From Antmusic to Ace of Spades ...

Spandau Ballet - Top of the Pops 1980
Spandau Ballet - Top of the Pops 1980

By Allan Crow

You can never take too many trips down memory lane when it comes to music.

BBC4 has cornered the retro market with its screenings of concerts, special programmes devoted to a singer or band and, of course, those legendary episodes of Top of The Pops. Well, the ones not hosted by Jimmy Savile ...

The weekend offering included a TOTP from 1980 and I fair punched the air as I played ‘Name That Tune’ and got just about every one within five notes. I put it down to a wasted youth with my head stuck in a speaker bin while also working at the Playhouse Theatre in the days when the venue hosted a different gig every night - seriously, where else could you see Sheena Easton, The Corries and the Grateful Dead all in the same week?

Back in 1980, TOTP was still pretty cool, and the race for number one still meant something, largely because Simon Cowell hadn’t been born, but, looking back, it was also incredibly naff. Truly cringe-inducingly bad.

Back in the ‘80s the New Romantic scene was blossoming, but the old rockers were still hanging in there, a heady mix which was evident in our fifth year common room where half the blokes dressed like extras from Spandau Ballet, and the rest of us went round in our unwashed Motorhead t-shirts.

And we commandeered the jukebox to torture their oh-so sensitive ears with blasts of Deep Purple on repeat ...

Both turned up in the weekend edition, and what struck me was just how dull the show was.

For a start we danced differently. None of this air-punching, booty-shaking stuff of today or synchronised bloke dancing a la Take That - oh no, we just shuffled on the spot, or hopped around in a good impression of man with cramp in his big toe.

That’s all except some loon at the front who was clearly dancing to a different song altogether.

The folk in the audience looked bored rigid, sported dreadful haircuts - the style Gods clearly took the year off in 1980 - and even the dreaded fake applause which cut off your favourite songs a good 30 seconds too early sounded jaded.

The bands all mimed - some of them badly - and the special effects were about as cutting edge as the Galaxian machines that were all the rage at the time.

And yet, the memory of TOTP and its place in pop culture endures.

I found myself drawn into a strange world inhabited by Dr Hook, Madness, Dexy’s, and Peter Powell.

It was compelling viewing - a quick race to put the kettle on and back to see which band was up next!

Top Of The Pops was the ultimate in pick and mix telly - for every song your parents declared awful, which outraged DJs and offended the land, there were gems galore; perfectly crafted three-minute wonders still stand the test of time and will always fill dance floors round the world.

From ‘Antmusic’ to ‘Ace Of Spades’ - that was the sort of leap TOTP pulled off every show, and it was a work of wonder. You COULD see the joins, but no-one cared.

Not when Tiswas ‘Bucket Of Water Song’ was up next!