Friday, 18 March 2016

Top of the Pops to my Roots

And so after all the thrill and excitement of downloading another yewtreed edition, one that looked like it had escaped us, (the 11th June) we are back on BBC4 with Peter Powell hosting June 18th, at which point we find that we are already at the halfway mark for 1981!

We are going to be big!

18/06/81 (Peter Powell) (rpt UK Gold)

(32) Linx – “Throw Away The Key”

Linx get the show off to a Britfunk start with the follow up to Intuition, though it wasn't as successful, peaking at number 21.

(27) Phil Collins – “If Leaving Me Is Easy” (rpt from 04/06/81)

On its way to number 17.

(6) Odyssey – “Going Back To My Roots”

A lively studio performance of the trio's penultimate top ten hit, now almost at its number 4 peak.

(22) Kool & The Gang – “Take It To The Top” (Legs & Co)

Legs & Co 'are still with us' after their week off, and are sporting a sort of gypsy look for their routine to Take it to the Top, which made it to number 15.

(5) Champaign – “How ‘Bout Us” (video)

At its chart peak now. And edited out of tonight's 7.30pm showing.

(23) Siouxsie & The Banshees – “Spellbound” (rpt from 04/06/81)

Went up just one place more. Also edited out of the 7.30pm slot.

(21) The Specials – “Ghost Town” (video)

Few songs capture their time as successfully as this one ~ the summer of 1981, the riots, the unemployment, the doom, the despair - this record is a time capsule, a reminder of how bleak this period actually was. It would go all the way to number one of course.

(19) Imagination – “Body Talk”

A new and a little more modest studio performance here of Body Talk, still heading towards the top ten.

(1) Smokey Robinson – “Being With You” (video/credits)

Second and final week at number one for Smokey, taken from his top 20 album of the same name.

Next up is the edition from June 25th 1981.


  1. I'm back! A short but sweet show this week. Not sure I care for PP's French sailor look. O la la!

    Lynx. Not anywhere nearly as memorable as their first hit but this is still okay although it's in a more funk-disco style and steals a bit from Change's Searchin' from the previous year. I note they have ditched the original drummer, perhaps he wanted to play the scenery again. I like the turning key shaped Linx credit at the end.

    Had a love hate relationship with Phil Collins. I couldn't really stand him but I secretly liked some of his songs including this one even though it is a bit depressing. It's not a song you can hear too many times without wanting to slash your wrists or smash his face in. No less a figure than Eric Clapton plays guitar on this track on the album but I note he's not in the studio, probably busy doing a gig with Chas and Dave.

    I remember seeing this clip of Odyssey on the Big Hits show and how good it was. There was all that talk of Michael Jackson's Beat it being the first soul record to feature rock guitar but this record (and indeed The Isley Bros) proves otherwise. Does anyone know who the guitarist is here? A great stylish performance and I like the audience members sitting on the edge of the stage which give it an intimate feel.

    Yet another superb Kool and The Gang record that I had forgotten about. The Legs ladies appear to be in some sort of dark dank cave and are performing live on front of the crowd rather than being pre-recorded as they so often are these days. They seem to be a lot happier than they have been of late, perhaps they had a pay rise, even though they didn't know the end was nigh.

    Champaign on video with How Bout Us. This was another song which had a great production and I quite liked but didn't buy. I don't think this lot had any more hits, certainly not as big as this one.

    A welcome repeat of Siouxsie and The Banshees. I went to see them at Bracknell in September 1981 and was surprised how good they were.

    Ah The Specials Ghost Town. I had forgotten that they showed the video on the show although they ended before the bit where Jerry falls out of the Vauhall Cresta.

    Leaving very little to the Imagination with Leeeeee and Co. Not a lot of people know that Body Talk actually started life as a completely different song with different lyrics about giant ants (I kid you not) but got resurrected as this soulful love song.

    Still don't know why they can't use all video clips for the Top Ten (except Red Sovine of course, which no one who no one wanted to see in the flesh), perhaps it's a copywright reason.

    Smokey Robinson at the top spot and nice to see him in his prime before the face lifts. I always think it's a bit disrespectful to close the show with the number one, the credits should not run over the top of i t bit they often did it. And I like to see the crowd dancing (badly) to something upbeat.

