Chris Arnsby. Gary
Davies: “Hi, good evening. I hope you're well. Welcome to another Top of the
Pops.” Mike Smith: “We've got a star-studded show tonight. Madonna, Mick
Jagger, Michael Jackson. All comin' up.
Gary Davies: “We start off with Johnny Hates Jazz. I Don't Wanna Be A Hero.” Mike Smith: “Right over there.”
 JOHNNY HATES JAZZ: i don't want to be a hero. A good song but not the one I'd chose to open this edition. I've always felt the opening song should be punchy and energetic. I Don't Want To Be A Hero is a little too laid back, despite lead singer Clark Datchler's literal air punching to the staccato beats in to the chorus. It's not my job to edit Top of the Pops. This week that job belongs to Brian Whitehouse who is back after a couple of weeks of musical chairs with his two other partners in the game; Stanley Appel and God-King-of-all-Light-Entertainment Michael Hurll.
 ABC: the night you murdered love. Here's one of the better candidates for opening song. Martin Fry and Mark White look sharp in their suits. The rest of the band have a strong yellow theme running through their accessories. The other blokes are dressed as scouts, for reasons which never become clear, with yellow scarves, and the two backing singers are wearing black dresses, sunglasses, and yellow headscarves with matching marigold washing up gloves. In the smokey purple confines of the studio it looks fantastic.
Carol Abbott pulls of a great moment. The two trumpet plays jump in the air
just before their big solo starts. They reach the top of their jump and as they
start to descend Carol Abbott cuts to a side angle that favours the pair. It
looks like they've almost popped out of thin air like the characters in Rentaghost.
causing a commotion.
“If you missed Madonna on her recent tour here's a chance to see her in action
again recorded live in Turin,” the young guy standing behind Gary Davies is
dead impressed. “Wow,” he mouths, followed by “fab.” The sound is a little
murky. Possibly recorded by Michael Hurll sitting in the third row and waving a
microphone around. Mike Smith's also not impressed. “Madonna. In concert. That
sounds slightly better when it's in key.”
HAMMER: crockett's theme. Let's
go back to 1985 when Jan Hammer appeared on 24/10/1985 edition. “The first
shots of [Jan Hammer] struggling to play the keyboard look like the punchline
to a Seinfeld bit about George Costanza lying about being a musician.”
That's what I wrote two years ago, and it was also my reaction this time. In
1985 Vision Mixer Priscilla Hoadley kept cutting away from Jan to footage from Miami
Vice. This time Brian Whitehouse makes good use of hand-held cameras to get
some big close-ups of Jan Hammer picking out Crockett's theme on his keyboard.
It requires nifty footwork for the operators to get in, grab their big
close-ups and then nip out while the shot changes.
In fact, in
some cases what's being seen on screen doesn't seem possible if this is just
one take. There's at least a couple of occasions where the camera cuts to an
angle which should show an operator scampering out of frame, but doesn't. I
wonder if we're looking at two takes edited together. A lot of the close-up
footage is framed so we never see the audience. Could that have been done
earlier, during camera rehearsals and then either cut in by Carol Abbott during
the main studio session, or edited in later?
Top 40 Breakers:  GARY NUMAN, cars;  L.L. COOL J, i need love;  MICHAEL JACKSON, bad. Oh. It's the Breakers. I remember the Breakers. They've not been seen since [counts on fingers] 20/08/1987. Why are they back? Here's a controversial theory. This show has been deliberately designed as an easy week for everyone. I've got a nagging suspicion either Johnny Hates Jazz or ABC is pre-recorded (most likely ABC because they're in the second song slot, traditionally reserved for videos). Rick Astley is a repeat. Madonna's on video. Dropping in the Breakers as a package eats up another four minutes of programme time while adding the illusion of variety. The obvious question is, why would you want to make this an easy week? Well, guess what launched on 25/09/1987? If you said The Roxy. No! Bad! It was Top of the Pops USA. J'accuse Michael Hurll! I think he's taken the decision to simplify the process of recording this week, so the production team can focus on the new US version. What do I mean well...
JAGGER: let's work.
This performance doubles up as the first song played on Top of the Pops USA.
It's a barnstormer, and I'm surprised it wasn't played first tonight
(although I suspect it's been put here to give the programme a bit of energy
before it crashes out on a repeat performance of Rick Astley in his fifth week
at Number 1).
Mike Smith makes much of Mick Jagger's absence from Top of the Pops. He, “hasn't done Top of the Pops for seventeen years.” That's April 1971 when The Rolling Stones performed Brown Sugar. “And he wants to take over the entire studio.” And that's what he does. He performs with a frightening amount of energy, and I find myself oddly mesmerised by the thick belt around his hips. It gives the impression of not so much supporting his trousers as restraining them.
