Top of the Pops DOUBLE BILL! 4 and 11 December 1986


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. 04/12/86 - Mike Smith: “Good evening. Another extravaganza coming up for you. I'm wearing denim tonight, by the way, because we're featuring Bruce Springsteen in concert tonight amongst many other things on the show including a new number one, and over here a climber at number 14. Well it's not a climber, actually.. it's The Communards and... So Cold The Night.”

[14] The Communards: So Cold The Night. Inflation affects The Communards. According to Wikipedia they are “ a British synth-pop duo,” so why are Richard Coles and Jimmy Somerville on stage with eight other people? And, if Sarah Jane Morris isn't formally part of the group (which she should be given her importance to Don't Leave Me This Way), why has she been asked back and then not given anything to do? So many questions. Actually it's not fair to say Sarah Jane Morris hasn't been given anything to do. She's been handed some sort of rattle to play when she's not co-harmonising with Jimmy Somerville. It's not much but it's something.


[12] Oran 'Juice' Jones. On video. This episode wasn't shown on BBC4 because of the unresolved contract dispute with Mike Smith. If it had, this video might have been clipped because it takes a deeply creepy turn when Mr Juice confronts the partner who's been “walking in the rain” and holding hands with another man. Which bit's the most objectionable? The implication the woman is his property? The way he makes her sit down silently while he stands and berates her? The moment when he says, “my first impulse was to run up on you and do a Rambo/ Whip out the Jammy and flat blast both of you,” while making a finger gun gesture? Truly the past is another country. (John- The real question is why he thought being called Oran was enough for the `Juice` nickname. I mean we don’t drink Oran Juice do we?)

[3] Erasure: Sometimes. Fortunately Erasure are here to lighten the mood. Andy Bell dances under the thunderous gaze of Vince Clarke. Apparently nothing puts him in a good mood, not even getting their song to number three.

Top 10 Charts. With the theme tune to Brush Strokes at [39].

[20] Genesis: Land of Confusion. On video. Mike Smith tips it as a potential Christmas Number 1 which never seemed likely at the time; although the Spitting Image video is striking.

Top 40 Breakers: [26] Jaki Graham, Step Right Up; [23] The Housemartins, Caravan of Love; [21] George Benson, Shiver.

[15] Gregory Abbott, Shake You Down. Admire the smooth way Gregory Abbott pulls off his shades and tosses them to one side. I hope they weren't expensive because they've gone right on the floor. I don't remember the song or the singer, but I do remember the “oo-ay-oo-ay” which Gregory uses during the chorus. How do you shake someone down romantically?

Top 10 Charts. Mike Smith mentions the forthcoming video from Bruce Springsteen for a second time, he's more excited about it than I am. Bon Jovi, at [4] get approving whoops from the studio cheerleaders.

[1] Europe: The Final Countdown. On video. Considering the keyboard player is responsible for 75% of the success of this song, how come he doesn't get any close ups during the video?

[18] Bruce Springsteen: War. Janice Long and Steve Wright host next week. “Will there be anything left of the programme after it?” wonders Mike Smith.

Performance of the Week: The Communards, So Cold The Night


11/12/86 - Janice Long: “Hello. Welcome to Top of the Pops.” Steve Wright: “That's the name of the show!! We've got a good show for you tonight!! Starting with Jaki Graham and Step Right Up!!”

[21] Jaki Graham: Step Right Up. I'm writing this a week after Janice Long's death on 25th December. It's been odd reading articles describing Janice Long as a trailblazer because I'd never thought of her career like that, from my perspective as an unobservant teenage oik she was just the new Top of the Pops host. I'd never considered her life from the perspective of the behind the scenes television and radio industry. It just seemed perfectly normal to have her as a presenter. It helped of course that she was one of the more likable hosts, her double-act with John Peel was always well regarded, but more than that across the course of the repeats she's developed as a presenter and made a well deserved move to become one of the senior hosts; someone who could be trusted to present a live edition solo; or hold the hand of a less experienced DJ; or just play well with some of the other less likeable or potentially more diva-ish hosts.

