The wonderfully infectious pop songs and gratuitously sexy music videos of Dutch pop acts promoting a striptease TV show.
The Pin-Up Club was a Dutch TV series, broadcast on the Veronica channel between 1987 and 1991. Official history tells us that the programme was a soft porn series that caused considerable controversy – even leading to questions in the House of Representatives. But it’s hard to see why exactly, given the existing clips and my own knowledge of what was on Dutch TV just a few years later – Richard Kern‘s Fingered, for instance. Not to mention the sort of thing you’d find staring at you from the windows of Amsterdam’s sex shops, of course – although we should never mistake the liberal attitude that existed in Amsterdam as representative of the Netherlands as a whole, I suppose. But The Pin-Up Club seems very tame by any European TV standards of the day, offering a mix of scantily clad girls, teasing nudity and pop star performances in what was a rather desperate variety show that was never going to frighten the horses.
The pop acts who appeared on the show seemed to be primarily female, chosen by their likelihood to dance around in skimpy outfits – the likes of Sabrina, Tatjana, Danuta and lots of other long-forgotten (and barely known at the time) performers who sang irritatingly catchy and entirely disposable Europop numbers. You can enjoy some of these performances on YouTube.
The show’s main theme was a jaunty little number called We Cheer You Up, performed by Barbarella, a three-piece girl group who are backed on the video by assorted topless dancing girls from the Pin-Up Club‘s shows. It’s genuinely wonderful, and we warn you now – this song will lodge itself into your head immediately, possibly never to leave. There are worse things to have as earworms, though.
We Cheer You Up was not, as some have suggested, the work of an act manufactured for the show. Barbarella consisted of Angela Vermeer, Ingrid Brans and Leslie Doornik, and they released two albums between 1989 and 1991 – Sucker For Your Love (the title track of which was a cover of Toto Cuelo’s Dracula Tango) and Don’t Stop The Dance.
We Cheer You Up actually cracked the Dutch Top Ten, and would go on to have a strange afterlife in the UK of all places when the video was picked up by the British video request satellite channel Lifestyle Satellite Jukebox, which broadcast in the evenings from 1990 to 1993. The channel’s format involved having viewers call in to a premium rate number to request various music videos, but the never spoken of selling point was the fact that after 9pm, they would make a handful of ‘sexy’ music videos available. Given that most satellite dishes in the UK were being sold in order to allow viewers to tune into German TV channels and watch the likes of Tutti Frutti, it’s no surprise that these songs up unknown (to British viewers) artists were remarkable popular. If phone requests had counted towards the charts, it’s possible that Barbarella’s magnificently infectious song would have been a UK hit. Though perhaps not as big a hit as Twinkle’s Hello, which seemed to be on constant rotation and is said to be the most requested song that the channel had on offer. Watch the frankly bonkers video and you’ll see why.
Unlike Barbarella, who stayed firmly covered up in their video (and their ‘live’ Pin-Up Club performance), Twinkle – who consisted of two near-identical blonde girls who were definitely not the Sixties pop singer of the same name – were quick to strip off as part of a frankly incomprehensible series of images that just get madder and madder. Less sexy than surreal, it’s compellingly weird.
Unlike Barbarella, there’s little evidence that Twinkle was a real band – or, indeed, just who the two girls were. But Hello was released as a single on CD and vinyl in 1989, and although the song is tied to the Pin-Up Club, it seems that the video was a genuine music promo rather than just a segment of the show. In any case, as you may have already discovered, Hello is also infuriatingly catchy Europop. Its chorus is bouncing around my head as I type this, and has been there for thirty years. I can’t say that for many songs.
The Pin-Up Club has sunk into obscurity – there are no DVDs of the show available, which seems a shame given its kitsch appeal. The videos for We Cheer You Up and Hello tend to play cat and mouse with YouTube censors, which is why we’re preserving them for posterity here.