Top of the Pops 11 & 18 September 1986

Reviewed by Chris Arnsby 11/09/86 . Mike Smith. “Evening. Welcome to the BBC Club. Crammed in here tonight we've got Cutting Crew, Jermaine Stewart, we've also got The Psychedelic Furs, and hold on tight because here comes Sam Fox.”
[26] Samantha Fox: Hold On Tight.  The new (old) format holds true. Once again we start the new (old) way with Mike Smith talking to camera to introduce the first act. Stanley Appel is tonight's holder of the Produced & Directed by credit and he is presumably not allowed to make changes to the sacred format while Michael Hurll is in absentia. What does Stanley Appel do when he's not keeping Michael Hurll's seat warm? Not a lot according to BBC Genome. He's listed as Producer on Blankety Blank, currently in it's Les Dawson incarnation, and that's it. Blankety Blank and the occasional Top of the Pops. That seems like a cushy job. This week Blankety Blank even has a Top of the Pops crossover with Bruno Brookes as one of the panellists; along with Fred Trueman, Nerys Hughes, Derek Jameson (ugh), Eve Ferret (no idea), and Sara Hollamby (ditto). (John- According to her website she’s “a very experienced television presenter” who did Crackerjack and Wish You Were Here. Eve Ferret is an actress who was in Absolute Beginners). Sam Fox's song is no better than her previous diet Kim Wilde efforts but it at least sounds different. It's more of a rockabilly/hoe down affair. This is the last time we'll see Sam in 1986, but she'll be back in 1987. And 1989. So we've got that to look forwards to.


[15] Run DMC: Walk This Way. On video. When Mike Smith back announces Samantha Fox a male voice can be heard cheering distinctly and saying “wa-hay.” Sure enough, when the picture cuts to Smith, there's a bloke standing behind him looking over Smith's right shoulder. Our mystery man has a fifties throwback hairstyle, and he's obviously got his arm round Mike Smith's back because you can see his hand resting on Smith's shoulder. When Mike Smith describes Walk This Way as a “merging of the musical ways,” the man seems very taken with this line because he smirks and repeats the word “ways” loud enough for Smith's microphone to pick it up. It's an odd little interaction with the audience, no wonder Mike Smith does most of the other announcements solo.

[8] Cutting Crew: (I Just) Died In Your Arms. I'm sure Cutting Crew are nice enough chaps, but the group carries a faintly desperate air of “please mistake us for A-ha.” Lead singer Nick Van Eede does his best, but in the smouldering stakes he's no Morten Harket. (John- Factette- he auditioned to be the singer with Genesis when Phil Collins left)

Top 40 Charts: Smithy's in a mischievous mood. He's got hold of the double bass used by Sam Fox's band and propped it up on his knee. Then he puts on a pair of glasses and announces, “and now... Mike Read,” as we head into the charts.

And who's this at [29] Jackie Graham? Is it? Could Everol McKenzie be back as Graphic Designer? Yes he is.

[25] The Psychedelic Furs: Pretty In Pink. Heading up the charts off the back of the film -released April 1986 according to IMDB. Apparently the Soviet Union got the film before the UK. Behind the Iron Curtain you could go to see it in March.

Top 40 Breakers: [18] Iron Maiden, Wasted Years; [16] Eurythmics, Thorn In My Side[13] Cameo, Word Up.

[3]  Jermaine Stewart: We Don't Have To... “How will we remember the summer of 1986?” asks Mike Smith. Presumably Jermaine Stewart was everywhere at the time, but personally I remember the summer of 1986 because we went to Clacton. (John- With Jermaine Stewart?)

Everyone on stage is wearing frills, but there seems to be some sort of pecking order. Jermaine Stewart has the most frills, obviously. They're all over his yellow patchwork jacket which, judging by the sheen when it catches the light, seems to be made of plastic. The female dancer follows, she has fewer frills but is allowed to wear more yellow to compensate. And last is the male dancer who has to make do with a few frills on the shoulders and barely any yellow at all.

Top 10 Charts: “Holiday Rap from those Dutch... Twins” There was me expecting Mike Smith to use a different T-word to describe MC Miker G and Deejay Sven (Sven?).

[1] The Communards: Don't Leave Me This Way. On video.

[5] Peter Cetera: Glory Of Love. Next week, Peter Powell and Steve Wright. Ecch, as Mad magazine used to say. Meanwhile, here's the $64,000 question. What's the background to the closing credits? It's... the return of an old favourite. A blurred close-up of blue and purple neon scenery.

Performance of the Week: The Psychedelic Furs, Pretty In Pink

18/09/1986:  [20] The Social Club: Rumors. Peter Powell. “This is Top of the Pops and to open the show it's Rumors from The Social Club.” Ouch! The format. It's twanged back. Michael Hurll is back in le chaud chaise and he's decided to revert to having the host introduce the first act off camera. Either that, or he's forgotten the changes he made two weeks ago due to the stress of the low ratings for Roland Rat -The Series.

