For better and for worse, The Old Grey Whistle Test
was probably the most resolutely serious music programme ever broadcast on television. During its 16-year run it showcased only the most earnest exponents of whichever musical style was currently popular, and given that the programme's heyday coincided with the early 70s, some of the footage included here will provide mirth as exquisite as only unintentional comedy can. However, the good stuff is very good, both in terms of performance (Tom Petty snarling "American Girl" and a pre-irony U2 whooping up "I Will Follow", for example) and historical interest (notably a shockingly youthful Elton John crooning "Tiny Dancer"). --Andrew Mueller
In some ways Volume 2 is more interesting, as it covers the show's enjoyably uncomfortable period of transition from beard-rock to punk/new wave. Hence, the music ranges from performers such as Loggins and Messina (the frightful "The House at Pooh Corner"), the Who, Judee Sill, Argent (doing "God Gave Rock 'n' Roll to You", which all Bill and Ted fans probably think is a Kiss original) and Roy Harper to the Adverts, the Undertones (not playing "Teenage Kicks", sadly), Patti Smith and Siouxie and the Banshees. There's also some arty stuff that doesn't really fit into either camp, including Kevin Ayers and Roxy Music at their uncommercially weirdest. This is an enjoyable and diverse collection of music from a fairly fraught period in the history of more-or-less popular music, so it's good to be reminded just how much good stuff was actually happening amid the melée.
There's something for everyone on Volume 3. Highlights include Bowie doing "Oh You Pretty Things", Johnny Winter covering "Jumping Jack Flash" as if he was its rightful owner and Kings BB and Freddie bringing it all back home with two excellent performances. Along the way, proggers get Discipline-era King Crimson, which saw Adrian Belew saving the band from disappearing up its own fundament; folkies get an unplugged Fairport Convention; punks get John Cooper Clarke and the Jam; somebody or other gets the Bangles. However, if there's one track that justifies the existence of this disc all by itself, it has to be "In a Hole" from the Jesus and Mary Chain, whose glorious nihilism made the Pistols seem like a folk group. --Roger Thomas
Celebrate the UKs seminal live music show with this fantastic DVD Set. Includes Old Grey Whistle Test Volumes 1, 2 & 3. Launched in September 1971, it hosted performances from the most legendary bands and performers. This DVD Set includes all three DVDs. Disc 1: Over 40 rarely seen performances are brought together in a four-hour film complete with memories of the show's former presenters: Richard Williams, Bob Harris, Annie Nightingale, David Hepworth, Mark Allen and Andy Kershaw. Also included are six major interviews: Bob Harris with John Lennon, Keith Richards, Bruce Springsteen and Robert Plant; Richard Williams with Elton John, Bernie Taupin and Mick Jagger. Disc 2: The second volume features more seminal performances spanning the entire series, from 'Head Hands & Feet' in 1971 through to 'The Pogues' in 1986. The DVD takes us through the 70s with the likes of Roxy Music, Kevin Ayers, The Who, Bruce Johnston, Joan Armatrading, The Adverts, and into the 80s with performances from Aztec Camera, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Style Council, Suzanne Vega, Prefab Sprout and the Pet Shop Boys. The DVD includes original interviews with Kevin Ayers, Roger Daltrey, Nick Lowe, Rick Wakeman, Bill Nelson, T.V. Smith, Jools Holland and Roddy Frame. It also features newly filmed interviews with presenter Bob Harris. Disc 3: More great performances from the 70s and 80s including David Bowie, The Jam, Sade, Andy Kershaw, Simple Minds, The Bangles, Edwyn Collins, Jools Holland.