Top of the Pops 17th & 31st December 1987


Presented  by Chris Arnsby. December in January. This really is the new year's hangover. If it wasn't for my pedantic need to finish of 1987 I could be into the early weeks of January by now.

Gary Davies: “Hi. Good evening. Welcome to the last Top of the Pops before Christmas. In the studio tonight we have The Pogues with Kirsty McColl, Simply Red, and the Pet Shop Boys.”
Mike Read: “And up eleven places to this week's twenty one, Wet Wet Wet with Angel Eyes.”
Gary Davies: “Yay! Woo!”

 [21] WET WET WET: angel eyes. Note to self, check typing to make sure you haven't misnamed the song Angle Eyes. Angel Eyes by Wet Wet Wet is a different song to Angeleyes by ABBA. What's going on with the charts at the moment? (By, at the moment, I obviously mean 36 years ago. I am nothing if not topical). They contain two re-releases of old songs, nine covers, and two songs which have the same title as earlier hits, this and The Look of Love by Madonna. It's 1987, it's too early for repeats on this scale.

Angel Eyes is “serious” Wet Wet Wet so Marty Pellow reduces the jauntiness by fifty. He's wearing a black suit (sombre), not dancing, gazing straight ahead, and trying not to smile. You can still see the gor-blimey-Mary-Poppins loveable scamp persona moving under his skin, trying to break free.


[6] MEL AND KIM: rockin' around the christmas tree. On video and cut out of the BBC4 repeat. Probably because there's a reference to Two Little Boys and the video cuts to a photo of  R*lf H*rr*s.

[17] SIMPLY RED: ev'ry time we say goodbye. Discussed on 10/12/1987 write up at great length. This previously performance demonstrates the versatility of the new sets. The studio lights are turned off as they were for Alison Moyet, also 10/12/1987, and the shiny metallic grey walls of the stage look dark and industrial, and yet still reflect enough light for the cameras to get a good picture.

TOP 40.

[8] THE POGUES FEATURING KIRSTY MacCOLL: fairytale of new york. Luckily someone has worked out how to make the caption generator do small fonts, so this lengthy name is rendered in the BBC equivalent of 6 point text.

Slotting this behind Simply Red makes it look like both songs were recorded back-to-back. Once again the stage lights are turned off, the set walls are stark, and a smokey fug has been introduced through which shine a couple of white spotlights. This lighting setup persists through the lengthy introduction in which Shane MacGowan fails to mime while Kirsty MacColl faces him, leaning on the other side of the piano and sensibly keeping her eyes closed. The moment when the song picks up tempo and the studio lights flood the space with colour looks great, as you'd expect. Who's doing the Lighting this week? Eric Wallis. Well done Eric.

One of the studio audience at the back of the stage really goes for it. She's doing her interpretation of an Irish jig, as well as flinging her arms wide in a gotta-dance-gotta-sing pose, and she frequently intrudes into the personal space of the audience members dancing around her.

TOP 40 BREAKERS: [22] LEVEL 42, children say; [20] NAT KING COLE, when i fall in love.

[19] BELINDA CARLISLE, heaven is a place on earth. I don't think this is a breaker, although the voice over link into the slightly cut down Top of the Pops USA clip initially made me think it was.

Mike Read is back presenting for the first time since July 1986, and he only made three appearances that year. He handed over the Radio 1 Breakfast Show to Mike Smith in May 1986 and Saturday Superstore came to an end in spring 1987. Clearly he feels it's time for him to step back into presenting Top of the Pops to keep up his television profile. Gary Davies seems bemused by some of Mike's “funny” quips. I might be misreading the situation but I think Mike Read has come back expecting to be the alpha host. He doesn't realise in his time away that Gary Davies has assumed this role.

TOP 10.

[1] PET SHOP BOYS: always on my mind. A repeat from last week's edition.

[9] MADONNA: the look of love. On video, over the closing credits.

 Performance of the week:  The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl, Fairtale of New York.

The Roxy Playlist (15/12/1987): An all-videos special, which I think was caused by a strike. Wet Wet Wet, Angel Eyes; New Order, Touched By the Hand of God; Simply Red, Every Time We Say Goodbye; Belinda Carlisle, Heaven Is A Place on Earth; The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl, Fairtale of New York; Level 42, Children Say; Rick Astley, When I Fall In Love.

Gary Davies: “Hello! Just five hours and five minutes before 1988 and what a way to start your New Year's Eve party.”

Peter Powell: “On the show tonight we've got some records that are going to be making a big impression on the first chart in eighty eight, from Wet Wet Wet, Climie Fisher, and Cher.”
Gary Davies: “And to start us off, making their debut on Top of the Pops, here's Krush. House Arrest.”

 [20] KRUSH: house arrest. Top of the Pops on New Year's Eve, when has that happened before? 1981 apparently, and before that 1964. There should have been a Top of the Pops on 31/12/1970 but the programme took a break after 10/12/1970, with only a Christmas and Boxing Day edition until 07/01/1971. There was also a special on New Year's Eve 1969 called Pop Go the 60s! But it was presented by J*mmy S*v*l* so let's never speak of it again.

How does Top of the Pops fit into the New Year's Eve schedule? In 1964, before New Year's Day was a bank holiday (this is true, all facts are correct for a change), Top of the Pops was sandwiched between Cliff Michelmore and the boys and girls from Tonight and Doctor Kildare (Plot summary: “Christmas works its usual spell - even with the most unlikely persons”).

