THE TUBE (Channel 4)

by Mark Nobes, chief editor

For serious music fans looking for a less mainstream alternative to the BBC's Top Of The Pops, The Tube was a godsend. The cult music show aired on Channel 4 during the 80s, for five series from 5th November 1982 until 26th April 1987, and was produced by Tyne Tees Television. The show was broadcast live, with the main presenters being Jools Holland and Paula Yates. Leslie Ash stepped in for Yates during her maternity leave.
While Top Of The Pops was safe and slick, The Tube featured an unconventional, thrilling style. There was intelligent and sometimes flirty interviewing by Paula Yates, and the chemistry between Jools and Paula was perfect. Talking of her flirty nature, I remember one episode where Paula convinced Sting to remove his trousers!
The Tube was an essential outlet for new artists, and helped to launch the careers of numrous pop and rock acts. After two geeky-looking Scottish chaps called The Proclaimers performed Letter From America on the show, they quickly found themselves in the UK top ten and propelled to international stardom.
The show was also an essential platform for up and coming, young comedians - it helped Vic Reeves gain exposure for his quirky, new wave comedy style.
With three or four music acts performing on the show each week, The Tube also proved to be an important showcase for well-established bands, with acts such as U2 and ZZ Top performing live sets. It was a refreshing change from TOTP, Saturday morning TV and mainstream chat shows which simply featured artists miming to their hit songs.
However, there was a downside to allowing only live performances, and that was with the sound quality - it was often rather dubious, to say the least. Nonetheless, the audience was captivated by the rawness of the live acts, and hearing how bands sound without over-blown, 1980s production techniques. Frankie Goes To Hollywood were a good example of this, and their risque performance of Relax (in bondage gear) got the unsigned, Liverpudlian band a record deal with ZTT, and we all know what happened next! By the way, the two scantily clad girls in the video clip (above) were known as The Leatherpettes.
During the first two series, Paula and Jools were aided by a handful of co-presenters who had been picked in a national competition. These were Muriel Gray, Gary James, Michael Cremona, Nick Laird and Mike Everett. One presenter was used in each episode.
The first 45 minutes of the show comprised mainly of interviews and comedy routines by new comedy acts, with a little bit of fashion thrown in for good measure.
No one can deny the unique nature of The Tube. Where else could you see live pop band's in fetish gear singing about ejaculation, Sting removing his trousers and a presenter using the F*** word before the watershed. In the fifth and final series, Jools Holland used the words "Grooovy f*****s" during a trailer for the show which aired during family viewing hours. He was reprimanded and was banned from presenting for three episodes.
The use of the F word was the beginning of the slippery slope for the show, and with a watered down format and a slump in viewing figures, it all came to an abrupt halt on 26th April 1987 when the very last episode was broadcast.
Entrance to Tyne Tees Television studios in City Road, Newcastle (1980s)

The entrance to the Tyne Tees Television City Road studios in Newcastle

The Tube Neon Sign.jpg
By Source, Fair use,

The Tube's neon 80s sign


INXS frontman Michael Hutchence performing on The Tube on 21st Jan 1986. Yates had an affair with Hutchence (while she was with Bob Geldof), who she first met during an interview on The Tube in 1985.


Paula Yates with Bob Geldof at the premiere of A View To A Kill on 12th June 1985

Jools Holland at the BAFTA's (cropped)

Jools Holland wearing retro aviator shades at the BAFTA's in 2009

By Damien Everett [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons