The Old Grey Whistle Test

The Old Grey Whistle Test is a variety music show that aired on BBC 2.

The show's focus on "serious" rock music, rather than chart hits covered on BBC1 by Top of the Pops, was emphasised by a lack of showbiz glitter: bands would often perform their songs in front of either the bare studio walls or plain wooden boards (actually the backs of set walls from other programmes filmed in the same studio).

The programme hosted many seminal acts of the era, including the first British TV performance of Bob Marley and the Wailers as well as then little-known acts of whom any early footage is now considered precious, such as Billy Joel, Judas Priest (with a long haired Rob Halford), Wishbone Ash, Judee Sill, Heart, and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Whistle Test was also the British television debut of the American glam punk band New York Dolls. Although host Bob Harris derided the group as "mock rock," comparing them unfavourably to The Rolling Stones, their performance influenced the following punk rock scene such as the Sex Pistols and The Clash as well as alternative bands like R.E.M. and The Smiths and the glam metal scene of the 1980s.

Show Info

Airs on: United Kingdom BBC Four (1971 - 1973)
Status: Ended
Show Type: Variety
Genres: Music

Official site:

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Previous Episode

Previous Episodes

Episode NameAirdateTrailer
2x38: Golden Earring, Loudon Wainwright IIIMay 29, 1973
2x36: Roy Buchanan, Jan Akkerman, Lean Russell, B. B. KingMay 15, 1973
2x35: Episode 35May 8, 1973
View full episode list »