Saturday, January 08, 2005


TOGWT - may or may not mean something to you. To me it means The Old Grey Whistle Test. TOGWT was the music program when I was in my late teens. It was on BBC2 at 11pm on Tuesdays. Clearly not good timing for folk who had to be up early to go to school in the morning. But somehow I managed to persuade my parents to let me stay up and watch it. And there are bits of it that are forever engraved upon my memory. One of them is the time when The New York Dolls made an appearance, and when they'd done murdering their song, the presenter Whispering Bob Harris does a little sneer and just says 'mock rock'.

I'm prompted to write about this because BetterArf went shopping after work and came home with a double-DVD of TOGWT. All I can say is, stick it on! There's some amazing stuff on here - it used to be the show of choice for breaking bands - if you got a spot on TOGWT you definitely had a chance of selling a few records thereafter. It certainly worked on me, I remember rushing out to buy an album by a Dutch band called Focus, who had a lead singer who did surreal yodelling. Focus are on the DVD. And there's a track by the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, who were truly amazing but never made it big. I saw them live 3 or 4 times and they really were something else - as it happens, their signature tune was 'Delilah'. Yow, the memories come flooding back. There's also Lynyrd Skynyrd doing 'Freebird'.

The fascinating thing, for me, is that the early years (this DVD covers 1971-1983) are shot in a tiny studio with no set whatsoever - as a backdrop you have a bare studio wall with electrical junction boxes, no room for anyone to move, and the camera is right up your nose. The performances are breathtaking.

Anyhoo, I'm reading the contents of the DVD and I see that NY Dolls are coming up. I say to BetterArf, "if Bob Harris says 'mock rock' at the end of their song, you have to give me one million dollars". OK, she says. Up till this point, the presenters haven't been saying anything except as intros to some of the pieces. The NY Dolls come on, and do a complete parody of the Stones. Cut to Whispering Bob. 'Sneer, Mock Rock'. Result!

And I kid you not, it really was exactly as I remembered it after more than 30 years. I'm doing well if I can remember anything that happened last week, but your youthful memories really do get stuck in your brain. Now to get BetterArf to gimme that million dollars.