“We’ve got a new single out …this isn’t it”*


(*Justin Sullivan, New Model Army appearing on The Tube )

When I was in my early teens I watched any programme that featured Dexys. This almost always meant watching them mime yet again through their version Jackie Wilson Said, months after it had dropped out of the charts. I don’t think any single was as heavily plugged on British TV. In fact by the end of 1982, I was beginning to get a bit bored with watching Dexys on TV, but out loyalty and and hope that it might be a new song, I continued. One day a school friend told me that they were appearing on new Channel 4 programme The Tube. Dutifully I watched and this time was different. No Jackie Wilson Said (ok , they were plugging the not particularly good follow up Let’s Get This Straight) and this time they were playing a live mini-set. This seemed like quite a revolutionary idea for a music programme at the time . Within a year I’d started watching The Tube almost weekly and carried on until it ended 1987.

I’ve recently been indulging in Tube nostalgia with a bit of prompting from Channel 4’s recent Rewind The Tube documentary. This is I think the second documentary on The Tube, allowing me to reminisce misty-eyed about my discovery of “alternative music”.Could I possibly find anything to complain about here? Of course I can! Neither documentary seems to be about programme I actually watched.
The first doc way back in the 90s was terrible. Watching this you’d think The Tube was just Top Of The Pops with worse production values and dodgy sound. The emphasis of this and the Best Of The Tube clips series that followed, was on the succession of big names that appeared probably in order to pick up some extra street cred, and the odd new act that went onto bigger things – ie Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Madonna, Twisted Sister (ok, perhaps they didn’t get a mention after all). This wasn’t why I watched.
The new documentary was much better, looking at The Tube’s provocative moments and it’s role giving a mouthpiece to people outside the mainstream media . Or occasionally not , as in the case of the striking miner craftily smuggled on stage playing tambourine for the Redskins who found his mike wasn’t working when he attempted to deliver his speech. The documentary gave a fair bit of space to this incident , from the points of view of both the producers and the striking miner. The miner was apparently called Norman Strike. Really?
The documentary was also good when it came to the irreverent approach of the presenters, which was a lot of the fun as a teenager. It certainly didn’t seem like anything else on TV at the time, and the young Jools Holland seemed to my impressionable mind to be the coolest person on TV. It was a very long time ago!
But parts of this documentary grated again. There was some brief coverage of comedy punks Toy Dolls who opened the first episode,. “Remember them?…Me neither” sneered Tim Healey narrator. Wanker. And were Frankie Goes To Hollywood really “the freakiest band of the 80s”. Were they even the freakiest band to appear on The Tube? Freakier than Foetus, Psychic TV, or even Soft Cell? In short it overlooked the best thing about The Tube, that it regularly gave national teatime coverage alternative bands that had no hope or even intention of appearing on Top Of The Pops. Add to that bands appeared to be able to play whatever they wanted. Some were there to plug the new single, a lot of them didn’t bother. The audiences unlike other music programmes just seemed to do what they wanted whether that was an outbreak of mass pogoing or standing around looking bored. In other words it was like an actual club gig – if you had actual club gigs that included Killing Joke and Cliff Richard on the same bill. So as the documentaries are basically wrong as usual I thought I’d post a few performances that stick in my mind
Not alternative, in fact at the peak of their mainstream success, but I don’t care. Dexys took the opportunity to do a barely recognisable reworked version of an old hit, a version that despite being in effect a new song, they never released. Of course…

Performing Eighties almost a year before they released it as a single (the lyrics are different). This was definitely one thing that planted a punky seed in my mind.

On Friday teatime you could discover bands like this that you had no previous awareness of. It only took me about 25 years to follow up this discovery, but there you go.

Not a band I really got into in the end, but this seemed great at the time. Not to mention the angry-of-Tunbridge-Wells types who appeared on the Right To Reply programme the following week to complain about The Cramps…well, just to complain about them. After which presenter said “make up your own mind” and showed a clip of the performance! I looked for this on youtube as well, but no success.

30 thoughts on ““We’ve got a new single out …this isn’t it”*

  1. fabulous bands you’ve chosen there! I would also include Southern Death Cult, Danielle Dax and The Danse Society who were also on, but (and I and my head in shame here) I didn’t see their performances at the time as I was a bit young and really liked Prince. However I do have very fond memories of the Psychedelic Furs and some other cool bands in about 1987.

    I’ve got this TV programme recorded to watch, but I did see all the Best of the Tube series, which had very slim pickings for a goth/indie fan, the fast forward button was very useful.

    • I remember seeing Danse Society and the Furs. I was disappointed by the Furs at the time, I was a new fan and all of a sudden they were aiming for the America mainstream (although the truth is hey had been heading that way for a while). The Cult’s appearance when they’d just dropped the “Death” doing Spiritwalker is on youtube and is very good, and I’m not even a Cult fan.
      The new documentary is to be fair much better than the last one. It focuses much more on the social and political context than the music, although it goes a bit overboard in places , eg claiming they were “changing the world” through their role in Band Aid

      • I watched the documentary last night, it was interesting, but as you say, isn’t what I remember. I don’t think anyone else likes the Midnight to Midnight album by the Furs, but I was just getting into them when it came out, so I have a soft spot for them (I quite like Let’s Dance by Bowie for similar reasons).

