In the late 1970s, while Dudley Moore was off starting his career in Hollywood, Peter Cook entertained himself and a new generation of fans by hosting one of British TV’s first Punk Rock music shows, Revolver.
Produced for ATV by famed impresario, Mickey Most (best known for producing Herman’s Hermits, Suzi Quatro and Jeff Beck) Revolver had Cook introducing acts like Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Buzzcocks, The Jam, Ian Dury and the Blockheads, who all played live in front of a studio audience. There was also a twat of an in-house DJ, but the less said about him the better. Of course, there was the occasional roster of crap record company acts, but this was the 1970s, when there were only three TV channels in the UK, and the national anthem ended proceedings every night on two of them. It was a new style of program-making, chaotic, rude, funny and at times required viewing - as the BFI explains:
Revolver‘s most innovative element was designed to evoke the confrontational atmosphere associated with punk gigs. Peter Cook was invited to guest on the programme on the strength of the notorious Derek and Clive recordings, which shared with punk a kind of adolescent, deliberately puerile nihilism. In the guise of the seedy manager of the rundown nightclub rented out to the TV company, Cook would appear on a video screen, sneering at the acts and antagonising the studio audience. One guest, Buzzcocks’ Pete Shelley, recalled Cook distributing porn magazines, which he encouraged audience members to hold up during sets to put off the bands. Not surprisingly, Cook’s contribution is better remembered than that of nominal host Les Ross.
For all its punk credentials, the show’s music policy was often bewildering - appearing alongside the likes of X-Ray Spex, Ian Dury and Siouxsie and the Banshees were Kate Bush, Lindisfarne, Bonnie Tyler and the avowedly anti-punk Dire Straits.
Revolver‘s engagingly chaotic presentation makes it perhaps an ancestor of Channel 4’s controversial The Word (1990-95), but in 1978 it drew critical derision and failed to impress ITV managers. Unpromoted and buried in a late night Friday slot (ironically the exact post-pub slot in which The Word thrived), the series was starved of an audience and was pulled after just seven editions.
Bonus clips of Siouxsie and the Banshess, The Jam, and more, after the jump…