As Seen On TV

With David Letterman recently signing off after over thirty years on The Late Show, now seems like a good time to celebrate a few great, terrible, interesting or awkward musical TV appearances. With all my might, I have resisted including Future Islands and Jocky Wilson. There’s also nothing from Later… in here. Has anything of note even happened on that show?

R.E.M. play a song too new to be named for David Letterman

In which Dave chats with the boys from Athens, GA, for a bit, before they close their national TV debut with a new track that nobody knows, and which doesn’t even have a name yet. Because that’s just what you do if you’re R.E.M.

The House of Love storm Christine in front of a bored-looking audience in 1988

One of the commenters on youtube claims to have been at this Melvyn Bragg endurance contest of a recording for five hours without being granted so much as a toilet break. No wonder the audience ignore the direction for tumultuous applause, offering their best Victorian portrait pose instead.

Blur make their TV debut on a cookery show. Hosted by a member of Bucks Fizz

It may sound like an accidental Partridge, but Eggs “n” Baker was a cookery and music program for kids hosted by Cheryl Baker. And it was the scene of Blur’s first TV appearance.

Occasionally, Cheryl would burn simple recipes while engaging in awkward interview banter. Here she is making landfill television with members of folk-fiddly indie band Pele.

And for the hat-trick, here’s Pele performing “Megalomania”, from their well-worth seeking out album Fireworks, to a crowd of kids. If the response of the little ones seems muted, I expect it’s just because inside they are busy mulling over the complex personality issues raised by the track.

Oasis make their TV debut on The Word

In which Liam is all over the mic like a touchy-feely person who hasn’t invented his trademark hands-free persona yet.

The Auteurs play Light Aircraft on Fire while sparkly dancers wing it

Hotel Babylon was a late ITV grab for the drunken young adult market that almost entirely passed me by during its mid to late 90s run. I guess I was just old and mature by then, or had grown tired of its spiritual mother-programme The Word (both, along with The Big Breakfast, were made by Planet 24). Easy as it is to mock this Dani Behr-fronted music and entertainment fare, it’s worth asking where are the shows now that would book The Auteurs during Luke Haines’ most nihilistic phase, and the likes of Therapy?

Bez gives it the full Bez

In which The Happy Mondays, signed to Tony Wilson’s Factory Records, make an appearance on “The Other Side Of Midnight”, a Granada show hosted by none other than Tony Wilson. You can be Shaun Ryder, I’ll be Bez.

Bruce Hornsby & The Range – The Way It Is

The same week that Paul Simon’s album Graceland, partly recorded in Apartheid-era South Africa and featuring South African musicians, entered the album charts, another new entry would include a title track dealing with the US Civil Rights movement.

I didn’t buy The Way It Is, but I did buy 1988’s follow-up, Scenes From The Southside. Southside is a fine enough album, but I always felt there was something lacking. Luckily enough, the album’s a bit lopsided, its 9 tracks leaving a convenient 4-5 minute gap at the end of the first side of the tape. So, with the help of a little bit of sticky tape and my trusty twin cassette deck, I made a new and improved Southside. No more minutes of static and silence, this tape’s first side closes with a slightly lo-fi version of The Way It Is. (I did at least have the sense to shun the hi-speed dubbing option, though).

The Way It Is would help Bruce Hornsby to a Grammy award for best new artist the following year, and in the UK would become perhaps better known as the backing music used by the BBC on Grandstand while Bob Wilson ran through the football league tables. It was the go-to piano anthem of the pre-Sebastian Tellier era.

More recently, The Way It Is cropped up in NBC’s comedy Community, when a rewritten version by Pierce Hawthorne became Greendale’s school song.

And Pierce Hawthorne is played by Chevy Chase. Win.