    1. That's interesting. Maybe with Adam and the Ants around they decided to take a different lyrics approach. Glad they did, as it offers a different sound for a love song. Sci-fi could end up making it sound more gimmicky.

    2. good to see you back bama - i thought we had lost you in the avalanche of shows. have you been doing any backdated comments for previous editions?

    3. I wonder if Leee John's original inspiration for Body Talk were the Zarbi giant ants in the notorious Doctor Who story The Web Planet, which would have been broadcast when he was seven. He would of course "act" in the show, if that is the right word, a couple of years later...

    4. Wilberforce - yes I am trying to catch up but it's a struggle.

      Re the giant ants thing, apparently the lyrics were by someone completely different, the wife of someone in the music business who couldn't write for toffee but she fell out with the record company. So the song was shelved but the music reworked later with new sensible lyrics as Body talk.

  2. Some great songs tonight and the Specials were especially welcome. Peter Powell however was most unwelcome. His trousers were offensive, his dancing before Odyssey annoying and his explanation that TOTP was about the charts uncalled for. 8/10 for the music, 2/10 for the host.

  3. Although my favoured genres were and are punk/new wave/rock.I loved the Linx and Champaign tracks back then, and in the case of how 'bout us, I think I love it even more today.A classic !
    Not a classic edition though.

  4. Lots of repeats on tonight's show, I'd have felt a bit underused if I was in the audience for this one.

    Linx with a follow up that had slipped my mind. It's OK, grooves along nicely, but lacks the good times of their previous hit. Also, that scaffolding on the right looks really unstable. And call that a bowtie? Might as well have a piece of string.

    Glossing over Phil Collins (gloss! Ha!) we get to Odyssey, a bunch of old pros delivering a very similar sounding cover, but none the worse for that, it's a top tune though Alex Haley might have sounded a bit previous decade as a subject matter. Sad they're not all still with us now.

    Legs & Co certainly looked pleased to be there, taking the "one at a time" strategy of dancing to a Kool and the Gang song I don't recognise, but is not too bad if slightly nondescript. Climbing miming a bit naff, though.

    After Champaign's remarkable contortions and storming Siouxsie, we get one of the defining songs of 1981, a sharp dose of reality hits the party mood. Probably heard it too many times now, but it is a cracking record.

    Imagination are more sensibly trousered this time, but Leee is still going nuts with the showmanship, hell, why not, put on a show! But who got the carnation in the audience? It was that bloke with the moustache, wasn't it?

    Then Smokey to end on, with his nice jumper and (judging by his facial expression) poor pool technique. At the time youngsters not versed in pop history hearing this on the radio apparently thought Smokey was a lovely lady because of his falsetto tones!

  5. host: no one seems to have mentioned the half-baked new intro yet, where a spinning TOTP ident briefly appears whilst one of the current hits is played, before suddenly switching to the host as he introduces the first act. pp certainly gets caught out by it this time. as usual he litters his delivery with mistakes, such as referring to siouxsie and the banshees' latest offering as "her new album". but also as usual you can't help but like the guy

    linx: there's a different (more conventional) drummer this time, and i think david grant is singing live (at times he sounds like he's in a different place to the music - was that what he meant by "thrown away the key"?). another one i have no memory of whatsover, but no surprise as it's very much poor-man's level 42

    odyssey: the lopez sisters were well into their 40's by this point - perhaps a reason for the OTT make-up? this is a touch on the pedestrian side for me, but livens up a bit when the guitar solo kicks in - even though it sounds like it's been added to the original mix. and there's a great chant at the end

    kool: everything they did after "ladies' night" was utter pap in my view. but hardcore funky chants obviously didn't got the rent paid

    specials: i always liked the flute on this. but even though i was one of many on the dole with no future at that point, (as usual) i never took any notice of the angsty lyrics!

    imagination: a catalogue of errors at this point. pp seems to forget the name of the band in his intro, leee only just manages to squeeze past the drums in time to mime on his new white grand piano. and the drummer stands up in the wrong part of the song so has to sit down again. i always thought the bassist sang "your lissom eyes", but apparently it's "your lips in my eyes". whatever that means

    top 10: where the hell did that red sovine thing spring from? and who the hell was buying it?

    smokey: zzzzzzz...

