Thursday, 5 October 2017

Are You Top of the Pops?

It's August 23rd 1984 so pull a sweatband over your mullet, get your nylon tracksuits on and of course don't forget your shades ~ because tonight you are Top of the Pops!

When you're just so excited by being on Top of the Pops!


23/08/84 (Mike Read & Tommy Vance)

Alphaville – “Big In Japan” (43)
Flying in from Germany to get the show underway this week, with what was their only hit, peaking at number 8, and was it just me, or did anyone else think the lead singer looked a bit like Simon Amstell?

Elton John – “Passengers” (15) (video)
A kind of Caribbean voodoo feel to this second single from his top two album, Breaking Hearts, and it peaked at number 5.

Break Machine – “Are You Ready?” (40)
Their final hit, and in the studio again to do their thing, but this time peaking at number 27.

Miami Sound Machine – “Dr. Beat” (16)
The first of four top ten hits for Miami Sound Machine, it peaked at number 6. But edited out of tonight's 7.30 showing.

Tracey Ullman – “Sunglasses” (18) (video)
Ade Edmonson helps out in this video for what was Tracey's final top 40 hit, now at its peak.

Spandau Ballet – “I’ll Fly For You” (23)
Their penultimate top ten hit, which soared to number 9.

Rod Stewart – “Some Guys Have All The Luck” (19) (video)
My eyes hurt after watching this video! The song went up four more places.

George Michael – “Careless Whisper” (1)
George is in the studio this week to perform his second of three weeks at number 1.

Laura Branigan – “Self Control” (6) (audience dancing/credits)
Went up one more place.


Next up should be August 30th, but that one features both Jimmy Savile and Mike Smith! So BBC4 will skip along to September 6th.

52 comments:

  1. Alphaville - nice synth pop anthem. I like the 1950s wallpaper backdrop reminds me of paintings by Joan MirĂ³ but I don't like the jumpers the guys are wearing. Had no idea this lot were German but it makes sense now.

    Elton John on video. Visually this could be I'm Still Standing Part 2 with fun in the sun and Elton dancing a bit and wearing a lot of silly hats. But seemingly it's an anti apartheid anthem. Who'd have thought, old Reg getting all political.

    Break Machine's third bite of the cherry doesn't disappoint. The same ingredients are there including the break dancing (naturally) and the headbands, although they loo0k a little tired and bored with it. Equally the crowd look a bit un-animated, almost as if the Break Machine's manager prevented them from dancing in case it made the guys look bad.

    From Break Machine to Miami Sound Machine. Wasn't a great fan of this at the time but it's a jolly, groovy dance track with a superb hook and I like the camp set up with the band in glittery doctors smocks and Gloria perched on a trolley.

    Brilliant Tracy Ullman video with guest roles from Ade Edmonson and Robbie Coltrane with stick on eyebrows. At the end of the video (I checked on YT) Ade saves the muscle man and he and Tracy go off in a rowing boat with the message "Wish You Were Here".

    The Charts. Did we ever see Band of Gold? Do we want to? Certainly don't want to see AC/DC.

    Spandau go through the motions at number 23 with a so-so, nothing song. Great strong vocals from Tony Hadley though which often saves their songs from being total rubbish. The Kemp brothers seem to have morphed into Wham lookalikes with dyed hair and nasty tannin tans while Tone has nicked Michael Jackson's jacket.

    We finally get to see the Rod video in colour although a lot of it is black and white with a series of curious backdrops resembling The Testcard. Not as good as the Robert Palmer version but it's hard not to like it.

    Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel still in the Top Ten after many weeks but we still don't get to see 'em or hear 'em. They were against drugs you know.

    Nice to see George in the studio rather than the usual video. I thought for a minute he was singing live but it sounded very close to the recorded vocal but maybe he was miming to a re-recording. I thought he looked a bit lonely without Andrew and his mates.

    Playout with Laura B which sounds better the more times you hear it. The way all the dancers ran into position at the end there, you can tell who were the paid members of the crowd and who weren't. TOTP must have had quite a big budget at this point as more than half of the crowd seem to be cheerleaders now, in fact there isn't much of a crowd to lead.

