Monday, 6 October 2008

BBC's 'Story Of The Guitar'

I was afraid that the BBC would take their usual highly superficial approach to this - but was pleasantly surprised when I saw they had dedicated three hours to the subject.
Last night's show was a bit long-winded on the history front, I thought. Yeah, it's fascinating that you can trace the history of the guitar back to stone carvings thousands of years old - albeit in a severely prototypical form - but does anyone really care? 
The central nub of Alan Yentob's programme is that the guitar is the most influential instrument in popular culture and that it has enjoyed a lot of controversy in the past as the electronic Messiah a whole generation of parents came to fear. There's a a lot of meat there, surely, without needing to go too far back?
Of course, I shouldn't moan because this kind of documentary only comes along once every 20 years or so and so we should probably be grateful for the attention our instrument is being given by the mainstream media. But I'm a bit tired of being thankful for the scraps thrown out to us whilst the BBC still continues to turn its back on popular music overall. I would gladly swap all three hours of this programme - fascinating though it might be - for more attention being paid to the actual players of the instrument.
Whatever happened to the 'In Concert' series? Or The Old Grey Whistle Test type of programme? Both provided valuable platforms for new artists and music, but now all we've got is dear old eclectic Jools - and if you don't like the format, my dears, that's just tough. What's more, 'Later...' is almost impossible to get on to unless you've got the machinery of major labels and PR behind you. It's definitely an industry where what you know doesn't amount to anything; it's 'who'.
Meanwhile, we have to endure virtually every Prom concert going, from good ol' bums-on-seats Beethoven to new commissions from contemporary composers who continually push the boundaries of what people can actually sit through without haemmorrhaging. 
So what about a bit of parity here, Beeb? Mainstream artists (who definitely don't need the exposure, but what the hey? You know who you are...) alongside new artists who have been judged on merit by some open minded producer who can resist the influence of the powerful and seductive opinions of a handful of hack journalists who are keen to push 'this year's new Dylan'.  
Opening things up like this would be good for music, surely? 

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