In the beginning…before Later with Jools Holland…there was The Tube…

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the Furnace ...

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are given a choice of Stock Aitken and Waterman or a fiery furnace….They make the right choice. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There was a time before Later…with Jools Holland. This was a time of The Tube…

In 1986 it was still challenging to hear heavy metal on mainstream media. It would have been easier for Ghengis Khan to pass a CRB police check to help out at his local school than for the UK public to see or hear, say, AC/DC on the BBC.

MTV was still virtually an Arthurian legend in England: America being a holy grail where you could watch 24 hour rock videos, hear Led Zeppelin on the radio on constant rotation. The BBC on the other hand tended to greet guitar-based music with all the enthusiasm of Rupert Murdoch greeting his Audit Committee.

In the UK we had something else on constant rotation: the three-headed Cerburus-like beast of Stock, Aitken and Waterman. These self-styled pop-gurus thought they were creating the next Motown but what came out was more like Harlow New Town (no offence to Harlow). Their “Hit-Factory” starred Kylie, Jason Donovan, Rick Astley, Sonya, Pepsi and Shirley and relaunched the career of Bananarama.

Whenever I find myself asking why I liked Bon Jovi in the eighties (which usually only happens now when I listen to one of their songs), I remind myself of the alternative. Hi-NRG Stock Aitken and Waterman. Could they have played something else on the radio? As S. A. and W. would have put it in that trite way of theirs, “I Should be so Lucky…”

A shudder went through me when I saw a 2012 revival Hyde Park concert for that lot advertised in the paper… I’ll be giving London a wide berth that weekend. As in “going to France”. Wouldn’t want to accidentally catch a few notes of Sinitta’s “So Macho” drifting by on the wind…

Thankfully, Jools Holland and Channel 4 had The Tube – a show that (like Later…. does now) rather sensibly played anything but S.A. and W. acts. And for one magical two or three hour episode, they had a Heavy Metal Special.

Starring Ozzy (who I had never seen before), UFO and a band called Cherry Bombz all playing live, the show also featured interviews where Jools asked Ozzy to define what Heavy Metal was (to which Ozzy eloquently suggested “if your balls don’t shake, it’s not heavy metal”), and some video clips showing the development of the genre over time. Which gets me to the point of this post. Because in that series of clips, there was an old video clip of a vicar, dressed in a dog collar. He appeared to be giving a sermon.

“In the beginning” he said “back in 1955 / Man didn’t know about rock and roll / and all that jive”.

I had never seen Bon Scott of AC/DC before, but his sermon had a certain frisson quality to it…

“Thou shalt always drink in moderation…

“Let there be light… (sayeth Bon)…and there was light…(and here’s where he veered away from the script I knew)…Let there be sound…Let there be drums!…Let there be guitar!….Let there be Rock!…”

I needed no further encouragement. I’d been waiting for my Sunday school teachers to say something similar for years. There are disappointingly few mentions of mosh pits in Song of Solomon, Psalms and indeed Genesis (both the band and the bible version as it happens…

Roll over Shadrach, Meshach and  Abednego, and tell Tchaikovsky the news…I bought an AC/DC album first thing next morning.

Record #32: AC/DC – Let There be Rock

Series 40 of Later…with Jools Holland begins on Tuesday 17th April 10pm BBC2 with Paul Weller and The Maccabees, amongst others.



Categories: Heavy Metal

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4 replies

  1. Yeah…old school AC-DC is the best. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see them till ‘Back In Black’…I wore that record out though. To me, they went down-hill from there.
    I have the box-set called ‘Bonfire’…all old school. It’s awesome!

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