Sunday, January 07, 2007

Later Vs Whistle Test

Just compare, not the performances or the songs, but the way these two perfomances are broadcast...

Here's Spiritualized on Later With Jools with their classic song, Broken Heart.

And here's Roxy Music on the Old Grey Whistle Test with their classic song, Ladytron.

On the Story Of The Old Grey Whistle Test, Jools is quoted as saying his show is the grandchild of Whistle Test.

Of course he's wrong. They're like chalk and cheese.

Whistle Test is so much more intimate. The tv viewer is not being patronised. There is no ego about the presenter. Bob Harris is in the studio but in the dark, an unobtrusive presence. He hasn't got a piano right there in the middle of the studio saying "THIS IS MY SHOW". He lets the music speak for itself.

And a Whistle Test performance is not a LIVE performance in front of a LIVE studio audience. There is no audience. The band are playing as if in a real recording studio. And that's what makes this kind of tv so much more exciting. You feel like you really are a fly on the wall, just you, watching the band create. You're not being told you're part of a big live audience and that THIS IS HOW LIVE MUSIC IS.

I don't care if not all the Whistle Test performers were playing everything live. Whether they were playing to a backing track. So what? That's what happens in studios. It's what it looks and sounds like is what matters.

Sorry Jools, but I'd rather see Jason Pierce in a small studio with a few of his mates, singing to a backing track, than all the clever slow zooms and pans to backing singers and violinists, trying to give the appearance of "live" music in a cavernous space filled with idiots with free tickets who'll applaud any old shit. It just doesn't cut it on tv. If I wanted to see live music I'd go and see The Fall. And I really couldn't be bothered to see them any more.


  1. Anonymous2:02 PM

    Can't comment on whistle test, but I really can't watch Jools Holland - one of the world's great arse lickers - such an unattractive habit. I'd say he is only rivalled by Parky in that dep't.

  2. After the Roxy Music performance, Bob Harris said they weren't his cup of tea. Jools likes everything and everybody and so does his audience.

  3. Anonymous3:18 PM

    I watched OGWT when I was younger and coulcn't understand most of it but someone bought me the DVD and I have to say it is brilliant. I love Bob Harris he reminds me of the guys who used to do Open University.
    I quite like Later as well there are some sycophantic bits but there's been some good stuff on it too. Jools is OK isn't he better than some.

  4. This could be Flase Memory Syndromw, but I'm sure that when Later first started they didn't have a studie audience.

    I remember liking it then, but going right off the programme when they introduced civilians to clap and watch and stuff.

    Did I imagine this?

  5. Realdoc - I just don't like the format of Later. Ignoring Jools as a presenter, it's just too much of a back-slapping exercise where all the artists love each others' work and the audience love everything from Queens of the Stone Age to James Blunt.

    Spin - I can't remember, you're probably right. Jools didn't have his fucking big band and he didn't fucking sing, either.

  6. Personally, I never want to see Jason Pierce again after this little saga

    Sorry - I don't know how to link any other way. (ssh...don't tell anyone)

  7. Oh arse - here's the link again

  8. Anonymous5:18 PM

    The OGWT doc was brilliant and dipped into the greatest Rock archive in the World. Favourite moment was Bob recounting how the Sex Pistols (I think) were approaching him with broken bottles at the Speakeasy one night and he was saved at the last moment when some heavies intervened. "I think they were Procol Harum's Road Crew", said a relieved but still dead-pan Bob.

  9. RoMo - Thanks for that. I think I'd need to be out of it if I was sharing my girlfriend with Richard Ashcroft. There's out of it and OUT OF IT, though. I'm surprised he's still alive after his "double pneumonia" last year. I'll continue to buy his CDs - sorry.

    Murph - Almost makes me want to buy the DVDs but I couldn't sit through Howard Jones, not even on fast forward.

  10. It was one of the worst experiences of my life. I'm still quite angry that I had to scrub his blood off the walls. He asked to borrow my biro - emptied it and smoked heroin in front of me and then offered the shell of the pen back. Fucked up rock'n'roll at its most undignified.

  11. That bit where Bob said he didn't like Roxy Music was ace. The most radical music broadcasting moment ever. "I think this is shit, but here you go." I love the way one of the other anonymous DJs on the documentary got upset about that.

    I've watched a few of the compo shows this week on BBC4. I think my favourite bit was Little Feat. One of the percussionists dropped his stick. Brilliant.

  12. Oh, and Jools Holland. I can't watch, because I know he's going to say, "Ladies and Gentlemen" 50,000 times in one hour.

  13. or "What a fine song that was, yes it was indeed Ladies and Gentleman".

    Shut UP! I like the range of bands on Later though.

  14. God, RoMo, that's a story and a half!

  15. RoMo - Now he's presumably all cleaned up maybe he'll do a google search for his name/Later with Jools and come here. Then he can apologise to you. It's the least he could do. I'm surprised that incident didn't turn you into the CliffMother and all your podcasts would have consisted of good clean living artists.

    Rob - It was Mark Radcliffe who was upset by it rather than respecting Bob for being honest. He was only an angry teenager at the time, though.

    Re. Murph's comment about the greatest Rock archive in the world, I was just thinking how we could have done with Whistle Test these last 20 years - the format was perfect, just that the powers that be wanted shit like The Tube and The Word for the Streetporteryoofs. And I miss seeing Steamboat Willie with a rock soundtrack on a New Year's Eve.
    Whistle Test was the only thing that made New Year's Eve tolerable for us party poopers.

  16. Don't know where you get the studio analogy from Geoff. Neither programmes featured interminable re-takes or bad singing along to backing tracks played through headphones or waiting for the bassist to come down. Not many bands nail it one take in the studio. When Later first started it was hailed as a music programme for musos where there were no barriers to style or taste. It's pretty much the same as it is now. Jools doesn't bother me at all and I'd willingly share an afternoon with Sam Browne.

  17. I've been working on a new music series over the last few months that you can download from itunes and myspace (I think). It's the closest thing you'll get to The Old Grey Whistle Test. First two shows were:

    Thom Yorke
    White Stripes

    second show was
    Jamie Lidell

    They are well worth a look. Just bands playing four tracks each from new or forthcoming material. Performed in a very under-stated way at BBC Maida Vale and mixed live by Nigel Godrich. No presenters, no fancy stuff - just bands doing their thing.

    Let me know what you think.....I've got ten more in the series to make this year!!

  18. Sorry - I didn't mean that to sound like horrid plugging or spam - I thought you might be interested re: the current discussion. Romo x

  19. Richard - Sorry, I meant rehearsal studio rather than recording studio. I'd like to spend an afternoon with Sam Browne, 1930s crooner. But he's long dead, I'm afraid. "I get along without you very well..."

    RoMo - That sounds more like it but I can't get the stream to work. The preview looks ok.

  20. Damn, never get the e right. Mind you, he wouldn't eat all the hob nobs, would he.

  21. Cheers Geoff - I'll look into it - the people that are meant to look after the munterspace site are a bit lax.

  22. I thought everybody loved Jools. Getting a bit uppity is he? I'm so glad I'm out of touch.