't be back in the Top of the Pops studio.” Two weeks later the song got to number one. Oh well. It's an odd performance. As you'd expect. Seven people are crammed into a tent-like structure which is filled with smoke to diffuse the purple light. Kate Bush's performance is static and the camera work matches. Vision Mixer Carol Abbott seems to bounce from one hand-held camera shot to another and the result is claustrophobic, an effect intensified by Lighting Director Henry Barber plunging the rest of the studio into darkness. The only people who seem to exist are Kate Bush, her musicians and the silhouettes of the audience gathered round the stage. The usual Top of the Pops swooping crane shots are almost completely absent, what movement there is tends to be restricted to zooming in and out on static camera angles.
The great unknown in this is, how much say does a singer get in the look of their performance? Obviously it helps if you are a bigger name. Madness are allowed to park the Maddiemobile in the middle of the TC3 studio floor for Driving In My Car, and Adam Ant is allowed to sing Goody Two Shoes across three stages with assorted members of Zoo (and claimed to design their costumes in his autobiography). But, for example, when Echo & The Bunnymen turned up to mime to The Back Of Love, 03/06/1982, were they given a choice about sharing the studio with a distracting clot on stilts or was it imposed on them as part of Michael Hurll's dread “fun” agenda?
Did Kate Bush turn up with her glamping kit and demand to perform in it, and the reduced camera angles result from working round the audience crowded round the small performance space? Did she spend weeks working with the lighting, set, costume, and camera teams to control every aspect of the performance? Or did she rock up at 3pm on recording day to be told to stand in a Coleman 8 Man Octagon Dome, blue/gray, £250 from Argos ?
Top 10: [10] Princess: Say I'm Your Number One . Princess is still wearing the Number1 earrings she had for her 08/08/1985 appearance, with the addition of a sparking Number 1 picked out on the front of her black jacket. The whole ensemble is set off by a bright red bowler hat which really stands out against all the muted blues and greys of the set.
[9] Eurythmics, There Must Be An Angel (Playing With My Heart); [8] Billy Idol, White Wedding; [7] Tina Turner, We Don't Need Another Hero (Thunderdome) ; [6] Dire Straits, Money For Nothing; [5] The Cars, Drive; [4] Kate Bush, Running Up That Hill; [3] Madonna, Holiday; [2] UB40 & Chrissie Hynde, I Got You Babe.
[1] Madonna: Into The Groove. Steve Wright drops a baffling piece of celebrity gossip, revealing that Madonna's “on honeymoon with her new husband Sean Penn... everybody's favourite sleazebag!!” It slightly wrong foots Gary Davies. There's a small but noticeable pause before he launches into his link for Into The Groove and acts as if Steve Wright didn't say anything at all. Which is the best way to follow any statement that falls out of Steve Wright's mouth.
Madonna's still on video. And still drying her armpit on that hand drier. Gross [12] Amazulu, Excitable. Audience dancing and credits.
*The Official UK Top 40 goes up to 100. I don't know why.
Performance of the week: Baltimora: Tarzan Boy.... no alright. I'm just being all silly and hyperactive like Steve Wright. It's obviously Kate Bush: Running Up That Hill.

1 comment:

  1. 08/08/85 Performance Of Say I'm Your Number One with Richard Skinner's Mike Problem.