A friend posting the infamous Orbital video lead to a journey into those musical moments where bands not only rebelled, refused to do as they were told, or just plain failed and created classic moments of TV.
In the case of Orbital – Chime this is where a dispute over miming lead the Hartnoll brothers to stand like loons on Top of the Pops with what looked like her from Swing Out Sister a silver jacket dancing and visible 13 amp plugs left dangling, but also being effectively banned from Top of the Pops for six years. But they are not alone in such embarrassing or intentionally defiant moments of classic TV…
One of the first arguments with producers vs band is Robert Wyatt’s wheelchair when performing ‘I’m a Believer’ in 1974. This seems to have entered into mythos so not sure what really happened, but prior to disabled rights not only did the producers want to put him in a wicker chair as they thought it would scare the kiddies. It apparently did, and was a much complained about clip before the Manics came along (more later). ‘You’ll never work in television‘ is pretty much what they told poor Robert.
It probably really starts with the punk era – Grundy is a bit obvious to put here, but over in the US on Saturday Night Live standing in for the Sex Pistol is a soon to be big Elvis Costello. His record company are needling him to play the fascist-baiting but rather dull Less Than Zero…he gives in, then changes his mind on air. In what is a brilliant example of live TV inspired by Hendrix, he stops the band then launches into a wonderfully angry and incandescent ‘Radio Radio’. SNL bans him for 12 years – partly because he causes their timings to go out…that’s what you get for inviting punks! ‘I Want to Bite The Hand That Feed Me’ – yup. Record label weren’t happy either…
Talking of punks – just see what John Belushi’s favourite band Fear did to SNL in 1981. Weirdly that IS Donald Pleasence…apparently $200k’s worth of damage was done…severely dispute that, $20k is more likely, but again they were banned. Then again Cypress Hill were banned for far less in the 90s – lighting a joint and disturbing a few bongos? Pffft.
On the other side of the pond Stranglers are bored. Not chairmen of the Bored like Iggy, which is pretty amazingly drugged up Australian TV, but bored with miming on Top of the Pops. So they just decided to wreck the set and take the piss, all oddly except the keyboard player. They did come back – interestingly LIVE that time. Wonder why…
In the 80’s apart from Morrissey and co and their gladioli antics, or Stone Roses and the over the hills for 16 days mic, the most notorious and one I saw live is All About Eve missing the cue on Top of the Pops with ‘Martha’s Harbour’. Apparently they couldn’t hear the monitors or playback…oops. They came back and did it live next week, and was a success.
Also most bands had to lip-synch. New Order famously refused to do it unless they did it live…it wasn’t worth the wait, honestly. Blue Monday went DOWN the charts after! They did TOTP and other shows in future, but mimed. Most strange was the one filmed on the Baywatch set for Regret…with Hoff in attendance…again saw that live and probably have it on tape somewhere, but odd in the extreme.
In the 90’s you had this gem from Nirvana, again I saw this go out live ‘Load up on drugs and kill your friends’ is the changed lyric. They never did TOTP again.
Also you had those endless award shows – and the worst was the Brits, and endless self-congratulatory showcase of British Music where a large effigy of Kate Bush was erected and small kittens sacrificed, or that’s what I seem to remember. Topping the farrago of Sam Fox and Mick Fleetwood and the stuck autocue was Jarvis Cocker vs Jackson, taking matters into his own hands. It even caused a storm when it was edited out, forcing them to reshow the whole thing uncut. And he became a national hero. Although KLF and Extreme Noise Terror at the Brits as their swansong was pretty cool – again I saw that live! KLF ended pretty much that night, and I suspect after pretending to shoot the audience and dumping a dead sheep on the front steps on the BPI they probably wouldn’t have been invited back anyway.
In the 90s and 00s you had the shift back to live performance. Which for the singer of Capella was not a good thing. It turned out she’d done a Milli Vanilli…oww.
No problem with live performance but the most complained about clip in TOTP history, the balaclavas went down like a lead balloon with viewers prompting a record 25,000 complaints! It didn’t seem to affect their future appearances though – ironic probably the best performance and the tightest shoot of the show’s run and it gets complaints (see Wyatt’s wheelchair!). And yes that IS Vic n’ Bob bopping along, who were hosts. Not featured: the UDA Dove from Above, or IRA’ve fallen.
Honourable mention goes to the Eels and their toy destruction…oh and L7’s Donna stripping off live on The Word then trashing everything. At least it wasn’t a tampon I guess? Eww.
And there’s Richard X’s classic won’t-even-bother keyboard miming/mixing (not in the sense you think) 2003’s Finest Dreams…which was a few years before TOTP ended for good. Where’s Kelis? Oh she’s a cardboard cutout. That’s OK then. *insert obvious joke here*