The Tube: The Best ’80s Music Show?

Paula and Jools

Paula and Jools

So Channel Four have reignited ‘TFI Friday‘, the mid-’90s, Chris Evans-fronted chat ‘n’ music show. Though it pretty much defined the ‘golden age’ of Britpop, its format still rings true, mainly due to Evans’ endearing ‘innocent abroad’ presenting style but also its exciting presentation of live acts.

I’m not a fan of Will Young’s music but his performance on ‘TFI’ the other day was funny and cool; he visibly (and I’m not just talking about his insanely tight trousers) enjoyed having his fans at touching distance and raised his game accordingly.

Watching ‘TFI’ got me thinking about music on TV in the ’80s. My favourite music show still is and probably always will be ‘The Tube’, which ran on Friday nights between 1982 and 1987 and was presented mainly by Jools Holland and Paula Yates. Though Jools has found his niche presenting the very successful ‘Later…’ series for BBC1, I preferred the more youthful, risky, ‘uncut’ Jools of The Tube (who was given a hefty slap on the wrist when he famously trailed the show one week by saying people who watched it were ‘groovy fuckers’!). And he had a good chemistry with the intelligent, funny and sexy Paula.


From week to week, you could never guess what you were going to see. There were live bands, star interviews, specially-filmed videos, on-location featurettes and weird bits of alternative comedy usually involving Rik Mayall in various degrees of drunkenness.

Some of it was great, some of it was OK and some of it was crap, but you couldn’t take your eyes off it. It helped launch some careers (Twisted Sister, Fine Young Cannibals, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Terence Trent D’Arby) and relaunch others, and you could see every type of music on the show – Metal, Goth, Funk, Fusion, Indie, Pop, Soul – all in the spirit of discovery without any pandering reverence or bourgeois pretension. And though the show featured many huge names, it also embraced up-and-comers: if your band was any good, had some fans and a decent plugger, you were on. And there was a bar on the set too.

Here are a few clips from The Tube that have stuck in the memory:

The Bangles – ‘Manic Monday’

Check out the creepy guy at the front staring straight at Susanna Hoffs throughout, almost blocking the camera. Full marks to the girls for giving the (Prince-penned) song their all despite a dumbstruck Newcastle crowd. Tight harmonies.

Billy Mackenzie interview, 1985

One of those great, weird, un-PR’d interviews that popped up now and again. A post-‘Party Fears Two‘ Billy is clearly taking the piss throughout, in the nicest possible way, and it also shows how The Tube wasn’t scared of going out into the ‘provinces’ (Dundee in this case).

Cocteau Twins – ‘Pink Orange And Red’

Great haircuts, great voice, great guitar sound and underwater bass. The golden age of goth/pop.

Blancmange – ‘Living On The Ceiling’

More good hair, and there’s something about this performance and song that always cheers me up. Someone or something is making singer Neil Arthur struggle to keep a straight face throughout.

Prefab Sprout – ‘Cruel’

This little Bacharach-influenced bossa nova was my first glimpse of the marvellous Prefab. Rather sweet, really, and totally unrepresentative of their later work.

More memorable Tube moments? Of course. Let me know yours below.


2 thoughts on “The Tube: The Best ’80s Music Show?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s