Thursday, 26 January 2017
593 The Other Side of the Tracks
First viewed : 22 January 1983
This was a decent little programme from Channel 4 on a Saturday evening , looking at the workings of the music business by concentrating on a couple of artists each show. Because it was an hour long show on a commercial channel, the placing of the ad breaks meant that one artist got two thirds of the episode and the other just one.
The programme was devised and presented by one of Radio One's more cerebral DJs , the American ex-pat Paul Gambaccini and reflected his interests in more ways than one. Most, though not all, of the artists featured were at least of some interest to America and at least some of the episodes were broadcast there as well. Most of the artists were also reasonably well established - with one glaring exception. The first programme ( which I didn't catch ) featured Phil Collins - and Kajagoogoo.
Who ? Kajagoogoo were EMI's new signings and had only just released their first single. Were EMI sponsoring the show or something ? In promoting the programme, Gambaccini , a classic rock and soul fan, was gushing over this plastic haircut band* comparing them to the Beatles and other greats. What was going on ? When the band's single reached number one, the tabloids soon winkled out the truth. Gambaccini and the band's singer Chris Hammill ( "Limahl ") were living together. Both men were in the closet at the time and insisted it was a platonic arrangement but no one was fooled. The actual episode justified itself by interviewing EMI hacks about the mechanism of launching a new band on the market.
Nepotism aside, it was a well put together programme which was engaging even when you didn't have much interest in the artists involved. I'd never buy a Lionel Ritchie record but he was so articulate and engaging in discussing his music that he held my attention. On the other hand, Mark "I'm so laid back I'm not going to say anything coherent" Knopfler drove me up the wall.
The programme was fortnightly and alternated with Gastank , a televised jamming session memorably described by Mickie Most as "a bunch of old has-beens getting together for a singsong". I never bothered tuning in for that.
The show ran for two series in 1983 and 1984.
* Kajagoogoo actually made one or two decent records after bumping Hammill in the wake of his outing but it was too late for them to be taken seriously.