Top Of The Pops Christmas Special (CBS, 1987)
I know that another Christmas has recently been and gone, but I found a special on YouTube only about a week ago that I thought was worth reviewing, and I didn’t want to wait almost a year until December to do it, so here it is. Top Of The Pops has traditionally been shown on Christmas Day in the UK for many years (and now that the regular weekly edition has ended, it continues as specials only).
When the American version launched in 1987 on CBS in a late-night slot, it ran for only about half a year, and this was the first (and only) Christmas special, which is an hour long. The UK version would usually feature a look back at the biggest hits of the year and reveal the Christmas Number One, but this version is rather different, it doesn’t even feature a chart.
It begins with some of the acts that are going to perform on the show who reveal what Christmas means to them. They all seem to be sat in a special set containing big armchairs, trees, and lots of decorations. We then go into the opening sequence which features a rather bizarre remixed version of “The Wizard” that I’ve not heard before, as Gary Davies (who contributed to the US version, but in the UK studio) introduces the line-up.
The host as usual is Nia Peeples along with a rather excited studio audience (it seems that this edition is actually titled Top Of The Pops: A Very Special Christmas). Some of the biggest stars in the business are going to feature and perform some of their favourite Christmas songs. We began with Michael McDonald’s version of “White Christmas”. He’s won a Grammy, you know.
Nia then remembers her Christmases as a child in Texas, and it’s beginning to get all rather syrupy. Then we have John Cougar Mellencamp and his daughter. There are also a few pre-recorded Christmas messages from pop stars, where the Top Of The Pops symbol has been altered to say “Top O’ The Season”. Sacrilege! Then we have Kenny Loggins, followed by a U2 performance not in the studio.
Then there’s The Judds, a mother/daughter country duo that I don’t know much about, I’m fairly sure that they have never had a hit in the UK, and they perform “Winter Wonderland”. Run-DMC are about to do something very special, and they even get Santa himself clapping along. Then Sting (again not in the studio) performs a traditional carol that he’s always loved.
Back in the studio, it’s started to snow as the wise and witty group The Bangles perform “Hazy Shade Of Winter”. We finish off with Stevie Nicks (alongside Robbie Nevil) and “Silent Night”. The show ends with everyone gathered on stage, no-one can believe how wonderful it’s all been, and they all perform “We Wish You A Merry Christmas”, which isn’t embarrassing at all. Cue the credits!