Top of the Pops 15th and 22nd Oct 1987 Double Bill!


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby.


Gary Davies: “Hi, good evening, and welcome to Top of the Pops. We have a belting show for you tonight. In the studio Terence Trent D'Arby, The Alarm, the Fatback Band, and the Bee Gees.”  Mike Smith Peter Powell: “But for starters! They woke up in Birmingham this morning! Travelled down the M1! They're on Top of the Pop tonight! Please welcome their brand new hit single! UB40!
Gary Davies: “Woo”

[29] UB40: maybe tomorrow. God blew, and they were scattered. In the real world of 1987, as this episode aired, a depression was deepening in the Bay of Biscay and moving north-east. The aftermath of the great storm of 1987 can be seen in the off-air news recordings on Youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5i5FhsIaAg Fortunately for UB40, Top of the Pops was recorded on Wednesday so their journey back up the M1 wouldn't have been disrupted.

I could believe this episode of Top of the Pops was being recorded in a smaller studio. There's something about the presentation of UB40 which seems cramped. It's not just the 472 people on stage, that's typical for a UB40 performance (check out their chart photo it looks like a world record attempt to cram people into a phone box). It's the visuals which seem to bounce from one static image to another and back again with a lot less of the camera movement and sweeping crane shots.
Stanley Appel is back as Producer and Director and the Vision Mixer is Priscilla Hoadley , a familiar name, so it's not as if there's anyone new sitting up in the studio gallery. I ended up comparing this opening performance to the one from last week's show, Jellybean featuring Steven Dante; with Vison Mixer Angela Wilson. It turns out both performances are largely captured in the same way, a couple of cranes but most of the work is done via hand held cameras. Steven Dante is simply a more mobile performer than Ali Campbell, who stands on stage so the camera operator doesn't have to do anything. A week previously Steven Dante was dragging the eye of the camera all over the stage, which makes for more interesting pictures. Also, much disappointment that Maybe Tomorrow doesn't turn out to be UB40's cover of the theme to The Littlest Hobo.

[16] FIVE STAR: strong as steel. On video.
[20] THE ALARM: rain in the summertime. Hmm. It's all a bit U2 isn't it.... Come on... think of something else to say... Ooh. The Alarm appear to be performing on a stage without scenery. This is more interesting than it sounds (honestly). Going back to Jellybean featuring Steven Dante, there's a lovely shot of Steven from the back looking out over the audience and over his shoulder you can see the next stage along. It's the one that looks a bit like a 3D model of the Stargate. Where The Alarm are performing is where that stage usually sits in the standard studio plan. Where is it? Proof that Top of the Pops really was in a smaller studio this week? Or were the Design Department in the middle of a set refurbishment? Set up behind the drummer is one of those plasma balls, which were a thing in the late eighties. There are a couple of camera shots looking through it at the back of the band. (John- I often wonder what happened to all those plasma balls)

TOP 40.

[30] TERENCE TRENT D'ARBY: dance little sister. Terence shows UB40 how it should be done. I'm not 100% certain but two things make me think this performance was recorded as part of the studio session for the 08/10/1987 edition. One, a camera has been set up to get a profile of the drummer. In the top left of these shots you can just see the corner of the Stargate stage, which obviously isn't in studio for the week of 15/10/1987. Two, Peter Powell and Gary Davies introduce the Breakers standing at the side of the stage apparently just vacated by Mr D'Arby, yet they are not there in the closing wide shot of his performance.

Breakers: [26] LOS LOBOS, come on, let's go; [22] BANANARAMA, love in the first degree; [21] FLEETWOOD MAC, little lies; [18] WAS (NOT WAS), walk the dinosaur. 90 seconds of Breakers, that's 22.5 seconds per song. The clip for Walk the Dinosaur is particularly badly chosen and cuts out before the chorus. Bananarama, Fleetwood Mac, and Was (Not Was) were all songs I taped off the radio. Sorry, Los Lobos.
[7] THE FATBACK BAND: i found lovin'. The Fatback Band get a go one week after Steve Walsh. Considering its their song, you'd think they would have been allowed to go first.
TOP 10.
[1] BEE GEES: you win again.
A repeat from 01/10/1987. Big white bars on either side of the [1] caption hide the “CHART ENTRY” caption burned into the master tape when this performance was recorded. Top of the Pops really need to consider recording clean versions of performances to avoid having to do this.
[17] BILLY IDOL: mony mony. The last three weeks have seen Top of the Pops play out to the [1] song. This week we revert back to the previous practice and play out over another video. But first. Who's this? It's the hosts of a new Radio 1 programme called Backchat. “Music, interviews, gossip and trivia,” according to the Radio Times, “with Liz Kershaw and Ro Newton.” “Have you picked up lots of juicy gossip from here at Top of the Pops,” asks Gary Davies teeing up a pre-scripted adlib. “Yeah, Robbie Gibb wears women's clothing,” replies Ro Newton. “Simon Bates and Gaz!” next week, according to Peter Powell.


The Roxy Playlist (13/10/1987): Terence Trent D'Arby, Dance Little Sister; Ray Parker Jnr, I Don't Think That Man Should Sleep Alone; UB40, Maybe Tomorrow; Was (Not Was), Walk The Dinosaur; Bryan Ferry, The Right Stuff. On video; Bee Gees, You Win Again; M/A/R/R/S, Pump Up the Volume; Billy Idol, Mony Mony.

 Plus, bonus actual correct The Roxy listing for 06/10/1987, and not the one for 20/10/1987 which I madly included last time; Living In a Box, So the Story Goes; Jelly Bean, The Real Thing; Sisters of Mercy, This Corrosion; The Cross, Cowboys and Indians; M/A/R/R/S, Pump Up the Volume; Gary Numan, Cars (E Reg Model). On video, Five Star, Strong as Steel; Kiss, Crazy Crazy Nights.

