Thursday, 24 March 2016

There's a Guy Works Down the Chip Shop Swears He's Top of the Pops

It's the start of yet another very busy Top of the Pops 1981 weekend, with four editions to squeeze in over two days! The first of them takes us to June 25th where we get our first sighting of this year's blog title song....

Can't wait for the New Life blog in (not quite) 35 years time!

25/06/81 (hosted by Simon Bates)

(32) Gillan – “No Laughing In Heaven”

Gillan get us underway with a song that would have been perfect for Halloween. As it was in June it went up just one place higher.

(9) Elaine Paige – “Memory” (pre-recorded insert) (rpt from 11/06/81)

Now just a whisker or two away from its number 6 peak.

(40) Kirsty MacColl – “There’s A Guy Works Down The Chip Shop Swears He’s Elvis”

Kirsty's Top of the Pops debut as a solo artiste though not, like Simon Bates said, her debut on the show - she was of course last year a member of Jona Lewie's backing group for In the Kitchen at Parties. This song made it to number 14.

(31) The Evasions – “Wikka Wrap”

The group's only hit - I suppose there is only so far you can journey with an Alan Whicker tribute band ~ it peaked at number 20.

(28) Randy Crawford – “You Might Need Somebody” (rpt from 11/06/81)

Climbed all the way to number 11.

(43) Depeche Mode – “New Life”

So our blog song makes its debut on the show, just missing out on the top ten when it peaked at 11. But the band went on to much greater successes throughout the 80's, 90's and 00's charting 14 top ten hits and a further 29 which made the top 30.

(1) Michael Jackson – “One Day In Your Life” (rpt from 04/06/81)

A new routine from Legs & Co this week for One Day in Your Life's first of two weeks at number one.

(26) Quincy Jones - "Razzmatazz"

The credits roll out to what will become Quincy Jones's biggest hit when it reaches number 11.

It's July 2nd next, hosted by DLT so it won't be on BBC4.


  1. First and only time a Motown song knocks a another Motown song off the no 1 perch

    1. On the British hit parades

    2. It was also ironic that Michael Jackson had his biggest solo hit to date with an old song.

    3. A year later Charlene never been to me was recorded In 1976 and also on Motown

  2. Watched this as it went out for once - Funny show this week with most of the acts outside the Top 30 and the Slimey one on presenting duties. This was shown on the day of my 19th birthday (I remember it well, my birthday that is, not this show).

    Gillan invent Spinal Tap with a little help from Arthur Brown! Actually this was rather good even though it was hopelessly out of date at the time. I thought that was Rod Argent at the organ but it was TV and film composer Colin Towns. Nice to see a couple of headbangers at the front.

    "Elaine page has finally got a hit" says Slimey erroneously, he'd obviously forgotten about Don't Walk Away Till I Touch You two years earlier. She actually looks a good ten years younger here than she did then although no taller. I never really got Cats and thought it was all a bit overrated but this is a good song although perhaps too over familiar now.

    Terrible sound interference during There's A Guy Works Down The Chip Shop like the mike was picking up sounds from a carpenters workshop. But great that Kirsty Macoll finally made it to the show with her own song and not before time. Not sure who all of her backing band are, one looks like a young Billy Bragg but isn't, one is Billy Bremner from Rockpile.

    Oh no, the first charting British rap record and it's this rubbish, how dreadfully embarrassing. I didn't like this even at the time, it's the sort of thing you hear once and the joke wears off before the records finished.

    Nice to see the Tom Tom Club in the Top 30, shame we don't see them on the show, or Bad Manners.

    Randy Crawford repeated from two weeks ago. She is usually backed by top jazz-funk outfit The Crusaders but here she is backed by the TOTP orchestra who are having a bit of an off day. It's like walking though treacle and I feel a bit sorry for her as she delivers a powerful vocal. The sudden ending and lukewarm applause says it all.

    Depeche Mode - this is more like it. Loved this to bits when it came out and bought all of their early singles. I even had a hand in making one of their videos (but more of that next year). The band actually have a very gay look, especially Martin in his see-through top and bondage gear and Andy in his biker's cap.

    Rotten, dirty photo of Odyssey for the Top Ten and still no footage of Red Sovine (thank the Lord). Smokey still with his fire blazing in the summer and then Jacko at the top with an old song so no footage of him either.

    And then Slimey actually dances (badly) to Quincy Jones at the end. Shiver.

