Top of the Pops 10 Dec 1987


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Mike Smith: “The difference is that tonight Top of the Pops is live from Television Centre so anything could happen in the next thirty minutes, some jolly good tunes coming your way like down here we have the second highest new entry of the week. At number four. The Pet Shop Boys and You're Always On My Mind.”

[4] PET SHOP BOYS: always on my mind. Mike Smith's opening line sounds like the second half of a sentence. Who is he talking to? My guess, the continuity announcer probably said something like “and now it's time for our regular Thursday night visit to Top of the Pops...” and Mike Smith being live could follow on directly.

The Pet Shop Boys now have a well established performance style. You've got Neil Tennant's deliberately understated persona, where he does whatever the word is for the opposite of making love to the camera. He's got a new move in his diffident toolbox, he stands at the microphone with his arms folded. It's a piece of closed body language, unexpected from a pop star which -of course- makes him stand out and be more distinctive than if he was bopping along to the song. And Chris Lowe wears a hat. This week his hat has the word POSH written on it. He also wearing a super jumper with a silhouette of a robot on the front.

[3] MICHAEL JACKSON: the way you make me feel. On video.
[2] RICK ASTLEY: when i fall in love. Three songs in, and two of them are covers. The Pet Shop Boys one is ace because it does something different with the source material. Rick Astley's is considerably less interesting because it seems designed to sound as much possible like the version by Nat King Cole. Rick Astley's version is not bad. It's a considerably better showcase than his second single Whenever You Need Somebody but it's release is such a cynical piece of Christmas Number 1 baiting that I almost feel like taking against it just on general principles.
This is serious Rick, so naturally he must be seated, and he's teamed on stage by a violinist and someone else playing the harp. It could be a dull performance but the camera is kept mobile which helps, and Vision Mixer Kathryn Randall and Producer and Director Brian Whitehouse are always looking for interesting shot compositions -they like to shoot Rick Astley through the strings of the harp.
Compare the staging of the two singers. Neil Tennant is standing, and is often looking slightly down into the camera. This makes him seem aloof and superior. Rick, being seated, is level with the camera and keeps looking slightly up. This makes him seem more sincere. I'm sure this goes to prove something or other but I don't know what.
“The original version by Nat King Cole also released and that should be in the Top Forty next week,” says Mike Smith. The re-release is by EMI, who also manage the Pet Shop Boys. Let's hope EMIs re-release doesn't cannibalise sales of the Rick Astley version and keep him off the Number 1 slot, eh readers?

TOP 40. The Tams are at [29] and going down, for some reason the name of their song isn't mentioned at all this week.
[27] JOHNNY HATES JAZZ: turn back the clock. On to the main stage for the first time this evening. During the opening wide shot of the stage, as the caption appears, check out the colour screen to the left -you can see the caption appear at the bottom of that picture as well.
TOP 40 BREAKERS: [15] MADONNA, the look of love; [13] MEL & KIM, rockin' around the christmas tree.
[9] ALISON MOYET: love letters. It's the main stage, but it's been transformed. The studio is as close to darkness as it's possible to get on Top of the Pops. The horizontal neon tubes are out and so are most of the big lights. Eric Wallis is in charge of Lighting this week, and he's gone for an effect centred on Alison Moyet which makes the stage look darker the further you are from the singer; Moyet is lit with a white spot; her band are lit purple; the crowd is lit blue; and the rest is -as much as possible- black. The big colour screen is left on, showing a picture of Alison Moyet's head which appears to be floating in the dark and gazing down on the stage. The whole thing looks fantastic. It also shows the flexibility of the studio space because we get two back-to-back performances in the same space which almost look like they are coming from two different places.
This is a live edition of Top of the Pops but is this performance live? It's not impossible to imagine the lighting being changed and scenery shifters swarming over the stage while the Breakers are playing out. They'd need to move two keyboards used by Johnny Hates Jazz, set up a drum kit, and swing a piano through 180 degrees. The darkness could be used to strategically hide anything which couldn't' be moved in time.
It's ambitious but it could be done. I point you to the 22/07/1982 live show when the scenery shifters cleared the main stage after the Belle Stars had finished and set up a small tennis net and umpire chair for Roger Kitter to perform Chalk Dust (The Umpire Strikes Back) while the promo for Madness' Driving in my Car was playing. Then, while the promo for Da, Da, Da, by Trio, was going out they took everything down again so Junior could use the space to perform Too Late.
Alas, the cut at the end from Alison Moyet on a darkened main stage to Mike Smith on the same stage, but lit normally, gives it away. It was a cheat all along. That was a pre-recorded performance.

