Top of the Pops 16 & 23 February 1989


More housekeeping: Top of the Pops cannot be stopped! (except by the BBC in 2005). Many thanks to Billy Smart and mumu03 who both stepped in and offered help to keep these write ups going. Billy Smart has kindly hooked me up with the relevant episodes and I understand from the Popscene forum (in other news, I've learned there's a Popscene forum) that efforts are being made to get the whole huge archive back online somewhere. Let's see what happens.

Mark Goodier: “Yo. Good evening and welcome to Europe's number one pop show.”
Andy Crane: “It's two days after Valentine's Day but we're still feeling romantic, we're still feeling mushy.”
Mark Goodier: “Well almost, with our first band. They are the biggest British rock band in the world.”
Andy Crane: “This is single number six from Hysteria, Def Leppard...”
Mark Goodier: “Woh!”
Andy Crane: “... Rocket!”

 [20] DEF LEPPARD: rocket. The biggest British rock band in the world? Iron Maiden make a note to never appear again on Top of the Pops.

But enough of that. These write ups have been given a new lease of life so lets use it to talk about camera positioning. This edition opens with an odd, and very dark, shot of the audience. The camera then rises up to reveal our hosts in the crow's nest. But where is the camera? The crow's nest sits at the join of the two arms of the main stage and the camera has been placed behind the stage right arm, in the gap between the back of the arm and the black drapes used to cover the studio wall. This is why the crowd shot looked so murky, they've been gathered in a part of the set that was never lit or designed to appear on camera.

This angle also allows a good look at the painted flat that hangs behind the crow's nest. I think it's been there since the twenty fifth anniversary party revamp, 31/12/1985, but you don't normally get to see it because it's behind the hosts. We get a much better angle here, although it's partially obscured by a combination of Mark Goodier, some bloke, and a couple of heart-shaped balloons. The logo is a canvas flat hung from the ceiling (it's gently swinging backwards and forwards, and you can see one of the ropes suspending it from the lighting grid) with the Top of the Pops logo stuck on; the big white circle in the middle casts a shadow.

Def Leppard may be “the biggest British rock band in the world,” (Pink Floyd cross Mark Goodier off their Christmas card list) but they are less important than Samantha Fox. Last week she was allowed to sing her ghastly single uninterrupted. This week Mark Goodier is cuts off Def Leppard (“serious rock and roll!” Bachman-Turner overdrive tut disappointedly). After a week's respite, Paul Ciani has resumed his war against time and his attempts to cram as many songs into 30 minutes can be best represented by a picture of Richard Hannay hanging from Big Ben.

[2] SIMPLE MINDS: belfast child. On video.


[33] GLORIA ESTEFAN: can't stay away from you. Gloria Estefan is seated on a tall chair, alone on stage. That's how you know this is a serious song.

[24] POISON: every rose has its thorn. On video.



38 POP WILL EAT ITSELF: can u dig it?

34 DEBBIE GIBSON: lost in your eyes

[21] TEXAS: i don't want a lover. There's a terrific performer's eye view of the studio from a camera at the back of the stage, looking straight out into the audience. The camera operator then walks to the front of the stage to grab a view of lead singer Sharleen Spiteri and when Vision Mixer Kathryn Randall cuts to another view you can see the first camera operator standing with his back to the audience, completely blocking their view of Texas. It must have been to see Top of the Pops recorded. The studio audience would have to pretend to ignore people dashing around and leaping up and down off the stages, and also deal with huge cameras which could roll out of the darkness and crush the unwary, but the viewer at home watching the finished programme feels like they are floating invisibly around the studio.


[17] SAM BROWN: stop. I am distracted by trivia. The string quartet at the back of the stage all have music stands set up in front of them but the stands are positioned about six feet away from where the musicians are sitting. Surely that's too far for them to properly see all the little dots and squiggles? Was Sam Brown's gimmick that she had assembled a troop of long-sighted musicians?

Also, the two backing singers. The one on the right has mastered the slow shoulder roll/walking on the spot move but the one on the left moves very uncertainly, as if she's only just been introduced to the concept.

Next, Sam Brown does the full palm out Supreme's style stop-in-the-name-of-love gesture (as required by BS ISO 22574:2023) but every time she does this the camera is in a medium close up, or nearer, and the impact is lost. It seems like the move is a surprise to the camera operators, did she not do this at rehearsal? 

Finally. There's a clunkingly obvious edit just as the song goes into the musical interlude. You thought it had another minute or so to run? Guess again, here's Andy Crane.

[32] STYLE COUNCIL: promised land. Weird editing makes this look like a pre-recorded performance. It isn't but I'm baffled why Paul Ciani works so hard to make it look like one. Maybe the cutting in and out is designed to hide a problem with the recording?

TOP 10:

[1] MARC ALMOND & GENE PUTNEY: something's gotten hold of my heart. On video.

[29] S'XPRESS: hey music lover. On video. Bruno Bookes and Susi Mathis next week.


Bruno Brookes: “Hello and welcome to Europe's number one TV pop show this is Top of the Pops, I'm Bruno and here is the lovely Susie Mathis.”
Susie Mathis: “We've got a great show for you tonight. Starting with the highest climber up fifteen places to fourteen it's S'Express.”
Bruno Brookes: “Yeah, look out for the electronic filofax from Mark Moore.”

[15] S'XPRESS: hey music lover. I'm not sure what Bruno Brookes comment is about. I'm sure it was hilarious in context. What Mark Moore is waving around is a... well obviously I don't know... it looks like a beige chunk of electronics. It could be a stylophone for all I know.

There's a new name credited with Lighting, Mike Manning. IMDB tells me he's also worked on KYTV, Happy Families, Eastenders, and the Victoria Wood series that wasn't As Seen on TV. Mike has absolutely blasted the main stage with white light. I think I get what he's trying to do here, he's trying to make the perspex scenery glow, but I don't know if it works. The picture just looks very flat and washed out. Unfortunately this is not a great S'Express performance. The video is great, with lots of larking about and fun, but here in the studio everyone is just standing in a line dancing on the spot  and waiting for the camera to find them.

MICHEAL JACKSON: leave me alone. On video with a small section of bonus tape damage.


[32] EDIE BRICKELL & NEW BOHEMIANS: what am i: Now this looks better. Mike Manning is still working on flooding the stage with light but this time he's used a deep orange. It looks brilliant. The steel of the Needle stage reflects enough of the purple of the studio that there's a proper colour contrast going on and through the gaps in the stage walls you can see the black of the studio lit by neon tubes. Fab.

[10] RICK ASTLEY: hold me in your arms. A repeat of the 09/02/1989 performance.


[33] TYREE featuring KOOL ROCK STEADY: turn up the bass. Surely I've seen this video before. It's the one for Jack Your Body by Steve "Silk" Hurley. Turn Up The Bass appears to have got two releases and two videos, one in 1988 and one in 1989. The 1988 release recycled the video for Jack Your Body wholesale (minus a couple of bits snipped where the words Jack Your Body appeared on screen) the 1989 video, according to Youtube is completely different. Top of the Pops uses a clip from the 1988 video for the 1989 single. Cripes, all that research just for a 30 second clip.

[31] LIVING IN A BOX: blow the house down.

[30] TONE LOC: wild thing.

[28] DUSTY SPRINGFIELD: nothing has been proved. Unless you are Bruno Brookes in which case the song is called Nothing to Prove.

[16] HUE & CRY: looking for linda. Pat and Greg Kane are “singing live.” Alas, I only have eyes for the guitarist who steals focus by deliberately standing under the flickering stage light which illuminates him in shades of green, yellow, and purple.


[2] MICHAEL BALL: love changes everything. God bless him, Michael Ball is clearly overwhelmed by the rapturous applause he gets from the crowd. He bows and says “thank you,” one of the few times I can remember the performer addressing the crowd outside of a song.

“Aspects of Love opens London, April 12th,” says Susie Mathis. Top of the Pops is promoting Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals now, is it? Was this a contractual obligation of Michael Ball appearing? Like those announcements that used to be made over the end credits of sitcoms, “David Garlick is currently appearing in Not With My Trousers Full of Gypsum, You Don't! at the Philtrum Theatre, Oswestry.”

TOP 10:

[1] SIMPLE MINDS: belfast child. On video.

[12] BANANARAMA / LANANEENEENOONOO: help. On video. Gary Davies and Anthea Turner next week.

 PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK: Edie Brickell & New Bohemians, What Am I.



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