A moderately special episode of the podcast which asks: so what did Tony Orlando do to get banged up for three years, then?
This episode, Pop-Crazed Youngsters, is a massively-flared, clompy-heeled, zebra-printed celebration of one of the greatest traditions of any British Christmas Day: the opportunity to force the rest of your extended family to sit through an end-of year episode of The Pops and revel in the torrent of tutting coming out of your Nana’s mouth as she works their way through the Quality Street. Fourteen chart-toppers from The Most Seventies Year Ever are trotted out, from a time when the Number One single was either astoundingly brilliant or absolute cat shit.
Your hosts – Tony Blackburn and Noel Edmonds – really get into the Christmas spirit by shoving tree branches up each other’s arses and donning massive Lenny Kravitz-style scarves of tinsel as wave after wave of alternate Glam nirvana and easy-listening rubbishness floods the screen. On the downside, Donny Osmond spends Christmas alone, David Cassidy has a big sulk around Kew Gardens and we discover that Santa is actually an obnoxious American child with big teeth, but Dave Hill mutates into a Chicken Angel! Roy Wood plays a vacuum cleaner! Steve Priest radges up the grandparents of Britain in a sexy Nazi Bismark rig-out as Andy Scott whips out his third leg! And some dog-flouncing-off action!
David Stubbs and Taylor Parkes join Al Needham for a gleeful ripping-down of the gaudy paper chains of 1973, veering off to discuss Jody Scheckter Racing, the infinite superiority of the Beano Book over the Dandy annual, grandparental fantasies about Roy Wood being made to peel potatoes, Opportunity Knocks winners who were massive racists, what breaks Donny Osmond’s heart, a flick through the Music Star Annual 1974, being sang at by an entire factory when you’ve had an over-long shit, and so much more, with swearing.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
The ninth episode of the podcast which asks: were England’s international failures of the 1970s caused by an insistence on playing football on beaches in massive flares and stack heels while pretending to be Marvin Gaye?
This episode, Pop-Crazed Youngsters, sees us making another Sam Tyler-like voyage to Spangleland in an attempt to see if 1974 could keep up the quality levels of the year before, or if it was already lurching into the hell of 1975. What we discover is a Bizarro-world in which Noel Edmonds stands out as a bouffanted, proto-Medallion Man object of genuine teenage lust amongst the sullen, lank-haired youth.
Musicwise, we see ‘new’ bands taking wing (Mud, in their Glam-Ted Vishnu phase), older bands calming themselves down (Slade, doing a ballad) or on their way out (Mungo Jerry, we’re looking at you), and people absolutely losing their shit over The Wombles. Pans People cause your Dad’s tea to slide right off his lap as they don the flounciest, bounciest nighties ever, Bill Haley is unearthed and put on display, the Terry Jacks Deathwatch drags on for another week, and history is made as Abba yomp all the way from Brighton to Shepherds Bush to begin their glacial reign over the Seventies.
Al Needham is joined by Simon Price and David Stubbs to discuss all of this, as well as rubbish funeral songs, supporting a football team that looks like your favourite mug, BBC Families v ITV Families, believing that pop songs are actually news bulletins, and the Celtic ritual of Crisp Sacrifice. And all the swearing you could possibly want.
The eighth edition of the podcast which asks: a new version of Top Of The Pops with sketches? FUCK OFF!
This episode sees the controls of the Time Sofa hijacked by our own Simon Price, who force-lands it smack in the middle of 1981. He's been saying for ages that '81 is the greatest Pop year ever, forcing us to throw down the frilly, fingerless gauntlet.
Things start weirdly with Simon Bates looking like a supply teacher and the return of Slade and Alvin, but then it's wave after wave of 'bands' that don't even have proper drums and make records by just pressing a button, don't you know, interspersed with black men slinking about and even getting skinheads to wave their hands in the air.
Any Brexiteers who can stomach Leee John being all sexually threatening and David Sylvian looking like Lady Di will be trapping a creased-up England flag in their bedroom windows in unrestrained joy to see a practically all-British line-up, and Madness have dropped another video, but it's not all good news: Barbara Gaskin comes on like a glammed-up Candice-Marie in Nuts In May, and a soon-to-be-on-the-dole Legs & Co look on as Lulu scabs out and dances with someone called Jeremy.
