It’s 1983, and Top of the Pops reaches a landmark – its 1,000th edition. A time to celebrate, perhaps, but there are signs that the show is going through something of a mid-life crisis. The aristocracy of British New Pop are in the ascendant – Culture Club, Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Wham! – but the rise of the video starts to threaten the show’s unique appeal, which is based on getting the top artists into the studio. So producer Michael Hurll tries out new features – the first regular female presenter, Janice Long; the Top Ten Video Countdown; the European charts (intoned by John Peel in Paris whilst eating a bag of frites), even the South East Asian charts (not that they exist, as David Jensen discovers). And more live shows, to keep the adrenaline flowing – as well as a genuinely live performance by New Order of their anti-song ‘Blue Monday’.
1983 is also the year when several great TOTP institutions come to an end. Bands no longer have to rerecord their backing tracks, thanks to an agreement finally being reached between the Musicians’ Union and the BBC. And Flick Colby’s dance troupe Zoo throw their final pose, killed off by videos and cheerleaders.
In the year that Margaret Thatcher is re-elected with a landslide majority, the mood in the charts is escapism. But 1983 is also a year of musical reinvention. Alongside the rise of indie bands like New Order, and a memorable first appearance of The Smiths with Morrissey swinging his gladioli, other acts who’ve inhabited the backwaters for years now fine-tune their image and enter the mainstream in a bid for chart success. Thompson Twins slim down to a trio and hit the Top Ten with a new electro-pop sound. Bonnie Tyler reinvigorates her career thanks to Jim Steinman. The Style Council are Paul Weller’s unlikely post-The Jam project. Heaven 17 go head to head with former bandmates The Human League, and Spandau Ballet top the charts for the 1,000th episode with the blue-eyed soul of True. But there is also room for shooting stars such as Paul Weller’s prodigy Tracie; the meteoric rise and fall of Kajagoogoo; the curious Cajan spice of Haysi Fantayzee; the pout of Marilyn; and the year ends with Yazoo’s No 2 hit Only You becoming an acapella Christmas No 1 (as well as Mrs Thatcher’s favourite song) for The Flying Pickets.
Featuring original interviews with Bonnie Tyler, Tracie Young, Marilyn and members of New Order, Nick Beggs (Kajagoogoo), Haysi Fantayzee, Gary Kemp (Spandau Ballet), The Smiths, The Flying Pickets and Tom Bailey (Thompson Twins)