Top of the Pops- 9 and 16 July 1987


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby.

9 July : Gary Davies: “It's Thursday night. It's live. We're very hot. Welcome to Top of the Pops. Actually, tonight's show rather like an ABC of pop music, we've got A-ha, we've got Black, we've got the Christians, and we start with Shakin' Stevens”.

[26] Shakin' Stevens. A Little Boogie Woogie. Simon Bates reign of terror is over. I've never been so pleased to see Gary Davies. Even if he does look a little sweaty. Evidentially the place to be on the evening of 9th July 1987 was not studio TC3 at Television Centre. If Gary looks a little sweaty, it's nothing compared to the friends Shakin' Stevens has brought along. Four half-naked and lightly oiled male dancers who leap, point, strut and caper energetically. It's certainly a memorable image. I wonder if the original intent was for Shakey to appear with female dancers and someone pointed out this was a little obvious, and then suggested the reverse. Regardless, showcasing my endless ability to be distracted by trivia I've just spent 10 minutes or so trying to work out what sort of trousers the dancers are wearing. They kind of look like the calf-length, skintight trousers that American football players wear.  Shakin' Stevens lets his dancers do most of the hard work. His knees aren't what they used to be (John- More like Rattlin’ Stevens then?). His main dance move is an air lasso motion. The song itself is king earworm. I went to bed with it rattling around in my skull and woke up with it doing the same. Listen to it at your peril.


[5] A-ha: The Living Daylights. On video. For anyone wondering. The correct order of James Bonds is Roger Moore> Pierce Brosnan> Timothy Dalton > Miscellaneous

Top 40 Charts.

[12] Black: Sweetest Smile. “It's Top of the Pops, we're live, and he's singing live,” says Gary Davies introducing Black. He describes the song as, “one of the most beautiful records around,” and who am I to disagree. The double-bass player has ostentatious hair.

Top 40 Breakers: [22] Genesis, Throwing It All Away; [21] Jackie Wilson, Higher And Higher; [16] Mel And Kim, FLM; [15] Heart, Alone.
This week the Top 40 Breakers take up nearly two minutes of the show. Presumably it's a safety valve to pad out or trim the live show as necessary and keep it to time. I'm fascinated by the way the presentation of the Breakers keeps changing. I've always assumed its because Brian Whitehouse's preferred method is to have the hosts introduce all the songs at the start of the Breakers, while Michael Hurll likes to have each song introduced at the start of each clip; and the reason the presentation keeps switching between the two is because Brian Whitehouse keeps changing it and Hurll notices and tells Whitehouse to put it back.

However, a thought occurs. On a badly behind schedule live show you might need to drop a clip completely, so the hosts can't introduce all the songs before the Breakers begin in case they end up mentioning a song which doesn't appear. Whereas on a pre-recorded show you can tidy up the clips and edit as necessary. Is it possible the different format depends on whether the show is live or not? I've gone back to the last live show (11/06/1987) and sure enough the presentation is like the one here tonight, with each clip introduced as it starts. While on last week's show, which was pre-recorded, Simon Bates named all the clips before the Breakers began. Mystery solved!

[27] The Christians: Hooverville (And They Promised...)”. “It's like a Liverpool invasion of Top of the Pops tonight,” announces Gary Davies. Oh no, have the Everton team turned up to sing one of those “we're the best at scoring goals” songs? No it turns out Black and the Christians are both Mersey adjacent. I don't think two groups counts as an invasion Gary, although there are a lot of people standing on The Christians' stage. The Top of the Pops caption truncates the song from it's full official title Hooverville (They Promised Us The World). Weirdly there seems to be enough space on the caption for the remaining characters so maybe there's some other technical reason for cutting it short.

Top 10 Charts.
[1] Pet Shop Boys: It's A Sin.
A repeat performance from 02/07/1987.

[4] Terence Trent D'Arby: Wishing Well. “Peter Powell and...” oh no, “Simon Bates next week.” So soon?

The Roxy Playlist (07/07/1987):
Bananarama , Heard A Rumour; Hue & Cry, Labour Of Love; Terence Trent D'Arby, Wishing Well; Pet Shop Boys, It's A Sin.

Performance of the week: Shakin' Stevens, A Little Boogie Woogie.

 16 July: Simon Bates: “Welcome to Top of the Pops. Lots of great music, great hits, as we work our way to the Number One tonight.”

Peter Powell: “And for openers one of the brightest singles around at the moment! This is Bananarama on the chart! And I Heard! A rumour! Here they are!!!”

[28] Bananarama: I Heard A Rumour. Like Shakey, Bananarama have brought along some friends. Unlike Shakey, there's only three scantily clad and oiled men this week, and they're wearing even less than the blokes last week; boots, socks, lyrca shots, sunglasses, Boy baseball caps, and that's your lot. Top of the Pops has featured plenty of sexy dancing women in the past, I'm guessing this is an attempt by Bananarama to balance the scales. These guys don't do a lot and (what's the best way to phrase this?) they don't seem especially sexy. They are just there. Maybe the point is that they're just marginally more mobile scenery, like some of the previously featured female dancers. The blokes' big moment comes during the instrumental when they walk to the front of the stage and kneel down facing Banarama and assume arms-flung-wide poses of adoration. They all did the same thing on The Roxy last week. Which highlights a new problem for Top of the Pops, The Roxy has been pretty astute at guessing who will be appearing on Top of the Pops and getting them first. Banarama, and Hue and Cry both appeared on The Roxy last week, it's making Top of the Pops look old hat.