Al Needham, Taylor Parkes and Simon Price pick through the dress-up box that is 1981, veering off to discuss dog auto-fellatio, throwing Molotov cocktails into Welsh churches, whether people in Birmingham are proud of Crossroads (or not), cousins who get pissed up at your auntie's do and accuse you of being gay, and why it's a bad idea to do an Ant Stripe with Tipp-Ex. The usual swearing, and edited dead fast in order to get it out before the end of the month, so if it's shonkier than usual, soz.
The seventh episode of the podcast which asks: if Les Dennis and Dustin Gee were Torvill and Dean, who would be who?
This episode sees us firmly on the wrong half of the Eighties, with Live Aid a mere five-and-a-bit weeks behind us, and the Greatest Pop Programme Ever is not coping very well with it. At all. For starters, it's been shunted up to 7.55pm to make way for Eastenders, The Kids are burdened with pom-poms and manky pastels and pushed right to the back of the studio and danced at by Pineapple Studio Wankers, there's a compulsion to lob in as many videos as possible, Garry Davies is wearing an appalling jacardigan, and there's Steve Wright.
As for the actual music, Lisa Lisa is with Cult Jam (but without Full Force), Drive by The Cars is trotted out for the second year running, Kate Bush rises about it all as usual, Stock Aitken and Waterman make a record that actually manages not to get on your wick. and oh look, there's Madonna with her pits over the hand dryer. And there's a woman cupping a right handful of a gorilla's breasts.
Al Needham is joined by Taylor Parkes and Neil Kulkarni for an unflinching gaze into the open wound of post-Live Aid Pop, breaking off to discuss failed Marxist dictatorships in Ethiopia, failed attempts at breakdancing, Psychobilly caravan holidays in Skegness, persistently homosexual Mexicans, the Curse of Arsewasher's Back, and white boys from villages going to black hair salons in order to look like a wrestler. And swearing.
This sixth episode of the podcast which asks: a Lego submarine full of maggots? Really?
This episode sees us throwing ourselves between two stools marked 'GLAM/FUNK' and 'PUNK/DISCO' and sprawling awkwardly in the space marked '1975', in order to check whether it really was one of the tawdrier years for Pop. Spoiler alert: yes, it rather is, actually.
Emperor Rosko (looking for all the world like a Transatlantic Stu Francis) empties out a massive lucky bag of Pop-rammel, which includes people in silhouette pretending to have oral sex with Telly Savalas, someone who wasn't brave enough to be Alvin Stardust hiding behind a dog, Chicken-In-A-Basket (but really decent chicken, not Findus) soul, And Pan's People are dressed like sexy, sexy Vileda SuperMops.
It's not all bad, however: The Sweet come back hard on their tottery platform heels one last time, the Goodies wear matching dungarees with a 'G' on them, like radical-feminist Crips, Susan Cadogan drops one of the greatest reggae tunes of the decade, and it's 1975 and Bohemian Rhapsody hasn't come out yet, so you already know what's No.1.
Al Needham is joined by Neil Kulkani and Simon Price for a proper snuffle around the bell-bottomed, tartan-fringed crotch of April '75, veering off to sing disgusting variations of Bay City Roller songs, discuss why pirate radio was a bit crap, actually, the thrill of Snuff Delivery Day in old peoples homes in Coventry, and being bequeathed platform shoes by your father. The longest episode yet, full to the brim with swearing.
The fifth episode of the podcast which asks: why is Richard Stilgoe going on about acne?
This episode finds Top Of The Pops smack in the middle of the Eighventies in a state of flux, after being off air for nine weeks due to a Musicians Union strike. The Kids are sat on the floor, the set is even more sparse than usual, and they're experimenting with guest co-hosts - a process which would start with Elton John and end with, er, Russ Abbot. This week, it's Tommy Vance and Roger Daltrey - The McVicar Himself - who takes crumpet-leering to heights that not even DLT would think possible, moans about The Clash not being on (when everyone else knows they don't do TOTP), and casts that aspersion upon the Village People.
Musicwise, we carom from Ultravox awkwardly dancing behind synths to Legs & Co channelling the spirit of the International Day episode of Peppa Pig to the Dad in Worzel Gummidge performing an old song which isn't a patch on I Got Those Can't Get Enough Of Those Blue Riband Blues to Grace Jones with a fag on to David Bowie's dead expensive new video to Abba putting a right downer on everything at the end with their adult relationship break-up palaver. And the drummer of Slade sits there with a shaker for no real reason at all.