TOP 10.
[1] T'PAU: china in your hand.
Still hanging on at Number 1. This is a repeat of their performance on 03/12/1987 edition.
[11] JELLYBEAN FEATURING ELISA FIORILLO: who found who. Mike Smith's been wearing a red nose for the latter part of the programme, now for the end of the show noses have been issued to the whole crowd. The first Red Nose Day for Comic Relief is coming soon, 05/02/1988. Mike Read and Gary Davies next week. Top of the Pops closes with a performance from Top of the Pops USA, broadcast all the way back on their first edition; 25/09/1987.

But wait! There's more!

This being a live edition there's master tape shenanigans to examine. Elisa Fiorillo suddenly freezes and under the picture we hear the sound of the crowd. The picture rolls and it's... Mick Hucknall? What a disappointment. He launches into Every Time We Say Goodbye but... “sorry, can I have some more volume, I can't hear myself. I need some more vocals.” Mick stops the song. There's a delay, while Floor Manager Iain McLean packs a few more audience members into the back of one shot, and Mick Hucknell passes the time by whistling the introduction to Shakin' all Over, by Johnny Kidd & The Pirates, and singing the first couple of lines. Take two passes with incident (no caption, evidentially this would be superimposed in editing) but take two is not satisfactory. “You're coming slightly too far back,” is the instruction Iain McLean passes on to Mick -what an amateur! Take three is also not deemed acceptable but Mick's microphone is turned off so we'll never know what instruction was passed on. Take four is good, or at least good enough.

This is followed by the recording of the British Charts for Top of the Pops USA by Gary Davies. He's only in voiceover, did he have to come into the studio for this or could he record the audio separately? Apparently he had to come into the studio because next we suddenly get a brief shot of Gary Davies standing next to Iain McLean. Gary says, “Brian! Could we have a brief round of applause for Mr Brian...” and he gestures but the picture cuts out before we get to see Producer and Director Brian Whitehouse.
Lastly, Simply Red are asked to record a promo for Red Nose Day. This is a bit of a saga. “Me nose is too little,” complains Mick as he fails to attach the thing to his face. “I don't believe this he mutters,” when asked to say “this simply red nose can save lives.” “Are we supposed to be serious or something?” he follows up. “Noses on please chaps,” cajoles Iain trying to keep things moving. Iain continues, “this one reads... this is Simply Red. You're watching Top of the Pops, simply the best music show in the world,” he wanders into shot holding up a cue card. Mick regards it. “What are the Italians going to think of that?” he demands to know. “They won't see it,” reassures Iain. “We won't show it to them.” There is a pause. Mick looks at the other two members of Simply Red who flank him. “We're going to have to sort this one out because I'm not... I shouldn't say all that because these two just look like me hoods. They should say something.” This is duly sorted out with Mick assigning lines to his bandmates. Take one. Fritz McIntyre corpses on his line, “simply the best music show in the world.” That's great,” lies Iain McLean chirpily, “if you could do it just like that. We'll do one more to be sure.” Take two. The band really play up the link. “Over the top!” shouts Iain. “What do you want?” asks Mick. “Magic. Absolutely magic. Thank you,” says Iain diplomatically and the band are released with a round of applause. Evidentially the control booth have decided to write the whole thing off.

Performance of the week:  Alison Moyet, Love Letters.

The Roxy Playlist (08/12/1987):Studio Performances: The Alarm, Rescue Me; Johnny Hates Jazz, Turn Back the Clock; T'Pau, China In Your Hand. On video: Rick Astley, When I Fall In Love; The Hooters, Satellite; Mel & Kim, Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree; Pet Shop Boys, Always On My Mind.


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