 Performance of the week: Terence Trent D'Arby, Dance Little Sister.


Simon Bates: “Hi welcome to Top of the Pops. We're at BBC as usual and we've got Gary Davies.” Gary Davies: “Ah, thank you Simon. And for starters we're going to have a Boom boom acka-lacka lacka boom. We're going to walk the dinosaur with Was Not Was.”

 [12] WAS (NOT WAS): walk the dinosaur. Legs & Co would have danced the heck out of this song. They would have raided the BBC costume store for babydoll fur bikinis and someone, probably poor Lulu, would have been dressed in the T-Rex suit from Doctor Who and the Silurians. Sadly, we're six years too late for Legs & Co.

Was (Not Was) do their best to cope. They've brought along two dancers dressed in their best Rachel-Welch-from-One-Million-Years-BC Skimpinis but for some reason the camera doesn't favour them. They are often blocked from view by other members of the band and when they do get a good close up Vision Mixer Priscilla Hoadley seems to take an almost perverse pleasure in cutting away; dinosaur interruptus. This is not the performance for you, if you are looking to learn how to Open the door/Get on the floor/Walk the dinosaur.
Lead singer Harry Bowens, is an engaging and charismatic front man for the band. The best bit of his performance comes just after the line “follow wherever you go.” It's like he suddenly starts channelling the spirit of Alexei Sayle. He tucks his chin in, pulls a silly face and walks backwards across the stage like Jerzei Balowski in The Young Ones.
POP FACT: Apparently the song's about nuclear armageddon.

[21] LOS LOBOS: come on, let's go. Over to Los Angeles with Nia Peebles and Los Lobos. But what's this? As the BBC caption fades out another one fades in, and Los Lobos apparently go from [21] to [45] in the space of the introduction. The curse of the burned in caption strikes again. The one from Top of the Pops USA is so spectacularly badly placed at the start of the lyrics that Stanley Appel has no choice but to let it sit there on screen.
The lead singer of Los Lobos looks terrified. He barely moves from the microphone when singing, although he cheers up a bit and cuts loose slightly during the instrumentals. Initially I thought he might feel a bit out of his depth with Top of the Pops' miming policy, but there are a couple of more recent performances on Youtube and it looks like that's just how he sings.
[17] PET SHOP BOYS: rent. The Pet Shop Boys appear on what I'm now going to continually refer to as the Stargate stage, in the hope it catches on. Chris Lowe is standing at the keyboard (that's original) and Neil Tenant is seated. It suits the slower, more sombre mood of the song. But, what's this? Chris Lowe cracks a smile as the camera pans in on the introduction. For shame Chris. You're supposed to be the miserable one.

There's a new name on Lighting this week; Dickie Higham. He's turned the lights up a little in the studio to give some depth and shape to the space. It looks really good. It also carries the advantage of being able to see a little further into the usually hidden depths. You can spot Simon Bates and Gary Davies watching the Pet Shop Boys from their next position by the side of the main stage -recently vacated by Was (Not Was).

TOP 40. “And now, here is big foot Simes with this week's Top 40,” says Gary Davis referencing the recent Radio 1 Roadshow to the Pacific Northwest where Simon Bate was mistaken for a sasquatch.
[4] KISS: crazy crazy nights. Back over the Atlantic to Top of the Pops USA where Kiss are singing and playing live. It sounds terrible. No Nia Peebles introduction, or American caption on this one.
[7] ERASURE: the circus. The gallery have problems shutting up Kiss. They've been playing Crazy Crazy Nights as the background to the links this evening, but suddenly the volume is massively up. It's almost at the level you'd expect if the band was miming in the studio and it's competing with Gary Davies link.
Andy Bell has had his accordion taken away. See 08/10/1987. This was a wise decision. He is now free to dance as nature intended. Erasure have also brought along the brass section of Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band. For the first two and a half minutes they have the easiest job in the world and just get to stand around earning money for nothing, they only have to play for the last minute of the song.

This performance is a good example of the difference Dickie Higham brings to the studio lighting. He's got Erasure lit by a white light, the brass section lit in yellow so the piping on their black uniforms really stands out, the audience are gently lit from the front with purple and green so they are darker than the foreground but still visible, and then darker shades on the background scenery. It looks great. It adds depth to the studio and makes you appreciate the size and shape of the space. It also very subtly illuminates the crowd while keeping empty spaces in shadow, which makes the studio look fuller because you can't spot the gaps to allow the cameras to move.
“One day, I figure, Andy Bell will smile,” says Simon Bates at the end, getting the two members of Erasure confused. Or, am I wrong? [checks]. No it's Simes. As usual.

Breakers. [29] THE CURE, just like heaven; [24] RAY PARKER JNR., ii don't think that man should sleep alone; [10] George Michael, faith.

TOP 10. Songs recorded off the radio; Faith.
[1] BEE GEES: you win again. A repeat from 01/10/1987.
[5] BANANARAMA: love in the first degree. “Next week it's murder and mayhem with him [points at Gary Davies] and Steve Wright,” says Simon Bates. Oh boy! Top of the Pops closes with Bananarama singing about their recent miscarriage of justice.

 Performance of the week: A good week. It could be Erasure or the Pet Shop Boys, but it has to be Was (Not Was), Walk the Dinosaur.

 The Roxy Playlist (22/10/1987): The Alarm, Rain In The Summertime; Scarlet Fantastic, No Memory; Erasure, The Circus; Blue Mercedes, I Want To Be Your Property; Bryan Adams, Victim Of Love. On video; Pet Shop Boys, Rent; George Michael , Faith; Bee Gees, You Win Again. Studio guests Paul Weller, Rik Mayall, Adrian Edmondson.



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