Legendary rock show The Old Grey Whistle Test is to return to the BBC, with famed presenter “Whispering” Bob Harris once again introducing the bands.
Axed from screens in 1988, Whistle Test will return for a “one night only” special 30 years on, with the laid-back Harris, 71 – who was replaced after mocking the new wave of punk groups emerging in the late-70s – back to host the programme.
Harris, who currently presents a Radio 2 Country show, said: “Old Grey Whistle Test was such a magical time. It produced so many firsts for music television, whilst forging friendships for me that have lasted ever since. I can’t wait to get back in the studio and relive those wonderful memories and introduce some great new performances.”
A three-hour BBC4 live celebration, broadcast from Whistle Test’s former home at the BBC Television Centre site, the one-off return promises a “recreation of the programme’s early incarnation for a glorious evening of live music performances from some of the show’s favourite musicians.”
Harris will introduce live music and talk to other former presenters including Annie Nightingale and Andy Kershaw. There will be archive footage of rare performances and an online viewer vote for the performance the BBC4 audience would most like to see again.
Originally commissioned by Sir David Attenborough as a late-night showcase for “serious” rock bands, Whistle Test celebrated live music as opposed to Top Of The Pops’ mimed performances. David Bowie, Bob Marley And The Wailers, Roxy Music and The Clash gave classic performances on the BBC2 show, which aired from 1971 to 1988.
The archive includes also early performances from Dire Straits, Tom Petty, Blondie, Led Zeppelin, Patti Smith, Queen, R.E.M., Sex Pistols, The Smiths and Talking Heads.
Old Grey Whistle Test thrived in the mid-70s when the “album” was deemed the supreme test of a musician’s talent. The show initially struggled to keep up with punk revolution and was later shunted around the schedules before being made obsolete by a new generation of music shows such as The Tube, The Roxy and Snub TV.