Top of the Pops 18 Dec 1986 and 1 Jan 1987 DOUBLE BILL!


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. 18/12/86: Mike Smith: “Well, good evening and welcome to the last Top of the Pops before Christmas. A lot to fit in, a new number one tonight, in this very studio we've got A-ha performing and just over here, fresh in from Los Angeles, please welcome, with Big Fun, The Gap Band.”
[15] The Gap Band: Big Fun. A week before Christmas and no one's put up decorations in the studio, for shame. Mike Smith makes up for this lapse by wearing a ludicrous red Christmas jumper with tinseled tree on the front, embellished on the shoulders with added jingle bells and a snowman where a pirate's parrot would normally perch. Imagine the result of a Blue Peter Christmas jumper make and you'll be close.

I don't really have anything to say about The Gap Band. Check out the camera crane move at the end. It's a 40 second epic which starts up above one of the studio scenery bridges, pans down and under the bridge and alongside The Gap Band's stage, and then moves all the way back across the studio until finally Mike Smith comes into frame, Smitty then turns to face the camera which continues moving gently while Smith turns slightly on the spot to keep facing the lens as he introduces the next song.

[2] Jackie Wilson: Reet Petite. On video. “Could be the Christmas number one that,” says Smith. Considering the song has leapt from [40] to [2] in two weeks that's a pretty safe bet and a better guess than his suggestion of Land of Confusion two weeks ago.
[20] Dexys Midnight Runners: Because of You. Three and a half years since Dexys last appeared on Top of the Pops, The Celtic Soul Brothers 07/04/1983, that's more than enough time for me to forget that Dexys has no apostrophe. Dexys Midnight Runners are looking a little denuded. There's Kevin Rowland standing on a small podium, but where's everyone else? We finally get a glimpse of two of them when Vision Mixer Kathryn Randall fades to the video for the violin bit of the song. This happens twice, as if the production team are worried the viewers at home won't understand where the violin noise is coming from unless they can see it.
There's another lovely crane shot from Mike Smith, now standing on one of the previously mentioned studio bridges, across the studio to Kevin on his podium. Producer and Director Stanley Appel has obviously been given nicer kit and a bigger studio to play with, now that the rush to produce Christmas specials has ended and Television Centre is falling quiet for the season. Less lovely is the low angle shot up at Kevin Rowland which provides an un-paralled opportunity to look up his nose. (John- This song was used as the theme music for the tv series Brush Strokes)

Top 40 Charts.
[10] A-HA: Cry Wolf.
I always thought it was A-ha, but Graphic Designer Everol McKenzie  (who I'm assuming takes responsibility for the captions) makes them ALL CAPS.  Kathryn Randall gets to indulge her artistic side during the voiceover bit. She mixes a shot of Morten Harket over a wide shot of the band and the result is nicely ethereal.
Top 40 Breakers: [34] Paul McCartney, Only Love Remains; [30] Elkie Brooks, No More The Fool; [28] Eurythmics, The Miracle Of Love. Unusually there's no voiceover to introduce the clips.

[25] Status Quo: Dreamin'. On video.

Top 10 Charts.

[1] The Housemartins: Caravan of Love. Here's rotten luck. Their song gets to Number One and The Housemartins can't make it into the studio. Everyone has to make do with a repeat of their performance from last week's show. Why not use the video? Who knows. Maybe the BBC was worried all the larking about in a church would generate complaints the week before Christmas.

Unfortunately the caption from last week's show, listing the band at [3], is burned into the mastertape and the new Number One caption has to be overlaid on top. The limitations of 1986 technology can suddenly be seen. Evidentially the caption generator must put both the chart number and band name on screen, the template cannot be changed. So the new Housemartins caption has to be overlaid on the old one, giving an odd psudo-3D effect where the two don't quite line up, and the edge of the old [3] caption can be seen just poking out from under the No 1 label.

