Showcase for contemporary bands
The cornerstone of the shows was the live performances from three or four bands each week. In an era where most music TV shows featured non-stop miming, the fully live sets by the guest artists were innovative (but the sound mix was often very poor, with a curious quality that made it sound like everything had been 'phased'). The programme would start with a 45 minute magazine section consisting of interviews, fashion items and comedy appearances by a wide range of alternative artistes such as Mark Miwurdz, Frank Sidebottom, Foffo Spearjig and even French & Saunders. During this section Yates would become known for conducting rather flirtatious interviews: in 1985, for example, she prompted Sting to remove his trousers.
The main presenters were supported, for the first two series, by five newcomers who were picked following a nationally advertised competition: these were Muriel Gray, Gary James, Nick Laird-Clowes, Michel Cremona and Mike Everitt. The supporting presenters took turns to co-present. The show usually featured four or five band appearances per week, with one main extended session to close. The format of the show was extended following Series 1 with a number of special events - most notably the 'Midsummer Night's Tube', a 5 hour version broadcast live from the Tyne Tees studios, the pub across the road from the studios and The Hoppings annual fair in Newcastle. This ground breaking broadcast was, at the time, the longest continuous live music show in television history and received much critical and technical acclaim.
Studio 5 was also used to produce a spin off show called TX45. This show ran for 2 series Hosted by Chris Cowey and produced by Jeff Brown and featured local bands like, The Kane Gang, Secret Sam, She and President.
In January 1987, during the fifth series, Jools Holland accidentally swore with the words "groovy fuckers" during a live trailer for the show. The incident caused a national scandal, as the trailer was transmitted at a peak children's viewing time and the show was taken off air for three weeks as a result. Holland was reprimanded by Channel 4, as this was not the first time he had accidentally sworn on the live show. The show's producer, Malcolm Gerrie, and Tyne Tees' Director of Programmes, Andrea Wonfor, announced their resignations in March. They cited as reasons for doing so a mixture of internal bickering, political pressure and "stifling bureaucracy and heavy handed moralism". A further series was never commissioned. In truth, the viewing figures for the series had dropped significantly, and the original format had been watered down. Some people close to the show had said that Holland's swearing was seen as a convenient way of ending the show. The show had always suffered from having such an early 'tea-time'/children's spot that was highly incompatible with the edgy and hip style that it encapsulated. The presenters' live interviews and filmed magazine items were nervously watched by the show's producers and editors as well as Channel 4 executives, especially when certain pop stars and celebrities not known for their shy and retiring nature were being featured. It was this that gave the show the curious feeling of 'anything might happen' that actually made it the success it was.
In 2000, The Tube was brought back for a one-off live special on Sky One. Hosted by BBC Radio 1's Chris Moyles and Donna Air, the show came live again from Studio 5 at Tyne Tees and the bar of the Egypt Cottage next door.
In 2005 Tyne Tees Television moved out from its City Road complex on Newcastle Quayside. The site is to be redeveloped as housing, but it is not yet clear whether the trademark 'Tube' structure will remain.
The Very Best of The Tube Various Artists, Universal Records, November 4, 2002