I have notes:
1. This song is
at . David Bowie leaves Television Centre devastated. See my earlier
comments from 18/06/1987 regarding Michael Hurll's baffling decision not to use
David Bowies' studio performance of Time Will Crawl, which entered the charts
2. Geoff Beech
has to turn the lights up to make Mick Jagger's grand tour work in a
multi-camera studio. This provides a lovely opportunity to gaze into some of
the nooks and crannys and see the camera operators scuttling around to reach
their next position.
3. A walkway
has been constructed between two stages so Mick can run between them. It looks
great on camera because the walkway is obscured by the audience. When Mick
jumps and runs forwards it looks like he's somehow suspended above the crowd.
4. A group of
teenagers are waiting for Mick, when he dances down onto the stage with the
three perspex pyramids. Most have been rehearsed in what they are supposed to
do but there seem to be a couple of late comers who missed the earlier
practice, or they're audience members packed in behind proper dancers to pad
out the numbers. You can spot which is which.
5. Those actions; crouch down on “work your way up”; jog on the spot for “let's work”; raise your arms over your head on “be proud”; hands on hips for “stand tall”; arms over your head again for “touch the clouds”; finger guns for “man and a woman”; arms spread wide for “be free”; jog on the spot again for “let's work”; and, oh dear what's this, a throat slitting gesture for “kill poverty.” Lovely.
6. The lyrics
are... channelling the spirit of Norman Tebbit. Stand on your own two feet,
proclaims Mick Jagger promoting his song in Britain and America by leeching the
resources of a publicly funded broadcaster.
Top 10 Charts.
ASTLEY: never gonna give you up. Repeated
from the 17/09/1987 edition. The closing credits play out with this clip.
Hey Matthew; Housemaster Boyz, HouseNation; Shakin' Stevens, Come See About Me;
M/A/R/R/S, Pump Up the Volume. On video; Madonna, Causing a Commotion; L.L.
Cool J., I Need Love; Michael Jackson, Bad.
POP BONUS!! A VERY SPECIAL EPISODE!! POP BONUS!! Top Of The Pops USA 25/09/1987
David Bowie: “Stay tuned for the American premiere of Top of the Pops.”
Titles [These are the
standard British titles, using the new version of The Wizard and complete with
a caption, “Broadcast in stereo where available,” ie not the UK]
Nia Peeples: “I'm Nia Peeples and welcome to Top of the Pops. Each week we'll be bringing you the hottest recording artists in the business. The ones at the top of the charts, and not just in the US. We'll also be taking you to London every week where you'll see the artists who are climbing up the British chart. Tonight, right here in LA we've got Bryan Adams, Loverboy, Jellybean [applause and whistles from the crowd], Mr. Mister [more applause] and very, very special guest David Bowie [rapturous applause and cheers]. But first... but first lets join my co-host Gary Davies in London. (John- Nia Peeples is possibly the best name ever!)
“Nia, all of us here in the London studio are absolutely delighted about the
American premier of Top of the Pops. A show which has been going out in this
country every single week* for the last twenty three years. Tonight from London
you're going to be able to see Level 42, Bananarama, Rick Astley with Britain's
Number One, but first we start with something very special indeed. A guy who
first appeared on Top of the Pops on the very first show, on the first on
January 1964. That was together with a band called The Rolling Stones, we
welcome him back tonight singing his solo single. Here's Mick Jagger. Let's
LET'S WORK. What a lot
of words. It takes nearly 90 seconds before America sees the first performance;
Mick Jagger as described above. If that happened on BBC1 Michael Hurll would
explode and Eastenders would be late. It's interesting that Top of the
Pops is being sold to America as a venerable institution like the Tower of
London. It's USP is it's age. January 1964, gee whizz that's nearly as old as
the Chrysler building or Mick Jagger.
favours captions in all caps, and no chart number. It's interesting to see the
caption comes in at the same place on both performances. Top of the Pops UK normally
adds captions during recording which burns them on to the master tape, but here
they've clearly kept a clean master tape and added the captions later.
MISTER: SOMETHING REAL. A
little flag in the corner of the screen identifies performances taped in LA
(Stars and Stripes) or London (Union Flag) and the chart number does make an
appearance, superimposed on the flag. Presumably Mick didn't get a number
because his single hadn't charted yet.
