Thursday, 31 May 2018

The Top of the Pops with the Thorn in His Side

This edition of Top of the Pops from October 10th 1985 will not be shown on BBC4 because of the ongoing contract issue regarding Mike Smith. I'm away all week but I will post any available link as soon as I get back. And now here it is at WeTransfer.

Cause I'm your number one

10/10/85 (Mike Smith & Steve Wright)

Red Box – “Lean On Me (Ah-Li-Ayo)” (3)
At its peak.

John Parr – “St Elmo’s Fire” (10) (video)
Peaked at number 6.

The Smiths – “The Boy With The Thorn In His Side” (23)
At its peak.

Madonna – “Gambler” (20) (breaker)
Peaked at number 4.

A-ha – “Take On Me” (14) (breaker)
Peaked at number 2.

Simple Minds – “Alive & Kicking” (12) (breaker)
Peaked at number 7.

The Cult – “Rain” (26)
Peaked at number 17.

Jennifer Rush – “The Power Of Love” (1)
First of five weeks at number one.

Billy Idol - "Rebel Yell" (6) (audience dancing/credits)
At its peak.

Next up is October 17th.


  1. Roll up, roll up, Neil B, John G, or even Meer? Who's going to furnish this episode on WeTransfer, so that we can get stuck into this comments section with relish?
    Can't wait to see Red Box at their peak, opening the show, followed by the superb John Parr video already at No.10.

    Thanks Angelo, by the way, for putting up the blog even before the link is available, and taking a moment (or evening?) out of your holiday. Now that is dedication!

    1. Here it is Dory, courtesy as usual of Neil B:

  2. A gruesome presenting line-up this week, though mercifully they just get on with it for the most part and keep the unfunny clowning to a minimum. Wrighty, dressed in a mustard waistcoat and shirt that clash badly with his white jacket, has his ignorance once again exposed when he proclaims Part Time Lover to be a former number 1 - mind you, it had been hanging around the Top 10 for long enough by this point to make it understandable why such an impression might have arisen...

    Red Box start the show once again, with little changed from their last outing. The singer tries gamely to whip the crowd into a frenzy towards the end, but I do wish he had tucked his shirt in! Yet another film tie-in next, as John Parr unleashes a big curly mullet that perfectly complements this thoroughly empty, overly bombastic slice of corporate AOR, one of my least favourite examples of that genre. Parr may have hailed from Worksop, but he could easily have come from Wisconsin on the evidence of this record.

    The Smiths provide a complete and welcome contrast, though this song, pretty as it sounds, strikes me as being something of a regression musically from the adventurous soundscapes of How Soon is Now? The audience wave their flowers at Mozza, who is at pains to let us know he is "bad" - a view doubtless shared by many nowadays after some of his recent pronouncements! The breakers give us our first glimpse of one of the most famous videos of all time - surprising it didn't get a full play this week, given the big climb it had made. Even more surprisingly, Alive and Kicking would not get a full play on future shows. Simple Minds were now well into their stadium rock phase, but I must admit that I do quite like this one, as it is catchy and not as self-important as some of their other stuff - I remember it being used by Sky Sports back in 1992 to promote the first Premier League season.

    The Cult's follow-up to their most famous hit is not as distinctive as the Beatles b-side of the same name, which basically gave Oasis their career. Nevertheless, it features some excellent guitar and Ian Astbury sports a pretty ribbon in his hair for our viewing delight. Jennifer Rush gets her shoulder pads jerking for a new performance as she settles in for what seemed at the time like an interminable run at the top; if the arm-waving audience had been allowed, I am sure they would have been raising their lighters aloft here! Rebel Yell makes for a first-rate playout, and the crowd definitely get into it.

    1. I would agree whole-heartedly on the Simple Minds outdoor adventure here in the video. Whenever it plays on my iTunes library in a random sequence, it really resonates handsomely for all the reasons described John, with the notable back female contribution placed cleverly in all the right places during the song. Absolutely brilliant, and looking forward to seeing it again on the top ten rundowns if regrettably not in full as you pointed out.

