All three volumes of highlights and performances from some of the best bands of the 1970s and 1980s on the seminal British music series. Presenters such as Bob Harris, Annie Nightingale and Andy Kershaw introduce acts such as Roxy Music, The Who, The Adverts, Aztec Camera, Style Council, Suzanne Vega, David Bowie, The Jam, Simple Minds, and Edwyn Collins, amongst many others. As well as classic performances, the Old Grey Whistle Test featured in-depth interviews with major stars such as John Lennon, Keith Richards, Bruce Springsteen, Robert Plant, and Mick Jagger.
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
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.