    1. That spinning ident at the start only has two shows to go (one on BBC4), and then the Yellow Pearl era begins...

    2. The Red Sovine sentimental talking country song Teddy Bear was originally released in 1976 and the singer died (ironically, considering the song's lyrics) in a car smash in April 1980. It was in Kenny Everett's Bottom 30 of 1980 but I think it was a hit in 1981 because one of the Radio One deejays played it.

      If you like it also check out the follow up Teddy Bear's Last Ride.

    3. Ah yes, the bottom 30. Wasn't the awful single 'Letter to a teenage bride' by Pierre Cour featured in that?

    4. I can't find any mention of Pierre Cour in either 'bottom 30' - there were two different compilations about four years apart, and number 1 in the second one was "Dance With Me" by Reginald Bosanquet. Yes, that Reginald Bosanquet! Has to be heard to be believed.

  6. Quite a special era for me, as this is when I started watching the show!

    That Champaign song is one I genuinely hadn't heard for 30 odd years, but loved at the time and still do. The bearded bass player's facial expressions of ecstasy are hilarious though :-)

  7. A show dominated by slick funk and soul sounds, with only Siouxsie and The Specials injecting real variety into the proceedings. The zeitgeist-capturing nature of Ghost Town is always flagged up when the song is mentioned, but there's no denying that it caught the mood of a very grim period in post-war British history, and the stark video enhances the impact.

    Otherwise the show is largely about feelgood escapism, Linx kicking things off with a very pleasant offering that just lacks that extra something to make it truly memorable - I enjoyed the end bit when the band members at the front of the stage lined up in a Status Quo-style attack formation! Odyssey also gave an engaging and highly professional performance, though I don't know why the camera lingered on PP and his awkward hand movements for so long after he finished his intro! Judging from his afro hairstyle, the guitarist clearly hadn't got the memo that it was now 1981.

    Legs up next, with PP anxious to reassure us that they had not gone away for good after their week off - I wonder if he had any inkling that their days were numbered? A good routine to an average Kool and the Gang effort, though it was a bit dark on that small stage. Imagination are back with a new, and far more restrained, performance this time around. Did a nervous BBC ask them to tone it down?

    PP was generally solid, but in need of a haircut, and I have no idea why he was holding on to that girl's head before going into the chart rundown - she didn't look that happy about it! That very brief clip of Red Sovine was as much as I wanted to hear of that particular record. Thankfully, it doesn't look as if TOTP ever featured it in full...

  8. For me this edition was a pretty rotten one with much FF needed. Rather than do a blow by blow account of each act, here are my thoughts on some.

    Odyssey – Going back to my roots – Song is not my cup of tea at all, but what caught my eye was ‘Odyssey addict’ PP’s groovy dancing at the start which probably stayed in shot way too long!

    Kool and the Gang – Take it to the top – Definitely not one of K&tG’s best, but a curiously unmemorable dance routine from Legs & Co as well (suitably refreshed from the holiday one assumes).

    Specials – Ghost Town – I know this is iconic and sums up the times etc. etc. but I actually prefer other Specials hits. What intrigued me was where this video was filmed. I think it was all in London and I recognised Threadneadle Street (near Bank) and possibly a tunnel near to London Bridge. Anywhere else?

    Imagination – Body Talk – The boys return for more prancing and preening and as noted by AG and others, this performance is a little more restrained! I still don’t really get the appeal of this song.

    Thank goodness for Champaign and Smokey Robinson!

    One thought I did have was this; Red Sovine ‘Teddy Bear’ up 18 places from 22 to number 4 - a huge climb - and it’s not featured at all. Very odd (not that it sounds like we're missing much!).

    Oh, and a final thought; where’s Steve Wright been lately?

    1. in the specials video i thought i recognised the landmark centre point building on the junction of oxford street and charing cross road

    2. Steve wright returns soon - we'll be seeing a show from him in the next few weeks

    3. The Specials video was directed by Barney Bubbles and was filmed in the city of London, Brick Lane, Whitechappel and in the Rotherhithe tunnel under the Thames - apparently it was done during one night and other traffic was closed off to give it a 'ghost town' feel. It ends with them all on the bank of the Thames near Tower Bridge.

