Random Acts of Top of the Pops: #1 – January 18th, 1990

Episode Number: 1351
First Shown: 7.00 pm on January 18th, 1990
Presenter(s): Nicky Campbell
Official Top 40: @The Official Charts
Studio: BBC Television Centre
iPlayer: Top of the Pops – January 18th, 1990
BBC Genome: Here!


Could Have Told You So / Halo James (in the studio)
Chart Place: #13

And so we open with Could Have Told You So, Halo James’ only truly notable track. A (just) pre-Christmas slow climber, by mid January we’re still two weeks away from CHTYS peak and eventual decline. Mid tempo and somewhat melancholy in it’s lyrics, it’s a classic late 80s piece – guitar, electric keyboard, pretty singer with garish jacket. As a song, CHTYS isn’t a bad piece, it’s just we’ve seen this before and we’ve seen it done far better than what is presented here.

I Called U / Lil’ Louis & the World (via music video)
Chart Place: #20

Another distinctly mid-January piece, Lil’ Louis & the World’s house piece I Called U falls firmly into the spoken word over repeating beats school of song creation. Our presentation is of the video – rather than a studio performance – and for what it is, it’s a reasonable video. But TOTP at 7.00pm on a Friday evening directly into our living rooms is not ICU’s natural environment – this is a clubbing track targeted at those who are out drinking and clubbing and, shone of it’s natural environment, it feels somewhat misplaced and a little wide of the mark.

More Than You Know / Martika (in the studio)
Chart Place: #23

An unabashed entry from that late 80s school of dance-pop, More Than You Know knows what it is and what it wants to be and goes for it. The lyrics are based around a fairly off-the-shelf mix of teen-girl worries about unrequited love – or at least love that’s not as requited as the singer might otherwise hope for – and Martika performs a good turn in the de rigueur singer/dancer role. The backing track is quietly competent and, as we are now in the early 90s, we are fortunate that musician’s union rules didn’t end up murdering it.

Touch Me / 49ers (via music video)
Chart Place: #3

Our second dance piece of the evening, Touch Me by the Italian 49ers suffers from similar problems to I Called U – a repetitive, energetic backing track targeted at Friday night clubland rather than Friday evening sofa-ville. The lyrics – and especially the chorus – are both more aggressive and better tuned to worm into your head than ICU and, along with a stronger backing track, means TM is the stronger track of the two.

No More Mr Nice Guy / Megadeth (via music video)
Chart Place: #18

This first of our tie-in singles this evening, Megadeath’s cover of Alice Cooper’s No More Mr Nice Guy is a fairly by-the-numbers movie soundtrack cover from the movie Shocker (a film that I have, sadly, somehow managed to miss in the 32 yeas since it’s release!). It’s not a bad cover for those who enjoy their hard rock, but it’s a long way from Cooper’s far better 1973 classic.

Inna City Mamma / Neneh Cherry (a breakers clip)
Chart Place: #31

The fifth single from Neneh Cherry’s first album, Inna City Mamma has the distinct feel of a single put out because the four predecessors did far better than expected. The video feels somewhat cheap – two backing dancers, a dark brick backdrop, black studio floor – and the song feels as if it was plucked from the mid-filler part of her album.

Nothing Compares 2 U / Sinéad O’Connor (a breakers clip)
Chart Place: #30

In spite of having been played to death over the past 30, Sinéad O’Connor’s power ballad cover of Prince’s Nothing Compares 2 U remains a strong, deeply melancholic piece of music to this day. The music video, primarily composed of O’Connor’s close-cropped and disembodied head floating on a black background works in a way that it probably shouldn’t do.

She does, however, look a little like Red Dwarf’s Holly.

Hey You / The Quireboys (in the studio)
Chart Place: #19

The Quireboys’ Hey You is a by-the-numbers rock ballad written around the classic teenage boy problem of an ex finding another chap. The music is a plodding, slow stumble that would embarrass the better end of pub-rock and has very little to recommend it. The lyrics do little to improve the situation. Presentation-wise, the group of four give every impression of deeply wishing they were the far better Guns ‘n’ Roses. With that, Hey You has the distinct feel of failure around it.

Tears On My Pillow / Kylie Minogue (via music video)
Chart Place: #2

And Kylie presents the second of this evening’s two tie-in singles! And, again, we find ourselves with a movie-linked cover – this time with a soundtrack piece from the Minogue starring The Delinquents. Tears On My Pillow is a not particularly interesting ballad structured around love and loss and, indeed, one could speculate that Kylie’s management decided to sneak TOMP out in the post Christmas lull with the hope that her name and reputation would drag it further up the charts than it might otherwise have ventured.

Hangin’ Tough / New Kids on the Block (via music video)
Chart Place: #1

And, with this weeks number #1, New Kids on the Block very much wish to assure us that – in spite their boyband credentials – that they are, indeed, Hangin’ Tough. Alas, I appear not to be tough enough for Hangin’ Tough and, having slogged though what felt like several hours of this song, came away with a strong feeling that the lyrics were insipid and that the backing track was perfunctory at best. It may have been number one mid January 1990, but I have absolutely no idea why.

N-R-G / Adamski (via music video)
Chart Place: #27

From acid house – the musical genre that launched a thousand Parliamentary debatesAdamski brings us N-R-G, our third and final dance track of the program. N-R-G has no pretensions about what it is – this is a track comprised of electronic sounds for people to dance to in clubs and fields up and down the country. However, whilst that good for the club, it makes for something of a poor song for a tea time.


This week’s tracks, ranked.

  1. Nothing Compares 2 U / Sinéad O’Connor
  2. More Than You Know / Martika
  3. Touch Me / 49ers
  4. Tears On My Pillow / Kylie Minogue
  5. N-R-G / Adamski
  6. No More Mr Nice Guy / Megadeth
  7. Could Have Told You So / Halo James
  8. Inna City Mamma / Neneh Cherry
  9. I Called U / Lil’ Louis & the World
  10. Hey You / The Quireboys
  11. Hangin’ Tough / New Kids on the Block


Alas, beyond a sterling effort from Sinéad O’Connor, this week’s episode provided a fairly middling start to our random treck through the TOTP archive. New Kids on the Block and The Quireboys provided low points and the rest were something of a middling slog. Still, things could have been much worse.

Next Time: We jump back a little over three years to the summer of 1986!


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