The pace of the programme picks up once the introductions are out of the way and Nia gets a bit less florid. There's a clunky piece of direction when Nia introduces Mr. Mister to one of the main studio cameras, then the picture cuts to a hand held camera operator who dashes across the studio towards Mr. Mister, and then before the move is completed we cut again to a wide shot of the studio from another camera crane. I'm probably just being picky but the cut to the hand held camera seems unnecessary; although it's probably there to make you feel like you are in the audience dashing from stage to stage. It's difficult to get a sense of the studio except it's clearly massive, much bigger than anything at Television Centre. The credits say the programme was recorded, sorry “Videotaped Before a Studio Audience at HOLLYWOOD CENTRE TELEVISION STUDIOS.” The complex has been renamed Sunset Las Palmas Studios now, and on Google Maps it looks like its full of those cavernous aircraft-hanger sized sound stages. I'm not sure I would have put Mr. Mister on as the first US act, but that's just me.
[FADE TO BLACK]
 JELLYBEAN: WHO FOUND WHO. The fade to black is for a commercial break. How exotic. Shame there's no commercials in the online copy. I don't think I could pick Jellybean out of a line up, but the song sounds familiar once the chorus starts. Although I was kind-of confusing it with Who's Leaving Who by Hazel Dean.
I get an odd
uncanny valley effect while watching Jellybean. This is Top of the Pops
but not as we know it. The sets are bigger and glossier, and extend further
into the distance, and there's a different design aesthetic. It's like watching
Top of the Pops: The Movie. The Top of the Pops UK stages are
designed to be fitted jigsaw-like into a smaller space and be easy to put up
and take down. The American stages are bigger and look more permanent. I wonder
if they are standing sets, left up for the whole week? Also, there's a lot less
flashing lights. It's easier on the eye but has a flatter look.
Fair play to
Jellybean who do really well. The lead singer and keyboard player have worked
out a routine at the end where they dance round each other and swap a hat
between their heads, then arm-in-arm they skip off stage into the crowd as the
song ends. (US Jaaahn- Jellybean is in fact a man called John `jellybean` Benitez,
though I don’t think Jellybean is his real middle name. He invented Madonna! He
produced her debut album and hits such as `Borderline` and `Lucky Star`.
Inevitably they were “an item” for a while.)
 LEVEL 42: IT'S OVER. A repeat from the 10/09/1987 edition. Gary Davies causes me confusion with his introduction. “They're a new entry in the UK at number twenty-four this week.” I assume Gary's giving the American chart position but he makes it sound like they've just come into UK Top 40 at . The only reason this is making me scratch my head is because when this performance was recorded for the 10/09/1987 edition Level 42 were at  which is an odd coincidence. Also, I've just noticed, unlike the British version, Top of the Pops USA doesn't credit the band at the end of the performance.
Suddenly we cut to a man in a room holding a plate of cheese and sliced meat. It all becomes a bit clearer when another caption appears. “UP NEXT... BRYAN ADAMS.” Bryan shows the spread to the camera and then we
[FADE TO BLACK]
 VICTIM OF LOVE: BRYAN ADAMS. Coming back from the commercial break Mia Peebles gets a caption identifying her to the viewer. Gary Davies got one as well when he introduced Level 42. Presumably this is for new viewers coming in after each break.
It turns out I
have nothing to say about Bryan Adams. This could make it difficult for me to
find things to write during the 16 week residency of (Everything I Do) I Do It
for You at Number 1, in 1991.
 LOVERBOY: NOTORIOUS. “Allllrite let's get it rawkin,” squawks the lead singer of Loverboy. The flashing light quotient is upped a bit, and they get a really nice bit of illumination on the introduction when the band is silhouetted against a smokey blue background before the studio lights are gradually faded up. Take a bow Lighting Designers Allen Branton and Kieran Healy; it's worth noting the contractual obligation credits at the end of the show for the relevant BBC people. So Derek Slee and Geoff Beech make their American debuts.
Charts: The US
presentation of the charts is identical to the British version, except for a
little Stars and Stripes superimposed at the top of the chart countdown -with
each chart position overlaid on the stripes bit of the flag. It turns out the
flag is covering the blue box which on the British version lists the chart
number. It leaves the actual chart countdown number slightly off-centre which
is surprisingly irritating.
More confusion comes when I spot Fleetwood Mac are at  in the chart, not Level 42.
there because Bowie is coming up next,” instructs Nia.
 DAVID BOWIE: NEVER LET ME DOWN. David Bowie obviously didn't bear a grudge over Top of the Pops non-use of his Time Will Crawl. Or maybe nobody told him. Anyway, here he is and the man knows how to make an entrance. The camera pans up from Nia to a walkway where Mr Bowie emerges out of the darkness, strides around the top of the studio and comes down some stairs to the stage. He's such a ham. Midway through the song he's grasping the hands of audience members and then he crouches down, wraps his fingers round the hand of one woman and sings at her. There are some super long-distance shots of the stage which give me a chance to gawp at the scale of the studio.
