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Lost in TV

in what will hopefully be regular feature on Stylus (as long as that dude who filmed Reginald Denny getting beaten from a helicopter doesn’t get his way), we present our stash of YouTube clips worth watching. Or not worth watching. Or worth watching because they’re not worth watching. You get the point. On with the show…

Thanks to even more round-the-clock music channels and, yes, YouTube, it’s easier than ever to watch music videos these days. But as video channels become the only option for music on television, there’s the ever-niggling sense that we’re losing out. In June, the BBC’s “Top of the Pops” ended after more than forty years, and ITV’s answer, “CD:UK,” had already folded shortly before its demise. That’s a shame. Live performances inside a TV studio are a completely different discipline than the staged and crossed-t/dotted-i music video format, frequently giving us more of an artist’s personality than they—or their director—might choose to show.

Let’s take a look at some fine “TOTP” moments and assess its successors…

Kate Bush – Wuthering Heights (“Top of the Pops”)

Kate’s first ever performance. And it kind of shows: Kate is visibly and audibly nervous, which certainly isn’t helped by a backing band of, er, dubious ability. Amazingly, though—even from the distance of nearly thirty years—you still feel like this is the sight of a talent announcing itself.

All Seeing I and Jarvis Cocker – Walk Like a Panther (“Top of the Pops”)

Watch the master in action: when appearing with two hit wonders All-Seeing I, Jarvis exudes cool as he fills in the gaps where Tony Christie should be with his inimitable dancing. The claim of the video’s poster that it’s “the finest moment in all of ‘TOTP’ history” is a little excessive, but he’s not too far off.

Travis - Sing (“Top of the Pops”)

With the right audience or ideas, the performance of even an otherwise uninteresting single can be turned around. Witness this initially average performance of a sweetly average Travis single. It’s transformed when they decide to recreate the food fight of “Sing”’s video; with the benefit of an enthusiastic crowd and absence of choreography, the chaos that follows is more interesting than this band’s entire oeuvre.

Basement Jaxx ft. JC Chasez – Plug It In (“Top of the Pops”)

Basement Jaxx are unlikely glam rock stars, but they do a great job of it on this underrated single. Best of all is guest star JC Chasez: surrounded by models, or possibly mannequins, he looks like he can’t believe his luck at finally getting to be a pop star in his own right.

Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins – Fernando (“Pancake Mountain”)

Provided you don’t have ethical problems with force-feeding indie to young children before they know any better, the regular performances on US children’s show “Pancake Mountain” provide a great spectacle. Unlike some of the other audiences in this article, it’s hard to imagine that it took much to convince these kids to get excited about a former child star singing a country tune. Check out the dancing of the boy in the Superman shirt here.

The Kooks (“Popworld”)

Popworld does contain live performances, but they tend to be perfunctory. Instead, the show is known for its revolutionary strategy of asking performers questions that they’d rather not answer. In this cringingly hilarious example, former host Simon Amstell gets MOR numpties The Kooks to skewer themselves over their stage school background. By the end, it’s almost possible to feel sorry for them. Almost.

At The Drive-In – One Armed Scissor (“Later”)

The BBC’s commitment to new music on TV now rests on one-time Squeeze keyboardist Jools Holland and his “Later.” It tends way too much towards the bland and worthy, with an appearance seen as an inevitable first step on the road to success for the likes of KT Tunstall and Corinne Bailey Rae. But it’s not all bad, because it still occasionally produces stuff like this. At The Drive-In is not pretty, and sounds awful about as often as it sounds awesome, but it’s totally gripping from start to finish. This is how to seize your one chance—and it’s not something that a video can ever quite reproduce.

By: Iain Forrester
Published on: 2006-11-09
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