1 9 7 7 – 1 9 8 3 (UK)
Long before the introduction of Nicam digital stereo and 5.1 Surround Sound, the BBC gave British television audiences an exciting slice of things to come when they started broadcasting their new weekly music series Sight and Sound In Concert – the brainchild of BBC producers Michael Appleton and Jeff Griffin.
As the title suggested, the run of shows was intended to take the idea of pop and rock concerts transmitted on the radio one step further. That step was to present the music as a simultaneous (simulcast) audio-televisual feast.
To prepare viewers for the experience, the Radio Times suggested that “for the best effect, viewers with stereo radio sound turn off the TV sound and position their speakers on either side of the screen, but a few feet away”. The briefing added, “stereo headphones are an alternative” – groundbreaking stuff for UK music buffs back in the 70s.
The inventive series, which usually filled the musical gaps in-between the current runs of The Old Grey Whistle Test, kicked off on BBC2 at 6.30 PM on Saturday January 8, 1977, with a performance by Renaissance. Over the following weeks, concert appearances by Santana, Rory Gallagher, Jethro Tull and Procol Harum – among others – were featured.
The second series kicked off with a performance by Camel, who sang tracks from their new album Rain Dances. The rest of the run featured concerts by Split Enz and John Martyn, The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Joan Armatrading, Supertramp, Nazareth and Dr Feelgood.
As an attempt to try new things on the show, the one-off broadcast one week later featured a unique quadraphonic Radio 2 broadcast using new Matrix H equipment and starred Gentle Giant. Normal stereo proceedings were resumed on January 28 when Gordon Gilltrap and Michael Chapman (Qui?Qui?) were the stars. Frankie Miller and Sammy Mitchell wrapped up the series on 1 April 1983.
Even though the series was continuing to hold the interest of the great British public and proving to be a big hit with the viewers, Sight and Sound In Concert did not grace UK TV screens again for another five years, when another series was completed.
Thankfully (and unusually) every episode survives on glorious video and audiotape in the BBC’s archives. However, due to the obligatory legal hassles, the chances of a complete re-run of the series seems highly unlikely.