  3. john parr: i think he was a "ten pound pom" (in the 60's the aussies were tempting immigrants from blighty and elsewhere to boost their workforce with cheap travel expenses - i remember actually going to watch a promotional film for that with my family as a kid, but perhaps sadly it didn't happen in my case), who'd been a pop star in oz for several years (initially as johnny parr?) before finally getting a hit in his original homeland with yet another movie tie-in (and yet another stupid bit of title in brackets), it's fairly bland yet bombastic synth-rock that was pleasant enough if heard on the radio. but there was no way i was ever going to acquire it. what exactly is st elmo's fire, anyway?

    smiths: or rather as it was quite evident to me at this point "the boy who's a one-trick pony"

    cult: more tedious meat-and-potatoes rock that fortunately unlike their last hit soon got flushed down the toilet of history

    jennifer rush: so sct's all-time 80's fave ascends to the summit, to make me cringe for the new few weeks. what is probably my all-time 80's fave was actually released in this month and made the top 20, and yet according to info i've read regarding what's on the rest of these shows this year is totally ignored a la david bowie and pat metheny's "this is not america". which if so is a fucking disgrace!

    billy idol: hadn't he already appeared on the show playing guitar with the cult?

    1. I don't think John Parr was a "ten pound pom" - you may be confusing him with John Farnham, who will be cropping up on these repeats himself before too much longer. St Elmo's Fire, according to Wikipedia, is a "weather phenomenon in which luminous plasma is created by a coronal discharge from a sharp or pointed object in a strong electric field in the atmosphere (such as those generated by thunderstorms or created by a volcanic eruption)." The song was actually written for a disabled Canadian athlete called Rick Hansen who was touring the world at the time to raise awareness of spinal cord injuries, but then got co-opted for the film, which had nothing whatsoever to do with Hansen.

    2. yes john, you're probably right about me getting those other johns mixed up (i must check my 30 year old memories against the internet before pressing the "send" button!)

    3. Whatever the conclusion here, I just love this John Parr hit, with the superb video being pivotal to the overall chart success to get as high as No.6 during the month of October 1985.

      Did anyone know that John Parr did a powerful duet with Meat Loaf the following year in 1986, called Rock 'n' Roll Mercenaries, released on Meat Loaf's 1986 album Blind Before I Stop. Check out the rare video here, and the sexy GI Joe girls surrounding them:

      Suffice to say that the Parr/Meat duet single only reached No.31 in summer 1986 in the UK chart, but still, a great piece of rock 'n' roll history.

    4. With Terry Wogan on backing vocals!

  4. apparently jennifer rush was only in her mid-20's when she had her big hit. but looking at the pic above, she looks considerably older than that! maybe that was what drove her down the plastic surgery route?

  5. I braved it and decided to check Jennifer Rush after plastic surgery. In some pictures, she looks like Pete Burns's sister!

  6. Hope you're having a nice holiday, Angelo - just waiting on the thunder here!

    Red Box first, great pop ditty and an early view of the ultimate men's fashion statement of the 1990s, the untucked shirt. I recall seeing the boys on See Hear (there was nothing else to watch on Sundays after church, all right?) and they said the sign language lady in the corner of the video signed something rude during the instrumental break, but I've never found out what it is.

    John Parr, as mentioned singing a tune about getting your oomph back after being confined to a wheelchair, but plonked on one of the worst entries in the Brat Pack canon, where Emilio Estevez basically stalking Andie MacDowell isn't even the worst of it. The song, well, it received a boost anyway, and I don't begrudge Parr his hit, but it's a bit over the top.

    One of my favourite Smiths songs next, Johnny Marr's guitar is sublime here, sparkling especially in the instrumental playout. Doesn't matter that Moz runs out of words, either (if only he'd do that now!).

    So we're not seeing ver Minds again with this one? Well into their stadium phase, touch of gospel here, big power chord there, but for what it is, it's acceptable enough.

    The Cult, somewhere between the Eurythmics' Here Comes the Rain Again and Garbage's Only Happy When It Rains, but not as memorable as either. Sort of bar band rock by this stage.

    Life's too short for Jennifer Rush again, so skip to the crowd dancing to Billiam and we're done.

