Growing up, ‘The Old Grey Whistle Test’ was the music show of its day. Prior to that there was only really ‘Top Of The Pops’ which was for the most part heavily laden with the worst that British music had to offer, thus representing the record buying public of all generations. ‘Top Of The Pops’ was simply so painfully uncool (what young person was buying music by ‘The Wurzels’ or ‘Clive Dunn’?) and being on that show was a deep source of shame. However, it was also incredibly powerful in terms of generating public awareness and subsequently record sales and was therefore compulsory labour, despite all the shenanigans of switching supposedly re-recorded backing-tracks with original ones, a manoeuvre that kept many a BBC union rep well wined-and-dined as he would knowingly turn a blind eye in exchange for an otherwise unaffordable gourmet experience.
‘The Old Grey Whistle Test’ on the other hand had more kudos. I remember being glued to the TV watching live performances by the bands of the seventies. They would often perform more than one song, as opposed to the quick turnaround we were used to seeing, and you got a sense of their musicianship as opposed to simply being ‘performers’. This show was influential in teaching me how to play drums. To finally be in that same studio performing live (although not broadcast live) gave you the sense that you’d reached a certain status beyond the disposable pop category and were perhaps being taken more seriously as musicians. Just a shame that kindly, whispering Bob had by then been replaced by bitchy, rasping Annie. A sign of the times when music journalism was about people asserting their unpleasant, acerbic personalities. Put Nightingale & Morely in a room and you could probably clear your blocked drains.