Watch Bad News cause mayhem on a British chat show in 1987

Bad News appear on the BBC show Wogan in 1987
(Image credit: BBC)

Wogan was the UK’s answer to the The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Hosted by Irish broadcaster and future Alan Partridge template Terry Wogan, the programme was aired three times a week at 7pm on BBC1 and over the course of a decade, it would attract Hollywood actors, music stars, TV actors, a drunken sports icon and a former goalkeeper with apocalyptic visions. 

And then there were the Four Horsemen of the Rock Apocalypse, leaders and saviours of the wild ride to oblivion and ecstasy, otherwise known as Bad News.

On Friday, October 2, 1987, the titular host was preparing to take a fortnight’s holiday. For that evening's show, actor Edward Woodward and author Marilyn French were booked as guests along with Bad News. This piss-take metal band – that pre-dated Spinal Tap by a year – were brought in to perform their cover of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, which had recently reached 44 in the UK singles chart. 

During this clip, the band – frontman Vim Fuego (Ade Edmondson), bassist Colin Grigson (Rik Mayall),  guitarist Den Dennis (Nigel Planer) and drummer Spider Webb (Peter Richardson) – certainly have a go at playing their single all the way through. And despite a litany of disasters – wigs falling off, stage props malfunctioning, ill-timed high kicks and a malfunctioning backing tape – the four-piece limped heroically to the end of the song.

Remember, this was prime time TV, broadcast on one of the nation’s four channels and heavy metal – no matter how knowingly bad it was – was being beamed into millions of homes that evening. 

Following their performance, Wogan attempts to keep order in his cosy avuncular style and manages to coax something approaching an interview out of the band. There's one awkward moment – most likely staged – where the host makes them break character by using their real names, then Rik Mayall's curly wig gets caught on a guitar headstock. As he composed himself, the comedian bemoans the fact that he has to wear false eyelashes onstage and almost gets into a scrap with the frontman over the back of the sofa. 

The whole appearance threatens to boil over into absolute chaos but never quite reaches the levels of the Sex Pistols' appearance on The Bill Grundy Show 11 years previously. 

A few years later, Wogan was axed and the short-lived Spain-based soap opera Eldorado broadcast in its place. British broadcasting was never the same again, at least for families who enjoyed seeing which celebrities would accidentally destroy their careers on TV. But, for one evening in 1987, heavy metal was centerstage on mainstream television. And piss-take or not, everything felt proper for 10 glorious minutes. 

Watch the band’s iconic performance and interview below.

Simon Young

Born in 1976 in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Simon Young has been a music journalist for over twenty years. His fanzine, Hit A Guy With Glasses, enjoyed a one-issue run before he secured a job at Kerrang! in 1999. His writing has also appeared in Classic RockMetal HammerProg, and Planet Rock. His first book, So Much For The 30 Year Plan: Therapy? — The Authorised Biography is available via Jawbone Press.