The big moment has arrived. To conclude this first wander through the contents of a vintage chart show, here come the Top 10 singles, as memorably revealed on November 29th 1987
Was this possibly David Coverdale's most famous moment on record? Here I Go Again was first recorded by Whitesnake back in 1982 in a very low key blues style. It had been a minor hit single at the time, peaking at Number 34 in November of that year, but there was just one small problem. Its writer and performer hated it. Not the song which he always regarded as one of his finest, but the recorded performance with which he was never satisfied, blaming the musicians he was working with at the time. Fast forward to 1987 and Coverdale had sacked the original band, recruiting a new Whitesnake to record the 1987 album which not only featured some of their most commercial material to date but also a re-recorded Here I Go Again, now transformed into a thundering stadium-filling rock song. The new version became the third single from '1987' and swiftly followed its predecessor Is This Love into the Top 10. The none more late-80s video has since become iconic, the image of Tawney Kitaen draped over the car bonnet imprinting on the memories of millions of adolescent males of the era. Early 90s grunge turned Big Hair metal into something naff and to be sneered at, but in 1987 it was a formula that was worth millions.
The very first flowering of the most famous song from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack. Choreographer Kenny Ortega was handed the task of selecting the song for the climax of the film with legend telling that it was the last tape in a very large box presented to him. Justifiably one of the most famous soundtrack singles of all time, it was showered with both Grammies and Oscars and played a big part in resurrecting the career of former Righteous Brother Bill Medley who became an AOR star a full 20 years after his first brush with fame. The film itself didn't actually open in this country until mid-November, meaning that the single had flown up the charts pretty much on its own merits. Indeed the whole cult of Dirty Dancing didn't really take off here until the following spring when the More Dirty Dancing album hit the stores and the likes of Patrick Swayze and Merry Clayton were winding up with hit singles of their own. Late 87 also coincided with the BBC selling the Top Of The Pops format to America, which meant that for this song we were treated to a badly converted NTSC film of Medley and Warnes warbling their way through the track in front of a rather puzzled studio audience.
Can I confess something? I never really understood why everyone went beserk over Rick Astley twenty years ago. It might be because I missed out on the fuss surrounding his debut, going away to France for a month in August 1987 and returning to find the song by the bloke with the funny dance at Number One. For those back home, it was a big deal, Rick's identity remaining a secret even while the single was climbing the charts, leading many to conclude the owner of the voice was a big butch black soul man rather than the geeky chap from Newton-Le-Willows who fronted the video which was famously only made in the week the record climbed to Number One. Anyway, this was the almost identically styled followup which had made the Top 3 and set Rick up nicely for his Christmas offering which was at this moment a week away from release.
Most people who have met him will testify that Shaky is an odd bloke. In his head he genuinely believes he should still be a massive mainstream star and it is almost beyond his comprehension why he has been unable to have hits since the early 90s. 1987 was arguably his last big brush with fame as he stormed the Top 40 with an inspired set of covers. First came the barely ten years old at the time Gary Glitter track A Little Boogie Woogie In The Back Of My Mind, the Supremes' Come See About Me before he turned his attention to the 1959 Christmas Number One, as recorded by Emile Ford and the Checkmates. The week's highest climber, it had shot a full 20 places to land here and would still be Top 10 come Christmas. Fashion can be a cruel thing at times and it is hardly Shaky's fault that he fell out of it, but as his most recent comeback with the Pink track Trouble proved, few people can pull off cover versions with quite the style that he does.
Pre-Bobby Brown, pre-crack addiction, Whitney Houston was the epitome of an American superstar. For the third single from her second album Whitney, a rather lifeless album track was remixed into an energetic, biting dance track that still stands as a shining example of how pop and R&B had yet to de-merge into the never the twain shall meet state they have ended up today. So Emotional is all but forgotten these days but at the time it could fill a dancefloor.
Speaking of inspired cover versions. This was Jimmy Somerville and Richard Coles' attempt to recreate the magic that had propelled their storming version of Don’t Leave Me This Way to the top of the charts a year earlier. Even 20 years down the line their remake of the old Gloria Gaynor track stands as one of the greatest ever moments of 80s pop, the epic synthesiser intro giving way to the instantly recognisable bassline, Somerville keeping the gender of the song intact to turn it from a straight love song into a famous gay anthem. Plus, anyone who didn't melt at the way the frantic keyboard solo in the instrumental merged back into the vocals has no business calling themselves a music fan. Within a year the Communards were over, Richard Coles deciding that being a "serious" musician was the way forward. Somerville tried a solo career but somehow never found the right muse and his subsequent works lacked the magic that the pair conjured up together.
