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The BBC vs Rock: What Auntie Really Thought About 5 Future Music Icons

Tuesday 3 December 2013, 21:37

Radio 4 Radio 4

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In the 1950s and 60s every band played on BBC Radio had to first audition in front of the forbidding Talent Selection Group.

Safe to say, Auntie’s gatekeepers weren’t impressed with this bunch of musical blow-ins (to be fair, many in the early stages of their careers) - although this doesn’t always mean that they didn’t book them. Here are the audition notes...

1. David Bowie [& the Lower Third] David Bowie
“Quite a different sound especially in the Mary Poppins number… Strange choice of material. Amateur sounding vocalist who sings wrong notes and out of tune.”

2. Elton John Elton John “Pretentious material, self-written. Sung in an extremely dull fashion without any feeling and precious little musical ability. Thin piercing voice with no emotional appeal.”

3. Marc Bolan/Tyrannosaurus Rex Marc Bolan
“This, unless you understand exactly what they are trying to do, is crap. And pretentious crap at that.”

4. The Who The Who “The first two members of this group turned up 25 minutes late. Quite co-operative once started. The lead vocalist seemed quite ‘with it’ in the R&B field although the voice quality was harsh and rather unpleasant. Backing not so good, although lead guitar seemed to be more sure of himself. Overall not very original and below standard.”

5. Pink Floyd Pink Floyd
“The Producer gives me to understand that one member of the group left our studio without explanation during the recording of the first number. Despite attempts by the rest of the group to find him, he did not return for the remainder of the session… [I] wonder… whether you would be good enough to tell me which gentlemen ‘freaked out’ - this strange expression was being bandied about the studio - together with any explanatory comments which may come to your mind.”

Taken from Auditioning for Auntie presented by Pete Paphides
From Armstrong to Zappa, get more music from the Radio 4 archive

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  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Yes, Marc Bolan was pretentious crap, but we just loved it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Marc Bolan clearly hadn't written Jeepster when they auditioned for the TSG

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    I always wondered if Trevor Midgley (‘Beau’) was auditioned by these assessors. John Peel played ‘1917 revolution’ for months and it received rave reviews from listeners, but I don’t think it ever made the charts. David Symonds (‘Put Kettle on Mother’) was playing Elton John on his daily1615hr Radio 1 show long before any other broadcaster had even heard of him. I think Mr. Symonds was probably the first person to play ‘Lady Samantha’.

    Lots of youngsters are only just discovering the early work of Tyrannosaurus rex (e.g. ‘Travelling Tragition’, ‘Salamanda Palagmanda’, ‘Afghan Woman’) – not heard any of them describe either Mr Bolan (RIP) or Mr. Perigrin Took (RIP) as pretentious. One does wonder, though, where gnomes, goblins and elves gained employment after 1969. I doubt if Nutwood had sufficient vacancies to absorb them all.

    I wondered whilst listening to the programme, if any of the contributors had ever seen Principal Edwards Magic Theatre live. Ms. Vivienne McAuliffe (RIP) had a huge stage presence and – again – John Peel raved in respect of their talents. I think half my class (at the time) bought ‘Soundtrack’. One could make a fascinating programme in its own right about PEMT.

    Another idea: why not make a programme entitled: ‘When Soft Machine Played the Proms’? Hee-hee, one of my teachers (who looked like Mr. Creep!) almost had a nervous breakdown on discovering that ‘pop music’ was to be played at the Proms. He told us that we’d end up in the gutter if we continued listening to such ‘rubbish’ :):):) Millions of years later, the posh folk at R4 are talking about the great talents of Rory Gallagher (RIP).

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    If today's music writers were more honest and didn't pander as much to their audience then they'd probably be saying similar things about the same artists.

    I mean has Elton really ever been able to hold a note? No.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Funny how Google pops these things into your inbox! In answer to Lawrence Jones musings on whether I ever auditioned in front of the old TSG, I never did. Back in the late '60s I did quite a lot of contract work for Auntie, but whether it was the JP connection that saw me through I'll never know. Sadly, '1917 Revolution' never did chart in the UK (though it did reasonably well abroad and managed to scramble to #1 in the Lebanon!)


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