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REVOLVER

ATV
20th May 1978 (broadcast pilot), 22nd July 1978 - 2nd September 1978

Revolver was an unlikely show in one big respect. It was made by ATV. The Midlands' ITV franchise holder had never really committed to pop and rock in the way that Granada or the London stations had, but at least they had made Lift Off With Ayshea.

Mickie Most had been one of the more harsh / honest judges on ATV's mid-seventies talent show New Faces and his desire to seek new talent may have given someone at ATV the idea to suggest that he produce a pop show. Most had no previous experience with TV production, but had been the subject of several documentaries himself and was one of the 'go-to' figures when news reports need a quote about the newest pop fad.

His choice of host for the show was also an eyebrow-raiser. Most had seen Peter Cook make spontaneous comments on football show The Big Match and decided he would be the ideal host. But he would not be a host in the Top of the Pops sense, he would be playing a role, that of the Manager of a nightclub, and the bands that played were the ones he booked to appease the similarly short-tempered audience. Cook’s recent notoriety as the funny half of Derek & Clive might also have proved irresistible.

A ratty looking ballroom was recreated at the ATV studios in Birmingham, complete with revolving stage, hence the show's name.

A pilot show was duly ordered and, in an usual move, it was broadcast on the ITV network, and in an early Saturday evening slot at that, between The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams and a Dickie Henderson special. An early evening time-slot for the show had been Producer Most's intention all along. However, at one point in the pilot show Cook says “sod ‘em”, which was bleeped. Unfortunately it made it sound much worse than it actually was, guaranteeing that the show would be on the move to a later slot.

Radio Luxembourg's Rob Jones had as applied for the job of resident DJ on the show, but in the end the job went to legendary club DJ and co-owner of Ensign Records Chris Hill, giving the show access to rising punk-poppers The Boomtown Rats in the process.

As a result of their appearance on the first show unknowns The Autographs sign with Mickie Most, who had also recently lost another token punk outfit, The Vibrators from his RAK label to CBS.

The show would also feature Les Ross, who would run the hot dog stall and give his opinion on how things were going, sometime contradicting Cook. Producer Most had to put a security guard by Ross’ hot dog / hamburger stall just before the show just in case all the food disappeared. About a hundred hot dogs and a hundred hamburgers are prepared just ahead of the show, but the producers quickly learned that they would need to keep some back for the actual recording of the show.

When the show's series debuted it was given a day-glo three page feature in the TV Times which tried to sum up the attitude of the music and even how to do the punk dances the "pogo" and The "clockwork movement". Mickie Most sums up Cook's role in the article "he'd like to see bingo, but he's putting up with rock because it's a living".

Each week the bands would play live to an audience of about a hundred people, and in a nod to New Faces a new, un-signed band would get the chance to play as a ‘support band’. There was also an archive clip spot Revolver Reviver, which played clips from Ready Steady Go, The Beat Room and Oh Boy among others, an idea that the Old Grey Whistle Test and OTT would later copy.

Buzzcocks’ Pete Shelley later recalled that Peter Cook had distributed pornographic magazines to the front row of the audience to in an attempt to put the bands off by holding them up.

In August Mickie Most told the Daily Mirror that he had only intended to work on one series of the show, but “if they want any help on a new series I’ll give it, in a small way”.

For the 26th August show Public Image Ltd were due to appear, but somehow ended up in Camber Sands, Sussex instead of Birmingham where the show was being recorded, some two hundred and fifty miles away.

The show's roster of acts looked remarkably like the first series of So It Goes from 1976 with an unlikely mix of relatively straight, traditional rock with a few newer, punk acts thrown in.

It seemed to be the Producer's idea not to take it to a second series, leaving ATV with the task of moving the show on without him. It was also unlikely that Cook would want to do a second run, so it was brought to a halt.

Despite the show's origins at an ITV channel which had little interest in pop culture Revolver was one of the brighter ideas that pop television ever had, but ATV wouldn't go near pop, or punk, ever again.

Clips of the show were repeated by VH-1 in the 1990s.