I took a trip down memory lane last night as part of Channel 4’s retrospective look back over 25 years of the British TV channel by showing selected programmes from the last quarter of a century over on More4. I watched an episode of ‘ground breaking’ 80’s music show The Tube followed by the slightly more controversial The Word from the 90’s.
The chosen 1983 edition of The Tube came from Northern Ireland (usually The Tube came from wonderful down town Newcastle upon Tyne) and was attempting to expose young unsigned bands in a region that, at the time, would have been largely ignored by the UK record industry and would have been ,of course still in the midst of the sectarian troubles which many of the bands seemed to think was either taboo or too predictable a subject matter to discuss in their fledgling music.
Presumably the real reason this edition was picked for re-airing was that the headline live act was U2 debuting their album War which is a curious thing as U2 are really a band from Southern Ireland (OK two members born in England) though I guess it helped the cause of highlight Northern Ireland itself and the only group to sing about the troubles (Sunday, Bloody Sunday). There was also a filmed (all outside broadcast elements were on film and not video and looked curiously extravagant from today’s perspective) interview with David Bowie announcing his 1983 Serious Moonlight tour. I couldn’t take my eyes off his teeth.The Tube had a memorable theme tune by Jeff Beck and Jan Hammer (originally) which morphed over the years, my favourite version being the gloriously over the top Trevor Horn manipulated version circa 1986.
The Word is often cited as one of the low points at which television started to let in more base elements that we see in television today. The public ‘doing anything to get on TV’, hyped controversy and voyeuristic fly on the wall TV aimed to titillate. This late night 90’s show combined live music and slightly less ethical ‘yoof’ based ’shock television’. The chosen episode featured the late Oliver Reed, deliberately invited onto the show in order to appear drunk and unethically encouraged into that condition by placing copious amounts of free alcohol in his dressing room with obligatory (tee-hee) hidden camera .
A performance by the predominantly all girl LA group L7 that culminates in the lead singer removing her lower clothing and the embarrassingly amateur interview technique of host and professional Mancunian Terry Christian. The only saving grace of this edition was that one of the studio guests was late US comedian Bill Hicks who would, in this 1992 programme, have been only 18 months away from his untimely death.The only consistently stylised thing about The Word was the 808 State penned theme tune and annoyingly perky titles.