Al Needham is joined by Taylor Parkes and David Stubbs for a through evisceration of 1980, veering off to talk about how Roger Daltrey put them off meat for life, what it's like to stop the night at Benny Out Of Abba's hotel, and how being dressed as a Pierrot on an orange beach and reacting to having your picture taken by a paparazzo as if you've been shot is a bit rubbish, really. And loads of swearing.
The fourth episode of the podcast which asks: what the fuck is a ‘Baby’s Treat’?
This episode takes us back to the absolute cusp of the Eighties, a mere three weeks away before Margaret Thatcher
starts wiping her arse on the country delivers strong and stable leadership. No synthy palaver or 2-Tonery in the charts just yet – it’s a lucky bag of randomness consisting of Punk bands at the end of their tether, Disco behemoths, and Ted revivalists clinging on for dear life. And Peter Powell is ridiculously excited by all of it, but especially the brass in Supertramp’s The Logical Song.
Highlights of this episode include Kate Bush having her arse removed by the BBC, Legs & Co channelling the spirit of Punk by sticking their tongues out, Racey having a Gail Tilsley lookalike as their lead singer, Jimmy Pursey skidding on his arse and influencing Indian wedding videos of the 1980s, and Art Garfunkel’s Kurt Cobain Gun Fingers.
Al Needham is joined by Melody Maker scribes Simon Price and Neil Kulkarni for a severe going-over of the Sound of ’79, breaking off to reminisce about listening to the new Top 40 in the bushes of a private school, being tormented by older sisters who can do Kate Bush’s eye-bulge trick, and keeping away from local youths in double-denim trying to smash park benches in time to the drum bits in Hey Rock n’ Roll.
(Warning: we were severely bum-rushed by the Skype goblins during the recording of this one, so the edit might be a bit shonky and heavy-manners)
The third edition of the podcast which asks: is that an apple or a strawberry on Pans Peoples' arses?
In this episode - the chunkiest yet - we set the controls of the Time Sofa smack into the heart of the Glam era and get down to '73. The charts are encrusted with the bland mung of Osmond, but it's also rammed out with mid-Sixties chancers suddenly finding themselves in the Big Time in strange trousers, and milking their opportunity dry. And Tony Blackburn is on hand to vibrate with excitement, suggest that records about failed relationships make great Christmas presents, and abuse a Womble.
Highlights of this episode include Alvin Stardust debuting the Satanic sound of the Mansfield Delta, Mott The Hoople demonstrating that if you're on a three-day week, have a four-day weekend, Paul McCartney deep into his Style Council period, Kiki Dee flinging disgusting filth at our Pop Kids, and the Bacofoiled Elephant In The Room crashing straight in at No.1.
Al Needham is joined by Melody Maker veterans Taylor Parkes and Simon Price for a good old hack at the face of the Velvet Tinmine, breaking off every now and then to discuss who we fancied at the age of 5, the difference between cheesecloth and gingham, and what happens when you mention Gary Glitter at a pub quiz.
(Warning: lots of swearing, occasional seagull interference, and a long conversation about Gary Glitter which goes beyond fist-shaking and arguing over which one of us would pull the lever first)
The second edition of the podcast which asks: who would win in a massive cage fight amongst Radio 1 DJs of the 70s and 80s?
This episode, we enter the late winter of George Orwell’s visionary magnum opus – but not even in his worst nightmares would he have imagined the Ministry of Pop Telly trying (and failing) to throw the No.1 single down the memory hole. And a Top 40 with two Thompson Twins entries.
Thankfully, we’re spared both of them, but what we actually get is cow-heavy and laden with the musk of the lower reaches of the charts, heavily influenced by the Channel Fourification of pop music, and overseen by Dave Lee Travis and his YTS lad Gary Davies. The Smiths make their second appearance, Nik Kershaw models the 2048 Little Chef uniform, Madness give up doing the Bummer Conga and go all serious, and we’re shocked to learn that Madonna isn’t black. And Marillion see fit to bring eight synths into the studio when there’s really no need.
Al Needham is joined by David Stubbs and Taylor Parkes in a serious pick amongst the brightly-coloured rags of the mid-Eighties, and check for stains. Sorry for the delay on this: there’s been technical mither we need not go into.
(loads of swearing and explicit descriptions of what eleven year-olds think Paul McCartney does)