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    1. Bama, on the MiamI Sound Machine debut on the show, you forgot to mention the three studio audience girls in the shiny blue minidresses which were doubled up as sexy nurse minidresses, along with the band's surgeon outfits and Gloria on the operating theatre trolley. Big highlight of the show this week with all these props, and the first time that British viewers were introduced to this new band.

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    2. And if you like medical-themed pop, you've got Stephanie Mill's Medicine Song coming up soon. I seem to recall that she was dressed as a nurse in the video.

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  2. We don't get to see Band Of Gold.

    I much preferred Tracey Ullman's studio outing to the video, and the chap trying to put the deckchair up wasn't Robbie Coltrane, it was the late Kenny Ireland, who played the male half of the swinging couple in "Benidorm" and was also the Ade Edmondson-style love interest in the video for Tracey's flop remake of the Kirsty MacColl single "Terry".

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    1. Well spotted Arthur. Of course Kenny Ireland, star of Acorn Antiques.

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    2. The Sunglasses video with Tracey Ullman reminds me of The Fat Boys featuring The Beach Boys who got to No.2 in 1987 with Wipeout (the famous Surfers 60s hit). There are many similarities to the two videos with regard to the funny beach antics and see what you think:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r-kAnNgqN9o

      The only difference was that Ullman's video looked liked somewhere on a beach in Hove, Sussex, whereas the Fat Boys were at a beach in California.

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    3. According to a YouTube comment, Tracey Ullman's video was shot on a beach in Beirut!

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  3. Mike and Tommy make a capable hosting duo this week, and they actually seem to like each other too, which helps. An excellent little synthpop gem to get us underway, as Alphaville sing, according to Wikipedia, about a pair of lovers trying to kick heroin. The two keyboard players both sport fetching knitwear, and the singer sounded a bit like Robert Smith to me, though I didn't really see a Simon Amstell resemblance. I have no idea if the song really was big in Japan, but I would be intrigued to know!

    If Passengers really was an anti-apartheid single, then filling the video with voodoo imagery seems a somewhat perverse thing to do, though it does fit with the song's cod-reggae qualities. It's undeniably catchy, but not in an especially good way, and Elt's voice gets really whiny and annoying in places - he also gets through an impressive amount of headgear in the video. I can't believe anyone thought Break Machine looked cool in those outfits back in 1984, and both their music and their routine feel distinctly stale by now, so no great surprise this was their chart swansong.

    Next up, our first glimpse of Gloria Estefan on TOTP, before she got separate billing from the band. Appropriately, given the medical metaphor, this is a really infectious track with a great rhythm underpinning it, and a fun performance to boot - the keyboardist seemed to be grinning throughout! There was a certain irony in seeing Glo perched on that hospital trolley, as just a few years later she would on one for real after breaking her back in a tour bus crash. Back to video next, as Tracey has fun on the beach while looking rather less glamorous than she did in the studio. I also spotted Kenny Ireland, presumably getting some early training here for his future Benidorm role.

    The Spands look as punchable as ever, but I think this is one of their best songs, certainly the strongest of their offerings post-True, and I was a bit annoyed when it got dissed on The Story of 1984 - as Bama mentions, Tony sings it extremely well. In his video Roderick appears to be trying to get his outfits to match the various backdrops he finds himself against, but otherwise it is an unremarkable affair.

    George finally makes it to the studio to perform his latest number 1, though for some reason the saxophonist is banished to the far side of the audience. A simple but effective performance, delivered with sincerity, and another poignant reminder of what a great talent George was. Two of the cheerleaders, including a chap in a string vest, then dominate the dancing to Laura Branigan. I just hope, after Mike and Tommy's final link, that there are no BBC4 viewers looking forward to seeing that London-Bristol record attempt tomorrow night...

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    1. Watching Elton John evolve though the 80s on these TOTP shows, is showing that he is still using different types of hats/headgear to cover his baldness, which has now been continuous practice since around 1977, so I'm still anticipating when the new hair comes out, which I think is still not until 1988, which is probably when the new technology for fake hair looking like real hair, arrived for public (or celebrity only?) consumption.