  7. Much better edition this week and more’s the pity that it’s not on BBC4 – thank you Neil B. Perfect intro to the first song from Smithy with one of his better jokes…

    Red Box – Lean on me – Julian and Simon are back with their army of enthusiastic drummers. What a song…it’s really grown on me and I prefer seeing them in the studio to that somewhat annoying video.

    John Parr – St Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion) – Another one of those parenthesised titles! Co-written with David Foster (‘Hard to say I’m sorry’ and many other hits…and also ‘Time and a Word’ by Yes) this is a rousing anthem and one of those interspersed film clip video affairs.

    Smiths – Boy with the thorn in his side – A theme that would be explored further by the Eurythmics, this actually isn’t too bad for these ears, but I don’t think sitting through 90 minutes of this sound would be particularly enthralling.

    Breakers – Madonna and ‘Gambler’ is another one from the ‘Vision Quest’ soundtrack and is probably her least known hit from this era. It’s not on her greatest hits albums. Simple Minds ‘Alive and Kicking’ is pure ‘arms in the air’ stadium rock and that’s not a bad thing. Finally we get a snatch of one of the best records of 1985 and certainly the best video, but did you folks know that the original recording release sounded different (with a naff video) and is quite collectable now?

    The Cult – Rain – Popular title this. The Beatles, Status Quo, The Corrs… I would rate this effort no4 in this quartet of watery hits, but not a bad sound I suppose, even if it’s not really my thing.

    Chart rundown – so we finally get Marillion’s song called by its correct title without the superfluous ‘blue’ and the ‘Miami Vice theme’ was by a man called Jan (pronounced ‘Yan’) not a lady with the first name the same as news reader at the time Ms. Leeming. Like John G, I wondered (aghhhh pun!!!) why Steve Wright thought that Stevie Wonder had been at no1? Admittedly he’d been stuck in the top10 for what seemed like forever, but not at the top spot! OK, so he hit the top in the States with this record; but that wasn’t until November!

    Jennifer Rush – The Power of Love – Justice at last! This wonderful record that I first heard in Devon in June 1985 finally reaches the top! Jennifer (real name Heidi) sports a similar outfit to her last appearance in the studio. The song is definitely the remixed version although the ‘lost is how I’m feeling….’ verse is missing.

    Billy Idol – Rebel Yell danceout – Rousing sound to dance out to. Not much shown of this but we’ll never know if there is more.

    1. Heidi's a much better name than plain old Jennifer, endless school holiday imported TV serials notwithstanding. Just checked out her recent photo, looks like Melanie Griffith syndrome got her. What a shame.

    2. Sct, I noticed that this Red Box studio appearance was not as upbeat as the one two weeks earlier. What both appearances had in common is that both were TOTP show openers, but their debut on the September edition looked a lot happier and a lot more confident, with more interaction with the audience.

      What I did like about this second outing in the studio was the deep red retro guitar on the lead singer, which looked 1950s or 60s in character. Nice touch there, as the song would get no higher, and began the tumble down the top ten the following week. Who needs the video anyway, when you get these nice guys in the studio?

  8. Thanks once again, Neil B.

    I must be the only one here who actually liked Steve Wright’s outfit! As previously mentioned, the hosts were less annoying than normal, though we could have done without two Shitty references to “EastEnders”.

    Mike’s best ever intro to a song as we get Red Box and their enthusiastic female drummer again. I’d dread to think what the lighting bill was for that performance.

    Where’s the apostrophe in “St. Elmo’s Fire”, then? I kept thinking of “The Breakfast Club” due to a couple of actors in the video.

    Next up it’s the boy with plenty of thorns in his side, running out of words and yodelling the last half of what had been a lovely song up to that point. Did Morrissey have “Thriller” on the other side of his neck?

    No, Steve, if A-Ha have gone up 22 places they’re not in for the first time this week. Sheesh!

    Simple Minds’ drummer was really enjoying himself judging by that clip.

    I can’t remember if I’d ever heard BBC T V Centre referred to as White City before. Whatever look Ian Astbury was aiming for, it didn’t help that pie and chips Cult song much.

