Take yourself back to virtually any era and the picture was much the same. Wherever you turned, music sounded pretty dreadful on TV and didn’t look an awful lot better.
Programmes such as The Tube and Revolver have taken on something of a cult status, although I can’t honestly say I miss them hugely or even remember them especially fondly. As for The Old Grey Whistle Test? My main recollection is presenter Bob Harris slagging off punk in 1977.
Not exactly cutting edge stuff. Then MTV came along, changed everything, and later slunk away into the background as most people found it easier to checkout YouTube.
These days the programme that bands apparently crave to appear on is Later with Jools Holland. I stopped watching it years ago as, every week, it was guaranteed there would be somebody on it whom I absolutely detested. Yes, none other than Jools himself.
A few weeks ago, I tuned in again. It was an impressive line-up: Pumarosa, Aldous Harding, Oumou Sangare and Stefflon Don. The only one to do themselves justice was Stefflon Don. The others came over as bland, even though I’m well aware they’re not.
Ladies and gentleman……….
Meanwhile, Jools warbled away between each act. As arrogant and self-centred as ever. Possibly worse than I remember. I’d like to think that, if I was in a band, I would find a better way to get noticed than force myself to suffer his patronising links.
But by and large bands can’t, and don’t. In the same way, with the honourable exception of The Clash, anybody who was invited used to accept the shop window that was Top of the Pops. These days, the programme is limited to once a year. Christmas Day. A sort of Christmas treat in reverse.
Yet in spite of its annual appearance, Top of the Pops is on TV in some form or another just about every week. BBC4 has hours of time to fill and, it seems, relishes the opportunity to dredge up shows from the 70s and 80s.
Solely for research, I watched a programme from the 80s that was rebroadcast recently hosted by John Peel and David ‘Kid’ Jensen. Peel needs no introduction but Jensen, it should be mentioned, was one of Radio 1’s better daytime DJs of the time, even if annoyingly he seemed to like everything he played.
Peel, most famously, once back announced an artist on Top of the Pops as the best thing he’d heard since teatime. Then again, he admitted, he had eaten a late tea. That wasn’t during this programme by the way, which I switched off after about 15 minutes. Not even Peel’s droll sense of humour would let me suffer any longer.
No, by and large music is better when it avoids coming into contact with TV. There is, however, one notable exception – BBC’s superb Glastonbury coverage which will be with us again this coming weekend.
The stage-by-stage coverage of the festival is so good that I’m surprised people haven’t stopped going to the festival so that they can watch it all at home, courtesy of the red button.
Of course, some performances are better than others, but that’s true of any festival you attend. The main thing is that the artists on show are performing for genuine fans, not a manufactured audience in the same way as on Jools Holland or Top of the Pops.
Instead of being a marketing product, Glastonbury (even if only witnessed via TV) makes you pleased there is so much good music around to hear, to purchase and to go and see live on another occasion. Definitely something to watch out for.