As always, over the past few weeks I’ve been giving a bit of thought on how I would set this up. It’s always good to have some sort of theme for this sort of piece and it came to me a couple of Fridays ago. I was skulking around the darker musical and televisual recesses of YouTube and it hit me.
One of, for those my age, the most iconic TV shows. Loved and loathed in equal measure, The Word, if nothing else, provided those of us watching in the early to mid-90s with some fantastic and memorable live music performances. So, I’ve brought together some of the best.
Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit
The band’s first UK television appearance and a memorable one at that, kicking off with Kurt complimenting his future wife’s bedroom prowess.
Oasis – Supersonic
Another TV first, the debut appearance of these young scallywags. Fresh, exciting and dangerous, ‘Supersonic’ still, to my mind, stands out as one of their top 3 tunes.
Faith No More – Everything’s Ruined
I remember this performance really clearly. Probably the start of my Mike Patton hero-worship / man-crush that persists to this day. Outstanding.
L7 – Pretend We’re Dead
This was all anybody was talking about at school the Monday after. A genuine live TV jaw-dropping – and trouser-dropping – moment. NSFW for sure.
Dinosaur Jr – Start Choppin’
It’s performances like this that made The Word so important. Nowhere else would you get a chance to see J Mascis thrashing away.
Rage Against the Machine – Killing in the Name
This sums up the glorious anarchy that was The Word. And again, you wouldn’t hear or see this anywhere else unedited.
Oliver Reed & Neds Atomic Dustbin – Wild Thing
I don’t know if it’s the jacket, the lack of shirt, the stomach or the moustache. Or maybe just the utter gibberish he spoke throughout, but Oliver Reed’s stint on the show remains one of it’s most memorable.
Madonna – Justify My Love
This wasn’t a live performance, instead it was the UK premiere of what, at the time, was the hugely controversial new video from Madonna. Rumours abounded about what it would contain and I think pretty much every schoolboy in Britain stayed up to watch it. It’s still a bit too risqué for the work PC I would imagine.
And there we go. 8 clips from what was on the surface a shambolic, seemingly amateurish TV show with annoying presenters and what at times seemed no script and no clue. Despite this, it remains a hugely important slice of UK pop culture that, in the days before the internet and satellite TV it was indispensable. If you look through Terry Christian’s YouTube channel you’ll see a host of other performances – The Pixies, Compulsion, Inspiral Carpets, Sleeper, Sepultura, Onyx, Living Colour, Public Enemy – the list goes on. Trust me, it’s a great way to spend a Friday night.
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