Dic 19 2009, 22:48
In 2005, the BBC took the decision to drop its long serving (since Jan 1964) TV music show, “Top Of The Pops”, in 2006, leaving “Later… with Jools Holland”, as the main source of regular live music across the TV networks. Leaving aside the satellite channels, which after all provide little live music programming, instead depending on shows crammed full of music video content, only channel 4 with its occasional late night series “Live at Abbey Road” can be said to offer any similar offerings across the terrestrial commercial channels.
Live music has evaporated from the talent starved vacuum that is ITV, being replaced by the lowest common denominator shows like Pop Idol and X-Factor, which after all only represent vocal groups and singers… no space on those programmes for any new bands… hell no! Even video based Saturday morning shows like The Chart Show (which migrated over from Ch4) or The Roxy (remember that one!) all bit the dust some years ago and were not replaced by… well anything at all really.
Back in the early 1980’s, there were many more live music shows on TV here in the UK… particularly on the BBC, who were not shy when it came to putting live music on the box. Aside from Top Of The Pops (where admittedly artists did mime their latest hit offerings at that time!) there were regular “In Concert” shows, “The Oxford Road Show” and of course “The Old Grey Whistle Test”. The BBC were not alone though. In 1982 when Channel 4 came along, it brought the long format (1hr 45 mins) “The Tube” to our screens, which mixed interviews, latest videos and live studio sets by loads of current and upcoming talent. The Tube, like The Old Grey Whistle Test only ran from Late August, through the Autumn and Winter months, coming off air at Easter, but unlike Whistle Test, its time slot was filled over the summer period by several other music shows, like “Switch”, “The Chart Show”, “ECT” (A heavy rock show) and others.
In 1987, on the same Easter weekend, both The Old Grey Whistle Test and The Tube, ceased transmission and for over 5 long years there were no live music shows on TV bar the occasional live (or recorded live) concert footage. Into this musical desert sprang the oasis that is “Later… with Jools Holland”, which mixes live studio sets with interview and some archive footage. It has continued to provide a better quality style of music show… not pandering to chart stars, but instead showcasing bands which straddle many musical styles and presenting them well.
Okay, so it can be said that there are plenty of music shows on channels carried by Freeview, cable or satellite, like MTV, E4, 4 Music etc, but as we all know, these are mainly top heavy with music vids, usually from top 40 artists, with only a smattering of mainly “pop” concerts to provide respite from the video onslaught.
In this age of downloads, bands are making more cash from playing live or from the sale of merchandising than from the sales of recorded music, but that is not reflected in the amount of live music which is available to view on TV. Oh sure both the BBC and Channel 4 will bring out a few more shows during the festive period, but what about the summer? Last summer, as usual, the BBC gave us excellent coverage from both Glastonbury and T in the Park, with several sets being repeated on BBC2 or BBC4 and on the “Red Button” interactive feature. Meanwhile ITV’s digital channels gave us heinously butchered coverage from Reading and Leeds, covered by amateurs who obviously had never watched a festival in their lives! Oh dear, like football, live music events do not lend themselves to lots of ad breaks ITV! Take note.
So where does that leave us? Well, there have been several attempts to try and resurrect Top Of The Pops of late… at one point even Simon Cowell wanted to purchase the franchise from the BBC to run himself… a hideous thought and one that should be discouraged. There have also been calls for a “Whistle Test” style show to come back to our screens, but so far no decision has been made on any of those. It is interesting though that even with all that archive material in the bank, the BBC still don’t give us any repeated shows of Whistle Test or TOTP performances any more. Why not? Many of the TOTP shows were repackaged into compilations as TOTP 2 shows and transmitted from 1992, but they have also quietly slipped away, although the BBC has managed to make sure that there is still a Christmas edition of TOTP to be screened each Christmas day. So, good enough for an end of year show, bit not for the other 51 weeks… come on BBC do the right thing. Make with some more live music on TV… even if it is only TOTP… and maybe even let’s see Whistle Test come back... or repeat lots of the clasic shows. Anyone agree?
Until then, we shall have to settle for two series of Later… with Jools each year and amuse ourselves for the rest of the time until Glastonbury and T in The Park come around again!
C’est la vie!