    Depeche Mode and Kirsty aside this was a pretty dismal affair and not one to shout about.

    1. Ah Bama, you also spotted the headbanger at the front of the audience to Gillan. In fact his headbanging was so severe that I thought his neck was going to break. I'm surprised that BBC4 allowed this on this show, as what he was doing could be called dangerous to say the least, and not for family viewing in 1981 or even 2016!

  3. This is the best from Gillan we've heard in a while, he has trouble fitting all the words into the verses and even more trouble with his hair getting into his face, but the lyrics are amusing and it has a swagger about it I appreciated. Plus a pipe organ in the studio!

    Elaine Paige sitting on a bin. Maybe she should have nibbled on Legs & Co's fish bones from the Stray Cats routine?

    Kirsty MacColl, terrific high energy country tune, witty lyrics, great melody, fine stage technique from her, but no Simes, it wasn't top ten. Maybe it should have been. Are four guitarists overdoing it though?

    The Evasions, I'd never have remembered their name, but for a novelty song of the kind they just don't make anymore, rather this than the recent Barron Knights. Don't remember Alan Whicker being bald. Anyone recall that variety act who put wicker baskets on their heads (with glasses on them) and did Whicker impersonations? What were they called? This was sampled by Coolio on 1234 Sumpin New, and now Coolio is about as cool as this record was back then.

    I much prefer the early Depeche Mode before they went all doom Goth synth metal (or however you'd describe it). Leave that to Marilyn Manson. This is a very decent, clean synth sound with appealing melodies, as that early material tended to be. Call it the Vince effect.

    The heavenly choir's a bit much on this Michael Jackson track. Lulu should have mimed that bit.

    Quincy Jones was on great form around this time, wasn't he? Bates gyrates to little effect, but this was a very entertaining song impeccably produced.

  4. hadn't remembered the Gillan track....seemed more Tenacious D than Spinal Tap

  5. host: what can be said about the oleaginous egotist that hasn't been said already? that in his ignorance he pronounces the names of chart acts as if they're a person rather than a band (tom tom-club)? and that when he does the chart rundown he lists some track titles and not others? and what exactly does he mean by "it's a good example of ladies being back in the charts again" - were they banned before or something? the guy really is an utter prick (no surprise whatsoever that unlike come of his colleagues he chooses to hastily depart at the end rather than boogie on down with the kidz), and it will always remain a mystery to me why he was asked to present totp so frequently (or in fact at all!)

    gillan: another one that's a blank in my memory. entertaining enough if hardly my kind of thing. i really wish that ian would do something about his hair though

    kirsty maccoll: she always seems to get spoken about in hushed tones (an early tragic death does nothing to detract from that), but i never thought she was anything special. and the track just sounds like rockpile with a female vocal - there's even a member of rockpile in the overstaffed guitar department (i suspect another was her brother neil)

    evasions: globe-trotting investigative reporter alan whicker was already something of a has-been by the early 80's, so why did someone think it was such a wizard wheeze to parody him? the impression was quite good, but couldn't the bbc costume department have stretched to giving the guy a wig? the musical backing was fairly competently done too, although the synth on the "funkin for jamaica" bit was a bit naff. there's also snatches of the brothers johson's "get the funk outta ma face" and chic's "good times" here, but according to the record label the writers of those songs get no credit. it's well known that the latter made sure they got their rightful share of the royalties generated from the "rapper's delight" rip-off. but did the evasions manage to evade a similar fate?

    randy crawford: the first time i've heard this totp orchestra version - it's so excruciating i had to check out the original recording to compare it to. and rather surprisingly i found myself preferring the shola ama copycat cover!

    depeche mode: i would guess that many here have been waiting for this moment with great expectation. but i might as well say it now: i really don't know what all the fuss is about with this lot! the vince clarke stuff was twee to my ears, and what came afterwards was dour and tuneless. the singer's delivery is so flat and one-dimensional he makes tony hadley sound like sinatra, and the rest of them don't look anything like pop stars (especially the tall ginger-haired one). very much the runt of the new romantic/synth pop litter in my opinion, and their popularity and longevity remains a mystery to me. i remember listening to john walters on the radio in the late 80's informing listeners that depeche mode were (by) now filling stadiums in america, and sounding genuinely puzzled by that news - memorably quoting that he had thought they were "a bit past their sell-by date!"

    quincy jones: not bad as a contemporary dance piece, but why does quincy feel the need to release records as a "solo" artist and employing faceless wacko-soundalikes to sing for him? he really should have kept this track back for wacko's next album

    1. When I first heard Razzmatazz I assumed that Jacko did provide vocals for it, as the bits where the title is sung sound incredibly like him. Patti Austin is the credited guest singer, but maybe MJ supplied some uncredited backing vocals?