I've never seen it documented in any histories of the show, but as I recall in the autumn of 1987 Top Of The Pops underwent a short-lived revolution. Out went the notion that all acts had to just turn up and sway as they mimed, and in went the idea of encouraging people to actually perform their tracks with as much heart as possible. It all kicked off with Mick Jagger whose single Let's Work was languishing outside the Top 40. Invited onto the show, he took over the entire studio, leaping from stage to stage as he sang the song, bringing along a choir of children to chant and clap the harmonies for the chorus. One of those moments you wish you had taped at the time, the travesty being that the single still only just crept up the chart the following week. Following him came the sadly missed Steve Walsh who knew how to work a crowd and so armed with a live microphone involved the entire studio audience in his performance of I Found Lovin'. Similarly, LL Cool J whose backing track was all but inaudible as instead he performed I Need Love all but acapella in a way that made you feel he actually cared about making people live his song with him. The grand climax of this experiment was when Alexander O'Neal was invited on the show to perform Criticize. The track is essentially a vocal duel between O'Neal and backing singer Lisa Keith and so the pair began the song at opposite ends of the studio, working their way through the crowd to end up wrapped around one another by the climax. It turned what was already a classic soul track into something quite magical and its status as his biggest ever hit single in this country is entirely justified. Woe betide any DJ who went through an entire night without playing this at least twice.
The single that gave the world two geeky blokes from Fife and turned them into the often hitless but always well-loved institutions they appear to have become today. At the time, of course, we had no clue that this was anything other than a novelty, the single making the charts after the pair were "discovered" thanks to a performance on The Tube. Even at the time, I'm not sure anyone was actually sure what it was all about. Wikipedia claims: "In it a parallel is drawn between the highland clearances (when Scottish landowners replaced their clansmen cattle grazers (buachaillean) with sheep needing fewer shepherds (ciobairean)) and the decline of industry in contemporary Scotland". Reading that still doesn't spoil the magic. I still don't have a clue what it is about.
The random cover of a little known blues song that quite unexpectedly gave George Harrison his biggest hit for a decade and a half and briefly threatened to make him the most successful former Beatle of the moment. Really this was the prototype for the Travelling Wilbury's, producer Geoff Lynne creating the template for Harrison's vocals merged with ELO-esque backing harmonies. Needless to say this single was an international phenomenon, topping the US charts and only failing to do the same here thanks to an equally famous hit single…
I'm sure I'm not the only 87-era adolescent whose heart was gladdened a decade later by the way Carol Decker had matured from the flame-haired siren we all had a crush on at the time into a typical yummy mummy. It gave us all hope for the future. Guaranteed a place in history thanks to its being the 600th Number One single, this was T'Pau's second hit single and one which would prove to be something of a millstone around their neck. At heart you see the band were rockers but from this moment on would be hampered in their attempts to make the kind of music they wanted, simply because everyone remembered them for this sax-drenched ballad based, so we are told, on the story of Frankenstein. Carol Decker remains the one childhood idol I've never contrived to meet, which makes me wonder if I shouldn't attempt to book her for the James Whale show sometime. My closest link with the band came in May 1991 when in what I justified to myself was perfectly adequate revision for my General Studies A-Level that afternoon, I entered and won Jonathan Cowap's Yearquest Quiz on the mid-morning show on BBC Radio York (this after discovering that all the questions were sourced from the Longman Chronicle Of The 20th Century" which I simply had open at the appropriate page when live on air). My prize for getting all three questions correct? A copy of T'Pau's third album The Promise which remains a treasured, if little played, part of my collection.
And there you have it, the musical contents of a tape which evokes memories, anecdotes and that unmistakable feeling of lying on my bed cuddled up to the radiator, keeping a careful eye on the clock so that I was in a position to flip the tape the very second it ran out every 30 minutes. Loving the music you grew up with doesn't make you an old fart, not if you use it to remind yourself just how it felt to be a teenager again. Hearing the tape once again makes all those decades of lugging the boxes from flat to flat seem all the more worthwhile.