Top of the Pops- 5th and 11th June 1987


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. 05/06/1987 Gary Davies: “Hi. Good evening. Welcome to Top of the Pops, or as it's known tonight, the warm up show for Dynasty. In the studio we have Pepsi and Shirlie, we've got Wet Wet Wet, but we start with Erasure, at number seven, Victim Of Love.”

 [7] Erasure: Victim Of Love. The warm up show for Dynasty? The 1987 general election has shifted Top of the Pops out of it's normal orbit and on to Friday. Sorry Every Second Counts fans, no Paul Daniels for you this week. What displaced Top of the Pops from it's Thursday home? Something called On The Spot. “Viewers throughout the nation put their questions to the Chairman of the Conservative Party, The Rt Hon Norman Tebbit.”

This was the third of three programmes which ran this week. On Tuesday 2nd viewers could put their questions to the Leader of the SDP, David Owen, and the Leader of the Liberal party, David Steel, who lived in David Owen's pocket. Wednesday was given to the Labour party leader, Neil Kinnock. Thursday, as we've discovered was given to the Leader of the Conservative party Margar -hang on. Looks like Maggie didn't want to play ball. She obviously wanted to avoid being asked more questions about which way the General Belgrano was travelling. Erasure's views on the General Belgrano are not known.


[13] U2: I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For. On video.
Top 40 Charts.
[10] Pepsi & Shirlie: Goodbye Stranger.
It turns out they had a second song. Gary's verdict, “they really move well, don't they?” Better than you, Gary

Top 40 Breakers: [24] Jody Watley, Looking For A New Love; [23] Suzanne Vega: Luka; [22] John Farnham, You're The Voice; [16] Beastie Boys, No Sleep Till Brooklyn.
[6] Wet Wet Wet: Wishing I Was Lucky. At the start of the song the camera does a long, slow zoom across the studio. It gives the viewer at home a chance to enjoy Marti Pellow's moves which are... jaunty? He claps, he swaggers, he bounces, he smiles (obviously). Fair play, if I had a song in the Top Ten I'd be pretty happy as well.
Top 10 Charts.
[1] Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody.
On video.
[18] Samantha Fox: Nothing's Gonna Stop Me Now. On video. “Next week Top of the Pops is live on Thursday with Peter Powell and Simon Bates.” I can't wait.
Performance of the week:  Erasure: Victim Of Love.


11/06/1987: Peter Powell: “HI! And welcome to a very special live edition of Top of the Pops! We've got stacks of videos and live footage from Montreux as well!”

Simon Bates: “And a great way to start, which is really live because John Farnham is here, he is going to sing live, and he is You're The Voice, he's Australian number one.”


John Farnham: You're The Voice. It's immediately obvious that something odd is going on because Simon Bates and Peter Powell are standing in front of a scenery flat dressed to resemble the Top of the Pops logo, the flat itself is in a black void.

It's the day of the 1987 General Election and Top of the Pops' usual studio has been cleared to allow David Dimbleby, Peter Snow, and Robin Yad to bring us live coverage of the night. Although personally, I was watching Jasper Carott's election night Carrott Confidential on BBC2. The disruption caused by the election will have been known about weeks in advance so quite why this live edition has to go ahead is anyone's guess. Presumably the BBC is such a hideous bureaucracy that once a live edition of Top of the Pops has been placed on the schedule it can't be changed by any event short of the second coming of Lord Reith.

The audio is terrible at first. Simon Bates and Peter Powell do their introductions over Chris Rea's song Let's Dance, and as the percussive introduction to You're The Voice is mixed in it drowns out Simon Bates. Normally this wouldn't be bad, but the clash between the two songs sounds awful. It's presumably a problem of the temporary studio where they've set up John Farnham and band -which is the Wogan set at BBC Television Theatre (it's the Shepherd's Bush Empire these days). Check out these two pictures for proof. Wogan was, according to the minimal research I've done, broadcast live Monday, Wednesday, and Friday each week; so it has the technical requirements for a live Top of the Pops.

Right, now that's settled. Where are Simon Bates and Peter Powell standing? As you can see from the wide shot there are two Top of the Pops logos covering key bits of the Wogan scenery. The pair are not standing in front of either of them or they'd be visible at the start of John Farnham's performance. Is it possible they're somewhere else entirely? In front of a Top of the Pops logo hastily erected in the Pres B studio at TV Centre -where they'd normally record Whistle Test?

The BBC Television Theatre does an adequate job of standing in for studio TC8 but the limitations of the Wogan set only allow a single flat wall of scenery to be erected. Director Brian Whitehouse clearly has fewer cameras to play with than usual, and they're in much more fixed positions but he manages a moment of flair when the bagpiper comes in (no, really) and Lighting Director Fred White suddenly dims all the flashing lights and covers the stage in nice moonlight grey tones.

There's no audience, and yet John Farnham's performance ends with a round of cheers and applause. The audience must be sitting in the TV Theatre seats, like Crackerjack.

[17] Bruce Willis: Under The Boardwalk. On video.

[14] The Beastie Boys: No Sleep Till Brooklyn. A rare technical flub when Simon Bates back announces Under The Boardwalk and the caption for Bruce Willis and the caption for The Beastie Boys, both flash briefly on screen. “Eight minutes into Top of the Pops and no mention of the General Election,” ad libs Bates. The Beastie Boys appear on footage recorded in Montreux under the watchful gaze of Michael Hurll.