[8] The Communards: So Cold The Night. Time to plug the Christmas Special next Thursday. Hosted by Simon Bates, Janice Long, Peter Powell, and Gary Davies. What's Gary done to deserve last place billing in an otherwise alphabetical list? Check out the woman standing behind Mike Smith as he rabbits on, she's not impressed and is giving him the occasional deadly side-eye; she definitely came here hoping tonight's edition would be hosted by Gary Davies.
The Communards close Top of the Pops, on video, and the background to the closing credits is still a freeze frame from the titles, but it's reverted to the one used from 09/10/1986 to 04/12/1986; so last week's was a one off!
Performance of the Week:  A-HA, Cry Wolf.


01/01/1987: Gary Davies: “Hi we're live! Happy New Year and welcome to the very first Top of the Pops of 1987. We release you might be feeling a little bit under the weather so we're going to be very gentle with you tonight. In fact a really nice soothing song to get us underway. Here is Status Quo. 

[15] Status Quo: Dreamin'. I release Gary Davies is doing a funny joke but there are worse bands than Status Quo to listen to with a New Year hangover. With any luck you could synchronise your pounding headache to the repetitive beats of Dreamin' and it might ease you through the song before the hair of the dog kicked in and you felt fortified enough to brave the rest of the programme.
New Year's Day was also a Top of the Pops day in 1964; the very first edition, on a Wednesday. 1970; the first song of the decade, Two Little Boys, the sixties are over kids. 1976; first song, Do The Buster by the Bo Flyers. No I've never heard of it either. And 1981. The pattern was for the show to be a standard edition, probably because New Year's Day didn't become a Bank Holiday until 1974, and it was only 1981 which did things differently with Tommy Vance and D*v* L** Tr*v*s presenting an easy prerecorded lookback at the songs of 1980.

Going live on the first day of the year is more ambitious. It's hard not to look at this edition as being the first line of defence against criticism of an uninspiring evening's telly. “Yes we had a repeat of The Russ Abbot Show from May last year. Yes we had a repeat of Only Fools And Horses, To Hull And Back, but we also had a live Top of the Pops and Eastenders.”

[5] A-Ha: Cry Wolf. On video.

[8] Alison Moyet: Is This Love? Controversy! Top of the Pops is playing a song which remained static in the charts. Presumably not many people wanted to go on Top of the Pops on New Year's Day. Also, the Christmas chart had stagnated a lot. You would be fishing from a limited pool if you wanted to play by the rules and only play songs climbing the chart. Plus, a lot of climbers are singles that were heading out of the charts and have rallied as people buy presents for that weird uncle you only see once a year, and no one needs to see Nick Kamen back in the studio that badly. Watch out for the traditional seasonal greeting from the camera crew; it's stuck under one of the studio bridges and reads Happy New Year From Crew 7.

Top 40 Charts. “There's only one way to describe this week's Top Forty, and that is weird. Everything that was going up has either stayed the same or gone down and everything that was going down has gone back up. Have a look” Says Gary Davies, nicely confirming what I wrote just a few lines ago.

[18] Elkie Brooks: No More The Fool. “We must say congratulations and Happy New Year to this next person. She just gave birth to a baby boy called Joseph on Tuesday.” She's not come into the studio has she? No. Elkie Brooks is sensibly on video.

[31] Gary Moore: Over The Hills And Far Away. Alison Moyet, Elkie Brooks, and Gary Moore are all stationary in the charts. Making this the most inert edition of Top of the Pops ever. There's a moment at the start of the song when Gary Moore's head is vignetted over a wide shot of the stage. It's a very seventies video effect by Vision Mixer Priscilla Hoadley. It's unfortunately also the most interesting part of the performance, unless you count the moment when Gary Moore gets the band to gee up the audience with some overhead clapping. Gary has forgotten about the violinist. He joins in gamely but is understandably more concerned about knackering his instrument.

[22] Spitting Image: Santa Claus Is On The Dole. On video. It's no Chicken Song*

Top 10 Charts. Non-movers at 10, 9, 8, 6, 4, 3, 2, and 1.

[1] Jackie Wilson: Reet Petite. On video.

[4] Madonna: Open Your Heart. On video. Gary Davies hosts next week, again. The big question is, what will Top of the Pops use as the background to the closing credits. It's the regualar freeze frame from the opening titles. All's right with the world.

Performance of the Week: Alison Moyet: Is This Love?

*I really like The Chicken Song.


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