TV Pop Diaries
Pop Music on British Television 1955 - 1999

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Take That and Party!

It didn’t take a minute…

Despite a population of nearly 52 million by 1957 there were still only two television channels, and only one of those would be available nationally, while the other would only be seen in the larger cities, giving little space and opportunity for new acts to be seen. Two more terrestrial channels added in the 1960s and 1980s would give more time to pop music, and further still with the addition of satellite channels from the 1980s onwards.

But despite the possibility of opportunities for new pop talent by the ever increasing number of channels and extended broadcasting hours a hierarchy was still very much in order with BBC1 and ITV at the top of the tree leaving small satellite channels and graveyard shift programmes on terrestrial TV as the usual first point of contact for managers. Once established they could then begin the slow move upwards through the ranks of channels and shows towards the goal, the only goal, their debut on Top Of The Pops.

In 1989 pop manager Nigel Martin-Smith decided to assemble a British alternative to American boy band phenomenon New Kids on the Block. Providing a local group would ensure that they were likely to have more in common with their fans, rather than rely on the availability of a bunch of spoilt bratty Americans who would only visit when they had an album out or a tour. He would base the group around singer and songwriter Gary Barlow with backing singers Robbie Williams and Mark Owen and dancers Jason Orange and Howard Donald. By late summer 1990 the band were assembled and would in time sign a record deal but in the meanwhile they need to get on television which was the only worthwhile medium for any new act. Britain had never got radio right, so it was only John Peel giving exposure to any new acts and he was, let’s be honest, unlikely to play Take That. Martin-Smith began to make contacts, but it would take nearly two years for them to reach the Top Of The Pops studio. One of his first contacts would be with Clear Idea, a television production company who had one hit show, albeit broadcast at 2 am.


ITV The Hitman And Her

Jason Orange was a dancer who featured in solo routines and with dance troupe Look Twice on ITV's The Hitman And Her. The show was a weekly feature in the graveyard schedules from 1988 onwards. Along with London Weekend's Night Network these two shows would help give the national commercial channel a twenty-four hour presence. Night Network folded within two years, but Britain's expanding club culture gave The Hitman and Her an audience, despite the fact that club culture by this time meant mostly raves held in a field. It was the remit of The Hitman and Her to try and revive the indoor club scene and return it to something like the glory of the early eighties. The title of the show came from its two presenters, record producer Pete Waterman and co-host Michaela Strachan.

Wednesday 31st October 1990

ITV The Hitman And Her - Waiting Around, My Kind Of Girl (aka Girl)

The band make their television debut, but it’s in the middle of the night and not shown nationally. The first track mimics the Stock Aitken and Waterman template with the band jumping around the small stage bedecked with skeletons as it’s Halloween night. The band are wearing matching red jackets, no shirt and white trousers. The crowd don't seem too enthusiastic, but one girl is held up on someone's shoulders. Unfortunately for therm the track is cut off short to make room for the commercial break. The second, similar song has them in black jackets and shorts, but at least they are allowed to finish the song this time and after a final pose they wave to the crowd and leave. They have just made their first television appearance, but they're not actually promoting anything since they don't have a record deal yet.

Friday 2nd November 1990

BBC1 Look North West

Their BBC TV debut was on a regional news show, but I have no further details.

Saturday 3rd November 1990

BSB Cool Cube - My Kind of Girl, Waiting Around

Cool Cube was a Saturday afternoon pop show made by the same independent production company that made The Hitman and Her and shot at Granada's studio in Manchester. It was broadcast by British Satellite Broadcasting (BSB) which had launched a few months' before. For My Kind of Girl they mime and dance along to the song then are interviewed in the car park by presenter Micheala Strachan with a fake witch's nose on as it's still Halloween apparently. There are about a hundred people looking on, mostly parents and young children. During the interview Mark Owen promises to pay his poll tax if he becomes wealthy, a line which would come back to haunt him in 2015. Micheala tells the audience that the group already have about eighty songs (which is unlikely) and becomes the first of many hosts to make the comparison between them and New Kids on the Block. Robbie is already cheeky, Gary is already the business man, plainly hoping for a long-term career and looking forward to their first single being released in the new year. It won't actually come out until July. By this time they have only recorded the two songs they perform on today's show, neither of which would be released. For the second song the band have progressed indoors for an interview on the sofa, but noises off suggests they are in a crèche. When they perform the song they are back in their red jackets and white trousers from The Hitman show. The show's end credits roll over the track and reveal that one of the Production Team is future television presenter and DJ Zoe Ball.

