Ever since the BBC started repeating old TOTPs on a 35-year delay I have been watching and wallowing in the nostalgia. I think they started with 1976 or maybe 1975 and are now up to 1981. Obviously it is all downhill after the mighty 1979 but there are still some gems in there.
The funny thing is how different it all looks from a distance. For example, at the time I had not realise just how dominated the 70s were by rock & roll revivalism, not how that spilled into the 80s. The other thing is how some things are completely new to me.
I am pretty sure I watched TOTP every week in the 70s and 80s and also followed the chart show on the radio and everything and yet every now and then there is a song high in the charts by an act that doesn’t ring even the tiniest bell, so either I wasn’t really paying attention or my subconscious blocked it out.
Another example of this selective memory is that when I think of 1981 I remember it as being OMD, Spandau Ballet, Soft Cell, Blondie, Antmusic, the Human League and so on. Watching TOTP I see all the stuff my mind had filtered out, most especially all those terrible medley records.
Nowadays, when a band or artist has a reasonably-sized body of well-known songs somebody makes a terrible two-hour musical of them, but 35 years ago they made terrible 3-minute singles of them instead. That might sound like a better thing, but at least with Mamma Mia or We Will Rock You or Our House you can just not go to the theatre. With the medley singles you could not escape them on the radio and TV.
I had remembered that there were Stars on 45 and Jive Bunny, but I had forgotten about all the other – dodgy bands doing medleys of Bee Gees songs or Frankie Valli/Four Seasons songs, all to the same relentless thud, thud, thud. And then there was Hooked on Classics too. Having said that, at least we were spared the worst medley of all over here – Lauren Voulzy’s atrocious Rockollection.
It remind me of one amusing early 80s incident though. I went to see Macbeth at the Regent’s Park open air theatre. There was some Capital Radio event going on in the park, or maybe the zoo, at the same time. When it came to the famous banquet scene and we were all waiting for the ‘is this a dagger?’ bit, the whole lot was drowned out by Jive Bunny played at full volume.
People say that everything was better in the past, but unlike in 1981 I now watch TOTP on Tivo so I can just fast forward through medleys, Legs & Co, Bucks Fizz, and Aneka’s borderline racist Japanese Boy. In fact I can sometimes get through a whole show in about 15 minutes…