Speaking of which, Steve Wright tests Janice's patience right from the beginning. He very boorishly drones “yeeeeah!!” over the start of her introduction, as if he's determined to get the first word of the show. His open-mouthed belch of an expression while he makes this valuable contribution is objectionable as is the hand draped over Janice's shoulder; which looks like a Simon Bates style power play. Hey, the liddle lady may be standing slightly in front of me for the purposes of camera blocking but my hand on her shoulder makes it clear who wears the trousers in this professional relationship!! Oh God. This is the post-Christmas hangover made flesh. Jaki Graham hasn't even started singing and I'm 100 words into another I-hate-Steve-Wright rant.

One last thing. There's a very fast fade out of the introduction which doesn't quite hide how quickly Janice begins to turn and move out of Steve Wright's grasp. Janice's bonk with the microphone on Steve Wright's head might be matey banter, but the quick exit suggests someone doing their best to cope with a trying colleague.

[3] The Housemartins: Caravan of Love. Fortunately, Janice goes solo for the next link. “If this isn't number one at Christmas a huge black cloud will appear over Hull, and over my house, too.” She has a better stab at predicting the Christmas Number 1 than Mike Smith did last week, but there's a wildcard rising up the charts...

Producer and Director Stanley Appel starts with a long slow tracking shot from a handheld camera operator. Handheld cameras are not new on Top of the Pops, but previously they've been used to capture individual static shots of performers. This type of moving wobbly shot is very normal now, but it's the first time I remember seeing one on Top of the Pops.

I wonder if Stanley Appel is reaching into his bag of tricks because he's worried this could be a difficult song to present visually? (repressed memories briefly surface of The Flying Pickets spoiling Only You). If so he's not alone, The Housemartins also clown around with their microphone stands and have worked out some simple but effective choreography; especially the single file slow march off stage at the end. No one needed to worry. It's a charming and effective performance and the audience are clearly on side from the beginning.

Top 10 Charts. Uh-oh, Steve's tracked down Janice. Fortunately she's more familiar with the layout of the Top of the Pops studio, so for this link she's chosen an upper stair and looms over Steve Wright.

[24] Alison Moyet: Is this Love? Is it really necessary to cut to the keyboard player for every single one of the keyboard riffs in the chorus?  Vision Mixer Kathryn Randall thinks the answer is, yes.

Top 40 Breakers: [27] Cameo, Candy; [25] Dexys Midnight Runners, Because of You; [16] A-Ha, Cry Wolf; [14] Jackie Wilson, Reet Petite.

[19] George Benson: Shiver. George Benson is “live in the studio,” which may explain the odd audio leak which occurs right at the start of his song when a mystery voice faintly declares, “no idea what it is.” The mystery voice must belong to a member of the production team, and may be releated to the odd choice of camera shots also at the start of the song. We pan from Steve Wright (ugh), under one of the studio scenery bridges, and then fade to a close up of the band which pans across the stage, and after 20 seconds we still haven't seen George Benson. He's audible, giving his best “do-do-doo-do”s, but it takes ages before there's a cut to a picture showing George, and even then he's off centre as if the camera is still moving into position. It's as if something was stopping a camera reaching the correct position and Kathryn Randall is having to improvise from the shots available.

Top 10 Charts.

[1] Europe: The Final Countdown. A repeat of their studio appearance from 20/11/1986 edition.

[8] Madonna: Open Your Heart. What's this? At the end of the show Janice and Steve are joined by a third. It's Paul McCartney, who joins in the fun by grabbing Janice's microphone and reading her script. What's he doing at the BBC? Who knows. He's Paul McCartney, he goes where he wants. He may have been at the BBC to record some material for the forthcoming twentieth anniversary of Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club, or he was contributing to the revised repeat of McCartney, BBC2 Tuesday 30 December. Mike Smith hosts next week, and the background to the closing credits is a freeze frame from the title sequence but... what's this? It's a different freeze frame.

Performance of the Week: The Housemartins, Caravan of Love.

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