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    2. The hair transplant didn't happen until the 90s - Elton was still covering up his bald patch when he performed Sacrifice on TOTP in 1990.

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    3. it was just me then who thought the Alphaville singer looked like Simon Amstell :-) I shudda gone to Specsavers!

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    4. if i knew who simon amstell was, i might have been able to give a second opinion!

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    5. Elton unveiled his hair transplant at the Freddie Mercury tribute concert in 1992. Meanwhile he had to rely on the usual hats and other distractions. Wait for the video for Wrap Her up (his first duet with George Michael) where Elton has discovered the wonders of hair thickner.

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    6. Wilbeforce - Simon Amstell is a curly-topped comedian and actor, best known for hosting Never Mind the Buzzcocks, though his profile has dipped in recent years.

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    7. Simon was back in the celeb news for creating a satirical vegan mockumentary recently ("I'm sorry!"), so he's still active.

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    8. Bama, looks like you're on track regarding when exactly Elton shed the cap for the new head of hair. I just checked out the Elton & George Michael No.1 from 1991 called Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me, and lo and behold, the cap is still being used, so that is 15 years of this fancy dress since the last video made with his baldness in 1976 called Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word. Wow, that is a hell of long time to have been doing the hats and caps!

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    9. be it titfers or syrups, whatever method reg uses to advertise he's a slaphead is still pretty tragic to me!

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  4. I still find the line "Big in Japan... Arrright!" popping up in my mind every so often, and this is a catchy item of electropop (or is it strictly Europop?). One of the keyboard players is doing the heavy lifting here.

    Really liked this Elton song at the time, though had no idea of its meaning, I just liked its chanting format and catchy, African sound. So that's where Baron Samedi went after being on the front of the train at the end of Live and Let Die.

    Break Machine break out the (sort of) falsetto for their last go-round, though I had totally forgotten this existed. Not as immediate as their others, but their sense of fun was perfect for TOTP as they busted moves in their loud tracksuits.

    Two machines in a row, Miami Sound Machine make their debut (with the caption the right way around this time), and though I've probably heard it enough, it's a professional slice of Latino pop. Gloria's one of those Latina ladies in the USA who detested Fidel Castro, isn't she? Rather this than her later attempt to be a drippy balladeer.

    Tracey with another fun video, as Ade tries to muscle in to the pop world as his old Young Ones cohort had recently done. He started his own band a few years later, of course. Anyway, bright little ditty, Trace in her dissatisfied romantically mode, and they were lucky with the weather for the video.

    Ver Spands in happier times, and this is one of my favourites of theirs (not that I have many), excellent sax breaks, vocal about as slick as Tony ever managed, and a very fine, plaintive chorus. Should have been as big as True, but we got I Just Called to Say I Love You instead. Hey ho.

    Rod Stewart, and right enough his video is cheap and nasty, come on, Rod, a couple of songs ago you were sunning yourself on a yacht in the Mediterranean. Version as bog standard as it's possible to get.

    Hey, I'd forgotten George arrived in the studio to perform Careless Whisper, he was truly dedicated to TOTP in his early days, to his credit.

    I don't think milling about counts as dancing, audience. Gets a bit Attack of the 50 Ft Woman in places. Good tune to get slinky to, though.

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    1. Yes indeed, I also was thinking of Live And Let Die when watching the Passengers video. Nice touch by TOTP to show the whole video to the closing frame of Elton poking his head out to the camera.

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    2. Guys - sorry - I have repeated your Bond comparison in my review below without reading your comments. At least we're thinking along the same lines!!!

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    3. Don't worry, man, great minds think alike. Or is it "fools never differ"? One of those!

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  5. Any sightings of the 30th Aug edition, as BBC4 saunters through to 6th Sept tonight?

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    1. A 4Shared link has appeared, but no WeTransfer one as yet:

      http://www.4shared.com/video/dDq3sYWlca/TOTP_1984-08-30.html

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    2. Thanks John, but there is no sound on Neil B's posting

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    3. I would imagine a WeTransfer link will appear soon.

