Chart Music #16: December 22nd 1983 – Hold On, Here Comes Jism

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The latest edition of the podcast which asks: if the Thompson Twins made you a sandwich, would you want to eat it?

It’s Christmas Time, Pop-Crazed Youngsters, but there’s no need to be afraid – because we’re a full year away from any Band Aid rubbishness. It’s the last episode of The Pops before Xmas of 1983, and the studio is festooned with balloons and party hats, making it just like every other episode that year. And what a line-up ? sneered at by John Peel and jollied along by Kid Jensen ? it isn’t!

Musicwise, this is the mankiest Selection Box of teeth-loosening dessicated cat shit we’ve come across in a long while. Out go the Synth-mentalists of a few years ago, and in come in bare-footed, frizz-haired Serious Musicians. Terry and Arfur pop up to flog one of the crappiest Christmas songs ever, a Breakfast TV puppet with johnnies for ears defiles hip-hop, and Paul McCartney has a war with himself. On the plus side, Billy Joel goes back 20 years to leer at some girls having a pyjama party, Slade go back ten years and ignore a couple of Zoo Wankers, and Culture Club put a full orchestra in serious danger.  And the No.1 is properly right-on.

Neil Kulkarni and Simon Price join Al Needham for this one, and have a good stare through the window of late 1983 like Dickensian urchins, breaking off to discuss such important matters as sex education videos of the 80s, running into Mrs McCluskey in a charity shop, asking lead singers how to get to Wales while they’re nobbing someone up against a tour bus, and the curse of Sta-Prest Fanny. With all the swearing you could ever want.

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Chart Music #15: September 4th 1980 – BA Robertson’s Hairdresser Thinks It’s Fantastic

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The latest edition of the podcast which asks: what is the least Mod Dungeons & Dragons character?

This episode, Pop-Crazed Youngsters, has been cursed by the tang of man-flu and dodgy microphones, meaning it’s not at the usual hi-fidelity standard you’ve come to expect from Chart Music. But what an incident-packed go-around on the morbid carousel of Pop it is! There’s wave after wave of guest appearances from people who really shouldn’t have bothered, such as Cliff, his specky henchman Hank Marvin, and none other than co-host KEGGY KEEGLE HIMSELF facing down DLT in a perm-off.

Thanks to Simon getting an unexpected birthday present, we have possession of a full shooting script of an episode from The Popses’ post-strike regeneration, and we try to break the codes therein. Musicwise, the Mod revival rides itself right off the cliff, Kelly Marie and Sheena Easton put on their best Bingo Jumpsuits, Cliff does his Danger Dancing routine next to a keyboard player in Alan Partridge shorts, Randy Crawford’s heartbreakingly brilliant performance is ruined by a vision mixer who makes her look like the alien off Alien, and Nicholas Lyndhurst, Martin Shaw and Dennis Waterman rule over the charts.

Al Needham is joined by Simon Price and David Stubbs for a good hard leer at the autumn of 1980, veering off – as always – on tangents such as trying to be a 12 year-old Ace Face when everyone’s seen your Dad drag you out of a boating lake at Skegness Butlins, why adding the Poo-Poo drum machine over Joy Division records in clubs will never get old, having a good laugh at younger brothers who get beaten up in town for wearing the wrong badges, pathological hatred of Plastic Mods, and flares. And swearing, swearing, all the time swearing.

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Chart Music #14: September 24th 1987 – A Grey and Pink-Flecked Gelled-Up Nightmare

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The latest episode of the podcast which asks: how bad would your war have to get before you start thinking of calling up Johnny Hates Jazz?

This episode, Pop-Crazed Youngsters, sees the Chart Music gang trapped on the wrong side of Eightiestown, surrounded by a faceless herd of blandos in shitty suits with the sleeves rolled up, goaded into action by a wizened Don mincing about on top of a balcony. Bottom line: this episode of TOTP is absolute cat shit.

Because it’s co-presented by Mike Smith, who refused to have anything to do with Top Of The Pops after he left the show, you can rest assured that The BBC Won’t Show This when they get round to 1987 on their repeat run. And you’re not missing much, to be honest. Fucking Madonna Again gets all butch on a moving walkway in Turin, ABC turn into one of those bands of the era who want to be ABC in 1982, Jan Hammer looks extremely pleased with his brand new keytar, Mick Jagger holds children to ransom in an attempt to get his rubbish new single into the Top 40, and what the fuck is Gary Numan doing here?

Al Needham is joined by Taylor Parkes and Sarah Bee for a wince-inducing gaze into the open wound of the late Eighties, veering off on tangents including the CM verdict on Sounds Like Friday Night, how the hair gel of the era made it feel that you had a crusty tissue on your head, being forced to listen to Shakin’ Stevens on the school bus every day, discovering your def new high-tops are actually Bay City Rollers trainers, and more information on selling dirty knickers than anyone really needs. A colossal amount of swearing in this episode. Obviously.

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Chart Music #13: November 16th 1978 – The Demon Prince of the Third Division

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The thirteenth go-around of the podcast which asks: Showaddywaddy? Again? Really?

This episode, Pop-Crazed Youngsters, finally sees the good ship Chart Music sail way past the three-hour exclusion zone – but it can’t be helped, because the episode of Thursday Evening Pop Valhalla we dissect here is a classic.

Some of the big guns of the Seventies are pulled out, but are immediately bricked by snotty New Wave oiks in charity shop clothes, the foul spell of Revolting and Neutron-Bomb is banished forever, and Kid Jensen looks on from his Fortress of Solitude in approval and then asks some girls if they think he’s sexy. And they say ‘No’.

