Top of the Pops 10 July 1986

Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. [16] Midnight Star: Headlines. Simon Bates. “Welcome to studio six at Television Centre and this week's Top of the Pops. Let's kick off with Midnight Star and Headlines.” There's the faint sound of studio chatter in the gap between the end of The Wizard and Simon Bates' introduction. It's a woman issuing instructions to the studio but, alas extensive digital audio forensic work is unable to clarify what is being said. The Floor Manager this week is Iain McLean, so it's not him. It must be someone firing up the Cheerleaders who is also standing close enough to Simon Bates for his microphone to pick up the sound. What sort of orders do you have to issue to the Cheerleaders? “Smile and dance like your lives depend on it.” 

Midnight Star are a seven piece American group. What makes them notable? They have three keytar players who all appear to be wearing suits made out of pattered wallpaper.


Simon Bates. “Headlines and Midnight Star. Welcome to Top of the Pops. We've got a new number one. We've got a nice little chap here, Bruno Brookes.”

Bruno Brookes. “Thank you very much. Maybe you were one of those in the audience at Wembley the other weekend. Watching that great man who has the highest new entry on the chart this week. It's gotta be Rod Stewart.”

[17] Rod Stewart: Every Beat Of My Heart. On video.

There are odd power dynamics between Simon Bates and Bruno Brookes during the introduction. Simon Bates is tall (although Google is unable to tell me how tall. What's the point of the internet if it can't answer basic questions. Please email John if you know how tall Simon Bates is, and please make the subject of your email “I know how tall Simon Bates is) (John- No need, he’s five feet two inches. So he’s not tall really but liked to stand on his own box.)and Bruno Brookes is not as tall as Simon Bates.

It seems like basic studio etiquette to frame the two so the disparity in their height is not so obvious. I'm not talking about something patronising like making Simon Bates stand in a trench, but the Top of the Pops studio has steps. Instead the pair are stood on a raised stage looking down at the camera which just amplifies the effect. And, for some reason, Bates has Brookes is what's supposed to look like a matey hug but actually resembles the opening stages of a Vulcan nerve pinch. The “friendly” tap on the shoulder he gives Brookes on the “nice little chap” comment just adds insult to injury. What's going on? Is Simon Bates still carrying a grudge from being ambushed and embarrassed by Gary Davies and his “do your Doctor and the Medics dance,” request? That was a month ago.

[12] Real Roxanne with Hitman Howie Tee: (Bang Zoom) Let’s Go Go. Simon Bates introduces the Real Roxanne standing on one of the raised studio walkways. *David Attenborough voice* “the older male asserts his dominance by using the local environment to reinforce his physical presence”.

The word Real in the name suggests some history, possibly a clash with those fake Roxannes which were such a menace in the late eighties. If you want some context read the Wikipedia page on the Roxanne Wars. No, really.(John- So this isn’t Rooooooxxane from the Police song?)

Real Roxanne appear on a new stage. A backdrop of white lightbulbs in circular shapes, with curved elements in front to look like fan blades. It's a weird fusion of seventies disco glam with the late eighties/early nineties industrial look. I don't remember (Bang Zoom) Let’s Go Go, but it's a song that would have alienated me in 1986. It's got a good sense of humour and I like the way it ends on a sample of Elmer Fudd shouting “hooray, the rabbit kicked the bucked,” followed by a loop of “the rabbit kicked the bucket,” which must have sounded weird if you left the single running.

Top 40 Charts. Bruno Brookes stands next to Simon Bates to introduce the charts. Not far enough away to look odd, but not close enough to be in matey hug range.

What's this at [40]? Lady In Red? Oh no!

Top 40 Breakers: [26] Furniture, Brilliant Mind; [25] Haywoode, Roses; [24] Steve Winwood, Higher Love; [22] UB40, Sing Our Own Song.
Four Breakers? Is there a dearth of bands able to come into the studio or is it because there were no Breakers on last week's show?

[3] Owen Paul: My Favourite Waste Of Time. Owen's been practising his crowd work. On the first big drum beat he does an overhead clap, followed by a couple more, and coaxes the crowd into following along. Unfortunately he then has to pretend to play the guitar and without his lead the crowd lose interest in copying him.

Bruno Brookes has to dash across the studio to introduce Owen Paul from a different stage. It's the Beezlebub stage (complete with the additions made last week to break up the pentagram motif), and yet this stage does not appear in the final show.

It's standard procedure for Top of the Pops to edit pre-recorded performances into later shows. This is what Wham!i did when they recorded The Edge Of Heaven and Where Did Your Heart Go to be used in the 26/06 and 03/07 editions. However I've gazed into the future (using my mysterious powers) and whatever song was recorded on the Beezlebub stage does not appear in the next three weeks; presumably the single did worse than expected.
Top 10 Charts. Bates and Brookes have reached a professional agreement. If they stand next to each other Simon Bates won't try to manhandle Brookes, who will do his best to look like he's having a reasonable time.

[1] Madonna: Papa Don’t Preach. On video.
[8] Bananarama: Venus.
Ooh, the truce doesn't last. We return to Bates and Brookes for the goodbyes. The pair are surrounded by the audience and Owen Paul is wedged in the gap between the pair for no obvious reason, beyond acting as a buffer. Brookes follows a moderately crass comment about the infamous Papa Don’t Preach nipple reveal (“I think I saw something in that video I shouldn't”) with a very passive aggressive “and by the way Simon Bates has been standing on the old orange box for the whole of the show.” (John- See, I told you!) That's where the BBC4 edit ends, with the implication that the pair are about to stalk off to their dressing rooms to write furious letters to their agents.

However, the off-air version reveals a different truth. Bates follows with a zinger that someone's given him “that is the long and the short of it on Top of the Pops.” Pow! It was a joke all along. It's just banter. And Brookes goes along with it! At least he looks like he goes along with it. He's either a better actor than I thought or he genuinely finds Bates comment funny. (John- Years later Brookes tried to kill Bates in a series of `incidents` that included a falling piano, a hole in the ground made to look like the pavement and a barrage of oranges. Bates survived but had to move house 81 times.)

The reason for the BBC4 edit is that Bates goes on to mention Mike Smith; whose Top of the Pops  cannot be shown because of a contract dispute unresolved when he died. The credits roll over a background of the same bit of blue and purple neon scenery we've seen for the last three weeks; but the shot is more out of focus, and closer! Also, there's a really strong drop shadow effect added to the credits which hasn't been there previously.

Performance of the week:  Real Roxanne with Hitman Howie Tee, (Bang Zoom) Let’s Go Go 

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