BBC Rough Trade Night

March 18, 2009

BBC4 seems desperate to convince us that the BBC (television) has always been a great supporter of indie music. BBC4 has recently served up documentaries on Factory, Postcard and last Friday’s Rough Trade night.

Are we convinced?  To say the BBC was slow in spotting musical trends back in the day is a bit of an understatement. It’s flagship ‘rock’ programme The Old Grey Whistle Test was steeped in prog. In 1981 you were more likely to see whisperin’ Bob introduce King Crimson than the Birthday Party or the Pop Group.

Witness Friday night. The first clip of a Rough Trade band they could trawl from the archive was of the Young Marble Giants in 1980 (although what a clip – I’d forgotten quite how good they were. I was just going to write ‘Alison Statton where are you now’, but I’ve googled them and see that they have reformed and are appearing at All Tomorrows Parties in Minehead, Somerset in May this year. And they are performing the whole of Colossal Youth. That is one reunion I have to see, given that I’m still smarting from missing TG at Tate Modern).

Anyway, I lost my thread there a bit with my giddiness at the YMGs reforming, back to my rant against the BBC. What did we get? Some good stuff on Something Else (most notably Joy Division). Later Riverside did have some very good performances by The Birthday Party, The Fire Engines and New Order. But there wasn’t much else. Was anyone at BBC actually listening to John Peel?

It wasn’t until Channel 4 came along with the Tube that we regularly got to see bands like The Fall. I guess the 40 somethings are now the masters at the BBC and are desperately trying to atone for the musical sins of their predecessors. All I can say is “Rosalita” – the Bruce Springsteen track they used to play on their New Years Eve special every fucking year. It lasted forever. That was the BBC’s idea of cool back in the day.


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