Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood interview, The Old Grey Whistle Test (BBC2, UK TV), Sept. 20 1977
From the BBC site:
The Old Grey Whistle Test began on 21 September 1971. As the only regular outlet for non-chart music on television, it provided many seminal musical moments for its dedicated viewers, with performances from artists as diverse as Bob Marley, Free, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Roxy Music and Randy Newman. It also made “Whispering” Bob Harris the archetypal laidback presenter.
The first presenter of the OGWT Test was rock journalist Richard Williams. Williams explained the title in the Radio Times: “before a new record is released a rough mix is played to the grey-haired doormen. If they can whistle the tune after hearing it once, it passes the ‘old grey whistle test’ and is released”. Harris took over from Williams and presented the show through the seventies. With the changing musical landscape came new presenters, including Annie Nightingale, Mark Ellen and Andy Kershaw.
The Old Grey Whistle Test – shortened to Whistle Test in 1983 – ended in 1988. Its focus on the straightforward studio performance by a band, coupled with creative use of black and white archive to illustrate album tracks when the bands were unavailable, influenced later music shows. Bob Harris has survived many affectionate parodies and can now be heard on BBC Radio 2.
The Old Grey Whistle Test (sometimes abbreviated to Whistle Test or OGWT) was a British television music show. The show was devised by BBC producer Rowan Ayers, commissioned by David Attenborough and aired on BBC2 from 1971 to 1988. It took over the BBC2 late-night slot from Disco 2, which ran between September 1970 and July 1971, while continuing to feature non-chart music. The original producer, involved in an executive capacity throughout the show’s entire history, was Michael Appleton.
According to presenter Bob Harris, the programme derived its name from a Tin Pan Alley phrase from years before. When they got the first pressing of a record they would play it to people they called the old greys – doormen in grey suits. Any song the doormen could remember and whistle, having heard it just once or twice, had passed the old grey whistle test.
On 23 February 2018, a one-off live three-hour special of The Old Grey Whistle Test was broadcast on BBC Four, hosted by Harris to mark 30 years since the final episode aired
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