In 1981, Top of the Pops slotted in at 6pm between a Bugs Bunny cartoon (Jack Wabbit and the Beanstalk) and The Dick Emery Christmas Show. The BBC1 schedule had ossified by 1987, thanks Michael Grade (boo and, indeed, hiss), so without checking I'm going to guess Top of the Pops was the filling in a Tomorrow's World and Eastenders bap. [Goes off to check] Oh. It was actually put between A Question of Sport (“looks back to last February when the programme celebrated its 200th edition with HRH The Princess Royal joining Emlyn Hughes and Bill Beaumont.” -looks back to, what a posh way of saying Repeat) and Eastenders ("Fill it up Den, I feel like living dangerously,” is the Radio Times description).

And, bloody hell the rest of that 1987 New Year's Eve schedule is worth quoting because BBC1 waves the white flag. 8pm Ernie Wise Introduces The Morecambe and Wise Classics (ie, great sketches, that you've already seen), 8.45pm Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express (the 1974 film, second showing on BBC1), 11pm Comedy Classic: To the Manor Born (repeat), 11.30pm Eastenders (the second episode tonight), and at 12.05am, what I can only assume is the sarcastically named, Happy New Year.

But enough of sneering at old schedules who are Krush and how are they doing? Krush is a trio, a bloke with a keytar, another bloke with a synthesiser, and a woman dressed in an oversized baseball jacket, baseball cap, medallion, short skirt, and long socks. It looks cliched now, like something Harry Enfield would dress up in for a big audience laugh as Kevin, but it must have been absolutely cutting edge fashion at the time.

Producer and Director Michael Hurll must once again face the challenge of making a dance act seem interesting. It's certainly one of the programmes better attempts, in between the staging of Eric B. & Rakim*, 05/11/1987, which was great, and House Master Boyz, 17/09/1987, which was dull.

The 4x4 bank of monitors is back, last seen accompanying Paul Hardcastle 16/10/1986, and they are playing something which looks like but isn't the video uploaded to Youtube. The same video can be glimpsed when Krush turn up on The Roxy, 19/01/1988, it's not obvious but it is playing on the studio monitors. The Roxy normally wins when comparing performances to Top of the Pops, but this is a win for ToTP**.

*I know  Eric B. & Rakim are not a dance act. I know I'm waving my hand at several genres and consigning them to a made-up huge composite which I've arbitrarily labelled dance. But you know what I mean. It's quicker to write and easier to read than “non-traditional (by British pop standards) music acts which don't fit well into the usual Top of the Pops staging of a performance by pointing the cameras at a lead singer and alternating with shots of the rest of the group.”

** What am I supposed to do, call it “the Pops!” like Peter Powell?

[4] NAT KING COLE: when i fall in love. On video.

[31] CLIMIE FISHER: rise to the occasion. Two studio performances back to back both start with the sampled “I know you gonna dig this,” sample. Lead singer Simon Climie has gone on stage and immediately regretted his choice of denim jacket, so he takes it off before the song starts. The problem is he insists on carrying it around rather than tossing it to one side of the stage, and he keeps fiddling with it. It's in his left hand, it's in his right hand, it's over one shoulder, it's being wrung like a towel. Stop fiddling with the thing.

Just after the first chorus, when Simon Climie flicks the jacket over his shoulder, the picture cuts to a left profile of the singer. As the camera pans back, look under the studio bridge in the background. I'm pretty sure you can see the keytar player from Krush sitting there (white baseball cap, jacket with yellow shoulders) watching Climie Fisher.

[5] BELINDA CARLISLE: heaven is a place on earth. On video.

TOP 40. After Mike Read, It's Gary Davies' turn to openly lust after Belinda Carlisle.

[23] MORRIS MINOR & THE MAJORS: stutter rap. I thought this was great at the time. I recorded this off the radio. I'm so sorry. I didn't like or understand rap. I thought the Beastie Boys were rubbish. This was obviously a hilarious take down of the genre and a good consequence free laugh at a physical condition -I didn't know anyone who stammered so it didn't affect me. Isn't it all jolly fun? No. With 35 years hindsight this finally gets a thumbs down.

[21] CHER: i found someone. On video.

[10] WET WET WET: angle eyes. Essentially the same performance as last time, but the pianist is wearing a beret.

TOP 10.

[1] PET SHOP BOYS: always on my mind. On video. I never liked the bit where Joss Ackland starts singing. Back off Joss. It's not your song.

[3] MEL & KIM: rockin' around the christmas tree. “Simon Bates and Mike Read” next week. What a way to start 1988. Mel & Kim are on video. The BBC4 version has some cunning editing to remove R*lf H*rr*s. Unfortunately I don't know what that editing was because I didn't watch this on BBC4.

 Performance of the week: Krush, House Arrest. 

 The Roxy Playlist: Nothing. David Jensen and the other one got the week off for Christmas.


  1. There's a Chart Music podcast for 17 December 1987 - https://chartmusiccouk.wordpress.com/2019/12/17/chart-music-46-17th-december-1987-mission-accomplished-agent-king-cole/

    I remember the 11.30 New Year's Eve EastEnders transmission (incorporating Big Ben live) being a big thing at the time. It must still be the latest time that a major soap has broadcast in the UK. 19.85 million watched it (though presumably many of those saw the omnibus).

  2. Michael Hurll apparently disliked Mike Read enough to keep him off of the TOTP presenter roster sometimes (see also his prolonged absences from 1982 to early 1983). Hurll is about to pass the producer baton onto Paul Ciani after remaining in an executive capacity during the first few weeks of 1988. These may or may not be related to Read's return...