It was general election night in May 1986, and while the main channels scrambled for coverage, BBC2 decided to roll with a documentary on the history of rock video. It was an Omnibus special called ‘Video Jukebox’, and was presented by two gentlemen sadly no longer with us – John Peel and John Walters. It was excellent.
My memories of it on the actual night are a little sparse, mainly because it started late (after 10pm) and I wasn’t allowed to stay up. So I made my older brother promise to tape all the bits with Madonna in it (my new idol and the reason I unfortunately wore lace in my hair) and was sent to bed, presumably in a slight grump. My brother meanwhile stayed up until the early morning hours with his finger on the record and stop button of the remote control, ever mindful that he only had two VHS tapes and that he might run out of tape before the long documentary ran off air.
So I actually got to see it the next day, which was thankfully a Saturday, and that meant I had control of the TV before dad took over with Grandstand. So after watching various mad people roller-skate around children’s morning TV show Number 73, I no doubt eagerly put on Video Jukebox.
This was the first real chance I had to see the videos to the music I loved at the time. TotP occasionally played videos when the artists couldn’t make the studio, but it was really hit or miss if you would see the actual video. And this documentary charted the time when video had begun – the musicals and jazz sound films of the 1940s, the rock 'n' roll films of the 50s, the television pop programmes of the 60s and finally to the first true pop videos of the 1970s and the 1980s. It covered The Beatles and The Stones, had lengthy interviews with David Bowie and Madness, and charted the rise of MTV. You can look at the running order of the show here.
But the main thing I remember was my brother doing a dive Ronaldo would be proud of in order to grab the remote when the ‘banned’ video of ‘Relax’ by Frankie Goes To Hollywood started playing. This of course meant that I watched it as soon as no-one else was in the house in order to see what all the fuss was about – ooo… it was rude! Fab.
Video Jukebox remains one of my favourite music documentaries of all time. I still have the two VHS tapes although I am scared to play them too often as I fear the day the tape snaps. They are on my list to upgrade to DVD just as soon as I have the spare cash for such things, but ever so occasionally I will put them on and enjoy these young-faced pop bands and directors talking about the wonderful new world of pop video.
Edit: It was the second transmission of Video Jukebox that was shown on Election night - the original transmission had aired a year earlier.