Top Ten Indie/Alternative Music TV Moments

TV used to be so much more important for music promotion. Sure, a good Letterman performance can still help a band get known. But we now live in an era of internet self-promotion that has left TV a far less exciting medium to catch the next big thing or see your favourite band. Here we take you back to an era when TV appearances could make or break an act and frequently did. For our selection we’ve opted for the rude, the cheeky and the downright strange. We’ve also included some of TV’s best live performances as well as a more up to date reality TV moment. Sit back and enjoy the clips.

1. Kurt Cobain’s Morrisey Impression

Nirvana has had many memorable TV moments. From the band’s MTV unplugged session to Kurt Cobain declaring that Courtney Love is “the best fuck in the world” on UK TV show The Word. But here we’ve opted for their UK Top of the Pops appearance where Cobain decided to sing ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ in the guise of Morrissey. A band at their peak taking the piss in this way was unusual then as it is now. Opinion is divided as to why they did it. Some say a sore throat; some say it was to get at the producers as the band wanted to play another song. Maybe it was because they were cheeky chappies.

2. Jon Spencer Goes Ballistic Down Under

Jon Spencer Blues Explosion is one of the best live acts around, however their TV appearances are sadly rare. For this 1990s performance on Australian youth programme Recovery they decided to show the rest of TV land what they were missing. Check out the action half way through their set as the Explosion go nuts with a theremin.

3. Ghost Hunting With The Happy Mondays

Music TV stations such as MTV have long since descended into a reality TV cesspit where Jay-Z buying a new sofa is considered good programming. Here the Happy Mondays show how reality TV should be done, when they appeared on ghost hunting show Most Haunted. Aged Manchester musicians stay in a haunted house. What could go right?

4. Iggy Bums A Teddy

Iggy Pop pretends to bum a teddy bear on children’s TV. It’s an eye-catching line indeed. Back in the 1980s children’s television shows were a staple way to see live bands, or rather chart acts mime to their latest single. The misguided producers of UK British kids’ TV show No. 73 clearly thought nothing could go wrong when they invited Iggy pop to “boogie in their basement,” and mime to his hit at the time ‘Wild One’. How misguided they were.

5.Husker Du Fail To Impress Housewives

Husker Du was one of the greatest indie alternative acts of all time. Merging punk with catchy pop they were one of the main influences for a host of bands, most notably Nirvana. What they are less famous for however was being a darling of Middle America’s housewife community. Here they are in 1986 bizarrely appearing on Minneapolis day time US TV show good Company in front of an audience of bewildered housewives.

6.Sabrina Finally Meets The Violent Femmes

Sabrina the Teenage Witch may have been one of the most annoying teenagers on TV, but at least she had reasonable music taste. This clip is from a 1997 episode of her series in which her efforts to see her favourite band the Violent Femmes are thwarted by her crazy witch aunts. Eventually she gets to meet them but be warned this clip contains some of the worst acting by a band ever.

7.Stone Roses Brand BBC “Amateurs”

The Stone Roses first album was a work of genius. The perfect band for the perfect 1989 moment all delivered with supreme dedication by producer John Leckie. They must have been proud. Imagine their disappointment when they appear on BBC’s Late Show when a technical hitch cuts their power. The presenter trying to explain the problem away while lead singer Ian Brown shouts “amateurs” in the background will forever be a classic nugget of TV gold.

8.Fugazi’s First UK TV Appearance

Snub TV was a great music show from the late 1980s, featuring the first UK TV appearances of the likes of the Stone Roses and this clip from Fugazi. Filmed during their first visit to the UK, lead singer Ian Mackaye can come across a bit pious, preaching to the crowd about rape, but the sheer intensity of the performance is not in doubt. Great, great performance.

9.Sex Pistols With Bill Grundy

This is the granddaddy, the godfather, the mother of all alternative music TV moments. Today Show presenter Bill Grundy attempted to wind up the Sex Pistols. Little did he realise that beneath the snarls, rips and safety pins lurked an intelligent man in John Lydon. Lydon takes the bait and throws it straight back at the hapless Grundy, whose career was in tatters by the next day. In contrast the Sex Pistols went on to become a household name.

10. XTC On So It Goes

So It Goes, the late 1970 music show fronted by the late Tony Wilson showcased some of the best acts of the punk/new wave era. Elvis Costello, The Clash, Sex Pistols and The Buzzcocks all appeared. To mark this show we’ve chosen this little seen clip of XTC performing ‘Neon Shuffle’. Another fantastic performance in which you’d never guess that seemingly extrovert lead singer Andy Partridge went on to develop stage fright.

Compiled by Joe Lepper