Feb 09

Popular ’81

FT + Popular/293 comments • 11,271 views

I give every song on Popular a mark out of 10 – these polls are your chance to nominate which YOU would have given 6 or more to. Pick as many as you feel qualify! My highest mark this year went to “Ghost Town”, my lowest to “Woman”.

Which of these Number Ones of 1981 would YOU have given 6 or more to?

View Results

Poll closes: No Expiry

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And by all means leave comments on the year in general!


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  1. 271
    Phil on 26 May 2016 #

    And that is their name…


  2. 272
    speedwell54 on 26 May 2016 #

    The Kid’s back after a year in Atlanta and straight to Toyah on video. Godley and Creme directed this; maybe they had seen Mad Max?

    Hold Me – Maggie Bell and B A Robertson. He still wants to be an actor and this is the dictionary definition of ‘hamming it up’. Better to listen to this one. The band look so 70s, like extras from an episode of the Sweeney and of course Dave, from Chas and Dave.

    Altered Images – After a couple of misses they almost hit the top with this one. C P Grogan also in the film Gregory’s Girl this year.

    The Kid introduces “The Tweet Song” well that’s what happens when you go away for a year. “The Birdie Song” and Legs kind of get a go; albeit in the middle of the audience on low podiums. Swede can’t be happy!

    Godley and Creme rpt and for the second time, following the Tweets.

    The Exploited -nmcot then or now. “Dead Cities” though lead singer manages to shout that down to just two syllables. Can pick out the odd word but it’s lost on me. I don’t think it’s a happy song.

    Squeeze- Labelled With Love – I think a fare few here would be word perfect on this one. Crowd cheer half way through during a slight pause thinking it’s all over.

    The Creatures- this track was from the Wild Things EP. Rather unusual with just voice and drums on all tracks. Just seen this has been dealt with up thread…

    Bad Manners and Buster dresses down for this one and it’s okay. They were a bit hit and miss for me.

    Dave and Babs – a strange number. Ferry and Winehouse also had a stab at this and both are worth a listen.

    This Year’s Blonde -I’d forgotten about this. I’m trying to recapture that feeling.

    Not my favourite but there has been worse.

  3. 273
    Andrew Farrell on 26 May 2016 #

    I believe the concern would be that if anyone had very strong views on the Ting Tings, and it all kicked off, it would make more sense for that to happen on the page reserved for them.

    Fortunately, no-one, including the Ting Tings, has very strong views on the Ting Tings, but I don’t see why these threads would be exempt from the Bunny per se?

  4. 274
    Mark M on 26 May 2016 #

    Re270: Yes, but in the case of acts with the one famous song, it rather gives it away. (Although, it turns out that they had another top 10 hit).

    Re260, 273: I was erring on the side of caution. In theory, Tom’s gaff, Tom’s rules, but he tends not to be an interventionist god, so I guess it’s whatever everyone can agree on.

  5. 275
    Auntie Beryl on 27 May 2016 #

    #267: Tracey Ackerman co-wrote C’Est La Vie, Rollercoaster and Blame It On The Weatherman for ver ‘Witched, so has played a decent role in the Popular story.

  6. 276
    speedwell54 on 29 May 2016 #

    Yewtreed episode last week I think and consequently lots of repeats. Simon Bates hosts and manages to fluff his first line calling Clare a “movie star and a pop stair/stare” . Altered Images come into the studio again and she looks even more enchanting than last time. Legs dance at the front of the stage.

    Rod- Tonight I’m Yours – Simon introduces the video with “looks like this, and sounds like this too” Rod updates himself again at least musically, and includes tubular bells that for once don’t make us think of Christmas.

    Simon gives us a full history of The Fureys and Davey Arthur before introducing them with “this is the way they look and this is the way they sound” (anyone spotting a theme!) Heavy on the accent this isn’t isn’t for me Ffwd.

    Oliva Newton John – Physical. Video cut short and twktc
    Trevor Walters rpt, B A Robertson/Maggie Bell rpt.

    Simon introduces Haircut One Hundred with-” This is what they look like, and, this is what they sound like” – is he getting bloody sponsored? Heyward looking about 12 here and looks about 30 now. The rapping reminded me of Spandau from a few weeks ago.

    Joan Of Arc – the slow start means we have to wait a few moments for his trademark shaky head and the wavy bass. This builds wonderfully.

    Charts and then Squeeze rpt. Charts again and we get to see photos of those we have missed last week.