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  6. In similar fashion to the Sisters of Mercy failing to reciprocate and release a song called “Thompson Twin”, such a shame former bassist Holly Johnson didn’t round up his colleagues in Scouse punk band Big In Japan (which included Budgie and Ian Broudie amongst several other soon-to be stars) and record a retort called “Alphaville”.

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  8. Alphaville proved to be a one-hit wonder in this country, but would enjoy many more hits across the continent and elsewhere. Laura Branigan - also on this week's repeat, albeit heard but not seen - would record the German trio's song 'Forever Young' on her fourth album 'Hold Me'.

    Mike Read made reference to the then widespread use of the term 'big in Japan' in relation to British musical acts that never quite made the grade at home. Boy bands Rosetta Stone (including former Bay City Roller Ian Mitchell) and Flintlock (with 'Tomorrow People' actor Mike Holoway on drums) spring to mind here, along with Merseyside's Buster; all three were huge in the Land of the Rising Sun despite scoring only one British Top 40 hit between them. Buster's Rob Fennah has been successful more recently as a composer in the field of musical theatre, and still performs with his brother Alan on the local cabaret circuit as Alternative Radio, as well as running a guitar school.

    Morrissey, as guest reviewer of Alphaville's follow-up single in 'Smash Hits', summed up his opinion of the band succinctly: "Should have been drowned at birth". Maybe he was hoping Laura Branigan would follow Sandie Shaw in covering a Smiths' song - a spot of bitter jealousy, perhaps?

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    1. flintlock! as a peer i used to enjoy seeing them on those mid-70's kids shows with pauline quirke, and (as i mentioned at the time in the relevent episode near the beginning of these re-runs) i was really pleased when i saw they had gotten themselves a top 30 hit. sadly though no. 30 was as high as they got!

      i don't know the current whereabouts of the "face" of the band (drummer and actor mike holoway), but apparently lead singer/sax player derek pascoe is now a music lecturer at an australian university...

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    2. Brilliant! Mention of Flintlock's Mike Holoway gives me the chance to wheel out yet again the classic clip of him providing backing vocals to Paul Shane's other-worldly cover of "You've Lost That Loving Feeling". Other clips are better quality but this gives you the full majesty of the, erm, song.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZJvGdOC6D1Y

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    3. Mike Holloway also pops up on this clip of Gary Kemp and Phil Daniels singing a cover of America's Sandman in 1975. Surprisingly good and I like the brief shot of the startled audience at the end:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xIBveIkLv4

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    4. Derek Pascoe is busy comedienne Sarah Pascoe's dad.

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    5. Gosh yes - Flintlock!! Forgotten them completely. One track sticks in the mind which I think I heard on 'Junior Choice'. I thought they were soooo heavy.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_KZjnTXT8E

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    6. bama that's a great spot of a pre-fame gary kemp (and phil daniels) - even if it makes for quite embarrassing watching! of course like the show's stars pauline quirke and linda robson they also went to the famed anna scher school of acting, which churned out a whole legion of cor blimey cock-er-nee types that were made for the likes of "eastenders" and the bill"!

      in fact this wasn't gary's first appearance on celluloid, as he was the main player in a childrens film foundation film called "hide and seek" (which i remember seeing at the saturday morning pictures when it was first released, and finally saw it again on dvd earlier this year!):

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f54gyAfOzJo

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  9. hosts: a decent-enough pairing, but mr read's insistence on wearing shades indoors is now beginning to get quite annoying. that reminds me of the boomtown rats guitarist who always did likewise, and apparently ended up not being able to do without them as otherwise the light hurt his eyes too much!

    alphaville: they might have been big in japan, but certainly not in my world. after the likes of howard jones and a flock of seagulls, it's yet more dull and plodding synth rock that's instantly forgettable (and it actually was for me for over 30 years!)

