Friday, 6 May 2016
392 Juke Box Jury
First viewed : 16 June 1979
This show has had three separate iterations. For most of the sixties it was a Saturday night staple with a panel of four, mainly drawn from the music business, giving their views of whether a record would be a hit or miss after hearing a brief snatch of it. To add spice, the artists behind one of the records would be in the studio and would come on after the panel had given its verdict. This simple formula remained for all three versions.
The original series, hosted by David Jacobs ran from 1959 to 1967 when the musical shift towards albums and problems caused by discussing records with blatant drug references led to its cancellation.
When punk revitalised the 7 inch single , a revival of the show followed in 1979 with the ubiquitous Noel Edmunds replacing Jacobs in the chair. Pete Murray who was on the very first panel and had occasionally stood in for Jacobs appeared on the panel in the first episode. Some of the panellists were strange choices like Joan Collins and swimmer David Wilkie . I watched it religiously apart from a couple of weeks when I was on holiday. Unfortunately that included the most infamous episode where a certain Mr Lydon appeared and drew a predictable number of complaints. He didn't actually swear but was his usual rude , acerbic self tersely dismissing records with comments like "rubbish" and "that's awful" to the delight of the studio audience. Edmunds chastised him for not offering much "well-balanced criticism " , Alan Freeman told him to "Shut up " which was odd considering he hadn't said very much and Elaine Paige sitting next to him looked scared to death. The moment I recall best from the episodes I did catch was Jonathan King in that ridiculous wig hiding behind the desk when Black Lace came on after royally rubbishing them.
I don't think the programme had much impact on the actual chart. I remember Dollar's Love's Got A Hold On Me getting a real mauling and then it making the Top 5.
The Edmunds version didn't return for a second season and the series remained dormant until April 1989 when Arena ran a special one-off edition with Jacobs in the chair ( and Murray again on the panel ). It was notable for Roland Gift surprising Dusty Springfield as the mystery guest after she'd said she had a crush on him.
Reaction to the programme proved so positive that the BBC commissioned a series though it was Jools Holland that got the presenting job. Housed on a weird set that looked like the "Aladdin's Cave" room on Crimewatch, the series was now more of a roughly edited light entertainment programme than a musical discussion show with the panel usually featuring at least one comedian. In any case, the nature of the music business had changed so much by that time that a high placing in the singles chart signified little more than effective marketing and the views of a celebrity panel on whether or not it would be achieved were more irrelevant than ever .
Nonetheless it was quite entertaining and there were plenty of moments to savour : Black Francis's horror at the dance re-mix of The Cure's Close To Me - "it's the wrong drumbeat !", Adrian Edmondson with a rubbishing of rap music that would see him run out of town if he said it today, Bros appearing with their manager to keep an eye on them and Maria McKee frantically fanning herself after some form of substance abuse.
This time round I did see the most notorious episode where Glenn Medeiros appeared after the panel ( again including Alan Freeman ) had unanimously demolished his latest effort. I don't suppose the Hawaiian was familiar with the phrase " a right load of old cobblers" ( Vic Reeves ) but I think he got the gist. Holland's trepidation at introducing him was palpable. Neneh Cherry , who'd been particularly scathing about his attempt to appear more "street" hid her face in her hands while John Fashanu didn't know where to look. Medeiros managed a forced grin when Holland tried to defuse the tension by offering him a fake painting but couldn't summon one for the panel and after giving Bob Mortimer a death ray glare flounced off the set. I never tire of watching it.
The programme ran to a second series in 1990 but hasn't been seen since.