- 16 Jan 20
33 years ago today, Jools Holland found himself in hot water at Channel 4. To mark the occasion, we're revisiting our 2008 interview with the legendary musician and presenter.
During the fifth series of Channel 4’s The Tube, Jools Holland caused major controversy after swearing during a live trailer for the show, during peak children’s viewing time. For those who don’t remember it, The Tube was a notoriously irreverent pop music programme that Holland hosted alongside Paula Yates – long before the success of Later... With Jools Holland.
Although tame by today’s standard, Holland’s choice of words caused a national scandal in 1987. As the musician/TV presenter told Hot Press in 2008:
“Every other week something happened which almost got us kicked off the air... The Tube was on just after Noddy at half-past five and had as many tots watching as it did adults. We opened the floodgates, which I’d like to apologise for.”
Holland was heavily reprimanded for the controversy, which eventually led to the programme being taken off the air. 32 years on, however, the show’s legacy remains intact. It launched the careers of British acts like The Proclaimers and Frankie Goes to Hollywood, among many others.
Revisit Holland’s classic 2008 interview with Stuart Clark below, in which the impresario discusses gigging with early U2 and Dire Straits, beside-the-scenes hijinks on The Tube, and school runs in Daniel Day-Lewis’s dad’s Mercedes:
If U2 notice a sales spike in Greenwich, South London, that’s because Jools Holland has just been down to his local HMV and bought their Boy, October and War reissues.
“I like to support young talent,” Jools says benevolently. It’s not the first time Bono & Co. have benefited from his patronage.
“Yeah, U2 supported us – as in Squeeze – when we played this tiny cellar bar in Islington called the Hope & Anchor,” he reminisces. “It would’ve been early 1979 and the crowd consisted of the proverbial three men and a dog – the dog leaving half-way through ‘cause he wasn’t into it. So the only audience for U2 was Squeeze and vice versa!”
Was it obvious that the Hope & Anchor was merely a stepping-stone for the chaps on their way to multiple nights in Croke Park?
“Did I know that 31 years later they’d be the biggest band in the world?” he ponders. “No, but you could tell they were ambitious young men who wanted to be more than the new Sham 69.
“They were great back then, and crucially they’re even better now. Some bands reach a certain point and then start atrophying whereas U2 have kept progressing. They never go out on ‘Greatest Hits’ tours – there’s always a new album which is invariably more successful than the last one.”
Another band that supported Squeeze – at the Albany Empire in Deptford to be precise – were Dire Straits.
“Yes, whatever did happen to little Markey Knopfler?” the 50-year-old deadpans. “That was at the time when pub rock was bleeding into punk. We’d have been quite pally with Dr. Feelgood whose singer Lee Brilleaux was the funniest person I’ve ever met, and aware of The Boomtown Rats who were one of the R ‘n’ B bands who decided to cut their hair and narrow their trouser width. Rather successfully as it turned out!”
Jools was even more aware of Bob Geldof a few years later when he married his Tube co-presenter Paula Yates.
“My abiding memory of Paula is her wonderful sense of humour – she always made me laugh,” he smiles ruefully. “People say, ‘There must have been signs’, but never for one second did I think her life was going to end the way it did. It’s incredibly sad.”
How did he go from being the piano-player with Squeeze to anchoring one of the most celebrated yoof TV shows of all time?
“The Police wanted the making of their Ghost In The Machine album documented, so their manager, who also happened to be Squeeze’s manager, Miles Copeland, sent me to Montserrat with this rather sketchy idea of what was required,” he chuckles. “The people doing The Tube saw The Police In Montserrat – clever title, eh? – and said, ‘This is the fellow we want’ and thusly my TV career was born.”
Was The Tube as much fun to make as it was to watch?
“The thing I adored about The Tube – apart from the music – was the fact that every other week something happened which almost got us kicked off the air. I remember severe bollockings being handed out when we burst into Marc Almond’s dressing-room only to find that he didn’t have his trousers on. Late at night that wouldn’t have been a problem, but The Tube was on just after Noddy at half-past five and had as many tots watching as it did adults. We opened the floodgates, which I’d like to apologise for.”
Along with everything else, it was great on-the-job training for Later With Jools Holland, which was conceived in 1992 as a summer schedule-filler but has just completed its 32nd series. Gun held to head, who have been his favourite guests?
“It’s great when you get people who’ve not only lived full lives, but realise it’s often the small details that are interesting and funny,” he reflects. “An example of that is Tom Jones who paints the most wonderful pictures of, say, what Las Vegas was like when it was still a Mafia town. Solomon Burke, the real King of Soul, has that same great take on things, as does Van Morrison.”
Who appears to be far happier talking to other musicians than he does journalists.
“I think he’s one of the most wonderful men in the world – a fantastic sense of humour and very articulate. It’s a shame he’s never written a book, but maybe his music tells you all you need to know.”
The most gobsmacked I’ve ever seen Jools on Later… was when he got to sit down at the piano with an obviously ill, but still razor sharp Johnny Cash.
“An impeccable gentleman who couldn’t have been more unassuming and easy to deal with. Sometimes these legends turn up with huge entourages and even bigger demands, but Johnny was a no-frills sort of a guy.”
Jools’ celebrity hobnobbing started when he was literally still in short trousers.
“Yes, I was in primary school with Daniel Day-Lewis. He lived more or less next door to my friend Simon, which was great because his father – Cecil Day-Lewis who was the Poet Laureate at the time – had a Mercedes that occasionally got called into service for the school run. Being eight years of age, I used to pretend I was a German General surveying my troops.”
Daniel Day-Lewis, trivia fans, going on to attend the same minor public school that yours truly was asked to leave in 1977 for reasons of an, ahem, pharmaceutical nature.
“We’re almost related then,” Holland chuckles. “I ran into Daniel not so long ago at a film screening, and there was a lovely warmth between us. Professionally he’s like U2 in that his work’s just got stronger and stronger.”
Did his coterie of pre-fame friends include that other Kent schoolboy, Shane MacGowan?
“No, but we’re quite matey now. One of my biggest boasts – which I’m making again now to you and your readers! – is that Shane sang this song of mine called ‘Just To Be Home With You’. I’m such a big fan of his.”
Although primarily known these days for Later With…, Jools still gets to play to over 500,000 people a year with his 20-piece Rhythm & Blues Orchestra whose next gig just happens to be at the Dysart Festival in Kilkenny.
“We have a number of special guests including – with his trousers on this time – Mr. Marc Almond,” he gushes. “We do versions of ‘Say Hello, Wave Goodbye’ and ‘Tainted Love’ which really rock out, and non-Soft Cell stuff that’s just as amazing. The other people we’ll have with us are Rico Rodriguez, one of the great legends of Jamaican ska; Ruby Turner who can turn a swinging orchestra into a monster whilst hollering the blues over the top of it; and a young lady by the name of Louise Marshall who despite the handicap of having to sing a lot of my songs is absolutely brilliant. I think proceedings in Thomastown will be very much to your liking!”