        I’m going to go and watch Spiritwalker now! The performance I remember has Ian with bleached white hair, here’s Fatman

      • “absolutely love Fat Man, I rate pretty much everything by early Cult, they felt dangerous. :-)”

        They certainly did. I was so far into Sonic Youth, Big Black, etc. that I didn’t follow them at all when they became The Cult. Nowadays The Cult get played on the local station I listen to quite a bit – they sound great.

  2. Ace thread idea. Will come back when I can get to the PC. My own biggest memories were of Spear Of Destiny, Talk Talk, and Cameo, all of whose performances I’ve mentioned before.
    And that’s before I even get to the rockers …

  3. Me head is full of junk and occasionally good bits like Paula & Jool’s Tube. They are on the docs, but I liked the other scottish lass whose name suddenly went from me head
    Someone tell me else I won’t be able sleep
    An episode I remember started with Jools in Hull on his motorbike next to King Billy’s golden statue. That is just a walk from the ferry stop, where I came each year to see father christmas in Binns. Under the statue a men’s loo with a clear glass cistern with goldfish swimming inside. Across the road an arcade with indoor market and a joke shop that still sells black soap ad fake dog poo
    And then, after comparing video and real film, Jools said over to Liverpool for the Crystal Day
    Footage of the bunnies ended with the crowd singing along to Ocean Rain
    Wasn’t used to sing alongs to Supper’s Ready, Highway Star or Topographic or even White Riot.. So it was unusual at the time to see a crowd joining in … nowadays everyone sings along to everything .. Me & me lad saw the Who at the KC Stadium and the crowd were singing along to the Ordinary Boys third on the bill .. Who were the Ordinary Boys and how did these people know the words .. Mind you back in the day, we all sang along to Lindisfarne
    Ocean Rain with Mac mumbling in his best Leonard Cohen and suddenly opening up on ‘beneath the waves’
    Night, safe journey home, he said

    • Murial Gray pulled sour faces whenever Paula gave her an incoherent link to follow
      of course, I’m ancient enough to remember the Whistle Test where they didn’t do a latest single either.. loads of hard rock & prog .. but on all the recent BBC 4 retro doc’s it was a show that had Elton John, David Bowie and then a long jump to REM & U2 .. disowning everything good about it as a top of the pops training ground .. before they were famous freak show

    • I was a big Bunnymen fan at the time so the Crystal Day special was brilliant. I saw them live shortly afterwards, I don’t remember any singing along to Ocean Rain at the gig I went to, maybe it was a Liverpool Bunnyfan thing. But yes, it’s everywhere now. I saw New Model Army once stop 51st State because the crowd had started sing the third verse when they should have been singing the second.

      • saw the Bunnies a few times when i was living in London at Hammersmith and even once at the Albert Hall .. fantastic gigs .. oddly I did see their debut gig ever at Erics with Teardrop Explodes also making their debut on the same night .. but as we had no idea who they were, I just thought they looked very young and couldn’t remember anything they played by the next day.. but was quite impressed by Echo who was different enough to be noticed .. great days though, all those new wave troop, all bravely being very different to everyone else ..buzzcocks & banshees especially fine

  4. Dexy’s will be forever banished to one-hit-wonder status in the States for “Come On, Eileen” which grabbed the #1 spot on Billboard in between two consecutive Jacko #1s. I vividly remember them mime it in full street urchin garb on American TV as well. (Solid Gold, I think. During a sleepover at a cousin’s house where they had one of those then-cutting edge rear projection sets.)

    It’s become the epitome of the phony “Deep Cut” or “Forgotten 45” that every oldies station plays.

    • yep. And i loathe that song. Probably ets played at some weddings here. It took some time, but Wyngate and Bish got me to see that Dexy’s actually has some pretty good other songs. I wouldn’t say i’m a fan now but i like them and some songs i really like (especially one something about My Soul or something.)

      Same with Thin Lizzy. Boys arre Back in Town was the 1-hit wonder here, can’t stand that one either. Took DsD and the Llama to make me a fan.

    • I’m aware of their lowly one hit wonder status in the US. I even remember them topping the Billboard charts between Jacko and Jacko – yes I was quite an obsessive Dexys fan at the time. It didn’t really matter I thought, Dexys would have longevity, Jackson would soon be forgotten! In reality they are remembered mainly as a one hit wonder here, even though they weren’t, having already had a number 1 with Geno. They do have a sizeable cult following though, which helpfully seems to include a lot of music journalists.

  5. @ Wyngatecarpenter – I’ll give them props. They looked and sounded like nothing else on American radio at that time. All without the need for meat dresses, giant foam finger extensions, and twerking.

    That was at the end of an era when you could have a genuine outta left field pop hit take off and spread from DJ to DJ and city to city, when US radio was still live and local.

    Damn I feel old. 😦

  6. For my generation (grunge/dawn of Britpop) The Word was the key programme for live performances by alternative bands.

    Iconic performances by Nirvana, L7, Rage Against the Machine, Oasis’ TV debut were discussed, dissected, replicated(!) by me and my mates for weeks afterwards.

  7. Remember Gregory and Roots Radics in the studio, but most vivid was the Lee Perry interview which was originally filmed for The Tube in ’84, and then re-broadcast as ‘Jools in Jamaica’ in ’85. Especially love this exchange:

    JH – What’s the toaster doing on top of the fence there?
    LP – It mean that I am a toaster … and I am not a boaster

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