Musicwise, everything you’d expect from ’78 that isn’t caked in Grease is here. Freddie Mercury points out that he likes big butts and he cannot lie, Child pitch up in Brian Tilsley haircuts, Elton John looks like a droog suffering a mid-life crisis as Cathy McGowan sits at his feet, Elvis Costello calls Tony Blackburn a ‘silly man’ while pretending to take drugs, Debbie Harry stares at us unnervingly over a carrier bag, Heatwave drop an era-defining wedding song while dressed up as Turkish waiters, and the Boomtown Rats bring the Ted-Punk wars of the Kings Road into every playground in the country. And there’s Toast.

Al Needham is joined by Neil Kulkarni and Taylor Parkes for a rigorous examination of a classic episode of The Pops, veering off on tangents which include worrying about your Dad being got at by Peter Sutcliffe, cardboard cut-outs of Roy Race, the time when the BBC made you put stickers on your radio, and a discussion on Dean Friedman’s seduction technique that went on a lot longer than it really needed to. Swearing a-plenty!

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Chart Music #12: March 16th 1994 – No Wonder Northern Uproar Had To Happen

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The dozenth episode of the podcast which asks: were Senser any good at Laser Quest?

This episode – another pop-blather behemoth – sees us stepping right out of our comfort zone and looking at an episode from the mid-Nineties. A golden era when, as we all know, the charts were weighed down with young men with guitars and Paddington coats that made us all proud to be British again.

The episode we examine, however, sees The Greatest Pop TV Show Ever at the beginning of its death throes as it begins its run of celeb presenters with Tetley Tea Folk-soundalike Mark Owen and Robbie Williams, who is already starting to get on all right-thinking peoples’ tits with his endless mugging. The charts – our precious, beautiful, immaculate charts! – are treated with the utmost distain while we’re constantly reminded of an exclusive premiere of a Madonna video, which is an advert for a film we’ve never heard of.

Yes, Blur are on at the beginning, but that’s your Britlot. What follows is a parade of people we thought we’d safely left behind in the Eighties, loads of Euro-acts both good and bad, Alison Moyet being forced to submit to an unrelenting biff-boff beat and a No.1 that left us hankering for the days of Jive Bunny. On the upside, Roachford manages to get through a song without shitting himself (allegedly).

Luckily, Al Needham is joined by Neil Kulkarni and Simon Price – who both worked for Melody Maker at the time, and take the opportunity to offer invaluable advice for anyone looking to break into the music press a quarter of a century ago and trade war stories about riding bikes on a dancefloor with the Sugarcubes, finding a message on their answering machine from lead singers threatening to break their legs, apologising for being gingist in the past, and having a potential fight being broken up by Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine.

(swearing a-plenty)

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Chart Music #11: January 14th 1982 – David Van Day’s Chart Music

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The eleventh episode of the podcast which asks: is anyone willing to swap a Fonz action figure for a ‘Shakin’ Stevens and the Sunsets – Heterosexual Rock n’ Roll’ badge?

This episode, Pop-Crazed Youngsters, has been a bastard to put together, and the sound quality may be a bit manky at times – but oh, what a glistening slab of televisual spangliness awaits us. It’s a full-on Flags & Balloons TOTP, this one, overseen by the circular face of The Hairy Breakfast Brunch Bar (who has wisely been kept away from The Kids and is monitored at all times), and the air is ripe with the soggy Lycra tang of the universally-despised Zoo.

But no matter – this episode is a veritable time capsule of the early 80s. Kool and The Gang drop the world’s most unwatchable video ever, which is danced to by another not-very-good troupe, Shakin’ Stevens places his white-shod foot upon the throat of the charts of the Eighties, DLT commands the BBC cameramen to stalk Claire Grogan at all times, The Stranglers look on in disgust at Zoo, and there’s the longest discussion of Brown Sauce ever conducted by three grown men. And Dollar. And Bucks Fizz.

Al Needham is joined by Taylor Parkes and Simon Price for a solid examination of a glorious episode of The Pops, veering off to brag about who they’ve had a drink with, why you shouldn’t use Dettol to treat facial acne, seeing Morph laid out in a glass coffin, the declining standards of World Cup mascots, and getting battered on Top Of The Form because of Noel fucking Coward. And swearing. AND Chris Needham’s new record!

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Chart Music #10: February 5th 1970 – Tony Blackburn’s World-Famous Kneecap-Warmers

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The tenth episode of the podcast which asks: when did vest and pants go from being an instrument of self-expression to a punishment for leaving your games kit at home?

This episode, Pop-Crazed Youngsters, sees us going back further than we’ve ever been before, to a time where Beatle wigs are still in Woolworths and nobody seems to mind that the BBC have taped some horse racing over their coverage of the Moon Landings. And what delights await us, as we see a show still in its embryonic stage and groping – but not in a DLT manner – towards the format we all know and love.

As always, the music therein is a proper lucky bag of randomness – the serious bands are away doing albums, so the void is filled with loads of songs that never even get a sniff of the Top 30, a folky Sixtiesness that refuses to go away, and tons and tons of the purest pop. The Jackson Five cause an older-than-usual audience to do berserk and forget that a cameraman is looking up their micro-minis, John Lennon allows us to be a fly on the wall at an Apple board meeting, Pans People let the Dads down big style, and Cheryl Vernon stands outside a church, waving flowers about with a face like a smacked arse. And Tony gets a silver cup. And Peter Marinello is intimidated by a girl with eyelashes like huntsman spiders.

Al Needham is joined by Neil Kulkarni and Taylor Parkes for a Stan-out-of-On-The-Buses-like leer at the dawn of the Seventies, breaking off to talk about our fathers’ love of dog food, why Country Dancing was a thing in West Midlands schools, the toys we never got and still want, and being disappointed to discover that colour TV was just a load of dots, really. And all the swearing you could possibly want.

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