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Tube, The (1982-87)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment Ltd

Main image of Tube, The (1982-87)
Tyne Tees for Channel 4, tx. 5/11/1982-26/4/1987
121 edns in 5 series, plus 10 specials, colour
ProducersMalcolm Gerrie
 Paul Corley
Executive ProducersMalcolm Gerrie
 Andrea Wonfor
 Crispin Evans

Presenters: Jools Holland, Paula Yates, Muriel Gray, Leslie Ash, Gary James, Felix Howard, Wendy May

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Live music, interviews, videos and features on the current rock and pop scene in front of an enthusiastic studio audience in Newcastle.

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In 1982, Andrea Wonfor headed Tyne Tees' youth department. It became obvious to her, through interviews with children, that magazine shows had an unimaginative dependence on promotional videos. With her new format, Wonfor sought to regain some spark by devising a rock concert inside a television studio, not unlike Ready, Steady, Go! (ITV, 1963-66).

Transmitted live from Newcastle, The Tube (a reference to the studio entrance) was launched during Channel 4's opening week. Its hosts were ex-Squeeze keyboardist Jools Holland and the provocative Paula Yates. The pair's confidently irreverent approach chimed well with Channel 4's mould-breaking self-image.

The series supported the rock and pop aristocracy as well as the independent music scenes, touching on many innovative new styles emerging from America. In a teeming decade, The Tube had a refreshing lack of musical snobbery, proudly developing close relationships with the likes of U2, Eurythmics, Culture Club and Duran Duran. For Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Madonna and Terence Trent D'Arby, first appearances were critical. Indeed, the spectacle of Frankie... in bondage gear was enough to get them signed overnight.

A string of supporting presenters guided the programme content. Scottish journalist Muriel Gray made her mark here, as did Leslie Ash when she deputised for Yates throughout series two. Famously, Felix Howard, at the time barely in his teens, joined for the final run. Notable guest hosts included Peter Cook, Nicholas Parsons and John Peel.

'Rock concert' constituted just half of The Tube, with a magazine hour acting as warm up. Fashion items, filmed reports and backstage interviews were typical fare. Comedy too, with The Comic Strip Presents... team making regular appearances.

After five years of fighting its corner, The Tube collapsed in April 1987 under the weight of internal bickering. Holland inadvertently stoked tensions with a colourful slip during a live trailer, leading to a six-week suspension. It did, however, inspire the title of his comic travelogue The Groovy Fellers (Channel 4, 1989) with Rowland Rivron.

A Tube revival was proposed in 1994, but the original producers instead developed The White Room (Channel 4, 1995-96). A millennium special, hosted by Chris Moyles and Donna Air, aired on 20 November 1999 as Apocalypse Tube. Even then, there was no firm intent for a new series.

Ian Greaves

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Video Clips
1982: The Jam - A Town Called Malice (3:10)
1983: George Clinton - Loopzilla (3:58)
1983: Soft Cell - Martin (5:13)
1986: Fela Kuti (12:34)
1986: The Housemartins (4:28)
1987: Mantronix - Who Is It? (3:52)
Intro and titles (first edition) (1:36)
Echo and the Bunnymen (1985)
Frankie Goes to Hollywood (1983)
Clarke, Margi (1954-)
Holland, Jools (1958-)
Pop Music TV