Top of the Pops 16 March 1989


Words: Chris Arnsby
Simon Mayo: “BBC1 and Radio 1 together as the Breakfast Crew stay up late for you, introducing the nation's number one newsreader Rod McKenzie.”
Rod Mckenzie: “Among tonight's hot headline acts weve got Chanelle and Fuzzbox.”
Sybil Ruscoe: “But first tonight. They're live in the Top of the Pops studio with Round and Round, down there it's New Order.”

 [22] NEW ORDER: round & round. Justice for the Rod McKenzie one! His first Top of the Pops appearance, 12/01/1989, was officially unacknowledged. He didn't get a credit in the Radio Times or an on screen caption. This time he gets both. This presumably also means he got paid for this repeat under the BBC's arcane rules about who gets a lick of the shiny brass ring that is the licence fee.

With all this said. It's a shame Rod wears the same outfit as last time; yellow long-sleeved polo shirt and blue jeans. Rod, if you come back again you need to make a quick raid on Man at C&A. Speaking of ampersands (what a link), the BBC caption generator can do them. I don't think I've noticed that before.

The studio audience has been featuring more prominently in the programme recently. It's clearly an attempt to move the appearance of the show away from Light Entertainment and towards something more resembling a concert. Here we see the crowd right at the start of the show and a glimpse of New Order on the main stage waiting for their cue, as the camera pans up to the Crow's Nest. We also get a several good long looks at the audience bopping away during the synthesiser breaks.

And, check out a new Quantel effect. We've had split-screen electronic effects before, combining the picture from two cameras. Now brace yourself for three. The screen is wiped to blue, and then each third is covered by the output of a camera which comes in alternating top to bottom, bottom to top, and finally top to bottom again.

It's the wipe to a plain blue background which catches my attention. It's as if the blue background could be replaced with the output of another camera (so that the three picture slices slide in over the top) but either it wasn't possible to bring in a feed from a fourth camera (I can't work out why, there are at least five cameras in the studio; three pointing at New Order and two being used for the crowd shots, surely you could slide the effect in over a shot of the audience?), or the system wasn't able to handle four camera feeds, or Vision Mixer Carol Abbott didn't know how to do it.

[7] GLORIA ESTEFAN AND MIAMI SOUND MACHINE: can't stay away from you. A cost-effective third outing for this performance originally shown on the 16/02/1989 show.


[25] CHANELLE: one man. “The lady who used to sing in the shower,” according to Sybil Ruscoe. Was this what Chanelle was famous for?


[28] ALYSON WILLIAMS: sleep talk.

[31] ELVIS COSTELLO: veronica.

[36] KIM WILDE: love in the natural way.

[37] NEW MODEL ARMY: vagabonds.

[23] FUZZBOX: international rescue. What the heck is the thing that gets a close up around 64 seconds into the song? My best guess, it's a reflection of some of the brass buttons on the distinctive Fuzzbox costumes.

Sybil Ruscoe thinks Fuzzbox are “possibly the best thing to come out of Birmingham since Aston Villa.” Thus disappointing fans of Jasper Carrott, Birmingham City football team, and HP Sauce.

[2] MADONNA: like a prayer. On video. Basically started about two-thirds of the way through, to skip the contentious bits. There's further editing to remove shots Madonna kneeling while the female priest lays her hand on Madonna's forehead (I think the implication of religious ecstasy is why this shot is removed), interracial kissing (it's like the Star Trek episode Plato's Stepchildren had never been made, oh wait the BBC didn't show that until 1993), burning crosses, a statue bleeding from an eye, and more religious imagery. These are replaced with less controversial shots from earlier in the video.

It's easy to mock the BBC's caution but the editing is not clumsy. It's done well enough that you get the story of the video in a bowdlerised form. And you can, as I did in 1989, watch Top of the Pops to see the “controversial new Madonna video” and come away from it not realising you haven't seen the real thing.


[15] SOUL II SOUL FEATURING CARON WHEELER: keep on movin'. I admire Simon Mayo and Sybil Ruscoe's commitment to keeping the Breakfast Crew together on TV; and also Paul Ciani for going along with it. However next time, assuming there is a next time, maybe Rod McKenzie could be given his own microphone; or does the Top of the Pops budget only stretch to two mikes for the hosts?

TOP 10:

[1] JASON DONOVAN: too many broken hearts. On video. Again.

[21] GUNS N' ROSES: paradise city. On video. Andy Crane and Mark Goodier next week.

PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK: I didn't really engage with any of the songs this week. New Order, and Round and Round, is closest to performance of the week (in the sense of being the best use of Top of the Pops resources to present a song) but, you know what, the thing that really stands out this week is the editing of the Like a Prayer video. Performance of the week goes to whatever unnamed video editor made a version of the video that the BBC felt comfortable broadcasting, and Paul Ciani for, presumably, supervising and approving the edit.

1 comment:

  1. I quite like the direction of the New Order performance too, it's just a shame it was for one of their weak songs. Apparently they didn't even want to release it as a single, but Tony Wilson (possibly not realising the lyrics were about him) coaxed them into doing so on the basis that he would resign from Factory Records if it didn't reach the top 5. It didn't, and he resigned. For only one day.