Tuesday, 3 January 2017

578 The Tube

First  viewed :  5  November  1982

This  was  the  main  draw  for  me  as  far  as  the  new  channel  was  concerned, a  105 -minute    live  pop  show  at  5.15 pm  on  a  Friday.

The  show  was  made  by  Tyne  Tees  and  broadcast  from  their  studios  in  Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The  presenters  were  Jools  Holland  and  a  pregnant  ( with  Fifi  Trixibelle ) Paula  Yates. The  idea  was  to  have  a  mix  of  live  interviews, pre-filmed  features  and  comedy  interludes  and  mini-sets  from  a  few  live  acts . The  biggest  name  among  the  bands  would  generally  have  the  last  half  hour  of  the  programme  to  themselves. With  it  being  live , unpredictability  was  a  key  selling  point.

The  first  episode  scored  a  couple  of  coups  with  the  first  ever  live  performance  by  Heaven  17  and  the  last  TV  appearance  by  The  Jam  who'd  announced  their  split  a  couple  of  weeks  earlier. They  did  the  last  set  with  Paul  Weller  singing  deeper  and  hoarser  than  usual.

I  watched  it  regularly,  at  least  until  I  went  to  university,  but  irritation  soon  set  in. With  it  not  being  a  chart-based  show,  the  music  selection  was  prone  to  nepotism. Squeeze's  Gilson  Lavis  seemed  to  be  the  house  drummer  for  the  programme . Paul  Young  got  more  than  his  fair  share  of  appearances on  the  programme  due  to  working  with  Holland's  former  backing  singers. The  Christians  got  a  leg  up  due  to  working  with  Squeeze's  producer  Laurie  Latham . ZTT's  eminence  gris  Jill  Sinclair  had  a  stake  in  the  show  so  all  their  acts  got  a  more  than  fair  hearing. I'm  presuming  Glaswegian  electro-funk  outft  Set  The  Tone  had  some  connection  with  Muriel  Gray , the  skinny  Scotswoman  who  took  over  when  Yates  became  indisposed.

The  other  thing  that  gradually  alienated  me  from  the  programme  was  the  erosion  of  the  musical  content  in  favour  of  alternative  comedy. At  first  you  just  had  a  poet  called  Mike  Miwurdz  whose  material   was  10%  funny   and  the  odd  appearance  by  performance  artist  Wavis O  Shave   (  0 %  funny )  but  then  you  had  regular  appearances  by  French  and  Saunders  and  so  on.  In  later  years  it  got  very  kitsch-y  with  appearances  by  sixties  word-mangler  Stanley  Unwin. He  was  a  "panellist"  in  a  dreadful  elongated  spoof  of  Celebrity  Squares  compered  by  an  unknown  comedian  who  was  so  wooden  and  amateur-ish  that  I  felt  confident  he'd  never  be  seen  on  TV  again. He  turned  out  to  be  Vic  Reeves. I'm  sure  this  shift  was  the  main  reason  for  the  show's  declining  ratings.

Still  there  were  some  memorable  moments  over  the  programme's  life  span   -

  • Two  great  singles  I  first  heard  on  the  show , It's  Immaterial's  Driving  Away  From  Home  and  Thomas  Lang's  The  Happy  Man

  • Muriel  Gray  fearlessly  subjecting  Mick  Jagger  to  some  hard  questioning  about  the  "controversial"  video  to  Undercover  of  the  Night

  • Marc  Almond's  microphone  conking  out  during  Where  The  Heart  Is
  • Heavy  metal  hard  man  Thor  blowing  up  and  bursting  a  hot  water  bottle  with  suitable  "don't  try  this  at  home"  warnings
  • Yates  sparking  off  three  decades  of  tabloid  frenzy  with  her  interview / seduction  of  Inxs's  frontman  Michael  Hutchence  
The  show  eventually  came  to  grief  in  1987. Holland  referred  to  "groovy  fuckers "  in  a  live  trailer for  the  show  and  it  was  taken  off the  air  for  three  weeks  as  a  result  of  the  controversy.  It  returned  with  a  penitent  Holland  still  on  board  but  the  writing  was  on  the  wall  for  the  show  and  it  was  axed  in  April  1987  after  four  and  a  half  years.


  1. Seems strange that you rarely see any repeats or random satellite shows, unless I've missed them.

    I did enjoy their "The Laughing Prisoner" one-off, featuring as it did XTC in a rare post-Partridge breakdown public showing.

  2. Should have added, in reference to your Vic Reeves comment - he would have been tellingly missing the key component that made his comedy career - namely, a certain solicitor from Middlesbrough.