Orbital vs Top Of The Pops [March 1990]
Orbital released Chime on this day (12 March) in 1990, setting in motion what is now a three-decade career for the Hartnoll brothers.
The release, on Pete Tong’s FFRR label (which followed a limited run on Jazzy M’s Oh Zone a few months previous) quickly broke the Top 40, and in late March of that year, the brothers were asked to appear on Top of the Pops – the pinnacle of pop superstardom (at least at the time).
As the group’s Paul Hartnoll, who was working in a pizza restaurant at the time, told Sound on Sound in 2006, when the duo got the call from the BBC, it was for a Wednesday taping… and he had forgotten to take the day off.
“I told the manageress ‘I can’t work on Wednesday.’ ‘Oh, why?’ ‘I’ve got to go and do Top Of The Pops ‘. Well, she just screamed. ‘Are you joking?’ I said ‘D’you know what? I don’t think I’m coming back.’
“We’d just been given a £2,000 advance by Pete Tong and I’d thought ‘Hang on a minute — that’s a year’s wages in this job!’”
What followed was one of the more memorable Top of the Pops performances, not because of the duo’s mind-blowing stage presence, but due to it being one of the most muted appearances in the show’s history – two bored looking blokes in long-sleeve t-shirts, mucking about behind a series of keyboards and synthesisers.
Which all happened to be unplugged.
“Top Of The Pops insisted that we mime,” Hartnoll told Sound on Sound. “However, when they provided us with flashy keyboard stands we sent them away and got trestle tables from the canteen. In our minds, flashy keyboard stands just wasn’t us. We were used to performing on tables at the backs of pubs and we just had to set things up the way we knew. Still, we were so embarrassed to be miming.
“I’d always complained stroppily whenever I saw people doing the same on Top Of The Pops, and now here we were, miming while some woman danced next to us in leggings, a silver top and a silver hat. She looked bored, we looked embarrassed and Top Of The Pops said ‘We’ll never have them back again.’
“As it happens, they did, but only once the staff had been replaced by people who’d forgotten they would never have us back again!”
Here’s the ‘performance’ in all its infamous glory.