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October 11, 1987|PAUL GREIN

NO LIP: "Top of the Pops," Britain's weekly pop music TV show, has been an institution since it debuted in 1964. But in adapting the show for the American market, the producers have tried not to be intimidated by the show's legendary status in its homeland. They have made several changes--most notably, breaking from its reliance on lip-syncing.

The one-hour show, which premiered Sept. 25, airs Friday nights at 11:30 p.m. on CBS-TV. Guests on the first two installments included David Bowie, Bryan Adams, Loverboy, Mr. Mister and Los Lobos. Among the stars set for upcoming shows are Sting, INXS, Belinda Carlisle and Santana.

"Live performances give us that edge that is needed for a music show in the States to be successful," said Joel Gallen, the show's U.S. producer. "It gets the crowd more involved, and keeps the flow and excitement a lot hotter. A lip-sync show is sort of impersonal and far away. I don't think the audience can really relate to it.

"In no way am I criticizing the U.K. show," said Gallen, 30, "because they've been doing it for 23 years, very successfully. But remember, in London the show airs during family hour--at 7 p.m. on Thursdays. Because of the limited amount of radio and music shows in London, this is the show that everybody looks to, not only to see the hits but to hear the hits.

"Record companies almost encourage their artists to lip-sync because they want the viewers--who range in age from 8 to 50--to hear the song exactly the way they hear it on the record."

Gallen noted that it's different in the United States. "Based on the sophistication of the audiences here, I felt it was really important to be live. We have passed on bands that would only lip-sync. We're really trying to take a stand."

Such other American pop music shows as "Solid Gold" and "American Bandstand" allow lip-syncing. "Some of these other shows are variety shows that happen to feature rock 'n' roll," said Gallen. "We're a rock 'n' roll show that happens to be on TV. We're a rock 'n' roll show first and a TV show second."

The show, which is based on Spin magazine's charts, has a 26-week commitment from CBS. "They're giving us a very fair shot," Gallen said. "If we can't prove ourselves in 26 weeks, it's just not going to work in the States."

This Friday's show features performances by INXS, Gloria Estefan & Miami Sound Machine, Richard Marx, Natalie Cole and Bourgeois Tagg. It will also include four segments lifted from the British show, featuring the Bee Gees, Gary Numan, the Housemartins and Westworld.

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