    Number one and Stewart/Gaskin. But Simon, I’m wondering what they look like and sound like…oh there we go.. video in full.

    Highlight OMD.

  7. 277
    Mark G on 29 May 2016 #

    Its true.. JimSwede, you’re missing one! Sue is back..

  8. 278
    Pink champale on 29 May 2016 #

    Just got to to the Wired for Sound one. Devastated to discover that Cliff likes tall speakers and small speakers, not tall people and small people as I’d always thought. 35 years down the drain…

  9. 279
    Mark G on 30 May 2016 #

    “I like tall teachers
    I like small teachers
    Just as long as they’re nailed to the ground”

    Possibly the Barron Knights’ best line?

  10. 280
    speedwell54 on 2 Jun 2016 #

    Peter Powell and no “Hi Folks” tonight. He is wearing a khaki safari one piece. Always cutting edge our Peter. He trails something new later on and intros Modern Romance. He loses 50% of the Ay Ays but we get the Moosey. Nmcot, kind of surprised they sell enough singles to chart but they do. Can’t imagine them shifting too many albums at all.

    The Police – Every Little Thing Does Is.. On video; I was waiting to Stuart to drum on something that aren’t drums. He doesn’t but we do keep cutting away to the studio audience.

    The Dukes -this lot passed me by completely but notice they had a bit of pedigree. Jim McCulloch from Thunderclap Newman and then Wings, on guitar was once a member.

    Then Live to Canada and Rush. We get the middle of Tom Sawyer. Nmcot again.
    The Jets next and Yes Tonight.. still on this mini revival with Shaky/Polecats etc.

    Zoo dance to ELO. Tears from the Swede. There’s an awful lot of them in Zoo and seemingly quite a few different routines happening. This record peaked at 30 and went down after this performance.

    Cole Porter gets his only No1 (?) courtesy of Julio with Begin the Beguine. nmcot.
    ABC and Tear Are Not..This sounds exciting especially with the stuff we had on tonight. Stewart and Gaskin again at 1. The Four tops play out over the credits. Only 7 named in Zoo.

    Highlight ABC.

    This was not a classic.

  11. 281
    Lazarus on 2 Jun 2016 #

    I see I’ve missed a couple so going to have a go at doing one live … we’re rushing to the end of the year with Wrighty – half an hour of non stop oldies to follow.

    Modern Romance – they didn’t really mess with the formula much did they! At least not until Walking in the Rain in ’83 which was their very last hit. Some colourful outfits on show here – a conga line round the stage – I look in vain for Las Legs …

    Julio Iglesias – little Enrique’s papa with an old song done in scampi-in-the-basket disco style. Radio 2 was playing this one I guess. I like it more now, a little. Number one bound.

    The former goalie then joins Steve for a quick meet’n’greet.

    Pretenders – we haven’t seen them since the start of the year, but the second album is finally out (including Talk of the Town, from 18 months earlier!) and this is the big hit from it. Ray Davies song of course, and just gorgeous. Did the Kinks record this?

    Diana Ross – even in ’81 this was an old song. Originally recorded by Teenagers, but you don’t have to be young to be a fool falling in love. Diana makes it her own, to be fair, though the treatment won’t be to everyone’s taste. Running down a street in Vegas (Sunset Strip?) to the appreciation of onlookers.

    Fun Boy Three – only weeks after Ghost Town, Terry, Lynval and Neville have broken free of the pack. A nice bit of Cold War paranoia. Can’t help but think we should have seen a lot more of Terry Hall in the last twenty years. Chart 30-21. The Tweets down to 22 eh? Never mind.

    Trevor Walters – I remember this, and him, vaguely, so had a quick look-up – but Wikipedia knows bugger all about him, apart from his record releases and date of birth (he’s 20 here). This is perfectly pleasant, but he’s destined for the bus nonetheless. Chart 20-11.

    Soft Cell – follow-up, video. Marc’s out and about and in his bedsit. He needs to get that Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen in by the look of it. Bit of product placement for Wimpy and Fairy liquid, tut tut. This sounds pretty good actually.

    Top 10 – Haircut 100 at 4, have they been on yet? And Steve gets Julio’s name wrong – and number one. “Flick Colby’s new dance group, Zoo” dance to Under Pressure. My first look at Zoo for more than 30 years and it’s hard to know what to make of them,or even how many of them there are. It’s all a bit dark. The record, shamefully, is faded out. So disappointing that they never did a proper video.