    reg: the only bit i could remember about this beforehand was the "gotta get on" refrain that myself and a chum sometimes sing for a laugh when one of us has things to do. it's actually most unlike reg, and as result is for once almost enjoyable. and there's an african feel about it that pre-dates paul simon's supposedly ground-breaking efforts by a couple of years. video-wise reg treats us to his array of headwear, thus making me change one line of the song in my head to "deny you've got no hair"

    break machine: this one's a complete blank to me (the strange thing seems to be with these re-runs, the newer they are the less i remember!) but i suppose they might as well have titled it "street dance pt iii"

    miami sound machine: tommy puts the emphasis on "machine" in their name in the intro (wasn't it normally "sound"?). sadly i can remember this rubbish all too well, and it really does signpost just how bad the latter half of the 80's was going to be music-wise (and a big reason why i shall be jumping ship shortly)

    spandau: another one that slipped my memory, and listening again does little to re-jog it. it's very smooth and pleasant enough i suppose, but no more than that. i thought it was mullet central in spandau country by now, but it seems only martin kemp has really gone for it at this stage (rather embarrassingly i have to admit i had a haircut back then that was not disimilar to his). not for the first time in 1984, the haircuts are of more interest to me than the music - which says a lot!

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    1. One midweek not long after it was released, I watched a game at Elton John's beloved Watford where the away fans started singing "You're just a passenger in Division One -gonna go down, gonna do down...."

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    2. Re western musicians embracing African sounds, Peter Gabriel got there long before either Paul or Reg!

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    3. yes you're right there john, although peter gabriel never brought it to the masses as paul simon did

      that reminds me of this brilliant track of gabriel's that certainly had some ethnic influence on it:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pl4lLfC8ZlE



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    4. Yes, that is a good track. The keyboard sounds remind me a bit of Mike Oldfield's Incantations album from a few years previously.

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    5. Cracking song 'San Jacinto'. Love the live version on 'Plays Live'.

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  10. Alphaville - Brilliant song that I lvoed at the time and still do. If Morrissey really hated 'Forever Young' that much then he's an even bigger c*** than I thought as for me it's one of the finest singles ever made and it still mystifies me how it didn't even make the Top 75.

    Elton John - One you don't often hear, and I've alway liked it. I'm not sure that Reg does, as it wasn't present on his last hits collection.

    Break Machine - Even they seem to be aware that the law of diminishing returns in clearly in action here.

    Miami Sound Machine - A pretty silly performance of a rather daft song, and given what she was wearing, Glo had to be very careful how she sat down on the stretcher.

    Spandau Ballet - My favourite Spands song, it has something classy about it. Sadly they now almost all look smackable, with Gary Kemp now so far beyond that to be out of orbit level smug.

    George Michael - I thought they only played the video, shows how much I remember of this era.

    Playout - Just when you thought the caption writer was back and with it, some holiday flashback takes over as he captions Laura Branigan as No.8. Er....no.

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    1. I'm almost certain that for all the three weeks that George Michael was at No.1, they only showed the video. It could be that this studio performance was originally shelved because George Michael himself did not like it, and only being shown now all these years later as the alternative cut of the whole show not transmitted back in '84. Would be keen to find out if someone has an original recording of what went out back then in 1984 for transmission.

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  11. Vance and someone wearing, umm, sunglasses take us through this edition.

    Alphaville – Big in Japan – “Tonight”. Reminds me of “get ready, tonight, gonna make it a night to remember”. Love the gong at the end.

    Elton John – Passengers – Elton John meets Baron Samedi and his mates from ‘Live and let die’! My wife came into the room when this was on and ‘advised’ me to FF. One of those really annoying songs she said. I have to admit it’s not one of his best and I’d rather listen to the wonderful title track of the parent album ‘Breaking hearts (ain’t what it used to be)’ which should have been a massive hit!

    Break Machine – Are you ready – taking inspiration from a Bucks Fizz album we get treated to this new entry at no40 whilst Stevie Wonder straight in at no3 gets ignored. FF this time!

    Miami Sound Machine – Dr Beat – Wish I’d watched the 07:30 edition. FF. One of the most annoying records of 1984.

    Tracey Ullman – Sunglasses – Beach frolics to follow the saucy studio rendition. It’s quite good really. Where’s the beach I wonder?

    Spandau Ballet – I’ll fly for you – An underrated gem. Love this performance and song.

    Rod Stewart – Some guys have all the luck – Introduced as “Robert Palmer’s…..” which it isn’t, my attention was drawn to the copious amount of makeup Rod was wearing in his white suited guise.

