Monday, January 29, 2007

The Old Grey Whistle Test

The Old Grey Whistle Test on Wikipedia
The Old Grey Whistle Test on BFI ScreenOnline
The Old Grey Whistle Test on YouTube

The Old Grey Whistle Test was an influential BBC2 television music show that ran from September 1971 until 1987. The first host was Richard Williams, then features editor of the Melody Maker music weekly. During this initial period, there was a remarkable correlation between the featured artists on the show, and those appearing on the magazine's front page. Eventually, Williams was replaced by DJ Bob Harris (nicknamed "Whispering Bob Harris", due to his quiet voice and "laid back" style). The programme hosted many seminal acts of the era, including the first British TV performance of Bob Marley and the Wailers as well as little known acts of whom any footage is now considered precious, such as Judee Sill. The show's focus on "serious" rock music rather than chart hits was emphasised by the lack of showbiz glitter; bands would often perform their songs in front of plain wooden boards (actually the backs of set walls from other programmes). As with many BBC productions, this was (initially at least) as much a matter of money as of style. Other late night shows of the time, having only 'minority' appeal, also had to be content with spartan sets. Bob Harris became notorious among the younger generation for calling the New York Dolls "mock rock." The Dolls' performance on the Old Grey Whistle would strongly influence the British punk movement.


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