    2. I've liked Kirsty's later album Titanic Days.

    3. Kirsty's Kite album is terrific, I still listen to it sometimes.

  6. The arrival at last of Basildon's Depeche Mode, and their debut on TOTP. At the same time the rockabilly craze of 1981 continues with Kirsty MacColl's new record. As if we didn't have enough of Coast To Coast, Matchbox, Shakin Stevens, Stray Cats...but wait....Showaddywaddy had something of a return hit later in 1981, as they needed to get in on the act once more.

  7. The full almost 32 minutes in the later showing, the earlier showing cut at the end of the credits and started a minute early, so 31 minutes fitted the half hour slot. An unusual length.

    1. I have noticed that on all the shows in 1981 so far where the end credits are concerned, that the 7.30pm showing cuts out at the end of the text/writing, whereas on the late night showing, you get to see how it was originally shown in 1981 with more of the studio dancing till the end of the show, even when the credits are completed.

    2. ..might not have shown all of that back in 1981, the length being a bit flexible so that they could fade and cut any time after the final credit, so i wonder if it caused the continuity announcer minor timing problems where there wasn't that flexibility, ie when the credits rolled over the Number 1 which had a definite ending.

    3. Don't know how true this is, but I read that there was a gentlemen's agreement between the producers of TOTP and Tomorrow's World. If you remember, TW used to go out live which made it highly susceptible to Murphy's Law. As a result it would sometimes finish early. To counteract this TOTP was made with a long 'tail' which could be played for as long as necessary to bring things back on schedule.

  8. I personally really like Simon Bates’s style – perhaps that’s why he was chosen to take over the Sunday evening top20 radio show from the fabulous Tom Browne (who never appeared on TOTP to my knowledge…).I bet many of you used to tune into that show and record things off it – a guy on eBay regularly sells fantastic quality recordings of some of these complete shows which are stacking up in my CD cupboard!

    Gillan – No laughing in heaven – TOTP’s love affair with Gillan, McCoy and co continues with another obvious non-hit.
    Great to see Mr McCoy with his 12 string guitar on such a relatively short song. Reminded me of Chris de Burgh’s ‘Spanish Train’ in places.

    Elaine Paige – Memory – gorgeous again…cranked up the volume for this.

    Kirsty MacColl - - Guy works down the chip shop – There’s a guy on the acoustic guitar in this performance who I swear was in Dave Edmonds’ Rockpile group? (as also noted by bama and Wilberforce above). I had forgotten how country tinged this song is as I haven’t heard it for so long.

    Evasions – Wikka Wrap – name checking, name checking and oh such a boring wrap. Keyboard player reminded me of someone here, but I can’t think who.

    Randy Crawford – You might need somebody – As previous, nice song, but rotten arrangement.

    Depeche Mode – New Life – OK, so a lot of people rave about this and living where I am, about 5 miles down the road from Basildon, I should be more supportive of local groups. However, this song just irritates me! Fiddly twiddly keyboards and don’t get me started on the lead singer’s haircut. The next single release however, was a completely different kettle of fish….

    Chart rundown – extended clip of Ultravox to make up for it not appearing again? Red Sovine’s ‘Teddy Bear’ is once again ignored. Have TOTP ever shunned any other big hits other than banned discs such as Judge Dread, Sex Pistols etc.? Somebody at the production team must have really hated this.

    Michael Jackson – One Day in your Life – Well we were never going to get a video of Michael singing this at the age it was recorded, although a live version from 1975 is on YT, so Legs & Co it is again, and jolly fine they look too. I just love the production on this song.

    Quincy Jones – Razzmatazz – Very brief dancing exit to this obscure song.

    1. i made my first recordings of tom browne's chart rundown show on sunday evenings on radio 2 in late 1975 - tracks i taped included mud's "show me you're a woman", stretch with "why did you do it" and bowie's "golden years" (sadly tom interupted just as the whistling started!)

