Monday, June 07, 2010

A blast from my student past

The Tube Neon SignImage via Wikipedia
The other day I finally got round to buying a DVD I have wanted to have for some time - a compilation from The Tube, the Channel 4 live music show from the 1980s. I got a copy of the first series compilation for £5 here. This version has U2 performing New Year's Day (with Bono's voice cracking), the more recent version omitted that.

Fronted by Jools Holland, Muriel Gray, Paula Yates and more, it provided genuinely live performances from current stars and new acts, as well as some classics. There were also scenes from the nearby pub, which offered some great TV moments.

For most of my time at Uni, it was a fixture with some of the lads on the course, usually watched on my 12" black and white telly (except when we got control of the college common room's colour set) Only Whistle Test really matched it for live music (rather than the mimed/video of ToTP etc) and that was very late at night and pitched at a different audience (although great archives there, too).

Broadcast live on a Friday teatime from Newcastle, it was full of fluffed lines, mikes switched on slightly too late, presenters taken by surprise and some dodgy sound mixes. But that gave it an unpredictability that made it fun to watch every week. Anything could happen, and often did - the programme's demise came when Jools used a very naughty word in a live trailer at 5-30pm.

A DVD can't recapture that, but some great moments nonetheless. The Jam at the end of their career performing "Town Called Malice" and "Modern World" is a highlight, but the DVD also features U2, Simple Minds, Yazoo and Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five providing some early hip-hop with "The Message" to name but a few. Of course there's lots more in an archive somewhere - Madonna's TV debut, an early appearance by REM, and I seem to recall the bizarre spectacle of Cliff Richard winning over a sceptical audience with an impressively professional live set. I hope one day they manage to get some more footage issued.

So next time you watch Later with its multiple live stages, variety of music and interviews, you're seeing a more mature descendant. 
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