It’s not quite the BBC’s multi-channel near-saturation annual coverage of Glastonbury but hey, it’s better than nothing.
To be honest, though, I was quite surprised when I heard that even that small chunk was going to shown. Because today music on television generally doesn’t rate; at least not well enough to normally interest those in charge of commissioning programmes.
If I had a penny for every time I’ve been told this over the last 10 years as I optimistically pitched yet another TV music idea I’d have, well, a small bag of pennies.
You’d think I’d have learned from the very first television idea I ever pitched – a music series, natch, which never made it past the proposal stage – some twenty five years ago
It wasn’t always like this, of course…though this may well be just the nostalgia talking.
But the likes of Top Of The Pops, The Old Grey Whistle Test, The Tube, Megamix…even MT-USA, they were all of a different era when competition for eyeballs from all directions, not just other TV channels, was immeasurably smaller.
Then in the early ‘90s as MTV began to discover there was mileage in reality telly – who remembers the original of the species, The Real World? – signalling their rapid move away from their non-stop music television video origins, Channel 4’s TFI Friday and The Word put their own particular anarchic stamps on the age old chat-show format, in the process throwing live music a small TV lifeline.
Closer to home No Disco’s 10 year no-budget hipster-heaven run from 1993 tucked away in RTÉ TWO’s late-night graveyard shift showed how much it was valued by Montrose’s powers-that-be.
Meanwhile that Other Voices had more recently to find its own funding after RTÉ pulled theirs after a few series shows if anyone still doubts it that if we don’t watch live music on TV in enough numbers networks won’t want it…unless of course they get it for next to nada.
But what about the long-running BBC television music fest, Later…with Jools Holland, I hear you ask? (I don’t, obviously, but I’m guessing a few of you are at least thinking it.)
Yup, Later’s the exception that proves the rule; there mostly because it’s become an immovable institution since its 1992 debut just because it’s been around so long. Sure, it’s regularly had its moments over the years, but ask yourself, would it get commissioned today? I seriously doubt it.
It’s not all bad news. Two of my favourite ever television jobs were on music programmes, albeit a pair of very brief one-offs.
In 1995, after five years rocking out in Semple Stadium in Thurles, Co Tipperary, the three-day Feile festival hightailed it to Pairc Ui Chaoimh in Cork. And we eventually persuaded RTÉ TWO that they really needed to be there as well. Feile TV was born and myself, Ray D’Arcy and Dustin (a once famous turkey puppet for those you not old enough) fronted their extensive live coverage that hot and sweaty August weekend.
And we had a blast. I’ll maybe come back to its many highlights another day. Remind me to tell you about the goodies Black Grape offered me *just* as I was about to interview them on camera. Eejits.
We never got to do it again unfortunately as the planning laws at the time – sorry, Garth, these fiascos are nothing new – scuppered any further outdoor Feiles, an awful indoor version the following year in Dublin’s Point Theatre (now the O2) signalling its sad demise.
Though we must have done some work because I remember I only got to actually see fifteen minutes of one act – the wonderful Beck – all weekend…and that only because someone spotted REM’s Michael Stipe side-stage and we got dragged over from our backstage set-up in the hope that we might grab a quick interview with him. For some reason he declined our kind offer.
Witnness (the double-n was because of Uncle Arthur’s sponsorship) became the die-hard Oxegen a few years later but it never returned to our television screens, TV3, I imagine, quickly realising that mucky, smelly music festivals weren’t for them. Xposé it wasn’t.
So Electric Picnic’s back on our screens, even if only for a few short hours. Enjoy. I’m sure I’ll flick over to it occasionally. And not feel even remotely jealous they never asked me to work on it.