Top of the Pops 11 February 1988


Reviewed by Chris Arnsby. Bruno Brookes: “Hello and welcome [Gary Davies: “hello!”] to Top of the Pops, in the studio tonight we have Sinead O'Connor, Taylor Dane, Debbie Gibson, and the Mission.” Gary Davies: “And a very noisy audience. We start tonight with a guy who last appeared on Top of the Pops eight years ago with a song called Do You Feel My Love. He's back in the charts at twenty five. Gimmie Hope Jo'Anna welcome back Eddy Grant.”

[25] EDDY GRANT: gimmie hope jo'anna. A bouncy and cheerful song which hides incredibly gloomy lyrics in plain site, “While every mother in black Soweto fears/The killing of another son.” Jo'Anna being Johannesburg.

I'm always fascinated how comfortable Top of the Pops was about highlighting nakedly political songs about South Africa. There's this along with (Something Inside) So Strong (30/04/1987 and 14/05/1987), Free Nelson Mandela (29/03/1984 and 19/04/1984), the “Soweto Bloodbath” newspaper suits Madness wore while performing Waiting for the Ghost Train (13/11/1986), and probably more I've forgotten. It shows how widely accepted the view was that ending apartheid was simply a matter of common sense. It also shows it's easier for the national broadcaster to deal with songs criticising other governments; number of Top of the Pops appearances for Paul McCartney with Give Ireland Back to the Irish? Zero. The song spent eight weeks in the charts and got to [16] despite (or perhaps because of) being banned by the BBC.

Top of the Pops leans into the politics of the song. Eddy Grant's caption at the end is decorated with stick figure representations of people of all colours or, at least, all the colours the BBC caption generator can cope with; three. Moving away from geopolitics. It seems like ages since Bruno Brookes last hosted, and it is, 27/03/1986. His daily Radio 1 show ran from  17.45 to 19.30 which pretty much cut across the rehearsal and recording time for Top of the Pops (which I think, but I'm not 100% sure, was normally on a Wednesday evening. We'll be seeing a little more of him in 1988.


[7] DEBBIE GIBSON: shake your love. A repeat from 28/01/1988. Paul Ciani chooses not to use a Top of the Pops USA performance from (probably) 09/10/1987. Is the American sister series out of favour?

Nia Peebles has the hot goss: “Debbie Gibson may be barely seventeen but she's already written nearly two hundred and fifty songs, including all ten on her debut album Out of the Blue. Her first single, Only In My Dreams went all the way to number three and tonight she's here to break her second single, Shake Your Love.”

[20] THE MISSION: tower of strength. The Mission are allowed to drape a double eagle symbol over the scenery. Presumably it's the band's symbol, Google just wants to keep tell me about the Austro-Hungarian empire. Or maybe The Mission are all Freemasons? (Fact John: This single was produced by John Paul Jones, formerly of Led Zeppelin and sounds a bit like Led Zeppelin)

TOP 40.

[4] TAYLOR DAYNE: tell it to my heart. “Here is a lady who could very well be seeing herself at number one in the next few weeks,” Bruno Brookes does that thing a lot of DJs do when they don't have any thing else to say about a song -speculate on whether it could get to Number 1.

Unlike me, when I've got nothing to say I admit it. And here, I've got nothing. Ooh! Look! Is that member of the audience wearing a t-shirt with a luridly coloured picture of Sergeant Bilko on the front? It seems unlikely but who else could it be?

[22] SINEAD O'CONNOR: mandinka. A terrific debut performance. Sinead O'Connor stands alone on stage, marooned at the microphone in a sea of dry ice, with her shaved head, clumpy boots and cream suit, which has been deliberately distressed at the shoulders. Gary Davies' verdict, “she has got an incredible voice,” and he's not wrong.

TOP 10.

[1] TIFFANY: I think we're alone now. Against all odds and expectation Tiffany has fought off Bros. They're down to [3]. In 1988 I heave a sigh of relief. Bros didn't make it to Number 1, we surely won't hear from them again, ever. I said EVER.

Tiffany's survival presents Paul Ciani with a problem. Breakout the previously repeated Top of the Pops footage or use her performance from ToTP USA? Let's play the video instead. It includes footage from Tiffany's much discussed performances in shopping malls. There's a shop called Great Expectations in the background of one shot, what do they sell? Maternity clothing.

!RICK ASTLEY POP BONUS! It was The Brits on Monday 8th February 1988 (not the notorious one with Sam Fox and Mick Fleetwood, that was 1989). Gary Davies has the story. “Well unfortunately on Monday night Rick Astley didn't have time to pick up his award [for Best British Single] so on Tuesday I went down to a film studio in Fulham, and I caught up with him and presented the award to him then.”

Oh wow. Is this going to be one of Top of the Pops famous 30 second interviews -but on location? Yes it is because Rick is a man of few words. “Thank you very much... thank you... I'd just like to say, er, thanks to everybody involved because there's a lot of people behind things like this so thanks to you. Thank you.”

[10] JERMAINE STEWART: say it again. Gary Davies and Nicky Campbell host next week. Top of the Pops plays out on repeat footage of Jermaine Stewart from 28/01/1988.  The videotape editor allows the performance to play out in full, including the closing caption and a snippet of speech from Mike Smith. This wouldn't have been heard on BBC1 because the channel would already have crossed over to Eastenders. "You'd have carried on carrying on if I hadn't caught the two of you red-handed,” according to the Radio Times.

 PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK: Eddy Grant, Gimmie Hope Jo'anna.

The Roxy Playlist, 09/02/1988: Studio Performances; Taylor Dayne, Tell It to My Heart;  The Mission, Tower Of Strength; Billy Ocean, Get Outta My Dreams; Robert Plant, Heaven Knows; Screaming Blue Messiahs, I Wanna Be a Flintstone. On video; Luther Vandross, Give Me the Reason; Tiffany, I think we’re Alone Now.

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