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No TV shows about making music, by Big George By Big George
Published October 2001


If I were a soap‑opera character, my current storyline would include me wreaking my revenge on the powers‑that‑be who control the kind of TV programmes made and transmitted for this nation's pleasure and passive acceptance.

What is the world coming to when Reality TV makes the world seem like a completely artificial place? Gardening programmes make me want to invest in astro‑turf and concrete. Cooking programmes send me straight down to the local take‑away. And as for the dozens of home‑improvement programmes on screen every week... cripes, hand me a poster of a 1970s lady tennis player scratching her bum!

So, with all these menial household activities covered in quadruplicate by every mainstream TV channel on air, as well as quite a few dedicated channels on satellite and digital TV, why is there not a single regular programme about the creation of music?

The music‑making revolution has been the most exciting cultural development in our lifetimes. In the past 50 years I think only NASA has had a sexier history than the music‑recording industry. The reproduction of sound, both in terms of technological application and individual creative input, is of tremendous interest to a vast section of the population, not only on a technical level, but as a cultural benchmark in our lives.

The majority of people who have bought a CD in the last five years will have some interest in how the music on it was made. So why is there no regular TV show to chart the evolution of multitrack recording, synthesizer development, sonic manipulation and hard disk recording? The answer is (and here I'm speculating in my usual bitter and twisted way) that it's not a subject that can be dumbed down enough to serve up as fodder for a mass audience.

Now I may not watch a fat lot of TV these days — maybe that's because I hate gardening, my walls are covered in posters, I only eat tinned food and pizza, and I couldn't give a monkeys about whether a couple of human laboratory rats are going to have it off, or not, live on Big Brother. But I do remember watching the Tomorrow's World programme on BBC1 (back when everyone in the world wore flares) which looked at the first series of Fairlights. The first five minutes of this item were amongst the most riveting TV moments I have ever witnessed, but then I'm a tragic case... and there are millions like me — you for instance!

The argument against what I'm saying is that pop music is well covered on all mainstream TV channels, in a variety of formats. But I disagree. Yes, there are dozens of outlets for showing Robbie Williams' latest video, or exclusively reporting on what Britney Spears might wear at the next meaningless sponsorship awards ceremony, and it seems to be no problem for the latest boy/girl band, whose average career length is 19 days, to get instant access to the airwaves. But frankly, who cares?

There is a desperate need for a TV show about the process of making music. I want to watch a programme that has items filmed in the best studios in the world, with the finest engineers, producers and musicians talking about how they use the best gear ever invented, and how different tracks were recorded, and by who. Forget the Old Grey Whistle Test, forget The Tube, TFI Friday and Later with Jools Holland, and especially forget the mind‑numbing blandness of MTV rotation. None of these shows has ever come close to addressing what I want to watch on the box. Those 'making of' classic album documentaries that appear every year or so are all well and good, and the historic views of jazz featuring stunning archive footage may well be brilliant too. But I want to look forward, through the eyes of the best, the maddest and the most exciting music makers around, at the way music is, was, and will be made. I want to see the next developments being tested for use in the most exciting and innovative business around. I want the TV industry to replace an hour a week of mindless drivel with a programme addressing music, not celebrity.

Of course, I do have the perfect show in mind — a treatment of which is available to view on my website ( You'll find it under the heading 'Fab TV Idea'. And if someone happens to nick my top TV idea, which I nicked from about four other shows, they can rely on at least one viewer: me.

If you'd like to air your views in this column, please send your ideas to: Sounding Off, Sound On Sound, Media House, Trafalgar Way, Bar Hill, Cambridge, CB3 8SQ, UK. Any comments on the contents of previous columns are also welcome, and should be sent to the Editor at the same address.


About The Author

Big George is currently punching the entire music industry on the nose, while simultaneously minimising his chances of ever working in any sector of the entertainment business again. He's available to give rudimentary music lessons to beginners and tune bass guitars.