Saturday ? 1991

BSB Cool Cube - Get Outta My Dreams (Get Into My Car)

Several months on and they still don't have a record deal. Robbie, Mark and Gary are upstairs in the studio and reunited with Micheala Strachran from The Hitman and Her. They talk about that appearance and claim that they've played hundreds of gigs since then. They talk about the record deal they are trying to get, with Robbie claiming that they have had three offers, but the band are biding their time, waiting for the right deal. Mark says that 'Girl' might be the first single, while Gary says that although they only perform six songs in their live set when they play around the north they have about thirty tracks in total. When asked about the inevitable comparison with New Kids on the Block they point out that Take That write their own material, or at least Gary does. They then leave to go into the wet car park to perform. They mime and dance around to their cover of Billy Ocean's hit in a rehearsed routine, but still manage to bump into each other.

Saturday 20th July 1991

ITV The Hitman and Her - Do What U Like

They're back with The Hitman And her, but this time they have an actual record to promote. They wear matching black leather jackets and trousers with chain metal posing pouches. Jason and Gary chat with Micheala Strachan and she points out that Jason has been on the show "hundreds" of times before. The boys have small flyers promoting the record and its release date of 22nd July. Even though the band now have a record deal, albeit with a small dance label, they still have not progressed beyond the late shift and satellite shows.

July 1991

Promo clip - Do What U Like

A promotional clip is filmed. Two versions are prepared, one has the band lying face down with their bare buttocks being rubbed with jelly by women welding mops. This version would be shown on The Hitman and Her, while an edited version would later turn up on kids' TV.

Saturday 3rd August 1991

BBC1 The 8.15 From Manchester

Nearly a year since their formation and TV wise they still haven't gone south yet, but at least they are now in front of a daytime national audience. They spend all morning appearing on this, the summer replacement show for Going Live. They are interviewed and mention that they are performing at under 18s and over 18s gigs, despite Robbie only being 17. They are in front of a very young audience. For the first time they perform their party pieces, Howard does the splits and does DJ scratching noises while impersonating animals, Jason spins a tea tray on his finger, while Robbie does his Frank Spencer and Cliff Richard impressions. The New Kids' comparison is raised yet again, but it's evident by now that they're already bored with it. The promo clip is shown, albeit in its daytime edit.

August 1991

Yorkshire Calendar Roadshow - Do What U Like

Live from Bridlington! There is a shabby interview where they physically interfere with the female host, but she retorts with the New Kids comparison which by now is beginning to really irritate both them and us. They dance and mime to Do What U Like in front of several hundred people, some even scream a little. The band turn The Running Man into an art form.

Sunday 15th September 1991

Scottish The Disney Club - Do What U Like

An interview in a dungeon, more of their party pieces and Do What U Like make up yet another filler spot and a weekend kids’ show. Possibly a step backwards from Saturday mornings to Sunday mornings. Hitting the heights is more like Snakes and Ladders then they probably anticipated.

Saturday c.September 1991

TVAM Hey Hey It's Saturday - Do What U Like

Back to Saturday morning and they're back with Michaela Strachan, but this time she has a plate of jelly waiting for them. The daytime version of the promo clip is shown while they get ready for the next section of the show which is a messy food preparation piece. It's noticeable that Gary mentions their next single, Promises, not the current one. The host joins them for a dance routine to Do What U Like. It ends with a chimps tea party of a cake presentation. It's obvious that Saturday morning TV would be their home until further notice.

