Rock & Pop On British TV: Do You Remember When…?

8th June 2017

Publisher: Omnibus Press 

Price: £20

Unlike many other books which have filled this column, this particular publication is not a reference book in the classic sense but a long-form publication to be read from cover to cover. It’s inclusion is warranted, though because of the sheer niche aspect of its subject matter. One that needed addressing because of the cultural importance of TV on the lives of ageing music fans, the exploratory and often experimental nature of early music television and the important musical events that often took place within these TV strictures.

Depending on your age and memory, a lot of the featured programmes with this book will spark memories and trigger an inward smile. You can see part of the list on the front cover image on this page but what about Juke Box Jury? What about The White Room? And even Cheggers Plays Pop? And then there were the presenters, connected by a tune-filled umbilical ‘chord’. David Jacobs on Juke Box Jury, Bob Harris on The Old Grey Whistle Test and the wonderful Ayshea on Lift Off.

Lift Off’s Ayshea

The TV productions are catered for on a decade-by-decade basis within this book while each programme features history and anecdotes to provide a connected history that flows easily.

Despite its family viewing label, it seemed that music-based TV also gloried in emphasising the ‘generation gap’. On Jack Good’s Six-Five Special, for example, Pete Murray fronted the first few minutes of the first show with the words, “Hi there. Welcome to the ‘Six-Five Special’. We’ve got almost a hundred cats jumping here, some real cool characters to give us the gas, so just get with it and have yourself a ball.” The shocked response from the Guardian newspaper, described the scene with, “open mouths, staring eyes, unkempt girls, loutish youths, drummers, singers and pianists white and coloured, bawling and shouting, jumping on the piano.” Oh, the horror. While the public reaction thought the show, “quite intolerably noisy”.

Six-Five Special

There’s plenty of insight for later shows here. The innovative programme, Channel 4’s The Tube, that ran from 1982 to 1987 includes some intriguing nuggets. For example, were you aware that Boy George was slated as a full time presenter? His singing career got in the way, though.

The Tube

Quite apart from the navel gazing, there is much in this book that shows how TV became part of music history. Yes, The Jam first broke the news of their split on the first episode of The Tube but others had a more direct influence. Tony Wilson’s So It Goes, for example, had a large say in bringing the sound of punk to the public consciousness. The Sex Pistols made their TV debut on this show. From So It Goes, Wilson would move into the industry further, founding Factory records, helping to bring us legendary names such as Joy Division, New Order and the Happy Mondays.


The book is not afraid to feature conflicting opinion, either. Former Top of the Pops producer, Chris Cowey, had this to say on the demise of the same, “What the BBC has done With Top of the Pops is cultural vandalism. The BBC shouldn’t care about the ratings…the executives [were] chasing ratings and chasing their own careers, instead of realising that what you had in Top of the Pops was a national treasure…”


A fascinating tome that will key directly into the nostalgia gland but will also provide valuable new information to many music fans who were often introduced to the world of music through the TV itself.