Saturday, 22 September 2007

(The Complete Bloody Lack of) Music on TV

Ever since that wizened old carbuncle Top of the Pops shrivelled up and disappeared from our screens, none of the big four terrestrial (hmm, are they still collectively known as terrestrial?) channels have featured any kind of dedicated music programming – something that I find completely bizarre.

Music, of course, is everywhere on television – on any given night of the week, I can sit down to watch some old nonsense on BBC2 and get regaled with selected blasts from my own CD collection being used as incidental music (my wife gets thoroughly fed up with me saying things like: “Hear that? That’s Mogwai’s Glasgow Mega-Snake, that is! From their generally well received CD Mr Beast. Oh yes.”). Some BBC researcher somewhere obviously has a list of my entire collection, as they insist on playing excerpts from it every opportunity they get: Sigur Ros, Brian Eno (a particular favourite of Auntie’s), Gomez, Primal Scream, The Go! Team, Tortoise, Doves, Godspeed, Nick Drake, David Bowie, the list goes on. Everyone listens to music, everyone loves it – so why on earth aren’t there more programmes devoted to it (and no, sorry, The X-Factor doesn't count – a music programme for people who don't like music at all).

The Culture Show might occasionally feature a plug for an Alan Yentob film on Scott Walker (am I the only person who views Yentob as completely clueless with regards to the vast majority of what he chooses to talk about?), or a fleeting snippet of Martha Wainwright (Rufus’ more talented sister). However, due to the magazine format, there is no real opportunity to do more than get a broadbrush overview. BBC4 – a channel seemingly run by and for old geezers – might feature an old Marc Bolan concert every now and again, but where’s the fun in that? And all I can really find in the current BBC website listings are Never Mind the Buzzcocks, the Mobo Awards (why do TV schedulers assume that anyone likes to watch award shows?) and Vernon Kay (the antichrist in presenter form) on a search to find the ‘World’s Greatest Elvis Impersonator’ (hit me round the head with a shovel, it’d be kinder). It’s either that or Jools Holland on BBC HD (see BBC4 comment above).

Auntie may well like point to their yearly Glastonbury and Reading coverage, and leave everything else to the boys and girls on the Radio side of things. Also, with the plethora of music channels out there these days, you could argue that the BBC has better things to spend licence payer’s money on, like Nigella Express (“all the meaty juices are getting drawn into my pool of cider” Oo-err, missus!), or a Jasper Carrot gameshow.

I beg to differ.

Top of the Pops was all very well, but what with the advent of MTV, the format was very obviously dated. However, music on TV doesn’t necessarily need to be about quiz shows, award ceremonies and static live concerts. Every now and again, Auntie produces something like The Seven Ages of Rock, which was as awful as the Summer of British Film. But this tends to be backward looking – anything new is shovelled into the various niche radio stations that the BBC has created, which doesn’t exactly guarantee an audience.

If it’s narratives that the BBC is looking for, there are plenty of them out there waiting to be explored – how about a programme on Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios in Bath, for instance (that should keep the old geezers on BBC4 happy)? What about the explosion in new music emanating out of Canada over the last few years? Broken Social Scene, Godspeed, Stars, Pan Am – even the new i-pod advert features a song by Leslie Feist. Unless MTV is a staple diet, most people will have no idea who she is. And why should they? Her only appearances on terrestrial television are on adverts.

How about Enter Shikari, a weird metal/techno hybrid currently going down a storm with ‘the kids’ (i.e., no-one over the age of 20 seems to be into them, me included). However, what makes them interesting is that they have chosen to go down an entirely DIY avenue. No major labels here, sunshine; these guys and their management (which seems to consist mostly of older family members) do it all themselves. This is information that you would traditionally glean from print media - but to my mind, there’s a great story here that could quite easily be told with a couple of DV cameras and a shoestring budget (you could look at it as a Money Programme supplement).

After all, all the above has to be better than Jools Holland assisting the Stereophonics butcher one of their own songs on Later… – doesn’t it?


gabba gabba hey! said...

The Jools format has got tired, but you can still discover the occasional gem like Seasick Steve. And over the years Later has had some great performances, like New Order doing *Crystal*. Just too many guests plugging books/dvds on it these days.

Got to agree about *7 Ages*, though I still watched it all, lol. Even the vocal delivery on the voice-over from Julian Rhind Tutt was dead irritating.

Chip Smith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chip Smith said...

I remember watching Portishead on Later, and they were fantastic! And what made it even better was that bloody Jools Holland wasn't able to add a load of superfluous tinkling over the top of it (I mean, what could he possibly add?!). The most horrible bt is at the beginning where everyone and his dog joins in a completely unlistenable jam!

Like you, GGH (Ramones RIP), I still had to watch the Seven Ages of Rock - the Genesis/Peter Gabriel stuff was hilarious! And people actually bought that stuff?