UK TOP 10. This turns out to be the Top 10 from the week of 10/09/1987. While this finally makes sense of the Level 42 confusion, it sends me back onto the internet to confirm I've got the date of the first US broadcast correct. I have, as far as I can tell. How old are Gary's links? Was the BBC sending them to America on a steamer? (John- Actually, yes. The BBC steamer `Puffing Johnny Reith` was still in service at this point)
charts have a little Union Flag superimposed at the top, sweet, and our chart
countdown number is correctly centred which is a relief.
 RICK ASTLEY: NEVER GONNA GIVE YOU UP. “Three weeks at number one,” according to Gary Davies. So his links in a programme dated 25th September are from the week of 10th September? Okay. That makes no sense but it fits with the Level 42 confusion earlier. Gary Davies introduces Rick Astley from one of the scaffolding walkways, and when he's done the camera pans down to Rick Astley on stage, who launches into the song in one seamless take. So far so bog standard.
Astley and Gary Davies didn't appear on the 10/09/1987 edition (hosted by Simon
Bates and Peter Powell). That show used a repeat performance from 13/08/1987
for the Number 1. Rick Astley, on Top of the Pops USA, is dressed in the
same clothes he wore for the UK 17/09/1987 edition; an edition hosted by Mike
Smith and Gary Davies. On that occasion the pair both introduced Rick Astley
from the studio floor, “for the fourth week running,” and the camera panned
forward from them over the audience to Rick Astley, who launched into his song
in one seamless take. Also, the 17/09/1987 and US performances have different
starts, but the moment Rick sings the first line of the song the camera cuts to
a low angle looking up at the stage, and they are both shot-for-shot identical
after this. Believe me, I checked. Several times
Astley recorded one performance of Never Gonna Give You Up in studio with two
different introductions, both designed to be edited on to the song to both look
like one seamless performance. And, the US version is the cobbled together one
because at the end it has the UK credit for Rick Astley; burned on to the UK
The performance and links must have been recorded in the studio session for the 17/09/1987 edition but why is Gary Davies reading one week old links. Did no one notice? Did they think it didn't matter? Ask Gary Davies. If you're confused just think how my neighbours feel. I've spent the last 10 minutes watching multiple Rick Astleys on a loop; sometimes frame by frame. I like to imagine my neighbours standing listening into a glass pressed against the wall going, “what is he doing in there?”
“We'll be right back with the US Top Ten and Bananarama,” says Nia.
[FADE TO BLACK]
is sponsoring this portion of Top of the Pops,” says a voiceover above a
caption slide apparently designed in 1956.
US TOP 10.
 EUROPE, Carrie;
 LL COOL J, I Need Love;  ABC, When Smokey Sings;  FAT
BOYS WITH THE BEACH BOYS, Wipeout;  BANARAMA, I Heard A Rumour; 
PRINCE, U Got The Look;  LOS LOBOS, La Bamba;  LISA
LISA, Lost In Emotion;  Whitesnake, Here I Go Again. 
WHITNEY HOUSTON: Didn't We Almost Have It All.
BANANARAMA: I HEARD A RUMOUR.
Controversial format change. The US version doesn't end with the American
Number 1. Instead we get a repeat from all the way back on the 16/07/1987
edition. “From the movie Disorderlies.” No, I haven't heard of it either.
[Mia is already midspeech when the recording fades back in] “... credible line up of music we saw here tonight, right? [crowd whoops]. That's what you can expect on Top of the Pops every single week. So join Gary and me next time when our guests will include Los Lobos, LL Cool J, Squeeze, and Steve Winwood' G'night.”
Credits: Top of the Pops USA plays out on a repeat of Mick Jagger. There are two sets of credits. One for the American crew which includes a Writer, Barbara Lee, and about a million various assistants including the brilliantly named Adam “R” Greenburg, and Randy Lovelady. The Camera Operators get credited, which doesn't happen on the BBC. Also credited as Director, Michael Hurll.
PRODUCTION credits include Michael Hurll, as both Executive Producer and
Director, and also Brian Whitehouse as Director. Brian Whitehouse directed the
16/07/1987 edition with the Bananarama performance but Stanley Appel was
Director on the 17/09/1987 show from which Rick Astley was lifted. Why wasn't
Stanley Appel credited? I don't know. Also, Michael Hurll was Director on the
10/09/1987 programme which is where all Gary Davies links date to, but I'm not
opening that can of worms again.
Performance of the week: Jellybean, Who Found Who.
*except for all those strikes, shh!