  9. First of all, a note from my mum. I’m away for the Bank holiday weekend and not near a PC and, with another deluge of shows in the pipeline plus the start of another working week, don’t be surprised if it take me yonks to catch up.

    That was the tiniest dry ice machine ever used for Linx. A spirited performance by David Grant for a functional holding midfielder of a song.

    Embarrassing dancing by Peter “Chariots of Fire - Main Theme” Powell before Odyssey, whose main main wins the award for the thickest tie and lowest knot. Great crowd dancing – beat that, “Soul Train”!

    I’m still surprised that Rosie ended up as a singer after Legs & Co and not Lulu, unless she couldn’t really sing. Yet another silent karaoke performance from Miss Cartwright.

    Terry Hall smiles shock! I recognised parts of that Specials video, as some of it was filmed about a mile from where I work in ‘that London’. Talk about a song that matched the times.

    The ever shy and retiring Leeeee John, complete with Michael Jackson style gloves, some sly glitter and an annoying whirling dervish dance. Was Lee’s glass of champagne the first wine bar style tipple seen on the show since Kid passed a glass to Ellie of Liquid Gold?

    So, as Smokie Robinson appears to be on the verge of a Reggie Perrin, one question… what on Earth was that facial expression pulled by the bloke far left in Kate Robbins’ group?

  10. i would think that many people have encountered a pop star in person at some time in their lives, but in leee john's case i've crossed paths with him on two separate occasions: the first was in a rehearsal studio in barnet in the early 90's where he was preparing a band for a german tour (there was no sign of ashley or errol), and the second was about 5 years later when i spotted him in the queue in a supermarket in bournemouth!

    1. I can remember going clubbing with Jimmy Somerville at Lasers in Harringay and Heaven in 1983 and then seeing him again when he was a pop star when I was working at LWT in 1986.

    2. Well that went down like a lead balloon. No Somerville fans here then.

    3. Hey, Jimmy's a bit of a legend where I'm from. His voice got overexposed in the 80s, but he still sang on some cracking records.

  11. Kate Robbins' daughter was on Pointless Celebrities yesterday and did very well. Er, sort of.

    1. in what way exactly is kate robbins' daughter a celebrity?

    2. She's an actress. One for the younger generation.

    3. thanks thx - i wonder how she got her break in showbiz?

  12. This was the one - on Saturday June 20 1981 there was a DJ in my local Woolworths store running down the Top 20. I can remember him playing Shakin' Stevens followed by Ultravox, which pins it down exactly to this week.

    I can't say I was particularly impressed with the first half of this show. With the exception of Odyssey it was a collection of inferior follow-ups and minor hits which I didn't remember then and don't remember now.

    Champaign were a funny lot, weren't they? The couple doing the vocals seemed very contemporary and soulful whilst the rest of the band looked like typical Yank soft rock musos from the previous decade.

    Ghost Town clearly strikes a chord with many here who were young adults in 1981, but being slightly younger and living in the Home Counties it largely passed me by. I just remember this period as being one of Rubik's Cubes and rich kids with home computers (Sinclair ZX80/81 or Acorn Atom - and there was quite a rivalry between the two camps). Myself, all I had was a scientific calculator.

    And as for Imagination, it surprises me that they were asked back!

  13. shaky shakerson20 March 2016 at 11:43

    Ol' Smiley-Voice gets us underway with a lengthy intro into Linz's Throw Away The Key. I knew about this song but couldn't bring to mind how it went. As soon as it started though I was transported back 35 years. My girlfriend of the time introduced me to a small club in town and this was one of the few songs we both agreed was good enough to dance to. Enjoyed hearing it again, but I can't say it will linger much.

    Embarrassing Dad-dancing alert as we welcome Odyssey. Another song that I still quite like - especially the Foreign ( African?) chanty-bit at the end.

    The Leggers strut their stuff through an above-average Kool song. I think the girls looked fine - although had someone put fifty pee in the meter we might have been able to actually see.

