So here we are preparing to take our first uncertain steps into a (adopts best Tony Blackburn) brand new decade, it's somewhat ironic that over its first six months we'll be looking back on the last year of an old one. A year which with further irony is set to be the first without any edition of TOTP skipped because of banned/disinclined presenters since the inaugural re-run year of 76 was screened in 2011 - the fateful year when Jimmy Savile jangled his jewellery for the last time and was deemed worthy of not one but two tribute shows around Christmas time.
Woo. Brought to us in 2020 vision there's an explosion of new graphics for TOTP in 89. And from April the show reverted to alternating between solo presenters and duos. Opportunity knocked for debutants Jenny Powell (nice), the uncredited Tim Smith (who the...?), Simon Parkin, and Jakki Brambles, who hoped not to receive a prickly reception. Oh, and there's a Red Nose special with Nicky Campbell joined by Lenny Henry and Hale & Pace. Together with the kids' TV-aligned new order established in 88 they'll be hosting a scene something like this...
Kylie and Jason consolidated and capitalized on their positions as the golden are-they-or-aren't-they? couple with a string of further chart-toppers and big hits between them. Knowing no bounds before their empire rather inevitably crumbled along with the decade, their masters SAW enlisted everyone from the Queen of Disco herself Donna Summer down to iconoclastic teen Jack-enthusiasts The Reynolds Girls. Even bankable old Cliff joined the formulaic merry-go-round, but it was bubbly Scouse girl-next-door Sonia who perhaps made the stable most proud when at the height of a heatwave hot enough for Bananarama's Cruel Summer to be re-mixed she held the No.1 spot for two weeks with her debut, You'll Never Stop Me Loving You.
Fast out the blocks in January and sweeping aside the old year cobwebs came a combination of Bowie and Bing-like unlikelihood. Something's Gotten Hold Of My Heart had been a UK No.5 for Gene Pitney in 1967, though it failed to chart in the US. Marc Almond's version had first surfaced on his The Stars We Are album, released in 88. An impressed Gene made contact and it was agreed a duet might just work rather well, so with musical arrangement and performance from Marc's band La Magia, Gene effectively became a guest on a song he'd long made his own. The transatlantic cross-generational composite of the chanteur of the seedier side of life and the straight-laced family man proved successful beyond almost anyone's imagination when they reached the top and stayed there for four weeks. There again though, class will sometimes out, thank goodness. And Gene Pitney's wasn't the only distinctive American voice from the sixties to feature prominently in January. Following his sudden passing in December, Roy Orbison's You Got It became his first solo UK hit in 20 years and climbed to No. 3.
Madonna got blasphemous, Simple Minds seriously political. Both returned with No.1s. And it's especially glad tidings for SFE: Kate Bush is back on TOTP, with singles from The Sensual World, her first new album in four years. Sadly the increasingly reclusive one won't be seen in the studio though. But providing some counterbalance to the disappointment Debbie Harry is back performing at TV Centre for the first time in nearly a decade - good news for just about all of us.
Most prominent new kids on the block by the end of the year were, well, New Kids On The Block. The five young Americans certainly had the right stuff. Well, if you were a 12-year-old girl, that is. Shove over then Bros, try returning in 30 years or so, festooned with tattoos like half the Western world. There'll be menopausal rapture. Not to mention free rein on some distantly imagined cultural channel of the BBC's.
Like Bros, the boyband from Massachusetts enjoyed a year or two of mania before a certain Take That came along and turned the hundred-year pin-up wars back in favour of Britain.
In April came a tragedy that sadly rumbles on even today with no sense of closure. Following Bradford and Heysel, Hillsborough became the third football stadium synonymous with disaster in the eighties, and the Sheffield catastrophe took the worst toll. In a crush ensuing from shoddy queue management 96 Liverpool supporters lost their lives at an F A Cup semi-final. There with characteristic big heart a bunch of the city's finest including Paul McCartney and original songwriter Gerry Marsden came together with SAW and recorded a new version of Ferry Cross The Mersey in aid of the families left behind. The result spent three weeks at No.1.
Where the likes of Neneh Cherry, Bomb The Bass and - giving him the benefit of the doubt - Rebel MC were street tuff, Jazzie B's Soul II Soul showed that the sound of urban London could equally be smooth and sophisticated. Keep On Moving demonstrated just what this act was capable of and then when Back To Life (However Do You Want Me) spent four weeks of summer at No.1 their reputation for peerless style with the perfect formula astride the street and cocktail bar was cemented. Not that London held a monopoly in class, mind; when Rochdale lass Lisa Stansfield swept to the top with her All Around The World there was firm evidence that smooth and sophisticated could emerge from just about anywhere - bless!
