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THE TUBE

C4 / Tyne Tees
5th November 1982 - 24th April 1987


With Channel 4 about to announce its first package of programme commissions to begin transmitting in November 1982 Tyne Tees' Andrea Wonfor and Malcom Gerrie came up with the idea for 'Jamming' an eight part series and duly pitched it to the new channel. They were rejected in late 1981, but would be given a second chance by the new channel and told to pitch for a new show live for one and three quarter hours on a Friday evening. Tyne Tees had been chosen as they had the most active rock music commitment of any of the ITV channels, producing local shows Alright Now, Check It Out and the networked tea-time show Razamataz. The show would be almost twice the length of The Old Grey Whistle Test. According to the show's Malcolm Gerrie Channel 4 head Jeremy Isaacs had told him "Make it live and give it balls".

The proposed show would be called TX105 (TX was TV industry jargon for Transmission, and 105 the number of minutes the show would run for), but later renamed The Tube, a name suggested by someone at Warner Brothers Records in London.

The decision was to make it a live show and broadcast it early evening, rather than late-night like The Old Grey Whistle Test. Shows like Top Of The Pops, Something Else and the Oxford Road Show were in similar time slots.

As this show would be longer than the norm it would need more presenters than usual. Jools Holland had been seen hosting a documentary about The Police recording an album in Monserrat and was given the opportunity to audition. His audition was to interview a dead body (actually a student). Paula Yates had been a journalist writing the ‘Natural Blonde' column in Record Mirror and the contacts she had in the business made her a trusted name, and therefore a likely candidate, and like Holland, she also had some previous experience in TV, working on the Oxford Road Show on BBC2. Future pop stars Jarvis Cocker and Boy George had also auditioned as hosts before the series began. It was obvious that Holland and Yates would work well together and were given the job of cheif hosts, supported by Muriel Gray, Gary James, Michel Cremona, Felix Howard, Tony Fletcher, Nick Laird-Clowes and Mike Everitt who had been taken into custody by the police before he got a chance to appear, although he did make an appearance at the end of the first series. Yates was pregnant throughout the first series and would be replaced by Leslie Ash for the second series, with Yates returning for the third series until the end.

The first series would be produced by Malcolm Gerrie with Gavin Taylor directing in the studio and Geoff Wonfor directing some of the on-location videos.

The first few shows attracted many big names, only too happy to get out of London for a day or two, with Sting and Pete Townshend agreeing to appear on the first show with live sets in later shows from The Jam, Dexy's Midnight Runners, Yazoo and Culture Club among others. The show had gained respect within the musical community quite quickly with acts like David Bowie even name checking it in one of his videos.

The theme for the first few series was Star Cycle by Jeff Beck, later replaced by a new theme by Trevor Horn with Jeff Beck.

The first set design used multi-coloured florescent tube lighting running across the studio, later replaced by a series of cubes, with an almost Celebrity Squares feel to it. However, the show would be plagued by a terrible audio mix throughout its life with unbalanced instruments and compression ruining the sound.

The show was broadcast live from Tyne Tees' Studio 5 on City Road, Newcastle. The studio itself surrounded a pub, The Egypt Cottage, occasionally referred to as Studio 6 as many comedy clips and interviews were broadcast there.

In 1985 Tyne Tees added TX45 to its pop roster, a spin-off show which used Studio 5's facilities to promote local acts, hosted by Tube producer Chris Cowey.

Despite its attraction to big names as the show to be seen on it would more importantly give many acts their first TV exposure with Frankie Goes To Hollywood and The Proclaimers just two of the bands whose debut would be on the show. However, more established names like Queen and The Police would be given concert specials in the first series.

Taking time away from their north-east base they would also occasionally venture to Belfast, Glasgow, Liverpool and other cities to present their local talent.

The show would occasionally extend into late-night specials like The Midsummer Night's Tube which would run for several years, and the five hour Euro Tube in 1986.

The new wave of British comedy would also be well represented with appearances by French and Saunders, Vic Reeves, Rick Mayall, Fuffo Spearjig, Fry and Laurie, plus they had their own resident poet, Mark Mywurdz.

At the beginning of the final year Jools let slip an obscenity during a live trail on ITV where he suggested “Be there or be ungroovy fuckers.” He was suspended for six shows, while two senior producers Andrea and Geoff Wonfor both quit the show a week later. Urban myth has it that the show was taken off the air for three weeks as punishment, but it wasn't. The show continued with Paula hosting solo, but the it was collapsing around her and the end was inevitable. Jools returned on the 6th of March for the next few weeks but was not present for the final show on the 24th April 1987.

After The Tube moved out Studio 5 was re-designed and became the home for the short lived network chart show The Roxy.

Malcolm Gerrie who produced series one would later head production company Initial which produced The Brits award show for many years. Geoff Wonfor would direct The Beatles' Anthology in the mid-nineties with Jools Holland as the interviewer, while production man Chris Cowey would go on to produce Top Of The Pops in the late nineties. Jools Holland would go on to present Britain's longest surviving music show Later With Jools Holland, while Paula Yates died in 2000.

Such was its reputation it would not be allowed to be forgotten, and there have so far been two separate series of compilations. One broadcast by Channel 4 in 1995, and another in 2010 for Sky Arts.

Attempts at revivals led to a radio spin-off from channel4.com in November 2006, while the only notable TV revival appeared on Sky in November 1999. Apocalypse Tube was directed by Geoff Wonfor and featured new presenters Chris Moyles and Donna Air. The three hour show was a one off, repeated by Channel 4 on New Year's Day 2000.

Malcom Gerrie and Geoff Wonfor favoured a return for the 30th anniversary in 2012, but nothing happened.

Despite the show's continuing ridicule, mostly by pop culture critics and people who probably never saw it, it has proved to be the inspiration for later shows like The Word and TFI Friday.