    George Michael – Careless Whisper – I don’t remember George being in the studio for this at all (and that is a very interesting observation you make Dory), so I must have missed this edition? Nice that the Saxophone player is there and gets named, but no sign of any other musicians.

    Laura Branigan – Self Control – For a moment I thought it was the full length 12” version, but no, the clunky edit is there to hear in all its glory. Nice dancing though which once again goes on for a very long time.

    Lionel Richie – Stuck on you….is on the way up again would you believe!! Poor old Lionel has had to watch whilst a cover makes the top10 and he wobbles around in the mid chart regions. In fact the song managed a long run 34, 18, 12, 17, 18, 27, 33, 34, 39, 35, 53, 60. So that’s 12 weeks for a peak of no12 and the last we’ll being seeing of Lionel until another track from ‘Can’t slow down’ – ‘Penny Lover’ very shortly, although I expect that will get the same treatment.

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    1. Over the years, whenever I hear the Alphaville song, I always eagerly await that gong at the end. It has something sinister about it, but that's the fun of it I guess!

      With regard to the George Michael studio performance, I watched TOTP avidly in 1984, and I am 99.9% sure that TOTP showed the video for all the weeks it was at No.1, and I think this is the first time we are seeing the original cut of the show, as I am also 99.9% sure that TOTP put out a different final version for transmission in 1984, replacing the intended George Michael studio performance with the video on this second week at No.1, so the likelihood is that either George requested the studio performance not to be shown, or he did something to upset the Beeb at the time. Still hoping that someone can shed light on this and furnish the original show for us (Neil B?).

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    2. Here it is on YouTube from 2010, so I guess it was broadcast after all at the time. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xsnuq1AU2TA

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    3. I would still like to see it as part of the whole show

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    4. I like his version of Penny Lover more than his Stuck on You. Still prefer Trev on that one.

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  12. It’s Tommy Vance and the bloke out of Peters and Lee. Doesn’t Mike Read look a right prawn in those shades all the time?

    Fancy a lager? I’ll have an Amstel(l)! I thought Alphaville’s lead singer also had a Teutonic touch of Nik Kershaw. Probably the most animated synth trio this far.

    Sighting of the second back and white fake animal print top on a singer in a row. An energetic yet mystifying video for Elton’s enjoyable tune, complete with what looked like some dry humping!

    Break Machine scraping the barrel magnificently. Did they get to release a concept album?

    A variety of jade outfits for the Sound Machine lads, and Gloria will catch a cold in that outfit. I bet she thought “Anything Tracey Ullman can do, I can do better”.

    Talking of which, it had to be “Mr. Sunglasses” Mike Read introducing Tracey Ullman’s swansong.

    Spandau’s song includes a clever line I smirk at – “When I’m under you I’m overjoyed”. This isn’t Monarch Airlines’ song, sadly. Tony’s coat had the weirdest lapels I’ve ever seen.

    I just thought Rod’s cover version and the video were beige.

    I don’t remember George in the studio for “Careless Whisper” either. Such a shame Andrew Ridgeley wasn’t miming the sax.

    “Laura Branigan’s video’s a bit racy, lads. Shall we just have the song as the outro this time?”

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    1. Count me in as another with no memory of George ever being in the studio for Careless Whisper. Then again, I was only 4 at the time...

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  13. Quite an enjoyable episide.
    Alphavllle - Forgotten how good this was...
    Elton John - firgettable. Video looked like it was recorded at the dame time as i'm still standing...
    TraceyUllman - it cannot be denied her songs were all very poppy
    Rod - prefer Robert Palmer's version - bit more balles (if you will excuse my French)

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    1. Robert Palmer's version, I'm not sure about the vocal, might take some getting used to for me. Not sure if it's his style or him doing someone else's. Definitely not boring but maybe I'm more used to the more straightforward Rod version.

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  14. I was going to say Robert Palmer was the original - it was certainly earlier than Rod - but Mr Wiki tells me the original recording was in 1973 by the R&B group The Persuaders. I guess we always prefer the version we hear first...

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