CBBC Memories – Cheggers Plays Pop.

Cheggers Plays Pop (CBBC, 1978-1986)

I am cheating here as this is actually a CBBC show that I don’t remember watching at the time, but I have been interested in seeing some editions and featuring it here for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it seems that it was two shows in one. It featured a game show element, along with a pop music one. And, if you’re a regular, you might know that over the past year or two I have been trying to discover more about 80s pop music.

As this was another show in the 80s that gave the big groups of the time the opportunity to appear on TV (usually two or three per show), and I did find it interesting to discover who exactly took part, as anywhere they could get exposure in those days was welcome. Ooh look it’s Classix Nouveaux! Cheggers Plays Pop was of course hosted by the rather overexcited Keith Chegwin, and I always thought that it was one of those shows that ran in the 70s and early-80s, but it was actually going as late as 1986 which surprised me. vlcsnap-00214

Two teams took part, representing schools from across the country. They would be accompanied by various celebrities who would act as team captains and cheerleaders to encourage them along the way. If you were a pop group in the 80s, It seems that appearing on the show was good fun, and as well as this, I’m sure that appearing on the cover of Lookin really was the pinnacle of mainstream pop culture in those days, could there be any better endorsement that you’d made it? vlcsnap-00219

There were also various games on the show, including questions being asked in The Hotbox Quick Quiz, so knowing what was currently in the Top Ten would really help, but the real way to score lots of points was to take part in the endgame that featured inflatables which was rather amusing. Some of these games were a little similar to Double Dare which launched not long after Cheggers Plays Pop ended, I wonder if it was an influence (even though I know that it was based on an American format). vlcsnap-00231

It was around that point that Cheggers got even more overexcited (if that was possible), and the highest-scoring teams went into the final, with the overall series winner receiving a trophy. There were nine series of Cheggers Plays Pop, including some Easter and Christmas specials, and it did seem an enjoyable show to take part in. After the end, Cheggers would go on to be familiar face on TV for many more years, including hosting The Big Breakfast, and a revival of Sale Of The Century.

The YouTube Files – The Belle Stars Story (Part 2).

Let’s continue the story of The Belle Stars as we go into 1983… b1

In January 1983 “Sign Of The Times” was released which reached No. 3. It would become their most successful single by some distance, and it is definitely the one that they remain best known for to this day. It also reached No. 75 in America. In January and February 1983 they performed this twice on Top Of The PopsIn January 1983 they appeared on the cover of Melody Maker and performed four songs on The Tubevlcsnap-00030

In February 1983 their first and only album “The Belle Stars” was released which reached No. 15, and they performed “The Clapping Song” at The British Rock And Pop Awards. In March 1983 Sarah-Jane (who was considered by many to be the most glamorous member of the group) appeared on the cover of Record Mirror. They were finally a big deal, could they maintain this success? b6

In April 1983 “Sweet Memory” was released which reached No. 22. They really pushed this one with lots of TV appearances but it would turn out to be their final Top 40 hit single. In May 1983 it would lead to their sixth Top Of The Pops appearance, and they also performed this on plenty of other shows including Cheggers Plays PopGet Set, The Oxford Road ShowRazzmatazz, and Saturday SuperStorevlcsnap-00050

In August 1983 “Indian Summer” was released which reached No. 52. This was another good one, but it missed the Top 50. The video featured a guest appearance from Humphrey Bogart (not the Humphrey Bogart?!). They also appeared on The Main Attraction and the Saturday Morning excitement of No. 73 (which I imagine was an ambition of many pop groups around at the time). vlcsnap-00025

In October 1983 “The Entertainer” was released which reached a rather disappointing No. 95. Feargal Sharkey made a guest appearance in the video. They performed this on No. 73Razzmatazz, Russell Harty’s show, and Hold Tight, on the scary-looking stage that went up and down. In December 1983 they made their seventh and final appearance on Top Of The Pops to perform “Sign Of The Times” for a third time as part of the Christmas special. vlcsnap-00042

In June 1984 “80s Romance” was released which reached No. 71. Their sound had evolved a lot by this point and this was a much more soulful single. Along with the regular video there was also an extended version that included a look behind the scenes. However, the trends were so fast-moving in this era of pop music that this turned out to be their final hit single. Barely a year on from their biggest success, they were now, as the phrase goes, “down the dumper”. Because there wasn’t much interest, work on the second album was abandoned, and The Belle Stars went their separate ways. But wait, because the story doesn’t end there… vlcsnap-00018

The Belle Stars just about carried on into the mid-80s, but they were now a trio, consisting of Lesley, Miranda and Sarah-Jane (I think Miranda and Sarah-Jane were the only ones who lasted the whole course from 1979-1986). In April 1986 “World Domination” was released. Once again, their look and sound was rather different from a few years earlier, there were definitely no saxophones on this one (maybe they just wanted to be more like Bananarama, ha-ha). vlcsnap-00061

I did like this one, and it is rather odd to think that this is (just about) the same people that made “Let’s Do Rock Steady”. I am also rather fond of the video (and the 12″ version), but music fans had long since moved on, this wasn’t a hit, and even a Paul Hardcastle remix couldn’t give it a boost (it’s also curiously absent from the various best-ofs). Work on the third album was abandoned, and by this point, it really was all over. I’m not even sure if they remained in the music industry after this or stayed in touch with each other. But that’s still not the end. vlcsnap-00056

In March 1989, long after it was originally released (and long after their split), a new version of “Iko Iko” became their biggest hit in America after it was featured in the soundtrack to the film Rain Man, and it reached No. 14. In June 1989 this version reached No. 98 in the UK. Beyond a few best-ofs (and a concert at London’s Marquee Club from 1984 being released on DVD), there hasn’t been much activity from the group since this.

But in December 2002 my mum and sister went to a Here And Now concert at the London Arena, where pop acts from the 80s performed some of their biggest hits, and The Belle Stars were on the lineup. Their peak was almost two decades ago even then. Again, they consisted of a trio, but I’m not sure if any original members were even involved, they could’ve been anyone by this point.

They performed only three songs, and of course “Sign Of The Times” was one of them, they didn’t really have much choice. It’s a shame that a lot of people think that they were mismanaged, but I presume that they are are all still out there somewhere, and Jennie does still occasionally perform her songs from The Belle Stars years in concert. As usual when looking back at this era, it’s a surprise to realise they must all be getting on for 60 years old by now (and it seems that Sarah-Jane this year actually turned 65!). How is it even possible.