Bob Harris presents The Old Grey Whistle Test
Yesterday felt like the first day of Christmas, as I went out in search of gifts for my nearest and dearest. Inevitably, I ended up buying more things for myself, and so I think I may resort to the internet with a disciplined approach to stay away from personal temptation, and concentrate on others besides myself, such is the spirit of Christmas etc etc.
I must recommend the BBC website, which offers an array of excellent BBC DVDs, books and audio, both old series and new, to be delivered to your door without the fuss of rooting through a bargain bin in Penney’s in a cold sweat on Christmas Eve.
The Old Grey Whistle Test: Complete Series 1-3 should really be in every music lover or indeed pop culture historian’s DVD collection. I’ve bought this DVD for four people over the last three years, for birthdays or Christmas, and have my own much loved copy at home.
The Old Grey Whistle Test was a music programme which broadcast on BBC2 every Tuesday night – or so my Dad tells me – starting off in 1971 and finishing up in 1987, with hosts Richard Williams, Bob Harris, Ann Nightingale, Andy Kershaw, David Hepworth, Mark Ellen and Richard Skinner.
This DVD set of three discs picks some of the best performances from between those years, and also includes interviews with the hosts, as well as a few luminary guests, such as Robert Plant, John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, and one with a rather ragged Keith Richards. Bands featured include The Jam, The Who, Joan Armatrading, Elton John, Billy Joel, Tom Waits, Eric Clapton, John Martyn, Meatloaf, Talking Heads, Iggy Pop, The Damned, The Specials, Bonnie Rait, XTC, Blondie, and absolutely bazillions more.
The great thing about this DVD is the possibility of discovering old bands that have perhaps been forgotten by some. It was on this DVD that I first witnessed Frankenstein by Edgar Winter. Check it out.
That’s just fucking mad. I love it.
You can buy The Old Grey Whistle Test Complete Series(1-3) Box Set
on the BBC Shop Website for an insanely reasonable £17.99, which is about €25.00. With postage and packaging, it may come to €30.00. The last time I checked, this box set was not available in Tower Records, but they had a few seperate DVDs for sale of just a single series.
Also available on the BBC site is the 30th Anniversary Best of Old Grey Whistle Test DVD, which looks the same as Series 1-3, in the way of tracklisting. It’s more expensive at £24.99, but to be honest I’m not sure if there are any differences between the two box sets. The 30th Anniversary DVD looks like it has a few more special features, such as audio commentary from Mike Appleton, but that’s about it I think.
Basically, there’s about nine hours of music and interviews on these DVDs, and even if the last disc gets a bit wobbly with some shite performances from the late 80s by The Bangles and such, it’s an incredibly educational and enjoyable set of DVDs that would be perfect for a Christmas pressie for the music nut in your life.
I bought it for my Dad first, and it nearly brought a tear to his eye because he had loved the programme when it broadcast so much, and watched it religiously every Tuesday night in Northern Ireland. It was definitely a very special programme, and one that has no obvious descendents today, as it featured such a broad range of music, from rock to punk to country to folk, and was never afraid to broadcast the slightly odd. Like this Roxy Music performance of Ladytron for example:
Brian Eno you loon. Amazing stuff. I’m off to watch the first disc again now.