7 Reasons Why The Old Grey Whistle Test Rocked!

BY Mandi Goodier

1st Jan 2015 Music

7 Reasons Why The Old Grey Whistle Test Rocked!

The Old Grey Whistle Test reigned the music television airwaves from 1971-1988, appearing as an anti-chart show on BBC 2. The term "old grey whistle test" was lifted directly from Tin Pan Alley where songs were played to the doormen (in grey suits: "old greys") and if they were able to remember and whistle the tunes then the songs passed the old grey whistle test. The TV show itself featured legendary performances from Blondie, The Who, David Bowie, Bob Marley, Captain Beefheart, Bill Withers, BB King... The list is endless. Here are seven reasons why we love it!

The Time David Bowie Went Glam

A bright eyed and youthful Bowie on the verge of going glam and coming out with Ziggy Startdust. Perhaps this is an adolescent Ziggy about to come into awakening.

David Bowie: Oh You Pretty Things



The Time Focus Started Yodelling Unexpectedly

If you weren't already familiar with Focus, then this classic prog clip may have come as a surprise. Intricate, technically sound music laced with yodels.

Focus: Hocus Pocus



The Time Sting's Sun Glasses Were Too Big For His Face

No, those glasses were not a fashion statement. Official sources say that an aerosol can exploded; roughly translated, Sting got hairspray in his eyes causing them to turn red. The sunglasses were kindly loaned to him but were much too big. Look out for those facial twitches as he tries to keep them from falling off. 

The Police: Can't Stand Losing You



The Time Bob Marley First Appeared on UK TV

This is Bob Marley's first ever UK TV appearance. The sweet performance melted hearts nationwide and turned a whole generation of Brits onto Reggae music. A seminal performance.

The Wailers: Stir It Up



The Time Bob Harris Called The New York Dolls "Mock Rock"

In their first UK appearance, presenter Bob Harris did not know what had hit him! Men in drag, snarling through nonsensical lyrics seemingly sung from the perspective of a female. Harris called it "mock rock" with a big grin on his face, we call it rock and roll with a punk attitude.

New York Dolls: Jet Boy



The Time Meatloaf Got Raunchy On Stage

Meatloaf isn't your typical sex symbol, but he aims to prove otherwise in this performance. Not only does he deliver the much loved "Paradise By The Dashboard Light", he puts on a great mini-rock-opera guaranteed to get viewers hot under the collar.

Meatloaf: Paradise by the Dashboard Light



The Time The Bangles Invented Girl Power

Sexy, empowered and all playing their own instruments, The Bangles were the epitome of girl power long before that phrase shot to popularity in the 90s. 

The Bangles: Walk Like and Egyptian




The Time The Damned Wrecked The Stage

You can't feature an underground punk band and not expect them to leave the set in tact. That's just a fact.

The Damned: Smash It Up!


Read more articles by Mandi Goodier here

This post contains affiliate links, so we may earn a small commission when you make a purchase through links on our site at no additional cost to you. Read our disclaimer

Loading up next...