The BBC programme “Something Else” was one of the first attempts at the genre that would eventually become known as “Yoof TV”. First shown in March 1978, it was broadcast on BBC2 on Saturday evenings, and for extra “Yoof” value incorporated the presenting skills of “real” young people with “real” regional accents – as opposed to jobbing BBC staff or radio DJs looking for the extra exposure.
“Something Else” incorporated live bands as part of its modern magazine format, and as well as signaling its punk credibility by using the Sid Vicious version of the song “Something Else” for its theme tune, it featured live appearances from bands of the day, including The Clash, who performed “Clash City Rockers” and “Tommy Gun” on the very first show. It remains their only televised performance for the BBC, as Strummer & Sons apparently resisted going on “Top Of The Pops” due to the fakery of the lip synching aspect. “Something Else” also hosted the last ever TV appearance by Joy Division, who on 15th September 1979 performed “Transmission” and “She’s Lost Control” live in the studio. Here’s about 39 minutes of that show from 1979 which also features The Jam, John Cooper Clarke and a feature about a teenage single mum.
It’s an interesting watch, even viewed as a glimpse of the way we were in the late 1970s.
The programme also covered some of the Yoof issues of the day such as unemployment, fashion and politics, which it did with a mixture of in the studio discussions and pre-recorded VTs. Infact, it was a bit like Why Don’t You..? for teenagers. Of the surviving clips, Tony Wilson, apparently now forgiven for the “horse-tail-up-the-a*se” incident that allegedly helped to put an end to his own music based show “So It Goes” a couple of years before, joins a discussion with Radio 1 DJ Paul Burnett and Joy Division drummer Steven Morris about why daytime radio doesn’t play the more left-field music of the post-punk-rockers? The gist of the answer, in case you haven’t watched the clip, is that the BBC is not at fault because it has John Peel, it’s the independent radio stations that are to blame. Issues such as teenage drinking are tackled in a slightly bizarre interview with “Rochdale’s only MP” Cyril Smith, who shows how in touch he is with young people by advocating in favour of teenage pubs/youth clubs where young people would be allowed to drink, but not get drunk, and only if they’re 17 or 18, and only under supervision. Sounds like fun huh?
There is also an interesting clip from a later show, which includes the end of an appearance by The Specials followed by a discussion about fashion in which a young Boy George chips in – he is already a dedicated fashion follower, and agrees with wearing whatever you like…and is that Martin Degville, later of Sigue Sigue Sputnik sitting next to him??
Over its four year run, “Something Else” at least tried to take on issues and music that were relevant to young people. It’s format and it’s presenters might have had a built-in clunkiness to them, but overall it is to be praised for covering issues no-one else would touch. It should also be remembered for hosting live appearances by bands that few would give airtime to like: The Clash, The Jam, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Joy Division, Young Marble Giants, The Raincoats, The Revillos, Dexy’s, Ian Dury, The Specials, Adam and the Ants, Orange Juice, Fun Boy Three, and The Damned amongst others. The final show in November 1982 featured John Cooper Clarke, Linton Kwesi Johnson, and Steel Pulse, which came just at the point when Yoof TV was about to come of age. In the same month and just along the dial, the newly launched and independent Channel 4 was offering up the more modern, the more slick, and some would say more timely, The Tube.