    The Jets play us out – they can’t be here tonight, of course …

    Chrissie’s gang the highlight for me but it’s not one that I would want to watch again.

  12. 282
    speedwell54 on 3 Jun 2016 #

    Steve Wright hosts and we kick off with Modern Romance in even more colourful and flouncy outfits (yes i know). Julio on video again, though he turns up for a quick Spanish tutorial with Steve at the end – wearing the same suit in the video.

    Something new hurrah! The Pretenders – another hurrah. “I Go To Sleep” beautifully done. Quick check on you tube and there is one listed under the Kinks, but it sounds very under produced and possibly just Ray. Saw a Sia version too.

    Onwards, ABC -a rpt performance although cut with two dancers rather than the solo champ we had last time.

    Diana Ross- on video. She went through a period when she always appeared with a wind machine blowing her hair back.

    Fun Boy Three – the first long shot shows Terry stood behind a couple of hip high yellow bongos. For a split second thought he was wearing balloon pants- a most unlikely occurrence of course.

    Trevor Walters- did well to get on totp at least three times with this. nmcot.

    Bedsitter- Soft Cell and Marc is his uniformed capped sleeved black t and matching eyeliner dances around a bedsit. This is splendid, and there’s a few more from them coming up.

    Number one and Under Pressure -not in the studio and no video, so Zoo perform. It’s rather dark, but not so bothered these days.

    Highlight – Bedsitter

    Not my favourite but there has been worse.

  13. 283
    speedwell54 on 4 Jun 2016 #

    Mike Read has the honour and we open with the Jets. This week Boy George has joined them as a backing dancer for his first Top Of the Pops appearance. They couldn’t quite cling on to the mini rock ‘n’ roll revival like Shaky, and only one more sizeable hit to come. Some facts from Mike and..

    EW&F with Let’s Groove. A lot of silver suits and a few dated special effects on the video. Song’s a classic of course.

    Toyah – highest new entry says Mike – This was another ep and it came with a free flexidisc so at least five tracks which no doubt helped it chartwise early doors, but it peaked the following week at 14. Surprised it didn’t make the album chart.

    Cliff with his first live single – on video here though. No rollerskates or speakers (tall or small) Christmas is coming. Another first – album chart countdown 10 to 1. Queen’s Greatest Hits at 1

    Imagination – Flashback – nmcot

    Ultravox – The Voice on video but not the one in a room- actually massively tilted but appearing level. This is the full production story one.

    Countdown then Kim Wilde -Cambodia. Story without a chorus. Hardly Squeeze lyrically but a great track.

    Kool and the Gang – in the studio – this must have been a rare thing.

    Countdown to Queen at number 1 again. Number one Single and number 1 album but the single not on the album (then) Has this happened since?

    Highlight Kim Wilde.

    Not my favourite but there has been worse.

  14. 284
    Adam Puke on 5 Jun 2016 #

    Despite being a great song, funny how the Pretenders’ performance suddenly takes us back to drab 1970s TOTP. The new ’81 look really was just bright lighting and (in-yer-face as opposed to the previously non-in-yer-face) scantily clad dancers all along.

    And “Yes, you’ve shown your penis”, “suck my face!”. ABC’s titanic misheard lyric debut.

  15. 285
    Adam Puke on 5 Jun 2016 #

    In defence of the much maligned Zoo I think that performance would’ve made a great official video for Under Pressure, if only they’d kept it going till the end. Exactly in keeping with the spirit of the times.

  16. 286
    Mark G on 5 Jun 2016 #

    Well, the vid the BBC macked together for it was like “Vintage TV” channel, 35 years early.

  17. 287
    Lazarus on 7 Jun 2016 #

    Having a quick look at Friday’s. Yes Mike Read is our compère. Promises a “blazing, stunning, action-packed” show. We shall see …

    Jets – Boy George spotted in the first few seconds but he’s just an audience member surely? I mean, he wasn’t in Zoo, so wasn’t there in any official capacity. Only a few months away from fame and fortune though. Song is an old Johnny Ray number, it’s OK but the rockabilly thing was starting to sound a bit tired by this time.

    Earth Wind & Fire – their last big hit. Video uses a familiar space travel theme. The late Maurice White appears as three disembodied heads in a rather surreal point.

    Toyah – have to say I barely remember this, it was the highest new entry, really? She comes into the audience at one point, attracted perhaps by a young girl doing a lot of arm movements. Another track on the EP was called The Furious Futures, just had a listen, it’s not very good – or maybe hasn’t dated very well.

