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24 September 2014

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You are in: Tyne > Places > Places features > Looking back: The Tube

Tube sign

The Tube ran for five years

Looking back: The Tube

In 2007, 25 years after the first edition of The Tube aired on Channel 4, we spoke to Chris Phipps about what it was like to work on the cult TV show in Newcastle.

Dire Straits, The Eurythmics, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Culture Club, The Jam, The Smiths, Fine Young Cannibals… the list of acts that performed on Channel 4's cult TV show The Tube reads like a who's who of 80s music.

Edgy

The programme, which was first aired on 5 November 1982, was broadcast live from Tyne Tees Studio 5 in Newcastle and ran for five years, breaking acts and causing plenty of controversy along the way.

Chris Phipps at Red Box Gallery

Chris worked as a guest booker

"The programme was this sort of big irreverent mixture, very edgy, the sort of chemistry you take for granted now on TV," says documentary maker Chris Phipps who worked on all 150 editions of the show.

Chris moved to Tyneside from the Midlands to join The Tube as a guest booker and had the enviable job of finding bands and solo acts to play live on the one-and-a-half hour show, which also included comedy performances.

One band he remembers booking before they were big are The Proclaimers.

"They sent me a video showing them singing Letter from America walking along Leith quayside and I booked them straight away really on the strength of that because I thought they were intriguing looking because they were twins.

"I stood or fell by the decision I made when I booked an act and they weren't always the right bookings… but that's the thrill of it really, taking that chance."

Neon Tube sign

The show featured comedy as well as music

Big names

The Tube became famous for its unpredictable and irreverent presentation style and not surprisingly Chris, who later became an assistant producer, remembers that things could get a bit hair-raising on set.

"The hairiest moments really were when you couldn't find people prior to their appearance - like Iggy Pop completely disappeared before he was due on and was found like one minute before he was due to go on in the entrance, lost."

"There's always this horrible thought just before you go on air 'are the timings going to work', because until you're on air you don't know really. And of course you always wondered what Jools [Holland] and Paula [Yates] were going to say."

As you'd expect with so many pop stars involved there was also an element of "divaism" at times – Chris recalls that Morrissey demanded truckloads of flowers to be spread over the floor before he would perform!

"The hairiest moments really were when you couldn't find people prior to their appearance - like Iggy Pop completely disappeared before he was due on "

Chris Phipps

But, he says, there was never anything too serious, because doing The Tube the bands felt like they were doing a proper gig.

Of it's time

There were also tensions within the production team and these are often cited as one of the main reasons the programme came to an end in 1987. However Chris thinks these tensions had their advantages.

"It's like a band – out of the tensions come the good decisions. Tensions are ultimately creative."

So why does he think The Tube came to an end after just five years?

"I think it had run out of steam – the whole dance and club influence was coming into the charts and into music and it's very limiting showing dance and club music – it's very difficult to show visually… and times were changing, MTV was coming in.

"I think the programme was perfect for the 80s – all good music programmes are of their time."

last updated: 19/05/2008 at 12:25
created: 06/11/2007

Have Your Say

Your memories

dave -s
my mate martin used to do the props,loads of freebies, best night ever gary moore playing on after the show ended

Catfish
I went as a guest of a band from my home town - the Jazz Butcher - but it was the night that Zigue Zigue Sputnik were on and overran horribly so my mates only had time for one song, shame. Great experience to be there though!

shelly
it's a crime that the place will eventually be torn down. the entire premises should be made into a perfoming arts studio / music & tv museum. too many people forget just how many excellent tvs shows aired from there. but it will be too late when the bulldozers move in and another huge geordie landmark dies.

Rachel
I wrote in requesting tickets for U2 on the off chance that they might appear on the show, and was amazed to be sent two tickets a few weeks later. The whole show was amazing and was a great 21st birthday present.

paul crawford from london
my best memories of the tube were the likes of culture club because there performs was great and also how the show was put togerth it was a very good mix for a friday night and also the show was in newcastle which was good for me living in the area.

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