1980: This was an unstable mix of a show, perhaps best demonstrated in the fact that in the face of new wave and so forth Smokie came back to open the show with Chris Norman in leather jacket and skinny tie. He wasn't fooling anyone. The staircase at the front of the stage was surely asking for someone to invade and stop the madness. Two bands who in their own ways would place their mark on the show for the following years made their debut, The Cure full of foreboding and Robert just giving up on the guitar part in the intro before VT throw every effect they can find on the console at him, Bad Manners full of lager and with the cowbell part comfortably taken care of. That intro is going to need clarifying immediately, I can tell - it's the unnatural ending to Legs & Co's Bobby Thurston routine on the catwalk. Johnny Logan was fresh from Eurovision victory, packing a dramatically lit saxophonist as all the backing he needs and a jacket that seems to have accidentally fallen onto his shoulders. Because TOTP is a show of contrasts, we subsequently get The Cockney Rejects. Suddenly the audience don't seem so sure.
1986: Just how dominant American soul was in these days is commonly ignored these days, but Pops wasn't Pops without at least two flat-topped singers and Emulator-toting hangers on. The SOS Band were a perfect example, incorporating two backing singers. Aurra had meanwhile "just flown in" as if we were trying to be impressed by this duo nobody knew of refusing to sing a duet while looking at each other.
1998: Twelve years later dance culture held comfortable sway, as did ever more dubiously desperate ways to get it across on screen when the producers were reducing themselves to the sidelines. Dancers, obviously, but 187 Lockdown - sort your tracking out! - slung some appropriate costumes on some people and instructed the bloke to look all mystical. The director is so pleased with getting his overhead shot of a record he misses the dancers literally disrobing. The audience seem very pleased to hear face of The Tamperer Maya start singing, but those instruments - tubular bells! Like it's 1977! - aren't convincing anyone. That's why Tzant seem so successful, as despite the set designer's best 'urban' effort and a half-hearted street dance trouple all it actually requires is platitudes and a live mike and an audience is yours. Fighting the corner for instrumentation were The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, whose place at the forefront of some sort of ska revival was surely derailed by an apparent bout of laryngitis.