Top of the Pops 17 Sep 1987


Words: Chris Arnsby. Gary Davies: “Hi, good evening. Welcome to Top of the Pops. We have six acts live in the studio including Cliff Richard, Karel Fialka, Rick Astley.” Mike Smith: “On video tonight we've got Luther Vandross and right over here we've got a deaf leopard. Look.”

 [31] DEF LEPPARD: pour some sugar on me. Hope you like Gary Davies and Mike Smith. They're presenting the next four shows. Gary Davies is here for the next month to cover the launch of Top of the Pops USA, or Top of the Pops as the Americans obtusely insisted on calling it. Top of the Pops USA (I'm calling it that for clarity, if not accuracy, OK) launches next week (1987 time) on 25/09/1987 and Gary Davies will be providing the links for acts performing from London. Mia Peebles (no relation to Andy, or the town) will be hosting from Los Angeles (probably, I haven't actually looked up where Top of the Pops USA was made. It's bound to be Los Angeles, that's where all US Telly comes from). As mumu03 pointed out in the comments to the 06/08/1987 write up, Top of the Pops USA also accounts for a lot of Michael Hurll's absences recently -he's busy setting up the new programme.

I'm not sure why Mike Smith is here. That sounds ruder than I meant. I don't mean it in a sneery way, I just don't understand why he's rostered alongside Gary Davies for the next month. He's not involved with the American show. Maybe it's a contractual obligation. He did take a lot of time off from hosting over the summer; 3 months between the end of May and the beginning of September. Or, as mumu03 suggests -again in the 06/08/1987 comments- maybe this is yet another reaction to The Roxy a programme which only ever had two hosts; David Jensen and Kevin Sharkey. If the BBC know Gary Davies is going to be around for an extended period then why not try pairing him with a regular sparring partner and see if it does anything for the audience response.

 One last thing. Top of the Pops normally starts with the hosts standing in front of the neon logo. Tonight, they stand with their backs to the audience, so you can see them, the crowd, the band and the studio in the same shot. Can you guess what ITV pop show this makes Top of the Pops resemble?

I quite liked Def Leppard's last song, Animal. This one isn't as good.
[24] LUTHER VANDROSS: stop to love. On video.
[12] HOUSE MASTER BOYZ: house nation.
Stanley Appel is sitting in the Producer and Director's chair tonight for the first time since May. He's a busy boy because his new series of Blankety Blank starts tomorrow (1987) and, what's this he's producing in two week's time? Happy Birthday Russ, “The Variety Club of Great Britain celebrates Russ Abbot 's 40th birthday with a luncheon at the Grosvenor House Hotel, London.” A televised lunch sounds nice and easy. And, to be fair, Stanley Appel deserves an easy gig because House Master Boys, sorry, Boyz present Stanley with a problem which will become more acute over the next few years. How do you make visually interesting a group who almost have being not telegenic as their job description?

Previous efforts with people like Harold Faltermeyer and Paul Hardcastle (sorry Paul) have involved cutting to the video or packing the stage with other stuff -see the big bank of 4x4 monitors used behind Paul Hardcastle when he performed The Wizard on 16/10/1986.

Now, you might be surprised to hear I don't have much working knowledge of the late eighties Chicago House scene (John- You’re fooling nobody with that statement, MC Chrisindahouse) That said, House Nation doesn't strike me as something to listen to, it's something to dance to, and the single gives the impression it's been hewn out of something which could run for three minutes or thirty minutes depending on what sort of mood the crowd were in. So the success of the single depends on how well it's hewn out of the original track, and in this case the operation was not a success.
Stanley Appel has three minutes with a group who don't have a charismatic lead singer playing a track which is a bit boring and repetitive. What do you do? In this case, Vision Mixer Carol Abbott presses the button marked Strobe. The entire performance is presented in flickervision as if this makes it interesting in its own right. It doesn't. My only point of interest is noting the strobe effect is not applied at the start or end of the performance when captions are on screen; as if the technology isn't there yet to allow captions and a special effect at the same time.

Also, the House Master Boyz are truncated. The Official UK Top 40 credits them as House Master Boyz And The Rude Boy Of House. Which is plainly too long for a 4:3 television set.
Top 40 Charts. Now using the single version of The Wizard as backing music.

[6] CLIFF RICHARD: some people. Stanley Appel loves his shots of the host standing in front of the crowd standing in front of the performer. He's used one for the introduction of every song so far and Cliff's is the best looking. Geoff Beech has placed a single white spotlight behind Cliff Richard, so he casts Spielburgesque shadows while waiting to be announced.

[25] THE COMMUNARDS: red. Richard Coles sporting a very rock 'n' roll cardigan.
[20] KAREL FIALKA: hey matthew. Good staging. Karel is placed centre stage in a darkened studio, and flanked by three monitors which relay the camera output. During the... chorus? ..the bit with Matthew listing all the programmes he's watched, the picture cuts to the video. I'm not as fond of the song as I was in 1987. I thought it was profound at the time. These days it feels like a monologue from Karel Fialka asking a lot of obvious questions but not providing any ideas or insights. (John- By the end I think Matthew will be somewhat fed up with all these questions especially as he is Spiderman as the cover shows...)

It does show the way forward for Top of the Pops when it comes to songs from less conventional performers or bands. It's not just about fast camera moves and quick cutting; or pressing the strobe button. The programme comes alive when you fit the right presentation to the right song. The problem is this requires time and planning, and with Top of the Pops wedded to its recorded and presented as live format, time is the one thing the programme never has.
Top 10 Charts.

[1] RICK ASTLEY: never gonna give you up. Rick's back in the studio after a couple of weeks away.

[2] M|A|R|R|S: pump up the volume. On video. Gary Davies and Mike Smith next week.

The Roxy Playlist (15/09/1987): Studio performances; Curiosity Killed The Cat, Free; Johnny Hates Jazz, I Don't Want To Be A Hero; Cliff Richard, Some People; The Communards, Tomorrow; Def Leppard, Pour Some Sugar On Me. On video; Karel Fialka, Hey Matthew; Mick Jagger, Let's Work; Rick Astley, Never Gonna Give You Up; Shakin’ Stevens, Come See About Me. Plus, an interview with Mick Jagger.

 Performance of the week: Karel Fialka, Hey Matthew



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