Top of the Pops 12 May 1988

 Reviewed by Chris Arnsby

 It's time for some more master tape shenanigans. This recording was downloaded from the Well of Souls at https://mega.nz/folder/h0snQACa#uiNNqosfbdrfzODHsE1clw/folder/QgVgAShZ Things get off to an odd start when the titles play in silence and then, halfway through, pause and rewind. There's a black screen for around 20 seconds and then the VT clock appears again. It holds at 10 seconds, like a troublesome NASA launch, before the countdown begins again. Once again the titles play in silence. Is my television faulty? No. The titles rewind again and we're back to the VT clock. Followed by another black screen. Who's driving this editing desk?

The picture bursts into life. It's Mike Read and Simon Mayo, and a bloke in orange headphones, who I'm guessing is Floor Manager Tony Ravenscraig*. Simon Mayo looks nervous. Mike Read looks bored and is clutching something in his hand. Is it an autograph book? This all plays out in silence and then unexpectedly we have sound, but it's Toy Boy by Sinitta. A song that featured on Top of the Pops nine months ago.


The picture fades (this breathless reportage is great isn't it, I'm hoping for a Pulitzer) to a wide shot of the studio with Harry Enfield and band on stage. The crowd clap and wave, and faint applause can be heard behind Sinitta. We're obviously not plugged into the audio feed for the studio microphones so everything can only be heard indirectly, which is frustrating because Harry Enfield is doing his best to gee up the crowd. Suddenly Sinitta fades to be replaced with a tuneless electric wail (insert your own sarcastic aside in the space provided                                                          ). On stage everyone's just hanging around waiting which seems to be the natural state for most studios. Oh, we've faded back to the countdown clock again. And we're off into the titles.

 Mike Read: “Oi. You. Shut your mouth and watch this show.”

Simon Mayo: “I think what Mike is trying to say is this is a brilliant programme coming up.”

Mike Read: “We've got loads of acts [waves a fake bundle of money, which is what he was holding in the master tape bit]. We've got loads of singers. Mainly tenors** On Top of the Wads.”

Simon Mayo: “In other words, at number four with an awful lot of money, here comes Harry Enfield.”

 [4] HARRY ENFIELD: loadsamoney. Simon Mayo's barely two weeks away from taking over the Radio One Breakfast Show and after that there will be no stopping him. It's odd to see him here still the nervous new boy when in four months time he'll start Mike Smithing across the schedule; beginning with Scruples, 18/09/1988. “The game of moral dilemmas hosted by Simon Mayo with guests this week Steve Alexander, Rustie Lee, Andrew O'Connor, Craig Charles and a surprise special guest.” Craig Charles, appearing between episodes two and three of the second series of Red Dwarf.

The presentation of Harry Enfield is a bit kitchen sink. The programme cuts to the video as soon as the initial “oi you, shut your mouth and look at my wad,” line is out of the way. Then we're back to the band who all have bits of business worked out. There's Paul Whitehouse as Lance on the guitar. The guy doing the scratching has got a hacksaw. The one on the keyboard is just playing the same two notes over and over. I've got a nagging feeling I should know who the other two are. I think hacksaw bloke might be Charlie Higson? Logically then, keyboard man should be the fourth person credited on the single, Grammy and Ivor Novello award winning record producer William Orbit.

As Harry Enfield spells out LODS OF EMONE we see the letters appear on screen, the first time captions have been used like this. Then we're back to the video. And then -in another first- the video is shrunk into a small box and placed at the side of the screen. It's an odd, distracting effect. Which one to watch? It gives the impression the production team didn't have much faith in Harry Enfield as a performer which seems a little unfair because he's really putting in the effort. Now he's picked up a bucket of cash and is throwing bundles of tenners into the audience.

Oh the music's stopped and the screen's gone black. I wonder what went wrong. Fortunately the audio is still running and we hear laughter from the audience, and then Harry Enfield says “give me my money back.” I think I can hear Paul Whitehouse add “give it back, give it back.”

