Episode Number: 1162
First Shown: 7.00pm on June 19th, 1986
Presenter(s): Gary Davies
Official Top 40: @The Official Charts
Studio: BBC Television Centre
iPlayer: Top of the Pops – June 19th, 1986
BBC Genome: Here!
Last time we visited January 1990, now it’s time to drop back three and half years to a warm summer’s day in 1986 and to see what todays episode brings!
New Beginning (Mamba Seyra) / Bucks Fizz (in the studio)
Chart Place: #11
Bucks Fizz opens tonights show with a piece of pure pop. New Beginning – a comeback piece after nearly half a decade in the doldrums. It’s a cheerful pop piece with the prerequisite number of mid-eighties synths and the addition of some rather interesting bits of heavy and (slightly) African-esque drumming performed by whomever central casting felt able to send down that day. Alas, the sound mix is not really up to snuff as the music (and especially the drums!) often come close to drowning out what the members of Bucks Fizz are actually singing about. Still, New Beginning has lively beat and enough novelty to to work as an opening piece for tonights show.
Oddly wardrobe seems to have forgotten to provide Jay Aston with suitable trousers and she, like a child who has forgotten their P.E. kit, appears to have been made to perform in her knickers!
Hunting High and Low / a‐ha (via music video)
Chart Place: #5
Norwegian a‐ha slow the evening down with Hunting High and Low, synth-pop piece based around the (surprising) refrain of ‘hunting high and low’. It is, as you’d imagine, yet another pop song build around the loss of a good woman without whom the singer would just be incomplete as a human being. As a refrain, ‘hunting high and low’ feels a little clunky and almost like a placeholder for a better phrase that never actually arrived.
The video follows the same theme as the song; our singer morphs (via rotoscope and animation) into several classic hunting beasts – man, eagle, shark and lion – and roams the world, only – in the final lion incarnation – to be saved from another hunter by what we can only presume is the good woman our singer its hunting for. This, like the core refrain of the song, comes off more than slightly laboured and never really works that well…
Too Good To Be Forgotten / Amazulu (in the studio)
Chart Place: #9
Our first cover of the night from Amazulu – a bubbly reggae-lite piece called Too Good To Be Forgotten about a woman, her man and how she’ll always remember him, even after their romance is over. It’s a cheerful, summery piece with a surprisingly catchy tune and lyrics. Indeed, you can see why it it made it as far as 9th in the chart this week and why eventually peaked at number 5 later that summer. It also, apparently, featured at that years Glastonbury – tho’ audio and video of this performance currently alludes me.
Venus / Bananarama (a breakers clip)
Chart Place: #22
The second of this evening’s covers comes courtesy of Bananarama. A bouncy dance pop piece, Bananarama’s Venus is probably best known to the modern British audience as the music from those razor adverts. Synth-y and poppy, and with a comedy-horror themed video, it’s not a particularly bad song but, after years of hearing it in other situations, Venus just seems to slide into the background whilst I think about something else.
Friends Will Be Friends / Queen (a breakers clip)
Chart Place: #21
And then on to what I suspect will be the first of many, many appearances of Queen during our sojourn through the TOTP archive. Friends Will Be Friends – the forth single from A Kind of Magic – is a slowed down rock ballad that feels explicitly constructed to be sung along with, be that in pub or stadium. And, alas, it is in that construction that Friends Will Be Friends shows itself to be something of a flawed creation; the melody plods and the lyrics trend towards cheesy rather than the sentimental.
Friends Will Be Friends not my favourite Queen song – indeed, it’s not even my favourite Queen song from A Kind of Magic – and the minute or so long clip that we get tonight is just about short enough to ensure that this week’s Queen offering doesn’t outstay it’s welcome.
My Favourite Waste of Time / Owen Paul (a breakers clip)
Chart Place: #14
For our third breakers clip, Owen Paul brings us a video firmly from the a-man-walks-along-a-sunny-beach-singing school of music video production. Paul – a one hit wonder (this was the hit and we have to wonder why) – covers My Favourite Waste of Time in what turns out to be the first of it’s three TOTP appearances. The song itself is a fairly average piece (peppered with a strong undercurrent of dismissing an unseen partner) and Paul does very little to enhance it. The music video, however, does have a rather fetching yellow pedalo in it.
I Can’t Wait / Nu Shooz (in the studio)
Chart Place: #3
Next to Nu Shooz with a strongly pink-themed studio act. I Can’t Wait, a mid 80s electronic dance piece with a reasonably catchy riff and somewhat un-memorable set of lyrics. Another piece probably best heard in the background whilst drunk and in a club, it’s TOTP appearance feels rather flimsy and forgettable.
Happy Hour / The Housemartins (via music video)
Chart Place: #12
Happy Hour, the breakout single from The Housemartins – and the only music video this evening to feature The Housemartins in plasticine form – is poppy condemnation of young businessmen out on the lash and on the pull, a subject not entirely out of line for a band that became known for it’s Christian and socialist themes. It’s a reasonable track – and the video helps carry the song further than it might have gone without it – but it slots into that above average tier of 80s indie pop that has a habit of all blurring into one.
And Norman Cook does looks so tremendously young.
Spirit In The Sky / Doctor and the Medics (in the studio)
Chart Place: #1
Doctor and the Medics bring us the fourth of tonight’s covers with Spirit in the Sky. An oddly upbeat song about dying and Jesus is accompanied by what appears to be a throwback euro-horror themed music video (one feels as if Britt Eckland should be about to seduce a policeman!), all set to a somewhat catchy beat. By any reasonable metric, Spirit in the Sky is a bad song – the lyrics feel rejected from Come and Praise, the video is shot through with 60s horror pastiche and the music is mushy and ill formed – yet the whole thing comes together into a not entirely unenjoyable ear worm that seems to hang around for days…
Bad Boy / Miami Sound Machine (via music video)
Chart Place: #18
And to our final track of the night! Miami Sound Machine presents us with Bad Boy, a dance-pop piece with a disturbingly Cats-themed music video. Middling lead vocals are provided Gloria Estefan and are placed atop of a fairly average backing track. Bad Boy is not bad enough to be firmly classed as a bad piece, however it’s certainly nowhere near good enough to be classed as ‘OK’. And the Cats thing is creepy.
This week’s tracks, ranked.
- Too Good To Be Forgotten / Amazulu
- Happy Hour / The Housemartins
- Spirit In The Sky / Doctor and the Medics
- New Beginning (Mamba Seyra) / Bucks Fizz
- Venus / Bananarama
- Friends Will Be Friends / Queen
- I Can’t Wait / Nu Shooz
- Bad Boy / Miami Sound Machine
- Hunting High and Low / a‐ha
- My Favourite Waste of Time / Owen Paul
This week was a notable improvement on our first outing. Gone were the new year doldrums, to be replaced by a somewhat eclectic range of summer pieces. We had our first outing for Queen – with an unexpectedly low ranking Friends will be Friends – and our first real surprise of this trip with Amazulu’s Too Good To Be Forgotten. And, though not everything lived up to it’s full potential, the general standard of music here is firmly superior to that which we saw with last week’s episode.
Next Time: We slip back another eight and a half years to see what January, 1978 brings!