Top 10 Of…Top Of The Pops

When I get bored, I turn to YouTube–specifically, to watch vintage ’80s videos. Often that leads me to clips from UK or European music shows, which tended to have the more obscure/weird performances. In that spirit, here are some of my favorite performances culled from the annals of time. These aren’t necessarily the best performances, mind you–just some I love.

1. Wham!, “Freedom” (1984)
A hotly contested debate: George Michael “Freedom ’90” or Wham! “Freedom”? I fall into the latter camp–which means this video is a must-watch in my book. See also: Wham! rap from 1983, live on TOTP. CLASSIC.

2. Haysi Fantayzee, “John Wayne Is Big Leggy”
British music of the ’80s bred bands like this. Although best known for the mincing “Shiny Shiny,” this song was a truly peculiar specimen–like a proto-Sugarcubes or something.

3. Sigue Sigue Sputnik, “Love Missle F1-11” (1986)
While best known here for its appearance in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, “Love Missle F1-11” is a synthpunk classic. You can certainly draw a line from them through Chicks On Speed/early Peaches/Ladytron, etc. And, for those of you familiar, the sartorial stylings of Blood On The Dance Floor certainly reference this, IMHO…

4. Howard Jones, “Things Can Only Get Better” (1985)
I’m a huge Howard Jones fan. Huge. (Eclipsed only by my fiance.) This has always been one of my favorite songs, and this version is HoJo at the height of ’80s-dom. That feathery mullet? Check. A satiny suit the color of ketchup and mustard? Yup. A keytar and electric drums? Check and mate! Yet this doesn’t distract from the song–which has aged extremely well.

5. Depeche Mode, “New Life” (1981)
Early Depeche Mode (or “Depachey Mode,” if you’re this announcer) is particularly charming. This clip is no exception. I’m a fan of the computer which spells out the band’s name.

6. Tears For Fears, “Pale Shelter” (1983)
I’m waiting for more bands to start listening to early TFF–specifically, their debut, The Hurting, realize their genius (prog? synthpop? dark disco? pop?) and make killer music. Yeasayer’s last few records had hints of TFF, but beyond that…

7. Duran Duran, “Is There Something I Should Know?” (1983)
I’m a proud Durannie–and this song is one of their most underrated tunes. Kind of a perfect combination of post-disco, quintessential new wave and New Romantic soul. This performance is the band at their most dapper, too.

8. Thompson Twins, “We Are Detectives” (1983)
Yet another new wave group who’s far more interesting than you might think. This song–a slice of Dresden Dolls/Devotchka-ish cabaret-pop weirdness–is totally bizarre when stripped of slick production and keyboards.

9. The Smiths, “William It Was Really Nothing” (1984)
This probably would have blown my mind as a kid.

10. Altered Images, “Don’t Talk To Me About Love” (1983)
While not as abjectly creepy as “Insects,” I find the melancholy of this song far more enduring.

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One Response to Top 10 Of…Top Of The Pops

  1. Hey,

    I enjoyed your list very much. Some wonderful, cool-tinged choices. Also, your AV Club Kylie review was solid. I have to throw my weight behind Janet Jackson at the 1987 Grammys. The androgyny and gender play at work in this performance is beyond where I would’ve expected Janet to go. It’s like meta-pop.