We look back at an iconic moment of eighties television when two of the decade’s most iconic singers, a time when The Smiths leading man Morrissey and Wham! singer George Michael took to a tv show to give their thoughts on everything from Joy Division to breakdancing.
During the 1980s there was a desperate need for television networks to chase after and provide programming for ‘the youth’. One of these shows was Eight Days A Week, a project which offered its guests the chance to discuss, in-depth, music and film and other pop culture with some of their contemporaries. While it may sound like a place for intellectual prowess to reign supreme, the show usually runs along a rather trivial line of the ’80s candy-coated discussion. But, in this instance, it sees George Michale and Morrissey clash.
We’re going back in time to revisit of these intense discussions which saw Morrissey, George Michael, and the infinitely awkward DJ Tony Blackburn, conversing on a few of the recent releases of the time. While many of them won’t be remembered as strong releases, there are some vital conversation points.
The round table in this particular episode, which aired in May of ’84, has an illustrious seating plan, including two incredible and notorious artists of the ’80s… and Tony Blackburn — possibly the cringest DJ to have ever walked the earth. It makes for incredible viewing.
At the time, Wham! were one of the biggest bands in the world and George Michael was a face that would come represent an entire generation. While Morrissey was the enigmatic lead singer of The Smiths, leading the alternative rock generation to a new plain, far removed from punk and heading toward a new style of rock music. It was evenly balanced between the two.
The Manchester band had just released ‘Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now’ and were beginning to exert the kind of artistic dominance of Britain which would see Moz become an icon. Meanwhile, Tony Blackburn made us all want to eat our own faces. The unlikely trio discusses Everything But The Girl‘s debut album Eden, the frankly awful film Breakdance (aka Breakin’) and a book about Joy Division called An Ideal for Living: A History of Joy Division by Mark Johnson. It’s a piece which throws up quite a few instances of awkwardness.
As expected, Morrissey does his usual act of moaning, being obtuse and avoiding as many rules or expectations as possible — something he has become a true master of. George Michael, however, shows his admiration for Joy Division when discussing the book.
Denselow: George, I wouldn’t imagine you as a Joy Division fan, maybe I’m wrong?
George: Ah, you might be wrong! This book, just became incredibly suspect for me, the minute I saw…
Denselow: You do like them?
George: I do like them, yeah. It became very suspect when I saw that it was partially, a lot of the contributions were from a gentleman called Paul Morley.
Denselow: You don’t approve of Paul Morley?
George: You’d need a book a lot thicker than that to list that man’s ideas or hangups, whatever you’d like to call it. It became very, very pretentious, in so many areas, I actually didn’t finish it, I did not get anywhere near finishing it. And I actually really liked Joy Division, or particular their second album Closer. I thought Closer, the second side of Closer…it’s one of my favourite albums, It’s just beautiful.”
There are some more cringe moments to be had, the reviews of the film Breakdance are excruciating as George Michael (rightly) calls it trash while the hideously out-of-touch Tony Blackburn claims it’s shining qualities.
The whole episode is entirely brilliant watching. not least of all to get a feel for the youth of 1984 in Britain, but to get a glimpse of a young George Michael and Stephen Morrissey, sparring and intellectually posturing as they show equal measures of musical nouse.
These two men who would go on to shape music for decades to come, who would be the iconic voices of their generation, sat patiently across from Tony Blackburn having to discuss pop music, not the perfect situation but one of the most watchable we’ve seen in years.