The 10 greatest debut TV appearances

21 February 2024, 09:00

Great TV appearances: Queen on Top Of The Pops; The Stone Roses on The Other Side Of Midnight; The Smiths on The Tube; and David Bowie trying to get into the BBC Television Centre in 1964.
Great TV appearances: Queen on Top Of The Pops; The Stone Roses on The Other Side Of Midnight; The Smiths on The Tube; and David Bowie trying to get into the BBC Television Centre in 1964. Picture: Michael Ochs Archives/Alisdair MacDonald/Daily Mirror/Mirrorpix via Getty Images/YouTube

50 years ago this week, Freddie Mercury amazed the nation's households when Queen made their very first appearance on TV. How have other artists made their televisual debut?

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By Radio X

  1. Queen: Top Of The Pops, 21st February 1974

    Queen - TOTP 1974 (wiped)

    The first single to be taken from their breakthrough album Queen II, Seven Seas Of Rhye was popular enough with the producers of BBC-1's Top Of The Pops to be given a place in the shows' "New Releases" slot on the weekend that the single was released. This gave Britain's TV viewers their first glimpse of Freddie Mercury, Brian May, John Deacon and Roger Taylor, particularly the frontman's distinctive style. The original colour master tape was wiped long ago, but a domestic video copy of (most of) the clip has surfaced: imagine this performance sandwiched between the reassuring likes of Alvin Stardust and Gilbert O'Sullivan.

  2. David Bowie: Tonight, 12th November 1964

    Davy Jones (aka David Bowie) on BBC Tonight Programme (1964)

    Ok, this isn't a peformance, but it IS some incredible footage. In November 1964, Bowie was still a wanna-be pop star and was then working as a singer with a group of blues enthusiasts, named The Manish Boys. Ever the hustler, Bowie managed to get himself on the BBC's current affairs programme, where he was interviewed not about his music, but his hair - which was extremely long for the era. Claming he was the spokesman for somethig called "The Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty To Long-haired Men", the future superstar sat in front of a group of long-hairs and told the programme's host Cliff Michelmore: "For the last two years we’ve had comments like ‘Darling!’ and ‘Can I carry your handbag?’ thrown at us, and I think it just has to stop now." It was all a PR stunt, of course, but Bowie moved on from the Manish Boys a few months later - and it would be a full five years before he had his first hit with Space Oddity.

  3. The Beatles: unreleased footage from The Cavern

    "Some Other Guy " The Beatles at the Cavern REMASTER Take one and two.

    A curious one this: the first time The Beatles appeared on TV, it was on a local Granada TV show called People And Places, with the band performing their new single Love Me Do and one of their favourite cover versions, Richie Barrett's Some Other Guy. Unfortunately, that went out live on the evening of Wednesday 17th October 1962, and was never recorded, so we can't watch it back today. However, it wasn't the first time that The Beatles were filmed by television cameras: the band's lunchtime session at Liverpool's Cavern Club on 22nd August 1962 was also shot by Granada, but the footage wasn't felt up to scratch and remained on the shelf for the best part of a year. When Beatlemania hit in the autumn of 1963, Granda thought that such trifling concerns as quality didn't matter any more and they screened a clip of the Fabs performing Some Other Guy on the show Scene At 6.30 on 6th November 1963 to prove that the local programme had got in there first. In fact, this Cavern show took place only a week after drummer Pete Best was fired in favour of Ringo Starr, so the clip is of great historical importance to Beatlologists.

  4. The Stone Roses: The Other Side Of Midnight, 15th January 1989

    The Stone Roses / Waterfall - live in January 1989

    The first TV appearance by the Roses wasn't their memorable appearance alongside Happy Mondays on Top Of The Pops, or even their disastrous non-performance on BBC-2's Late Show, but on something called The Other Side Of Midnight. Shown in January 1989, this programme was hosted by TV personality and Factory Records boss Tony Wilson, or Anthony H. Wilson as he liked to be billed at this point. Coming out of Granada's Manchester studios in the wee small hours of Monday mornings, Wilson obviously had an ear to the ground when it came to the exciting new music coming out of the city at the time. Even though he didn't think much of the Roses, he admitted that they had something and were growing a following across the country. The band played their stellar track Waterfall, accompanied by the Roses' own Bez, Cressa and the performance was so notable that a photo from the session appeared on the back of their classic debut album four months later.

  5. Joy Division: Granada Reports, 20th September 1978

    Joy Division - Shadowplay

    We have Tony Wilson to thank for another debut TV appearance: Joy Division were just about to record their first tracks for the broadcaster's new label Factory and Wilson slipped the group onto the end of the North West's news and current affairs programme Granada Reports. The presenter opened the performance with the words: "Seeing as how this is the programme which previously brought you first television appearances from everything from the Beatles to the Buzzcocks we do like to keep our hand in and keep you informed of the most interesting new sounds in the north west.This,Joy Division, is the most interesting new sound we've come across in the last six months." The group - Ian Curtis, Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook and Steve Morris - gave viewers (in the North West only, of course) a preview of their debut album Unknown Pleasures via the track Shadowplay.

  6. U2: Youngline, 2nd March 1978

    U2 - First TV appearance on RTE 1978

    Bono and his crew were still known as The Hype when they appeared on the Irish TV station RTE in March 1978 (despite what the caption says) and they still counted The Edge's brother Dik Evans among their number, although he was too busy with college to make it to the studio to play the song Street Mission. Two weeks later, the band had renamed themselves U2.

  7. The Doors: Shebang, 1967

    The Doors - Break On Through - first tv appearance - SHEBANG

    An exact date isn't available for this colour clip of Jim Morrison and co performing Break On Through (To The Other Side) on the Los Angelese-area kids' pop show Shebang, where the psychedelic quartet were introduced by none other than Casey "American Top 40/voice of Shaggy" Kasem. Morrison keeps it low key and mysterious. Zoinks!

  8. The Smiths: The Tube, 4th November 1983

    The Smiths - This Charming Man (Official Music Video)

    Flowers-aplenty for this specially-shot clip for Channel 4's The Tube, which gave a national audience their first glimpse of Morrissey's unique style. The footage was so memorable it's become the "official video" for This Charming Man and why not?

  9. Nirvana: The Word, 8th November 1991

    Nirvana - Limehouse Studios (The Word), London, United Kingdom 1991 25th

    There had been a couple of shows that had shown live footage of Nirvana before Jo Whiley famously booked the trio to appear on Channel 4's The Word to plug Smells Like Teen Spirit, but this was the very first custom-made television appearance in the world by the grunge legends. The accompanying album Nevermind had been in the UK charts for the best part of a month causing a huge (love) buzz around the band and allowing a sizeable audience to catch Kurt Cobain's introduction: "I want everyone in this room to know that Courtney Love, the lead singer of the sensational pop group Hole, is the best f**k in the world".

  10. Oasis: The Word, 18th March 1994

    Oasis Tv Debut - Supersonic (Live The Word 1994)

    Here's a tale. The very first TV appearance by the Gallagher-led behemoth should have been the band's impromptu appearance as part of the ITV Telethon in June 1992, but the clip was apparently never aired and remains unreleased. This means, that the first time the wider world outside of Manchester got an eyeful of Oasis was on Channel 4's Friday night parade of bad taste and outrage, The Word, where the band were introduced by Mark Lamarr performed their debut single Supersonic, three weeks before it hit the shops. Also appearing on the show that night: Soul Asylum!


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