Yet More Music And Memories

In 1986, my favourite TV programme was Top of the Pops. Every Thursday night, I could be found glued to the TV waiting to hear if my favourite song had made it to the prestigious No.1 slot. Mum and Dad used to moan and groan about the ‘hideous racket’ coming from the TV, but they always let me watch it.

I was fourteen years old that year and had recently got into athletics. A friend suggested we join the local athletics club so we did. But there was one snag – the main training day was a Thursday evening – at the same time as Tops of The Pops. Now, this was 1986, before most households had a video recorder. So I didn’t have the option of recording the show.

It was May and Rock Me Amadeus by Falco was No.1. I loved the song. It was so different, so powerful and highly catchy. I had to know if it was still No.1. And I knew just the thing to do.

I may not have had a video recorder, but I did have a tape recorder. It wasn’t a particularly good one, but it served the purpose it had been bought for – for my friend and I to sing into (or screech would probably be a fairer word for it).

So I told Dad what I planned to do. He’d need to have the TV on so it picked up the sound. He muttered that it was ‘alright, I suppose’. The tape recorder wasn’t very good at picking things up, so I positioned it as close to the TV as possible.  

Off I went to athletics club, and back I came eager to listen to Tops of the Pops. When I pressed ‘play’, you could definitely tell it was Top of the Pops. But I clearly hadn’t accounted for all the background noises, which were somehow much louder than the TV – Dad rattling the paper the whole way through, coughing, belching and other such bodily noises, Mum starting a conversation about the mess Dad made when he ate his biscuits in the lounge and of course, I’d forgotten that we have the loudest clock in the world and so the TV programme also had to compete with its incessant ticking.  

So, after all that, was Amadeus still No.1? No, it wasn’t. Usurped by Spitting Image and The Chicken Song. I wasn’t impressed.

Did the recording of Top of The Pops last? No. Neither did the athletics.   



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22 Responses to Yet More Music And Memories

  1. TanGental says:

    I remember a similar gambit with the radio top twenty and trying to record it via a tape deck before i had one that could conect the two and get past background fuzz. Happy days. And don’t diss the Chicken Song!

  2. Murray Clarke says:

    Great memories, Esther. When I was your age (14), I used to place a microphone close to the TV speaker and record all the opening theme tunes on my cheap reel-to-reel tape machine. I still have the tapes. A young squeaky voice proudly announces: “And now we have ‘Emergency Ward Ten.’ Or: “And the next tune is ‘Juke Box Jury’!!!

  3. Murray Clarke says:

    I also used to record the Top Twenty hits show on a Sunday afternoon from the radio. I remember writing to the disc jockey Alan Freeman, and asking him not to talk over the introduction to the records he was playing as it was spoiling my recordings! He took not a blind bit of notice!

  4. EDC Writing says:

    Back in the mid to late 60’s I combined TOP’s with running … the mobile fish & chip van used to locate at the bottom of our road and I had to rush out and get a battered sausage & chips, fishcake & chips and cod & chips twice before my brother, Mum, Dad and I ‘settled’ to watch. If the van was late I didn’t mind missing the odd song … Pan’s People quite another thing!

  5. Your musical taste was clearly improving as you got older. Loved that song!
    Being knocked off the top spot by the Chicken Song was bad, but not as bad as the fate of one of the all time great songs, Vienna. Sadly, Ultravox didn’t even make it to number one with that one. Joe Dolce beat them to it. I can’t even bring myself to give the title…
    Of course, these days, kids wouldn’t understand the trials and tribulations suffered back in the good old days. My niece and nephew stayed with my mum this week, and were completely stumped because she doesn’t have the internet – let alone WiFi. Two very grumpy kids glad to go home last night!

    • esthernewton says:

      It must be improving as I love Vienna; I didn’t realise it didn’t make No.1 though. I remember the Joe Dolce song. My dad thought it was wonderful and kept singing it to my mum. Needless to say, she wasn’t very impressed.

      • You were probably too young to remember at the time. It’s one of those things, though, that sticks in your mind when you were there! Great band, and fantastic live. Saw them again when they had a reunion a few years ago, and they still had it.

  6. Helen says:

    Thanks for sharing yet more brilliant memories, Esther.

    I avoided TOP as I didn’t like a lot of mainstream pop music and couldn’t stand Jimmy Saville. Also I was supposed to be focussing on homework not watching TV.

    I was, however, lucky enough to have an integral tape deck, radio and record player and liked making recordings from the John Peel show and Radio Caroline. This could be done secretly at night.

    Am not sure what happened to my old tapes. I probably over-played them and they disintegrated.

    I’d be arrested nowadays if I kept playing some of the songs I listened to over and over at Uni. “I was a bouncing baby, now I’m a bouncing…” Different times. Don’t now why I played the same songs repetitively so much. But I did. It gave life a rhythm and when you put familiar/comfortable music on it doesn’t interrupt concentration – not that many people would class the music I liked as comfortable.

  7. Steve says:

    Parental support, geesh; strange how our ‘definition’ of that term changes when we become one (and again when you become a grandparent)! I say, your parents should have felt pleased and more supportive because your favorite song in 1986 was not “West End Girls” by the Pet Shop Boys. 😉

  8. Sarah says:

    I loved the chicken song. 😀 I think all dad’s make such bodily noises! 🙂 I remember listening to the charts too on the radio on a Sunday evening – to see which song had made it to number one. 😀 They probably don’t even have a top ten these days, lol. This generation has missed out on all the fun! 🙂

  9. Helen says:

    I do feel a lot of the jokes are over my head. The only chicken song I remember is a Welsh one. Probably because I had to dress up as a chicken to sing it in the local Gang Show one year. (I looked ridiculous!)

    I was in a primary school pop group for a while (performing in front of parents). We wore long 1970s dresses and sang popular numbers by The New Seekers, The Osmonds etc. I sang in the group mainly to keep my best friend company – some of the last memories I have of her before she died. Maybe my best friend’s death (first term at secondary school) had an impact on my musical tastes.

    I did love Athletics, although there wasn’t a local club I could join. When we were in Primary school, our mother used to send us out to play in the evenings. We had to stay outside until she rang her school bell signalling we could go home (used to make the other children laugh that we were summoned in this way). Rain wasn’t an excuse for staying in. We even went to the beach in the rain.

  10. Helen says:

    Another way of putting it is that I was just plain ignorant. I honestly haven’t heard of many of the songs you’ve been mentioning in recent weeks. Not sure where I was all those years as others of not dissimilar age seem to recognise so much more than I do. Still really enjoy reading your memories, Esther. Do keep them coming!

  11. Helen says:

    You too, Esther. Also thanks ever so much for helping me track down my lost teen hood. Some of the music references had me so puzzled, I forced myself to try and remember what I was actually doing at 14. This led to the discovery of some foreign wikipedia mentions (genuine ones) that I knew nothing about. I was out of the country for almost a month and had a huge amount of schoolwork to catch up on when I got back. While I was away I had my first experience of being almost blown up (car bomb detonated outside hotel). After that there were police escorts every day. I had travelled thousands of miles without my parents and it was a lot to deal with. You really have triggered quite a trip down memory lane!

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