    2. Late 1975? No prizes for guessing what was no.1 then!

    3. This performance of Memory is even better though, the vocal at the end as she gets up very spine tingling.

  9. It looks as if Gillan had by this time laid claim to Showaddywaddy's old spot in the BBC car park, given the number of appearances they have made this year! This effort was clearly intended to be tongue-in-cheek, and the huge organ made for a fun prop (no sniggering at the back there), but Ian's hell-fire preaching act rapidly grew tiresome - the glory days of Deep Purple seem like a long, long time ago...

    A nice performance from Kirsty, and the band seem to be having a great time. The song itself is nothing particularly special (it's a shame Kirsty's own version of They Don't Know could not have been her debut hit a couple of years previously), but pleasant enough - the "uh-huh-huh" backing vocals always raise a smile. The Evasions, by contrast, left me slack-jawed with disbelief! The Whicker impersonation was OK, but was undermined by the lack of hair, the fact the "joke" wears thin after about two seconds, and the truly interminable length of the record. Strong contender for worst chart single of '81, in my book.

    Depeche Mode (add an accent to "Depeche" if you are Master Bates) help to restore sanity with this bright and breezy debut hit. Given that it looked to be taking over the charts at the start of the year, synth pop has been a bit thin on the ground in recent shows, so great to see this. Vince Clarke must be one of the most underrated British musicians of the 80s, considering how many pop classics he would churn out during the decade. This isn't in the premier league of his songs, but shows his way with a melody and points towards future glories.

    Master Bates looks as pleased with himself as always, burbling on incessantly about "ladies" in the charts and emitting that cringeworthy, faux-matey "see ya" at the end. He must have had plenty of friends in high places to last on the show so long...

  10. This wasn't a bad one, despite Simes as usual doing his best to ruin everything.

    Gillan again? Why couldn't we have had a repeat of Ultravox or the Fizz instead?

    'Memory' is a fine song in the context of Cats but not as a pop song. Can't be doing with the singing theatrics either.

    Mrs Noax reckons that the noises you can hear during Kirsty Maccoll could be the drummer hitting the card tops they used to cover the drums when miming a song and I think she may be right! Great song of course.

    Am I the only one here who likes 'Wikka Wrap'? I think it's amusing enough and melds novelty song and the emerging Medley craze quite well. Admittedly the guy looks more like Michael Fish than Alan Whicker!

    Randy Crawford - Boring. Would have preferred the Fizz or Ultravox.

    Depeche Mode - much better. Not their best single, but a good one nonetheless.

    Nice to see a simple, old fashioned Legs routine to accompany the Number 1.

    And we finish with audience dancing, hooray! Love the guy in the bottom right who is really going for it.

    1. I don't mind the Whicker tune either, but novelty records are way out of fashion this millennium, so a bit of fluff like that is always going to get lambasted these days.

    2. Wikka Rap is well performed, some medley element to it and it puts the cliches in cleverly. Maybe goes on a bit, but certainly doesn't sound bad.

      Randy performs her song well but the chorus just falls flat for me, just repetitive and not much of a payoff. She did better, smoother or more moving choruses.

  11. shaky shakerson25 March 2016 at 13:52

    Form 2C are forced to forego their lesson on Ox-Bow lakes as their teacher skips school to go down to that London and present this week's ToTP.

    And his first job is to keep a straight face as he introduces Gillan and the incredibly weird No Laughing In Heaven. This scores an absolute zero on the Shaky Memory scoreboard and, after just one listen I can honestly say I don't know what to make of it. Is it genius? Is it a quickly-knocked-out album filler?

    Following that we have Elaine Paige who looks as though she is performing on an airport runway and as a result feels the need to SHOUT a couple of lines towards the end. Actually made my ears bleed. Oh, and she could not have looked more Eighties in her shoulder-padded power jacket, could she?

    By contrast, Randy Crawford's performance was top-notch despite the best efforts of the orchestra to frig it up. And wasn't she happy? Never stopped smiling, bless her.

    We also get a trio of debuts.

    Kirsty. Not her finest work this. A clumpy, country-ish novelty that gave no clue as to what the much-missed singer would later attain.

    Wikka Wrap. One hitsters and yet another chart act this year that owed its success to Radio 2. Unlike a lot of 'comedy' songs that get less funny after repeated plays, this managed the trick before we even reach the run-out groove.

