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Old Grey Whistle Test (30th Anniversary) - DVD

Old Grey Whistle Test (30th Anniversary) - DVDThe Old Grey Whistle Test was one of the few gems of music broadcasting in the seventies and eighties.  When it really kicked off in the early seventies, ‘whispering’ Bob (Bomber) Harris was at the helm, delighting ‘serious’ music lovers generally within the age groups 14 to 30-ish who surreptitiously stayed up late (Tuesdays at around 23:00hrs) to watch bands perform live at the BBC studio with all too short sets.  Up until the OGWT the only programmes broadcast for rock/pop were Top of the Pops, which only had acts that had a single to promote, and numerous other lightweight programmes such as Juke Box Jury.  OGWT on the other hand concentrated on acts that concentrated on producing albums (and those who could actually perform live rather than just miming).  Thus we were treated to the likes of Camel, Jethro Tull, Genesis, Led Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd strutting their stuff into the late hours.

So, when Bob Harris announced that the BBC was to screen a ‘best-of’ OGWT many of us (now in our late 30’s onwards!) were salivating in anticipation.  Unfortunately, for me, the saliva turned to spit.  In two and a half hours’ worth of programme, where was all the prog??  Bob had invited listeners in the early part of 2001 to vote for their favourite moments/acts on OGWT to aide in the compilation of the best of programme.  I lost count of the number of times I saw Camel mentioned plus others including Tull and Gentle Giant, but the closest to prog we got to was Captain Beefheart (always worth watching) and Alex Harvey and SAHB.  Ironically, many of the acts shown are better known for their singles or are still have a high profile in the music world – David Bowie, U2, REM and even one programme featuring only Billy Joel.

My personal view is that the best of The Old Grey Whistle Test was broadcast as an advertisement for the DVD and, as is the case nowadays, pandered to the mass market which in itself is an odd approach as the mass market was unlikely to watch a programme that had a niche audience in the first place.

The DVD is not much better in terms of selection.  The sound and picture quality, as you would expect, is very good, as are the performances.  Annoyingly, the OGWT opening theme and titles are repeated before every artiste, and that grates a bit after a while.  The only prog featured on the DVD is Focus, performing Sylvia and Hocus Pocus, which, along with Captain Beefheart, may indeed be enough to make you want to buy.  The clip of Val Doonican, YES Val Doonican performing Stone Fox Chase on harmonica with Charlie McCoy (the OGWT theme) is a little surreal.  But decide for yourself – a track listing follows.  For me though it is all too disappointing.  With any luck the Beeb will decide to release a OGWT Volume II covering artistes more akin to my taste (the 30th on the DVD box is just a peelable sticker so a second DVD set is surely not out of the question).  Even better, what about some DVD’s from the Sight and Sound in Concert series?  Don’t hold your breath – I understand that the recording media of such archive footage has been largely destroyed or recorded over.  In the words of Ian Dury, what a waste!

Track Listing

Alice Cooper "Under My Wheels" 1971
Elton John "Tiny Dancer" 1971
Curtis Mayfield "We Gotta Have Peace" 1972
Randy Newman "Political Science" 1972
Kris Kristofferson &Rita Coolidge "Help me make it through the Night" 1972
Bill Withers "Ain't No Sunshine" 1972
Focus "Sylvia/Hocus Pocus" 1972
Rory Gallagher "Hands Off" 1973
John Martyn "May You Never" 1973
The Wailers "Stir It Up" 1973
Roxy Music "Do The Strand" 1973
The Edgar Winter Group "Frankenstein" 1973
New York Dolls "Jet Boy" 1973
Tim Buckley "Dolphins" 1974
Captain Beefheart "Upon the My O My" 1974
Little Feat "Rock 'N' Roll Doctor" 1975
Dr Feelgood "Roxette" 1975
John Lennon "Stand By Me" 1975
The Sensational Alex Harvey Band "Give My Compliments to the Chef" 1975
Lynyrd Skynyrd "Freebird" 1975
Emmylou Harris "Amarillo" 1976
Bonnie Raitt "Too Long at the Fair" 1976
Tom Waits "Tom Traubert's Blues" 1977
Otway & Barrett "Really Free" 1977
Talking Heads "Psycho Killer" 1978
XTC "Statue of Liberty" 1978
Blondie ("I'm Always Touched By Your) Presence Dear" 1978
Val Doonican & Charlie McCoy "Stone Fox Chase" 1978
Meatloaf "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" 1978
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers "American Girl" 1978
The Police "Can't Stand Losing You" 1978
Bruce Springsteen "Rosalita" 1979
Iggy Pop "I'm Bored" 1979
Tubeway Army "Are 'Friends' Electric?" 1979
The Specials "Message to You Rudi" 1979
The Damned "Smash It Up/I Just Can't Be Happy Today" 1979
The Ramones "Rock 'n' Roll High School" 1980
PIL "Careering" 1980
The Teardrop Explodes "Reward" 1980
U2 "I Will Follow" 1981
Nine Below Zero "Stone Fox Chase" 1981
Japan "Ghosts" 1982
Robert Wyatt "Shipbuilding" 1983
REM "Moon River"/"Pretty Persuasion" 1984
Simply Red "Holding Back The Years" 1985

Jem Jedrzejewski

 

 

 

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