Friday, January 23, 2009

The Old Grey Whistle Test (1971- 1987)

The BBC2 television music show ran from 1971 to 1987. Unlike other contemporary music programs OGWT featured non-chart music with a preference for serious rock music and album songs. Rowan Ayers devised the program and Mike Appleton was the executive producer. The program had shoe string budget and bands performed live in an empty studio (no audience). The studio was only 32x22 feet (approx. 10 x 7 metres) and left little room for a set once the cameras and band were in. Despite this, the OGWT archives which are available on DVD are of immense importance to the social history of rock of that time period. The program was originally presented by Richard Williams (features editor of the Melody Maker); then in 1972, “Whispering” Bob Harris ran things until 1978 when Anna Nightingale took over.

In the early 1980s Andy Kershaw, David Hepworth, Mark Ellen and Richard Skinner all took turns as presenters.

The theme tune was Stone Fox Chase by Area Code 615 and was played over the opening animation of the 'Star Kicker.' In 1983 the programmed was moved to a live mid-evening slot and retiled Whistle Test. The title credits and music were changed and the final show was broadcast at the end of 1987. The origin of Old Grey Whistle Test is thought to be a 'tin pan alley' phrase used to test reaction to a new record. The office char ladies (some references cite door men) were asked to listen to the new songs and if they could remember it by whistling the tune then the record passed the old grey whistle test.

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