Certain characters that found their way into our living room have lodged themselves in my brain and won’t depart. If you’re reading this and are young enough not to have seen any of the following, I urge you to look them up on YouTube.
It is to these unique individuals that I dedicate this Top 5, in time-honoured reverse order. Gentlemen, we salute you.
5. Rob Davis of Mud
That’s right (that’s right, that’s right, that’s right – oh, stop it), the one who often wore long dresses paired with huge earrings and looked like your auntie dolled up for a Christmas party. Spookily, as I’m writing, Groovejet by Spiller/Sophie Ellis-Bextor has started playing on the radio, which is one of the songs Davis went on to have success with as a songwriter, along with Can’t Get You Out of My Head for Kylie. Respect. But not forgiven for those dresses.
4. Den Hegarty of Darts
Darts were flipping brilliant on TOTP if you were a kid in the late 70s, because they were fun, colourful, and did jolly doo-wop songs that you could sing along and jig about to. In the middle of all this was Den Hegarty singing the bass line, gurning into the camera like a loon, moving like a maniac and sporting some of the loudest (and yet coolest) suits on the planet. Genius.
3. Dave Hill of Slade
Slade reliably belted out great songs, but I always found my eye drawn to Dave and his ‘look’ du jour. I’m sure I’m not alone. To my mind, only Peter Gabriel (in tonsure mode) and possibly Mike Score of A Flock of Seagulls (back in the day) ever sported odder interpretations of the word ‘fringe’. He often wore costumes that looked like bits of sci-fi movie sets glued together and platform boots that would probably be banned now due to ‘elf and safety’.
2. Zal Cleminson of The Sensational Alex Harvey Band
With his pierrot make-up, and dressed like a stripy version of a harlequin, he would tilt his head towards the camera with strange mixture of sweetness and menace. Once seen, never forgotten.
1. Ron Mael of Sparks
Had to be. I was seven when This Town Ain’t Big Enough… was in the Top 10 and so Mr Mael and his brother were on TOTP rather a lot, so lots of scope for inducing nightmares amongst the nation’s children. Solitary, sinister, sedentary and strange, you couldn’t help but watch him. His stare alone would have been disturbing enough, without the Hitler-esque moustache.
Despite all this, in later life I have learned to appreciate Sparks for their brilliant songs and humour, for the fact that they wrote a song about owning the BBC and that the news section of their website is called ‘The Daily Mael.’