‘On the programme tonight’

The Old Grey Whistle Test as tastemaker for British AOR audiences in the early 1970s


  • Andy Bennett Griffith University




Old Grey Whistle Test, album-orientated rock, television, audience, tastemaker, YouTube, popular music


British popular music television series The Old Grey Whistle Test (OGWT) was a regular feature on BBC2 between 1971 and 1987. The show enjoyed its greatest popularity during the early 1970s when, as a programme synonymous with the term album-orientated rock (AOR), it was responsible for introducing British popular music audiences to a different range of music than was generally featured on national television and radio at the time. Despite its iconic and relatively unique status during the early 1970s, however, little has been written about OGWT. The purpose of this article is to examine and assess the significance of OGWT in terms of its critical role as a tastemaker for British AOR audiences during an era where opportunities to listen to AOR on British television and radio were limited. The article also considers the legacy of OGWT in the digital age where its significant archival footprint on YouTube has given the show a renewed level of importance as a comprehensive retrospective guide to the AOR music of the early 1970s.

Author Biography

Andy Bennett, Griffith University

Andy Bennett is Professor of Cultural Sociology in the School of Humanities, Languages and Social Science at Griffith University. He has written and edited numerous books including Popular Music and Youth Culture, Music, Style and Aging, British Progressive Pop 1970–1980 and Music Scenes (co-edited with Richard A. Peterson). He is a Faculty Fellow of the Yale Centre for Cultural Sociology, an International Research Fellow of the Finnish Youth Research Network, a founding member of the Consortium for Youth, Generations and Culture and a founding member of the Regional Music Research Group.


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How to Cite

Bennett, A. (2020). ‘On the programme tonight’: The Old Grey Whistle Test as tastemaker for British AOR audiences in the early 1970s. Popular Music History, 12(3), 316–332. https://doi.org/10.1558/pomh.41438