A bossy voice starts ordering the audience around. “Listen, come on. Back up here again.”  It must be Tony Ravenscraig shepherding the crowd. It's difficult to make out individual voices from the hubbub but suddenly Simon Mayo says, “you'll have to be Mike Read.” Which doesn't bear thinking about. The picture bursts into life again as Simon Mayo asks “got all your money back Harry?”

And we're back to the title sequence.

 Mike Read: “Oi. You. Shut your mouth and watch this show.”

Simon Mayo: “I think what Mike is trying to say is this is a pretty good*** programme coming up.”

Mike Read: “We've got loads of acts [waves a fake bundle of money, which is what he was holding in the master tape bit]. We've got loads of singers. Mainly tenors. On Top of the Wads.”

Simon Mayo: “In other words, on Top of the Pops at number four , Harry Enfield with an awful lot of money.”


Harry Enfield with, actually, a bit of money. Adjusted for inflation. You can't use those notes no more you know, Haz.

[4] HARRY ENFIELD: loadsamoney. Take two. The hacksaw scratching gag isn't quite as clear because it's done as the camera is zooming out.

The video is overlaid on the performance again, and the chucking money into the audience bit doesn't work as well as it could because the video sits over the crowd and obscures their reaction to the money raining down on them.

Charlie Higson, for it is he, has worked out an escalating series of gags. He's now going at the mixing desk with a full size wood saw. And finally an enormous comedy mallet.

[9] PRINCE: alphabet street. On video. Cut short after less than two minutes. Looks like Paul Ciani doesn't like playing full videos.

TOP 40 FROM 40 TO 31

[23] THE ADVENTURES: broken land. “Wonderful. Brilliant. Mega. Superb,” exclaims Simon Mayo introducing The Adventures. They're all right. “Supporting Fleetwood Mac,” apparently.

[16] NARADA: divine emotions. “Gone up six to sixteen,” says Mike Read. Yes, but do they support Fleetwood Mac?

TOP 40 BREAKERS: [no 13 LIVERPOOL F.C. anfield rap]; [no 31 BELINDA CARLISE circle in the sand]; [no 26 DEREK B bad young brother]; [no 28 PREFAB SPROUT the king of rock 'n' roll].

[12] STARTURN ON 45 PINTS: pump up the bitter. Top of the Pops couldn't get M|A|R|R|S but they can get the spoof? Great.**** It's a solid enough performance. The bloke doing the impression of the club singer is pretty good. There's a slightly Terry Gilliamesque cut out of Tony Blackburn used for the “OK gang what do you think, is this a load of garbage?” But. How did this get to [12]? Were the clubs full of people chanting “pump up the bitter” and flexing their arm.

Not a vintage week for music this week, was it, readers?

TOP 40 FROM 30 TO 11

[5] WET WET WET: with a little help from my friends. Mike Read fills us in on this charity single. “One side is Billy Bragg's She's Leaving Home, on the other side Wet Wet Wet with a little help from my friends.” Could we have the other side please Mr Ciani?

TOP 10. This week the weird New Order picture is replaced with one of the dog from the video.

[1] FAIRGROUND ATTRACTION: perfect. Eddi Reader dials down the big-coat-spinning-around this week. Which is a shame because the band are on the bigger main stage, and she could make her coat billow out if she wanted to, without inconveniencing anyone.

[15] KYLIE MINOGUE: got to be certain. On video

 Mastertape update: Right at the end of the recording there's a single insert shot of the Tony Blackburn head being operated direct to camera.

 PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK: Harry Enfield, Loadsamoney.

 *named after the steelworks, no doubt.

** this doesn't really work written down. Tenors/tenners. Do you see?

*** downgraded from brilliant.

**** super






  1. Chart Music podcast did this episode a few years ago:
    It's not a classic edition so they are quite hard on it, but a worthwhile analysis of it culturally nonetheless.