There's an odd crowd control moment right at the start of Banarama's performance. To introduce the programme Powell and Bates are surrounded by the usual gang of exited young people, and as the camera swoops off to capture a wide shot of the studio you can clearly see the crowd troop down the stairs and rejoin the audience. I don't understand why Floor Manager Hilary Bevan-Jones and Producer & Director Brian Whitehouse don't leave them there for the duration of the song? Having them leave looks messy. Worse, it looks like the audience are walking off before Banarama have even started singing. Peter Powell's link is fast and garbled even by his standards. Maybe this was take four, and everyone just wanted to plough on through and get the show underway.
[2] Bruce Willis: Under The Boardwalk. On video.
[34] Hue and Cry: Labour Of Love. It turns out I've been wrongly remembering this as a Johnny Hates Jazz song. [34] is the lowest Top of the Pops has dipped down the charts since 08/01/1987; Swing Out Sister with Surrender. A desolated David Bowie leaves White City.
Top 40 Charts.

[25] Kenny G: Songbird. This is serious music. All the flashing lights in the studio have been turned off. Never before has Top of the Pops so much resembled Jazz Club from The Fast Show, and Peter Powell in his stripy shirt has a passable similarity to the host. “Playing live! Soprano sax!” Nice. Worst bit. The finish, when the rest of the band have stopped playing and just stare into space while Kenny G noodles away to infinity.

[7] Mel and Kim: F. L. M. On video. There's a fantastic grotty London shot as the detective character walks alongside a building site where the boundary wall has been plastered with Mel & Kim posters. It's Camden. If you pause and look in the middle of the picture you can see the TVAM building. The building site is a Sainsbury's now and the detective must be walking along Camden Road, with the TVAM building visible at the junction of Kentish Town Road and Hawley Crescent.
Top 40 Breakers: [32] Los Lobos, La Bamba; [27] The Cure, Catch; [14] Boogie Box High, Jive Talkin'.
Remember all that stuff I said up the page about the Breakers presentation being down to whether the show was live or pre-recorded, well it was all rubbish. Ignore it. This show isn't live but the hosts still yak across the start of each clip.
[23] Freddie McGregor: Just Don't Want To Be Lonely. Apparently the UK charts allow one reggae song to chart each year. 1986, was Boris Gardiner's I Want To Wake Up With You. Aswad stand waiting in the wings and pointing at their watch.

Top 10 Charts.
[1] Pet Shop Boys: It's A Sin.
A repeat of the 25/06/1987 performance. Which raises two questions. One, why didn't Top of the Pops use this for the repeat on the 09/07/1987 edition? It seems odd to use the 02/07/1987 performance twice in a row. Given the way the BBC worked, it must have been easier/cheaper to use the recording of the previous week's show when preparing the 09/07/1987 programme, and the production team must have assumed the week gap was long enough for most of the audience to not notice.

Two, why not use the video? Watched now it doesn't seem massively controversial. There's some low-level religious imagery; a short glimpse of a crucifix, monks in habits, communion wafers, but nothing to frighten the horses. Derek Jarman directed the video, was he just too controversial at the time? In late 1985, Channel 4 broadcast Derek Jarman's film Sebastiane. Two week's later Winston Churchill MP* introduced a private member's bill to regulate television and radio and bring them under the control of the Obscene Publications Act 1959. The bill was defeated in 1986. 1987 was also the run up to the introduction of Clause 28, outlawing the promotion of homosexuality by local authorities. The Conservatives had just won an election with a campaign including posters criticising Labour's support for LGBT education in schools. And, in May 1987 The Sun ran an article “Fly away gays – and we will pay!” offering one way tickets out of the country to gay people protesting homophobia. Against all this backdrop, was a Derek Jarman video just seen as too much of a political hot potato? Alternatively the video may not have been ready in time.

[3] Madonna: Who's That Girl. On video. Janice Long and Simon Mayo next week.

The Roxy Playlist (14/07/1987): Boy George, Sold; Cliff Richard, My Pretty One; Swing Out Sister, Fooled By A Smile; Kenny G, Songbird.

Performance of the week: Bananrama, I Heard A Rumour

BBC4 note: This edition was briefly skipped over in BBC4 repeat run back in March 2019, with the 23/07/1987 broadcast in its place. This was due to “technical issues” which were resolved and the episode was shown a day late on March 29th.

*Not the famous one. It's his grandson, most famous for shamelessly profiteering from his grandfather's legacy by flogging a collection of papers for £12.5 million. He's dead, so I can safely give him the traditional two fingers of scorn.


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