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Pop Music on British Television 1955 - 1999

Granada current affairs presenter Tony Wilson had the idea to produce a late night music show similar to the Old Grey Whistle Test, called Rocks Off. The idea was to be less referential, but somehow the show ended up more po-faced then anything the Test ever offered. Never short of something to say Wilson told Record Mirror ahead of the first show "You'll find is in the record racks under 'literate rock show'."

The pilot show was recorded at Granada's Manchester studios on February 9th 1976 and featured Wilson and Clive James who opened the show claiming "Hi, I'm Cher and I'm the most exiting woman in the world." Linda Lewis then performed Feel The Feeling live, followed by Be Bop DeLuxe and then a classical piece by Eva Graubin on violin and Roberto Prava on piano. Gallagher and Lyle perform the title cut to their album Breakaway, followed by a film clip of Tommy Steele from 1963's It's All Happening. The weekly Pressed To Kill album spot featured Patti Smith's Horses, while the nostalgia spot was filled with a clip from The Stones In The Park. Film of Dr Feelgood filled the Opportunity Rocks portion of the show. There would also be a fake advert spot featuring American TV commercials. After the go ahead was given the show was afforded a budget of £5000 per thirty minute show.

Most of what appeared in the pilot show would make it to the final cut when the show debut later in the summer. Wilson would be the host and producer and decided that each show would have slots for the tracks chosen like Opportunity Rocks for a new act, Pressed To Kill for the album of the week, As Time Goes By for a Granada archive clip, and Brain Damage for author Clive James to remark on aspects of the music business. There would also be a regular slot for album cover artists to talk about their work. The idea of making the show appear like a club would be abandoned for the second series.

The thirty-minute show was only shown by Granada, ATV, Yorkshire late night Saturday and on London Weekend under their Rock Concert banner the following night.

After their Lesser Free Trade Hall show in June The Sex Pistols were booked for the final show of the first season 28th August 1976 and thankfully gave the performance no one who turned in to see The Bowles Brothers were expecting. According to Wilson when the Sex Pistols turned up at Granada's reception that didn't sit down, they lay on the floor. Despite the notoriety of The Sex Pistols appearance on the final show there was little to differentiate this first series from The Old Grey Whistle Test, the show Wilson publicly despised.

A short follow-up season of So It Goes Concerts began in April 1977 featuring Sad Cafe, Cado Belle, Andy Fairweather Low, Kursaal Flyers and the McGarrigle sisters. Again, nothing to separate this from Whistle Test's own concert specials.

The second series began 8th October 1977, with new producer Geoff Moore. Moore and Wilson had set up two shows to be filmed and used as inserts. The first show at the Belle Vue, Manchester had The Pirates, Steel Pulse, John Cooper-Clarke, and Magazine, while the second show had The Clash, Subway Sect and Siouxsie and the Banshees (attended by Mick Hucknall in the front row).

The producers had tried to book The Sex Pistols for a appearance in the second series only to find their efforts thwarted by manager Malcolm McLaren. Producer Geoff Moore made two trips to London. He told the Daily Mirror "Everything seemed to be set up. But each time McLaren changed his mind and left us in the lurch. It wasn't a question of money. I don't think they know if they want to go on TV or not." As "So It Goes" presenter Tony Wilson says sceptically: "There's a bit of myth-making going on."

But the second series didn't give itself entirely over to punk as history has suggested. There were clips of Van Morrison and Sad Cafe in the first show for example. Practically all the features from the first series had been dropped in favour of more live clips recorded over the previous few weeks' at the Elizabethan Ballroom in the Belle Vue Theatre and The Electric Circus in Manchester, Eric's in Liverpool and the Hope and Anchor in London. Cameramen working at the Electric Circus had insisted on wearing plastic macs to help fend off flying phlegm. Fantastic footage of The Clash, Siouxsie & The Banshees, Elvis Costello, The Jam, Magazine and many others would fill many documentaries for decades to come.

Why it only lasted two series is unknown, but Wilson had suggested that Granada would have preferred a 'safer' show like The Old Grey Whistle Test. The show's producer Geoff Moore was moved to current affairs, cementing Granada's decision to finish the show. Any new bands would now be featured in What's On, another programme hosted by Wilson.

ATV's Revolver followed in 1978 very much in So It Goes footsteps, but so much better.



20th May 1978 (broadcast pilot), 22nd July 1978 - 2nd September 1978