With Jools Holland turning 58 today (January 24), we revisit the 10 best ever performances the boogie-woogie master’s hosted.
10 ‘Tightrope’ by Janelle Monáe
Sometime between the 2011 release of ‘The Archandroid’ and her world-conquering 2013 return, Janelle Monáe became a superstar. Credit often goes to her 2011 Glastonbury set, but you can’t write off electric TV performances like this, a limber funk & soul workout that had the nation frantically shuffling on their settees.
9 ‘Rosary’ by Scott Walker
Scott Walker, a ‘60s heartthrob who’s since become pop’s great enigma, decided in 1995 to treat Jools to an extremely rare TV appearance, unaccompanied by the avant-garde orchestras he commands on record. We don’t know whether Walker’s fragile performance that night fulfilled his fears of returning to the spotlight – he hasn’t returned to TV since, or even played live – but it stands as a haunting reminder of the man’s dark majesty.
8 ‘Up the Bracket’ by The Libertines
After their unforgettable Top of the Pops debut, the Libs came and conquered Jools with this passionately ramshackle rendering of their debut LP’s title track. Apparently hoping to make the studio audience look less boring, the producers had asked some young people to dance furiously behind the stage, but ultimately, there was no shortage of anarchic energy spilling from the stage.
7 ‘Jóga’ by Björk
Of all Björk’s iconic Jools performances, this take on the exquisite lead track from ‘Homogenic’ stands out. Backed by a spectacular string band, Björk scuttles barefoot around the studio floor with the sneaky, conspiratorial grin of a performer who knows she’s making history.
6 ‘Brand New Day’ by Dizzee Rascal
Dizzee Rascal looked set for cult stardom after winning the Mercury Prize for ‘Boy in da Corner’, and this low-key performance barely hints at his star potential. Grime had reached UK living rooms when So Solid Crew topped the charts, but this reflective track about growing up on council estates was an unignorable statement that cemented Dizzee’s hero status.
5 ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’ by Arctic Monkeys
A breathtaking performance in its own right, but something special given the context. When Alex Turner and co shot to Number 1 with debut single ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’, they steel-plated their give-a-fuck image by declining to appear on Top of the Pops, a practically unprecedented move for a UK band. How Jools got the group onside is anyone’s guess, but this volatile rendition made it worth the wait. Listen out for a cheeky shout to fellow guest Ms. Dynamite.
4 ‘One-Armed Scissor’ by At the Drive-In
At the Drive-In were at the frontline of emo-rock’s mainstreaming throughout the previous decade, and this irrepressibly chaotic performance of ‘One-Armed Scissor’ has passed into legend as a symbol of their success. Not content with making their UK TV debut with out-of-tune instruments, they even pinched a chair belonging to Robbie Williams’ mate to hoss into the heavens.
3 ‘Disco 2000’ by Pulp
The same year Blur and Oasis had squabbled over the Number 1 spot with ‘Country House’ and ‘Roll With It’, Pulp dove in at the last and snatched a clutch of indie hearts with instant classic ‘Disco 2000’. For Jarvis-loving fops the country over, this ‘95 Jools performance secured the Britpop crown for the Sheffield underdogs.
2 ‘New Slaves’ by Kanye West
Backed by celebrated R’n’B singer Charlie Wilson, Kanye crafted a dystopian rework of ‘New Slaves’ for his iconic Jools appearance in 2013. As Kanye gets lost in his diatribe against institutional racism and the exploitative fashion industry, a haunting grand piano plays against Wilson’s spiralling groans, transforming what might’ve been a functional TV appearance into an unforgettable statement of creative and political intent.
1 ‘Paranoid Android’ by Radiohead
Nine months after ‘OK Computer’ made Radiohead the most renowned international pop band since the Beatles, the unassuming Oxford five-piece gifted Jools this monumental performance of their neo-prog masterpiece ‘Paranoid Android’. It’s quite simply the most epic UK TV performance ever.