Gonna get up, gonna get up, gonna get up, whoa! If they wanted to make a mark before the eighties were out Black Box were Ride On Time with the first of the mega Italo-house choons which seemingly emanated from underground laboratories and were to proliferate in the nineties. A great original, it held the No.1 spot for six weeks through either side of the autumn equinox and was the biggest-selling single of 89. French-Caribbean model Katrin Quinol was the face of Ride On Time, but it soon emerged not the voice. Such a force of nature was the track however that few were overly concerned at the revelation; in contrast to Milli Vanilli, who suffer eternal crucifixion for the same deception. C'est la vie. In Black Box's wake Belgium's Technotronic had basically souped up the bare bones of Todd Terry's (aka Royal House) Can You Party? and created a rave monster in Pump Up The Jam, which itself was promoted by a fake singer and came just a rung from dethroning Black Box. As the nineties loomed and rave took hold all in all the charts were becoming increasingly dancey, though honest or no the faces seem little stored in the collective memory bank and aren't anticipated at the next Missing Believed Wiped event either. You might argue there was never a better time to re-introduce a dance troupe to TOTP and fill the vacuum...
After its chart eradication in 81 the medley came back and scarred the fag end of the eighties with a vengeance. Whereas the great contagion back then comes for us with golden visions of Legs & Co, and at least a degree of tasteful consideration and original input, there was something altogether more cynical and mindless about the way Jive Bunny 'and the Mastermixers' raided the rock 'n' roll archive for their bite-size pardee jukebox. Frothier than a trainee barista's first attempt, this was nostalgia by osmosis tailored for the SAW generation. As for the visual side, the sight of the bopping lagomorph superimposed over proud Pathé monochrome just heightened the sense of a music industry deeply dumbed down and the urgent need for a dose of Master-myxomatosis. Thrice did Jive Bunny medleys reach the top of the charts, over a combined period of nine weeks. Talk about money for old rope.
Now who's this vaguely familiar twosome sauntering this way in...kaftans? Is it the egg men? Are they The Walrus? By jove, I do believe it's the return of Tears For Fears! So forget your pseudo-hippy rave merchants, forget your Inspiral Carpets, and certainly forget your Oasis. It was Messrs Orzabal and Smith who first popularized the nineties' fondness for mining the psychedelic sixties, with Sowing The Seeds Of Love - before the nineties had even begun!
Girl bands, never in much abundance are they?, and more's the pity. But this year we have one new to TOTP to enjoy. The former we've We've Got A Fuzzbox And We're Gonna Use It had dropped everything bar the effects pedal and undergone a slick makeover since their raw and punkish rag market beginnings of 86. Following Bomb The Bass's countdown sample in Beat Dis and with the mysterious F A B featuring MC Parker to come next year, there was quite a vogue for calling on the services of the Tracy brothers during the late eighties and early nineties. International Rescue paved the way for the Brummie VIXens to have two further hits in 89 and with variations on a sartorial theme in red, blue and gold to grace the studio they look certain to be popular in polls and - who knows? - may even get admin tuning in again. And for those liking their girls involved in something less glossy, there was Sharleen Spiteri. She didn't want a lover, she just needed a friend and there were three of the chaps alongside her in Texas, the band she founded with Johnny McElhone, formerly of Altered Images. Hailing from, er, Glasgow there was nevertheless definitely something Deep South about their breakthrough hit. It took time, a lot of time, to build on this early success but when they did they weren't for falling off the radar so easily. Trusty craft-smiths of melodic guitar pop or epitome of bland? You decide, I have.
A technical issue caused the blonde bombshell and Transvision Vamp's debut and only studio appearance of 88 to be lost to the re-runs, but all being well there's a few of their performances in store to look forward to this year. And it was congratulations to The Bangles on achieving a No.1 with Eternal Flame, although the ballad did cost them their reputation as something of an alternative band in the commercial mainstream and their presence in the top twenty sadly flickered out for good thereafter.
Are we mad for it? Is Dancer gonna teach us some freaky dancin'? Hallelujah that earthy Northerners are approaching to subvert what was fast resembling a kids' party and prove that one of the main routes into the nineties would be along the M6. As the decade ebbed away the Madchester phenomenon made a timely arrival to provide a danceable solution to indie outsiderdom. With The Stone Roses and Happy Mondays making their TOTP studio debuts on the same edition wham bam consecutively (the Mondays with go-to girl Kirsty MacColl) 23/11 can be considered to Madchester what 8/11/79 is to Two-tone from virtually a precise decade earlier. Soon more bands from the area such as The Inspiral Carpets, The Charlatans and The Mock Turtles would join the (24-hour) party and help bring the fresh new decade a genuinely happening feel.
And so we arrive at the cusp of the new decade, and some things never change. The lingering spectre of African poverty meant a visit from the pale imitation of Christmas past in the form of Band Aid II. Guiding star Geldof enlisted the un-holy if wise trinity of Stock, Aitken and Waterman on production and duly achieved the last No.1 of the eighties. Those tasked this time with reminding mainly Muslim nations that the premier Christian festival had arrived ranged from religious elder Cliff Richard and Kevin Godley (naturally) and included Kylie & Jason, Bros, Jimmy Somerville, Sonia, D Mob, Bananarama, The Pasadenas and Lisa Stansfield; while Big Fun brought the fairy lights. Scrooge was played by the British public who bought 600,000 copies, over three million fewer than the original fundraiser sold five years previously. Boo hiss.