Qui est The Social Club? In America they're known as Timex Social Club but for Top of the Pops they've changed their name. The consensus online is that Top of the Pops forced the band to drop the Timex, to avoid being seen to promote the brand. A reasonable assumption, given the BBC has history with this sort of thing; see also Top Cat/Boss Cat. A trip onto Google images doesn't shed any more light on the subject. You can find UK singles covers (7' and 12' versions) with both The Social Club and Timex Social Club branding. The Official UK Top 40 site, in their 1986 listings, stoutly name the band as Timex Social Club but this might be historical revisionism. In summary, *shrugs*

What's definitely been changed is the start of the second verse. This couplet has been excised “Hear the one about Tina, some say she's much too loose/That came straight from a guy who clams he's tasting her juice.” This is obviously too strong for the pre-Eastenders audience. Where do the boundaries of acceptability lie? Somewhere between the line about Tina's juice, and the one which follows about Michael “Hear the one about Michael, some say he must be gay/I try to argue, but they said if he was straight he wouldn't move that way.”

The problem is not so much the line as the lead singer's limp-wrist gesture which accompanies it, and the cut to a right-profile shot to really emphasise the motion.

Leaving aside the vast differences in social attitudes between the Then and the Now, on the words “he wouldn't move that way,” check out the Mike Marshall's hat-clutching motion. It's very familiar. Is Michael, Michael Jackson? If so, who does that make the censored Tina, and Susan?

 Steve Wright. “Yo!! My man!! Hello!! We are your hosts!! I'm Steve Wright!! This is Peter Powell!!” Peter Powell. “Thank you for remembering my name! Caught live in concert in Montreux! Eurythmics, Thorn In My Side!”

[10] Eurythmics: Thorn In My Side. Footage from the Montreux Rock Festival

[17] Michael McDonald: Sweet Freedom. “This is a rare treat for me,” raves Steve Wright as he introduces Michael McDonald. If you say so Steve. Personally, I'd say the song is bland radio wallpaper and not nearly as lush as Michael McDonald's luxurious crash helmet of hair.

Top 40 Charts.

[24] Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark: (Forever) Live And Die. If Steve Wright can wax lyrical about a song, then so can Peter Powell. “I love to see them [OMD] on the show because they always write great songs!” If I have to choose between being on Team Steve or Team Peter, then I'll choose Team Peter. Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark appear on a very nasty stage with an understandably eighties design. It's very fussy. The floor is white with black triangles, and the walls are white with patterns that look like multicoloured spots from a distance, but in close-up are very stylised prints somewhere between a flower in a pot and a crude representation of Fido Dido's head (if you remember Fido Dido). At the top of the set and hanging from the ceiling are more white panels covered in scribbles and line drawings of faces.

This is the second appearance of this stage tonight. It was also used by Timex The Social Club. For anyone keeping track, other than me, Michael McDonald appears on the Beelzebub stage.

Top 40 Breakers: [22] Genesis, In Too Deep; [21] Huey Lewis & The News, Stuck With You.

[6] Cameo: Word Up. Never before have low level camera angles seemed so threatening. Several members of the front row have slightly stunned smiles on their faces. There are only two things wrong with this performance, and both are missteps on the part of Top of the Pops. One, Larry Blackmon (he of the codpiece) starts the performance facing away from the camera. Vision Mixer Kathryn Randell uses the introduction to capture various shots of the band and cuts back to Larry right as he starts singing the first line of the song. The problem is, in doing so she misses out the crucial reveal when he turns round. It's still startling see him revealed in his full glory in media res but I can't help feeling that it could have been, how can I put this, even more startling.

Two, they fade the song out with over a minute to go. Even the band seem slightly surprised when it ends early. Granted, the remaining lyrics are (according to azlyrics.com). “Hey, hey, hey, yeah/Hey, hey, no, no, no, no, no, no, no/Yeah, oooh, oooh, oooh, who/Tell me like that, like that/Say it like that, now, now, yeah/That's the word, everybody's got to know the word/Like that, come on/Ow, take me real low). But that's not the point. I will quite happily watch Cameo dance for the next 60 seconds. Boo! Top of the Pops. Boo!
Top 10 Charts.

[1] The Communards: Don’t Leave Me This Way. In which The Communards are upstaged by Cameo. It's another barnstorming performance from The Communards but even Snakehips Somerville, a brass section, and a gag where Jimmy Somerville and Sarah Jane Morris mime each others vocals just seem like a post-Cameo warm bath. Although the miming switch probably made Michael Hurll furious up in the control gallery. They're making fun of the format! It's notable that when the mucking about starts, the picture suddenly changes to a wide shot of the stage, which zooms out further and holds until the production team are sure that everyone's returned to singing along properly. I'll bet they didn't do that in rehearsal.
[13] Five Star: Rain Or Shine.
Janice Long next week. What's the background to the closing credits? It's an electronically generated shade of blue but here's the important bit, it's a lighter shade than has been used previously.

Performance of the Week: Dial L for Love. It's Cameo, Word Up.

Performance of the Week if you're Steve Wright: Michael McDonald, Sweet Freedom




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