When BBC2 debuted in 1964 it was given it’s own daily arts show Line-
Colour Me Pop was the offspring of Late Night Line Up, while it’s successor Disco Two was only around for seven months before a rethink was on the cards. The new replacement was the mysteriously named The Old Grey Whistle Test, and the regular host was to be journalist Richard Williams, the producer was journalist and sometime performer Ian Whitcomb, while the theme music chosen was Area Code 615’s harmonica driven Stone Fox Chase. It followed the same formula as Disco Two with live acts, promo clips, while Phillip Jenkinson provided silent movie and cartoon clips used for whenever artists wouldn’t or couldn’t appear (it was also cheaper for the BBC). It became clear that this would be the album chart-
The show proved so successful that a second series was commissioned, but this time with a new host and producer. Bob Harris took over and Williams returned to a notable career in journalism (in the 1990s was sports editor for The Guardian). Harris, a Radio One DJ, settled in straight away with his tele-
In 1974, The Old Grey Whistle Test took the next obvious step, the first rock television broadcast in stereo when Elton John performed his Christmas Eve show for the BBC on television with a simultaneous Radio One broadcast. This proved so popular that a Sight And Sound In Concert series was launched in 1977. However, the new punk scene saw no allegiance with the likes of Whispering Bob. A singles based market was not initially welcomed onto the show until they started to make albums, so the likes of Siouxsie and the Banshees, Buzzcocks etc were only given room once the debut album had landed on the producer's desk. The resentment was mutual since Harris and his friends had been personally thumped by a Sex Pistol and his chums outside a pub in London. Help was on the way in the shape of Radio One’s Anne Nightingale who shared presentation duties until Bob Harris’ departure in Spring 1980 at the end of the ninth series.
BBC2 celebrated the 350th show and the beginning of the tenth series in 1980 with Rock Week, featuring documentaries, movies, concerts etc with a companion show with the best of the early days, including the legendary Jimmy Carter interview at the Capricorn Records’ party. Another Radio One Disc Jockey Paul Gambacinni joined for a while in the early eighties before being replaced by Smash Hits’ editor David Hepworth who brought the levity of the new wave of rock journalism with him. In 1981 an audience was brought into the show in order to give it a more concert atmosphere, but the idea was dropped by the next series while a new archive, spot Memorex Lane, was also introduced.
Nightingale was the next to leave in October 1982, replaced by Hepworth’s journalist colleague Mark Hepworth. The show now had serious competition from the new Channel Four series The Tube and the show had to be pepped up. The silent movie clips had been elbowed out in the late seventies to make room for more promo clips from the emergent video boom in Britain.
In January 1984 the series was given the biggest overhaul of all. Gone were the original
opening graphic credits, and with it a new name, Whistle Test, and the archive section
became Hindsight. In February 1984 Billy Bragg had been a guest on the show, doing
a solo spot. He had brought along his then road manager Andy Kershaw, who himself
had been a band booker at Leeds University and got talking with the producers of
the show. He was hired as a presenter and as a try-