    "And on Top Of The Pops - 'Ghost Town'" says Smiley-Voice, which would lead you to believe the band were in situ. Nope - it's the by-now iconic everybody-pile-into-a-car video. Good vid. Great song.

    The charts rundown brought to us this week by the colour orange and pleasingly mathematical in its sections.

    Another change in operational procedure this week as we say goodbye BEFORE the top ten, meaning that Smokey gets the chance to sing his song for the full five minutes runied only by the credits rolling over him.

    So, the scores. Lets get the obvious out of the way first - Powell scores 3. His fashion sense remains, um, questionable, shall we say? He still has that weird way of holding the mic lead in front of him. He still emphasises THE wrong words in SENTENCES. And he has now added an unnerving habit of leaving big pauses in places.

    The show. A decent enough outing with Linx, Specials, Phil Collins, and Siouxsie being the standouts. The Leggers performed well albeit in semi-darkness - so 7.

    1. I thought the Legs & Co routine in the dark was aiming for the 'dancing in a club' look. Maybe not the best thing to do on TV.

  14. There was talk of the new spinning logo opening titles a few weeks ago but this was the first week in the entire run since April 1976 that the show hasn't included the iconic TOTP logo in the end titles. I know because as I am saving the shows on a hard disc I always include a screen grab of it as an icon and this week I couldn't do it.

    1. With the impending new title sequence in mind coupled with the already established opening spinning logo, the production team probably felt there was no longer a need to have the logo at the start of the end credits.

  15. I've just discovered that Champaign, Illinois was really on the map at this time. It's where REO Speedwagon come from as well.

  16. No-one seemed to have spotted the twist of fate upon the Ghost Town video by The Specials, or perhaps it will be a discussion point in a couple of weeks when they reach No.1 in July 1981.

    July 1981 was when this song was at No.1 on the same day as the Royal Wedding with Charles and Diana, and we see in the video the Specials car going out of control in the tunnel, with one member being thrown out of the moving car just before they enter the tunnel. Well, what happened in 1997 in that French tunnel when we heard of the death of Princess Diana?

    Who was to know that in July 1981 with Ghost Town as the Royal Wedding No.1 that week, that the car antics in the Ghost Town video would capture the tragic events of 1997 for Diana? It's really quite a sad thought that the video was No.1 on the same day as the wedding, and that it was to be a picture of what was to come in 1997 at Diana's final moments. Spooky to say the least!

    1. Double spooky really. Everyone harks on about 'Ghost Town' being the theme tune of the summer's events. But it was written and recorded before those events. So not only did it fortell the 1981 situation, but also events 16 years later...

    2. Green Door unseated Ghost Town at the top, Dory, just before the Royal Wedding. I remember being disappointed about that.

  17. Good Lord, it seems there will be 4 shows to put up on the blog this week, cos there are two Yewtreed editions sandwiched in between the two editions that will be shown on Thursday and Friday this week on BBC4.
    It's becoming like going to work, rather than a hobby!

    1. well it is easter at the weekend so there will be more time to catch up ;-)

  18. Two Motown songs in the top 10 smokeys being with you was toppled by Michaels one day in your life the following week

  19. The four American artists on this week's TOTP show were all last appearances for these songs on TOTP, but all four were top notch hits. Well perhaps three of them cos I'm not sure about Kool & The Gang.

    1. I didn't think the Kool and the Gang was that good a song, a bit like a recent George Benson one.

    2. Funny enough, I thought one of the female backing vocal refrains in Quincy Jones's "Razzmatazz" was very similar to one used in "Give Me The Night".

  20. Finally got around to this one - thank goodness for the Easter weekend for an opportunity to catch up!

    It didn't take me long to get through it, especially as it was quite heavy on the funk and soul.

    Top marks from me go to Dave Jervis and the graphics boys - nice work on Linx and Champaign!

    The Linx song I didn't remember but quite enjoyed. Some nice meaty drumming, obviously sacking the previous guy must have helped.

    The Odyssey song is my least favourite of their singles, and Kool and the Gang's one is so generic that it reminded me of 'milk, milk, lemonade....'. Again.

    As for the Irish national anthem (Father Ted reference!) I was also a child of the Home Counties so the Specials track didn't mean much to me either. Even if my parents were both Labour supporters.