1 9 7 8 – 1 9 8 1 (UK)
43 x 40 minute episodes
Producer Mike Appleton was given a budget for some Old Grey Whistle Test “in concert” shows to be broadcast on BBC2 but was not allocated a venue in which to record them and didn’t have the money to pay for one.
Inspiration came from his jazz-loving days when he recalled an album by Dave Brubeck called Jazz Goes To College and realised that if he produced a Rock Goes To College version, the concerts could be staged at universities and colleges that would provide the facilities and audience in return for a free gig.
The first band were The Boomtown Rats, recorded at Middlesex Polytechnic, Hendon.
There followed a mixed bag of talent from The Climax Blues Band (at Birmingham Poly), AC/DC (at Essex University Colchester) and The Cars (at the University of Sussex) to Rory Gallagher (Middlesex Poly), The Police (Hatfield Poly), The Motels (Bradford University) and Tom Petty (Oxford Poly).
The Stranglers were booked to play the University of Surrey in their adopted home town of Guildford in October 1978 but after a few numbers, the band began abusing the student audience: “You lot are the most boring people I’ve ever seen in my fucking life,” ranted Hugh Cornwell. “Have you all got your Crackerjack pencils? Stick them up your arses, then!”
After declaring, “we don’t like playing to an elitist audience”, the group stormed off, leaving compere Pete Drummond embarrassed and floundering. Amid scenes of chaos, he promised: “Next time we come, we’ll bring a professional band.”
The Stranglers claimed to be upset that people from the town hadn’t been allowed into the gig, saying the BBC had agreed to allow wider access than the student base but then reneged, going so far as to throw out several fans that the band tried to smuggle in.
The band made the national newspapers, and the BBC was left without a show for transmission.
Hasty arrangements were made to double up at the next engagement, which was scheduled to feature The Rich Kids at Reading University.
Consequently, students there were treated to two free concerts in one evening, with John Martyn brought in to record an early show (which was aired to replace the aborted Stranglers gig) and The Rich Kids playing later.
1978: The Boomtown Rats (Middlesex Polytechnic, Hendon) | Crawler (University of London Union) | Cado Belle (University of Strathclyde, Glasgow) | The Crusaders (Colchester Institute) | John Martyn (Reading University) | The Rich Kids (Reading University) | The Climax Blues Band (Birmingham Polytechnic) | AC/DC (Essex University, Colchester) | Lindisfarne (University of Essex, Colchester)
1979: Bethnal (University of London Union) | The Cars (University of Sussex) | The Rubinoos (Reading University) | Rory Gallagher (Middlesex Polytechnic, Hendon) | Ian Dury and the Blockheads (Queen’s University, Belfast) | Cheap Trick (Brighton Polytechnic) | Average White Band (University of Surrey) | The Police (Hatfield Polytechnic) | Herbie Hancock (Chelsea College) | Steve Hillage (University of Kent) | Bruford (Oxford Polytechnic) | George Thorogood & The Destroyers (Middlesex Polytechnic, Hendon)
1980: Lene Lovich (Liverpool University) | Joe Jackson (Hatfield Polytechnic) | The Specials (Colchester Institute) | Live Wire (Brighton Polytechnic) | Secret Affair (Bristol University) | Spyro Gyra (Leeds University) | Robin Trower (University of London Union) | Joe Ely (Middlesex Polytechnic, Hendon) | April Wine (Reading University) | Tom Petty (Oxford Polytechnic) | Steve Forbert (Lancaster University) | The Blues Band (Keele University)
1981: The Q-Tips (Hatfield Polytechnic) | UB40 (Keele University) | The Motels (Bradford University) | John Martyn (Chelsea College) | The Skids (Chelsea College)| The Roches (Loughborough University of Technology) | BA Robertson (Preston Polytechnic) | Gillan (Oxford Polytechnic) | John Martyn (Stirling University) | Siouxsie and the Banshees (University of Warwick) | After The Fire (City University, London)