Sharing their wisdom on this year's traditional documentary overview will be Jenny Powell, Jason Donovan, Pete Waterman again (does SA now stand for Shy Absentees?) Lisa Stansfield, Shaun Ryder (best send the kids out the room), Chris Rea, Marc Almond, Jazzie B and Sharleen Spiteri.
A selection of nuggets:
Fuzzbox: International Rescue
Morrissey: The Last Of The Famous International Playboys
Pop Will Eat Itself: Wise Up! Sucker
The Pixies: Monkey Gone To Heaven
Donna Summer: This Time I Know It's For Real
New Model Army: Vagabonds
Transvision Vamp: Baby I Don't Care
Yello: Of Course I'm Lying
The Cure: Lullaby
The Beautiful South: Song For Whoever
The Sugarcubes: Regina
XTC: King For A Day
Martika: Toy Soldiers
The Stone Roses: She Bangs The Drums
Black Box: Ride On Time
Deborah Harry: I Want That Man
Dusty Springfield: In Private
Right, I'm off to purchase a psychedelic hoodie...
An excellent overview, GD. Since 1984 ended, 80s TOTP and the music landscape had been on a downward curve. As a big fan of Dance/Rave music and also with an eye on the Indie/Madchester scene, the outlook is an upward one.
Thanks GD for a brilliant and very comprehensive review, and it looks as though there's much to be optimistic about with the 1989 rerun. Just a small point but the time for The Story Of 1989 has been put back by an hour to 9.30pm..... maybe Sean Ryder says something indecorous which has put people in a flap, but it's Big Hits 1989 that's now on at 8.30pm.
Do we see all of Madonna's blasphemous video on TOTPs as I seem to remember the BBC had some issues with it at the time?
Also worth looking forward to is Edelweiss – “Bring Me Edelweiss” because we just don't get enough good music from Austria. Seriously though, there's lots of good dance / early house music to look forward to - and a resident TOTPs dance troupe would be a reinvigorating approach for this emerging genre.
Btw, I never had a psychedelic hoodie, or any type of hoodie for that matter, which I admit is total wardrobe fail on my part.
You only need one 'ism' in your life, and that's Luluism
I think you could be on to something with Shaun Ryder being the reason behind 'The Story' being put back beyond 'the watershed'. The reversal with 'Big Hits' is unprecedented, but I think I'll leave 8:30 as the start time in the thread title as most watch the whole combined two hours.
Accomplished as ever, GD. It's that time of year for another characteristic, subtly witty preview for the latest "Story of..", consumed with gratitude after one week solid of festive food.
Thanks for the tasty taster.
(Had forgotten Tears For Fears made an end-of-decade return)
Thank you for the extensive write up for 1989, GD. You almost achieved the impossible by making me look forward eagerly to the TOTPS reruns for that year- almost.
As you show, there are enough good things in 1989 to satisfy most tastes, and enough to make one feel very churlish. Which will win out?
Bring on The Story, the Big Hits and the Top Of The Pops themselves, I am ready to move on to a year where I actually missed most of the first three months at the time, as I was abroad back then.
Thank you once again, GD.
Excellent preview GD. Thanks for doing the research. 1988 has been tough, many times I thought I wasn't going to make it through; my faith was questioned, much soul-searching was required. At times I was in a very dark place etc etc. But 1989 appears to suggest we've been through the worst of it and happier days lie ahead. But we must remain vigilant, many more antipodean horrors lie ahead for the unwary. Beware the one they call Stefan Dennis.
Well Shaun Ryder excelled himself - I think we have our confirmation regarding the switcheroo!
Once again I found the Story an enjoyable one, my only quibble being the usual polemical whining that the country was in a right state and people had had enough etc. No doubt they'll finally give it a break if we reach 97.
Considering it only reached No.60, it was pleasantly surprising to hear The Pixies' Monkey Gone To Heaven used as background music.
Huge Pixies fan here too. Seen them twice, both times at festivals. Would really loved to have seen them in the intimacy of a small venue though. Monkey Gone To Heaven is one of those records which has acquired much appreciation since, and has now crept into the mainstream.
Fantastic to see REM's brilliant TotPs performance of Orange Crush on the big hits compilation. I don't think I've seen it since its original transmission. Another band who were "cult" for many years before signing to a major label and going mainstream. Btw, for the uninitiated out there, the early albums are outstanding. Yes, all of them.
No, the pictures were of 'inner city' Britain. There's no doubt she was just referring to domestic issues at that moment.
No GD. You’re wrong. You can clearly see a person on top of the Berlin Wall while Lisa is saying her piece. There’s also archive footage of people moving en masse across into West Germany and reuniting with their families.
You only need one 'ism' in your life, and that's Luluism