Ironically, the musicians who look back on The Old Grey Whistle Test with dewy-eyed nostalgia and the great reverence that they themselves received from the once-whispering but now croaky Bob Harris are the very people whose contributions here are eminently fast-forwardable.
By contrast, the artists later appearing on the show as a TV opportunity, pure and simple, are those who make for the most interesting viewing today.
The early-’70s section, all long hair, beards and appalling afro perms, blue-eyed soul and singer-songwriters, offers much embarrassment: Loggins and Messina’s “The House At Pooh Corner” is so utterly appalling that it becomes a perverse highlight. Even the glittering Roxy Music, the eccentric Kevin Ayers and Roy Harper, and the Moon-era Who would have been better served by superior song selections, should they exist.
Things turn the corner with Be Bop Deluxe. The Whistle Test eventually caught up with punk and new wave, and performances by Squeeze, The Adverts, The Style Council and, especially, Patti Smith, the Banshees, The Undertones and The Pogues are genuinely exciting if not essential, meriting its four stars.