    Depeche Mode (De-pesh-hay according to the Geography teacher). Not a band I ever had time for, possibly because of their reliance on keyboards and computers rather than 'proper' instruments and in fact it was only when Vince Clarke departed that they produced any tune that I would fine bearable.

    Jacko takes over from former label mate Smokey at the top with a maudlin ode to love. What was with the British public during this time? The chart is literally awash with love songs/dirges (delete where applicable). Seven of the top ten are slowies, with a couple of others in the top thirty as well. Jesus, guys, speed it up a bit will ya?

    Scores. Bates gets 4. ( He IS Simon Bates after all). I can't go higher than a 4 for the show either. Randy showed her quality. Jacko's snorefest was enlivened by a fine Leggers routine complete with nice tight tops. And Quincey Jones' showender was one of my favourites of the year. But the rest....

    1. Weirdly, the Gillan track reminds me of Sit Down You're Rocking the Boat from Guys and Dolls (the musical, not the vocal group).

    2. I'm agreed on Elaine Page spoiling her song by shouting to get her point across. Compare this with Randy Crawford with a similar type of song, and how the voice should come across properly. Hopefully this is the last of Paige on this one.

  12. What a rip-off for the poor audience. No mug shot acts in the studio. Nothing on the show between numbers 9 and 28, either.

    Gillan’s effort was way too wordy, like a cross between a sermon and a metal rap. Liked Mister McCoy playing the bass strings from above the fretboard.

    It’s ELAINE PAIGE shouting her way through a show tune, with a prop that brought Ted Rogers and Top Cat to my mind simultaneously.

    Anyone else notice the last line of the outro for Kirsty’s tune incorrectly spelt her surname as Macoll, missing out the small ‘c’?

    “Wikka Rap” (whose lead singer looked more like Roger De Courcey if you ask me) was a mickey-take released on a label started by a fabled soul boy music shop (Groove), whose other top 75 release was by Surface Noise, who’d missed out on showing off their earlier top 30 hit by ‘that strike’. The style of “Wikka Rap” immediately reminded me of “Dance With Me” by Reginald Bosanquet!

    Randy Crawford was much better here than with her last big hit. Eyes open, enjoying herself, superb vocals (no change with the latter point), and are those culottes she’s wearing? Only the dance moves let her down just a little.

    Oh, the irony of Depeche Mode’s Andy Fletcher (I can hear Mister Mackay now), wearing a T-shirt depicting a drum kit while plinking away in a percussion-snubbing electronic group.

    A fairly route one Legs & Co approach to the number one with the gals clad in upmarket Cinderella dresses I liked the sea and sand effect of that blind.

    Now, let’s see – would I prefer TOTP’s Razzmatazz with the gals in skimpy stuff or Tyne Tees TV’s Razzmatazz with Alistair Pirrie? Not much of a contest!

    1. I have that Reggie record on CD, the first Ooh... You are Awful! one which compiled various celebs' attempts at having a hit song, all of which failed. Can't imagine Huw Edwards doing that.

  13. Well, yes, Depeche Mode were the highlight for me. At the time it was an fresh modern sound and I still enjoy it today. It was later in the decade, around 1985/6, when I first started to grow tired of keyboards and drum machines, and then along came SAW who turned me against electronic music for life! If you like this early Depeche Mode stuff then check out their labelmates The Silicon Teens who specialised in plinky plonk cover versions of sixties classics. If you don't, then don't bother. Oh, and it's a shame that this performance fades just before the melodic synth bit at the end.

    And Kirsty, a strange artist who on the surface had her biggest hits with other peoples' songs and whose most successful composition was recorded by somebody else... except that it's not as simple as that. Apart from the first verse, Tracey Ullman's 'They Don't Know' is to all intents and purposes a duet with the song's composer.

    1. Oops, that's supposed to be "a fresh modern sound" or "an innovative modern sound". Take your pick.

    2. I doubt I'll ever tire of electronic music, but SAW tested even my patience. A few not bad records, but the majority were formulaic to the point of taking the piss.

  14. I forgot to say, I had to smirk when Simes mentioned The Evasions’ singer was out of work three months previously – as if he’d have a long and fruitful employment fronting an Alan Whicker tribute band!

  15. Yet another unforgettable Gillan song. I'm sure I had a Gillan greatest hits and that's two I simply do not remember

  16. I liked "New Life" at the time and still do! The unmistakeable Vince Clarke popoy synth sound which he took to Yazoo and then Erasure!