    Heidi Hi! It’s Jennifer Rush. Talking of her real name, when the main USA networks show an American football match they always show the full game as a result of “Heidibowl”, an incident where a televised game overran horribly and the last minute or so (during which time the losing team won) was taken off air to start a strictly scheduled debut of a new “Heidi” film.

    1. arthur you've reminded of when i went to see simply minds about a year or so before this edition - i had been a big fan of theirs for some time by then, and was looking forward to hearing a lot of their extensive back catalogue live. but what i got instead was interminable semi-jammed versions of tracks from their latest album ("sparkle in the rain"), with jim kerr keeping on bringing the riffs down, and then up again. and then down. and then up again. and every time he brought them up i could see the drummer with a mixture of more and more resignation and agitation on his face, as he contemplated the unappealing prospect of having to pump things up to an even-more furious climax than the last time!

    2. I remember seeing Simple Minds at the Hammersmith Odeon, supported by a Northern Irish band called Silent Running. Throughout the set Jim Kerr stood near a backstage support and threw the Jesus Christ crucifixion pose. it got boring after the fourth re-enactment!

    3. i seem to remember jim had some kind of little ladder thing that he kept climbing up and down in an effort to get the crowd excited - julian cope used something similar when he appeared on totp doing "world shut your mouth" the year after this to my recollection?

      i know this is namedropping again, but in the early 90's i once ended up having a couple of drinks in a bar with the spurs and liverpool footballer paul walsh - the conversation (if you could call it that) was mainly walsh trying to come up with one-liners, including one where he said i looked like jim kerr... and as such i was his brother wayne (ho ho)

  9. I fast forwarded through most of this one.

    John Parr - It's alright, not quite as much of a housewife classic as other rock ballads of this era.

    The Smiths - One of their dullest singles.

    Breakers - I've noticed that suddenly we don't seem to be getting anything outside the Top 30 features in this section, meaning that we miss out on a fair few songs completely. Of the ones we get here, Madonna's song is one of her worst of the decade, a-ha we'll see again and although it's one of my least favourite of theirs, I'm amazed we don't get the Simple Minds song in full.

    The Cult - Not very good at all.

    Jennifer Rush - Once in a while I don't mind hearing it. Only once in a while though....

    1. Noax, the reason the breakers have moved to those between No.10-20, is because since the show got shortened to 30 minutes to cram in before that poxy programme Eastenders, so they couldn't get to every song any more, and so some songs were not getting a full play before reaching the top 20, and the breakers were having to wait another week till they also got into the top 20, so a song between 20-30 in the charts were now having to wait and sweat it out to see if they would get a call from TOTP, or be shown as a breaker the following week, it was really becoming that hard to get the first invitation to the show, or have your video played.

      I mean, take ZZ Top for example, several weeks in the chart in October 1985 with Sleeping Bag between No.20-40, but did not even get a breaker feature, let alone a main feature, despite a good video available, we got absolutely nothing of it. Good Lord!

      Big mistake that the BBC made to shorten the show to 30 minutes, which was the start of the decline in viewing figures, which comes as no surprise, and the richness of the show had now become eroded, making way soon for the SAW groups and soon house music.

  10. Another great edition this week, glad we get to watch this online..

    Smithey doing most of the work this week and doing a solid job. Wrighty parachuted in with no rehearsal as usual (Stevie Wonder a former number one...really...)

    Commented on most of these already so..

    Red Box - Brilliant, great energy and a great performance.

    John Parr - Great to see nearly all the video and spot a few famous faces.. Another cracking record.

    The low point of the week is The Smiths...dull, dull, dull

    Madonna - I don't remember Gambler at all and listening to it now it's not hard to see why. Best forgotten I think. Yet ANOTHER film she was in word she was busy.

    A-ha - Our first viewing of this classic video for Take on Me. I guess the massive jump was from a Saturday morning TV appearance or two. We will see much more of this I think.

    A short blast of Simple Minds - shame they weren't available for a performance of their best known song.

    The Cult - wasn't expecting much from this but it was really, really good. Great performance too. I will be digging this one out for a second listen - pleasantly surprised.

    Jennifer back for her month at the top. Never tire of this one.

    Great playout record - love Rebel Yell and Billy Idol.

    A very good show..