Top 40 Charts: My theory that Bates and Powell are conducting their hosting duties remotely is thrown into chaos because at the end of the Beastie Boys clip they are both standing on the left-hand side of the TV Theatre stage. Behind the pair you can see the stage scenery and the keyboard from John Farnham's band.

Where the Top of the Pops logo was previously is now the charts logo. It's a slide being projected on to the screen which normally sits at the left-hand side of the main Top of the Pops stage. I'd like to have seen some disgruntled stagehands dragging that down Wood Lane. It must weigh a ton.

Chartwatch, what's this at [13]? Star Trekkin by The Firm.

[16] Run DMC: It's Tricky. “Back to Montreux,” for more of Michael Hurll's holiday snaps. Peter Powell announces the song by really aspirating the H-sounds in hip-hop, and following this up by rendering the title as, “It's Trickeeeeee-yah!

Powell is standing in front of the Top of the Pops logo used at the start of the programme. He's by himself, has he left Simon Bates in the TV Theatre and jogged back up Wood Lane to the other studio? This is going to require some research.

Top 40 Breakers: Right, after run DMC Powell and Bates are back in front of the projector unit (which is now showing the Top 40 Breakers caption, obviously). It's half a mile from TV Centre to the TV Theatre, so Powell obviously isn't jogging back and forth (and it seems unlikely he's being given a backie on Brian Whitehouse's moped).

Awkward banter time: “You'd look stupid doing that!” is Powell's comment to Bates, regarding Run DMC. “You're absolutely right,” jabs Bates back, “we would look stupid doing that.”

[23] Tom Jones, It's Not Unusual. A clip of Tom Jones performing It's Not Unusual. Nothing odd (or unusual, ho-ho) about that, you might think, but he's performing it on one of the Top of the Pops stages. Where he hasn't sung It's Not Unusual yet!  This episode is like the Zapruder footage. Conspiracies within lies. Clearly Tom, if that is his real name, knocked off two performances when he popped into Television Centre to record A Boy From Nowhere (14/05/1987). He's cunningly singing on a different stage, and changed his clothes, but he's wearing the same shoes in both performances. Nice try “Tom” but you need to get up pretty early to outsmart me. [22] Whitesnake, Is This Love; [21] ABC, When Smokey Sings.
[2] Johnny Logan: Hold Me Now. On video. There's not going to be another live performance is there? What an odd edition. I could have believed the back-to-back Montreux footage was there to give time for a change of band in the studio, but no. It's just John Farnham.

It's odd to see the programme so lacking in ambition. For comparison check out the live Top of the Pops from 22/07/1982 where the same stage was used by The Belle Stars, then The Brat (a terrible novelty Wimbledon song. Ha-ha-ha. It's called The Umpire Strikes Back!), and then Junior, with only videos in between to give the studio crew time to clear away one band and set up for the next.

Simon Bates introduces Johnny Logan, “it's eighteen minutes past seven.” I'd forgotten his thing was telling people the time; to prove either that the programme is live or that he can tell the time. Bates is standing in front of the mocked-up logo (the one that isn't the projector screen). It's driving me nuts trying to work out what's going on. Bear with me on this -I have two theories.

Theory One. Only the hosts are live and John Farnham was pre-recorded. Everything else on this show is being run from tape so why not record this performance earlier in the day. This would mean the mocked-up logo Bates and Powell stand in front of is the one on the right-hand side of the stage. It accounts for them not being visible in the wide shot of the stage during John Farnham's performance, because they weren't there when it was recorded. It also accounts for an odd description on the Countdown Clock at the start of the tape, which describes the programme as “TOP OF THE POPS INSERTS A”. In other words the hosts are live inserts into another otherwise pre-recorded edition (or the hosts are inserts into pre-recorded items. I don't know BBC jargon). This theory doesn't account for Simon Bates pointing the wrong way when he introduces John Farnham. If they were standing at stage-right he should point left past Peter Powell but he points right -out towards where the “audience” are sitting.

Theory Two. There's a third logo. If you're going to mock up one scenery version of the Top of the Pops logo it's just as easy to do two. This accounts for Bates and Powell not being seen in the Farnham live shots because they are standing in front of another logo, elsewhere in the TV Theatre. This is why the audio goes weird at the start of You're The Voice because the sound bleeds into Simon Bates and Peter Powell's microphones as the playback begins. This also accounts for Simon Bates pointing the “wrong” way when he introduces John Farnham. He's pointing at the band, who he can see.

Okay. I'll stop now.

Top 10 Charts. George Michael at [4] with a song apparently called I Want.... It's Relax all over again.

[1] Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody. On video.

Jody Watley: Looking For A New Love. “Vote if you can,” instructs Simon Bates after Whitney Houston finishes “Janice Long and Simon Mayo next week.” Bates is speaking quickly. Is Floor Manager Carmella Milne giving frantic wind-it-up signals? Peter Powell decides to parody this, “here's Jody Watley to playoutbyebye!” He gabbles. His voice rising to a speeded up squeak. Then Bates gives Powell a matey we-did-it hug, which suggests that regardless of it's lack of ambition this has been a challenging edition to make.

Performance of the week:
Well, that's the question isn't it? Normally I only allow studio performances in which case John Farnham wins by default but this is an election edition, so the Barnett protocols apply and I can use the other footage recorded by Michael Hurll. Run DMC: It's Tricky.





1 comment:

  1. This eagle-eyed comment on the now-defunct TV Forum seems to support "Theory Two":