Monday 28th October 1991

BBC1 Wogan - Promises

The man himself! They perform Promises, but it still has another three weeks before its release, so it's a wasted opportunity.

Saturday 9th November 1991

BBC1 Going Live - Promises

They've kind-of hit the jackpot here. After appearing on the summer replacement show they are rewarded with a visit to the real thing. Going Live was hosted by Philip Schofield who thankfully was acres away from the dullards who inhabited Television Centre on a Saturday morning before him. Robbie giving his influences as Uriah Heep and Jethro Tull goes down well with any parents watching. They perform Promises and give a good, if breathless interview afterwards. They're on our side and we're beginning to be on theirs.

Monday 11th November 1991

TVAM Good Morning Britain

Gary, Robbie and Jason draw the short straw and turn up for an early morning appearance to promote their major label debut Promises, released that day. More New Kids comparisons greet them for their trouble. The single only peaks at number 38.

Saturday 16th November 1991

TVS Motormouth - Promises, Do What U Like

They perform Promises, but what's this? Shock, horror, Gary sings live! They dance around what looks like a school gymnasium on board the Red Dwarf. They are then interviewed by fans and host Gaby Roslin. They then perform Do What U Like without the live vocal.

Monday 18th November 1991

Yorkshire Calendar - Promises

Recorded in a loft rehearsal space in Leeds, they mime and dance to Promises. Host Richard 'Countdown' Whitely mentions their previous appearance on the Calendar Roadshow in Bridlington earlier in the summer.

? 1991

BBC2 The O Zone - Promises

They mime and dance to Promises in a photographic studio, while in an interview clip shown alongside they make the remarkable claim that they are big in Ashton. As if. Robbie dismisses the suggestion that they are "multi-talentless". Every appearance now is a drip, drip into the consciousness of its intended audience. It seems to be working well, but slowly, very slowly.

? 1991

Scottish The Disney Club - Promises

The band make a return visit to what looks like the set of the Wizard of Oz complete with kiddie Munchkins to perform Promises.

December 1991

BBC1 Pebble Mill - Promises

Gary goes solo for this interview on the legendary lunchtime-filler. Gary's interview with Judi Spiers is proceeded with his appearance on an 1986 edition of A Song For Christmas, a competition to find new Christmas songs, performing his own Let's Pray For Christmas. There is now talk of an album to be recorded over the Christmas holiday with an eye to release in April, but it wouldn't actually appear until August. The group then mime and dance to Promises. By now, they've made so many appearances that no-one is asking about comparisons with New Kids, who by this time have pretty much disappeared anyway.

Tuesday 11th February 1992

BBC1 Pebble Mill - Once You Tasted Love, Promises

The band are back in Birmingham with lunchtime legends Alan Titchmarsh and Judi Spiers, this time to promote new single Once You Tasted Love and Promises. Surely Top Of The Pops can't be that far away?

Saturday 30th May 1992

Tyne Tees Gimme 5 - It Only Takes A Minute

Robbie and Howard do their party pieces yet again, but the band get to perform It Only Takes A Minute with brief screams from the audience at the beginning and the end. They also set a competition question in which the winner gets to go out to dinner with them, and towards the end they get to judge a dance contest. The producers get their money's worth out of a band that are working as hard as they can, but despite going all the way to Newcastle they still don't get to meet show mascot, Nobby the Sheep.

Thursday 4th June 1992

BBC1 Top Of The Pops - It Only Takes A Minute

Finally! It’s remarkable that the rise of Take That mirrors that of The Beatles. Both debuted on local radio/TV before even before signing a record deal, so by the time the first record makes its appearance people already know who they are. Also the band’s personalities become a part of the sales pitch, much to the surprise of their respective managers and charming every show host they come into contact with. Lennon/Williams are the attention seeking cheeky ones, while McCartney/Barlow know where the money is, and although Howard and Orange are hardly Harrison Mark Owen definitely exhibits the quiet humour that made Ringo so popular.