The YouTube Files – Sky Trax.

Sky Trax (Sky Channel, 1984-1989)

A while ago I looked back at some advert breaks that were shown on the Sky Channel in the 80s, which at this point was available on satellite in various countries across Europe. One of the shows that was promoted a lot looked rather interesting, so after having a look for some more clips on YouTube, I thought that it was worth a full review.

Back in the days of the Sky Channel, when they weren’t showing some imported sitcom, they filled most of the time in the morning and afternoon for hours on end, with Sky Trax, a music show coming from a cupboard in London featuring various hosts who introduced music videos, along with plenty of news and interviews with the biggest pop stars around at the time. “Are you going on tour soon?” is about as probing as the questions got. Well it was either this or more editions of The DJ Kat Show. vlcsnap-00035

There can’t have been a huge amount of viewers, but the average pop star wouldn’t miss any opportunity to promote their latest single on TV. Among the hosts was Pat Sharp, who had a terrific hairstyle even back then. Pat had worked in TV and radio long before Fun House, he hosted Top Of The Pops as early as 1982, and by this point he was a success on Capital FM.vlcsnap-00033

And there was also Gary Davies, doing some moonlighting from his Sloppy Bit on BBC Radio 1. He hosted various features, including Young, Free And Single, and The Great Video Race. There were also shows dedicated to various genres and charts including Monsters Of Rock, Nescafe UK Top 40, and Soul Spectacular. You never knew what was going to happen next, and things often went with a bang! vlcsnap-00012

Gary was also among the hosts of The Eurochart Top 50, which was somewhat similar to Top Of The Pops, and he was always pleased that there were plenty of great records going up the chart. Gary must be fond of this era of music, as he is now the host of Sounds Of The 80s on BBC Radio 2. A few other familiar names were among the hosts, including Tony Blackburn, David Jensen, and Peter Powell. vlcsnap-00027

There was even a spin-off compilation album released called “16 Solid Hits”, and I’m sure they were. Sky Trax all these years on is a great archive of pop music from the mid-80s, it wasn’t all rubbish, honest. In 1989 though, the show came to an end when the Sky Channel was relaunched as Sky One, and they would now show revivals of The Price Is Right and Sale Of The Century all day. vlcsnap-00010

Along with Sky Trax, there were some other satellite and cable music channels in the 80s that had a similar mix of videos, interviews and features. There was Music Box, which in 1986 was also shown overnight on Yorkshire as they became the first ITV region to experiment with being on air 24 hours a day, and also the Super Channel. Who needs MTV when you’ve got this.

The YouTube Files – The early days of Sky.

Here’s another idea for a blog piece that came to me rather late at night when I was watching some videos on YouTube. I’m always on the lookout for curious or interesting videos featuring adverts and trails where I try and work out what on earth is happening, and I usually only watch ones from the UK, Ireland, and USA, but I recently ended up watching some videos from the early days of satellite television in the 80s.

Sky and its group of channels as we now know them launched in February 1989, but the name had been around as early as 1982, and the Sky Channel as it used to be known was a combination of various music shows, sport, imported sitcoms, and so on, and these were shown across Europe at a time when there couldn’t have been a huge market for such a thing. I thought that I would pick out a few highlights from some of the videos that I watched on YouTube that are from around the 1988 mark. vlcsnap-00262

5 August 1988. This one includes coverage of Philips Cup Football. I was surprised by how much sport was featured, and this is long before the launch of the Sky Sports Premier League channel. This is not a tournament that I am familiar with, but it features Everton v Italian club Torino in Switzerland. I know that English clubs didn’t take part in Europe at this time, so a few extra competitions were introduced to fill the gap such as the Screensport Super Cup (named after another long-gone satellite channel), I presume that because this is from early-August it’s a pre-season friendly? vlcsnap-00252

Then it’s time for the Sky Weather Report, sponsored by Uniroyal tyres. Programmes being sponsored, whatever will they think of next. Then there are a few adverts, including “Hit News”, a music compilation from K-Tel featuring Orfa Haza, Eddy Grant, and Natalie Cole. There is also a rather good advert for Kodak which was rather arty and creative, featuring lots of blues, greens, and reds, it certainly caught my eye. vlcsnap-00203

Then there are some more trails, including one for the 1988 US PGA golf tournament (it seemed that every other trail on Sky at the time was voiced by Tommy Vance). And then we have some Headline News that is sponsored by The Times and hosted by Aernout Van Lynden and his moustache. This is essentially Sky News before the existence of Sky News, only it’s clearly being done on a much smaller scale. vlcsnap-00258

14 June 1988. This one features trails for old American sitcoms, adverts for cereals in foreign languages, and what seems to be a Public Service Announcement with Tony Blackburn in a tracksuit accompanied by some funky music. vlcsnap-00276

26 April 1988. This one features more trails for old American comedy, and also a rather bad infomerical (is there any other type). There’s also a promotion telling us that Sky now reaches over ten million homes in 19 countries across Europe, some dubbed adverts, and the thrills of the Sky Bondstec Roadshow! There is also a trail for wrestling which has been shown on Sky for many years, and we conclude with a lot of Sky presenters celebrating the channel’s sixth anniversary, including Tony Blackburn, Pat Sharp, and of course children’s TV star DJ Kat. vlcsnap-00326

This all leads on to a rather interesting show from Sky in the 80s called Sky Trax, a music show which only seemed to be shown when they had got bored with showing the in-vision Teletext service rather late at night. Most editions seemed to be hosted by Pat Sharp and his epic hairstyle (long before Fun House) from a cupboard in London, along with Gary Davies (who was seemingly doing some moonlighting from BBC Radio 1). vlcsnap-00400

Lots of bands from across Europe were featured performing their latest songs, and there were also plenty of music videos and interviews, but I doubt that it gave the production team of Top Of The Pops much to panic about, especially as there were probably about three people watching. However, it does seem to be a decent pop music archive from over 30 years ago that is worth tapping into again. vlcsnap-00405