    Cliff – a big US hit for Shep & The Limelites in 1961 (also for Jermaine Jackson in ’73) – a nice song, and a good version, but is he singing to his partner, his daughter, or both? Video doesn’t really make it clear. First chart rundown – the top 10 albums.

    Imagination – Flashback. Drummer steps upfront to dance with the other two, meanwhile there’s nobody playing that keyboard solo! Good pop soul though, they and their records were always likeable.

    Ultravox – another one you never hear on the radio. Video – Midge is on trial for something. It’s not looking good. All works out for him though (I think). Chart 30-21.

    Kim Wilde – fourth hit of the year for her and she’s slowed the pace a little. Yes a story song, the chorus is the instrumental section I suppose. Vietnam War still a recent memory at this point of course. Pol Pot would still have been in power then I guess. Good year for Kim and she would keep it going for most of the 80s.

    Chart 20-11. Then Kool and the Gang, stepping out. Not really one of their best I’d say. Top ten. And as Mike says, “we’ve had a lot of letters about the Queen and Bowie video, but they haven’t done one.” So this was a BBC creation then? I didn’t know that. Yes Vintage TV before its time. As for the studio, can’t say where Zoo (if any of them were there) end and the audience starts. At least we get the whole song this time, even with the line that was later expurgated. Credits over the number one.

    A few good ones, only the Jets were bundled into the bus on this occasion. I sort of miss the no-hopers they used to start each show with, actually.

  18. 288
    Mark G on 7 Jun 2016 #

    Wikipedia has it David Mallet (so, not the BBC) made the video to resemble the pressure of life blowing up buildings and that. Also, I do recall a live performance by all five, but it seems it was an edit of two very separate performances, and Bowie and Fred were never on the same stage together with this song. I did wonder about how little interaction between the two vocalists there was.

  19. 289
    Mark G on 12 Jun 2016 #

    Thread Rescue..

  20. 290
    Mark G on 14 Jun 2016 #

    Oh, that’s much better!

  21. 291
    Lazarus on 14 Jun 2016 #

    Hmmm, hint duly dropped and picked up … let’s have a look at Thursday’s. Did have both shows on at the time but wasn’t paying them full attention. David ‘Kid’ Jensen in a rather nice stripy top is Thursday’s maitre d’ .

    Bad Manners – an old song presumably, it starts off slow and speeds up, Buster’s in a rather unprepossessing bomber jacket. Every time I see this lot on the show I think it’ll be for the last time, they certainly had more hits than I remember.

    Soft (padded) Cell – the set is a visual pun, the song we’ve heard already. Dancing, laughing, drinking, loving … did very well this follow-up, at its chart peak of 4 this week. Marc going for the leather look. Plug for the album from Kid.

    Duran Duran – are we still in first album territory here? This is their fourth track taken from it if so. Just enough in the way of hooks to get it into the top 20 but it’s quite dull, really.

    Diana Ross/Zoo – three members of Zoo in shiny green frocks ‘interpret’ Di’s latest smash. They’re enjoying it, so are the audience, and they make good use of the small stage. Julie, Sharon and Jeannie, we’re later told – but we’ll never know which was which.

    Godley & Creme – more dancing, as this is on video. Clumsy sounding key change near the end. Because the next show was a Savile presentation they were on Friday night too. First chart rundown, no albums this time.

    Fun Boy Three – not sure if this is a repeat. Terry has slightly less hair these days I’m guessing. Song always topical, it seems.

    Human League – this week’s highest new entry, the first time for them on the repeats of 1981, and a song that has presumably ensured that Phil Oakey never has to work again if he doesn’t want to. Stations like Heart have been playing this every day without fail in the intervening 35 years. Top ten.

    Number one – Julio Iglesias – no ‘n’ – you know the song. Been reading up on him, he finished fourth in the 1970 Eurovision, maybe that was mentioned on his thread, and is clearly still very popular in Spain and elsewhere in Europe to this day. Credits over the clip.

    Only a Jonathan King ‘US charts’ feature was excised from the show, not surprisingly if Gary Glitter can be chopped from the extended edition.

    Might have a look at Friday’s tomorrow, unless someone else wants to do the honours.

  22. 292
    Mark G on 10 Jan 2018 #

    Funny, BBC4 are repeating 1981 shows again!

    If you want to know which, reacquaint yourself from entry no 87 (Page 4) onwards!

  23. 293
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