Punk on TV #2 – So It Goes

“So It Goes” was a British TV programme which ran for two series, from July 1976 through to November 1977. In spite of, or possibly because of, London’s starring role in what was turning out to be the Punk revolution, “So It Goes” was made in Manchester by Granada Television. Devised and fronted by broadcaster Tony Wilson it is remembered as groundbreaking Punk Rock TV, but the first series also hosted the very non-Punk Rock Sutherland Brothers and Quiver, Soft Machine and Frankie Miller, in the summer of ’76, maybe there just weren’t enough fully formed Punk Rock bands to go around. However, on 28th of August 1976 right at the end of the final show of that first series, So It Goes was the first TV show to host the Sex Pistols, a whole four months before their infamous Bill Grundy take-down interview, and Wilson introduced them as “… one of the most reviewed and most reviled rock phenomenon of recent weeks”. It’s the “recent weeks” that stands out, maybe because by August 1976 Punk was moving and mutating at such a pace, that the “few weeks” was now comparable to “a few years” in the previously slow-moving tortoise of rock-speak.

It was the second series broadcast in the Autumn of 1977 when the show really hit its stride featuring live performances by Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Clash, The Jam, The Buzzcocks, Ian Dury, Magazine and Penetration amongst others. The programme’s bold content choices, although popular with the young audience, had not gone unnoticed by the Granada executives and after an especially expletive ridden performance by Iggy Pop, the show’s third series was cancelled.

Tony Wilson explained the management’s change of heart in an interview with The Observer in 2002

“They’d had enough of me, and I can’t blame them. My boss said, ‘I don’t need any more guys with horse’s tails sticking out of their asses’.
“The musician he was referring to was of course Mr Osterberg [Iggy Pop]. When we filmed him – and a wonderful show it was too – Jimmy had this horse’s tail sticking out of his ass. Plus, in the middle of ‘The Passenger’ he yells out ‘fucking’, as in ‘fucking cars’. So there’s a week’s debate over this one word, right? And I’m screaming ART ART this is fucking ART,”

He goes on to explain, “By the way, the Iggy show was eventually aired, but we had to dub some loud clapping over the ‘fucking’ bit. So we did this, but then somehow we finished ten seconds too early. Everyone’s clapping, the tape rolls on, and over the credits you can hear Jimmy shouting, ‘Clap your fucking hands’.”

Commenting on the musical direction of “So It Goes“, Wilson also recalls, “A memo arrived in the office saying, ‘there will be no mention of the Sex Pistols on this programme for the next month’. Imagine.

Far from stealing the glory from London, “So It Goes” can take its share of the credit for showing that Punk was not just “a London thing”. As Punk’s tentacles continued to spread, the London-centric ramblings about the Kings Road and the Roxy Club were joined by a chorus of Northern voices.

Tony Wilson went on to found Factory Records, open Manchester’s Hacienda night club, and help bring bands like Joy Division, New Order and the Happy Mondays to the wider public. He died on 10 August 2007.

The show’s title “So It Goes” is generally seen as a nod to Kurt Vonnegut’s four dimensional TralfamadoriansĀ who appear in his novel The Slaughterhouse Five, where they used the same phrase to refer to death. Also in the summer of 1976 Nick Lowe recorded a song with title So It Goes it was his first release as a solo artist and also the first single released on Stiff Records.

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