If you wanted to find the brashest and boldest acts that punk had to offer in the late seventies you’d normally avoid the television. When the scene exploded out of the trendy end of London middle England wasn’t necessarily ready for the filth and fury that came with it. The BBC did, however, find a home on TV for the snotty nosed upstarts who were dominating the charts and the airwaves with Something Else. The show hosted The Clash, Joy Division, Siouxsie Sioux, The Jam, The Specials and so many more. It will go down as the home of punk on television.
While the Sex Pistols would send headline-writers giddy with excitement as their appearance on the Bill Grundy show in 1976 beamed across the nation, the rest of the country was outraged by the four-letter laden thing known as ‘punk’, and so it took a little while after the fact, for the British Broadcasting Corporation to catch up. That changed in 1978 when they introduced the new show Something Else, a fast and furious new progamme directed at a fresh and youthful audience desperate for a little more edge as part of the BBC’s ‘Youth TV’.
‘Youth TV’ later deliberately renamed ‘Yoof TV’… was centred around gaining a new audience that the elder generation had trouble understanding. To get around guessing what these kids with safety pins through their noses wanted on their televisions they just employed them. Or as close to the stuffed suits of BBC would allow. That meant using a comparatively inexperienced crew and untrained presents, previously unheard regional accents began popping up, there was minimal scripting in this magazine format, with ‘freeform discussion’ championed alongside the best new bands in the land.
Which is where we step in. The show would go on to influence countless other Youth TV shows like The Tube and The Word but those programmes could never come close to the array of punk talent Something Else has in its vaults. One such performance saw legendary punk icons The Clash in their only televised performance for the BBC (after they refused to lipsynch for the weekly show Top of the Pops), playing ‘Clash City Rockers’ and ‘Tommy Gun’ in the 1978 appearance on the first airing of Something Else as well as a typically sardonic interview.
Another classic performance etched in history, although not strictly ‘punk’, is the Joy Division’s 1979 showing of ‘Transmission’ and ‘She’s Lost Control’, the latter from the band’s seminal album Unknown Pleasures, which had been released in the previous summer. The electric performance of Ian Curtis and co wasn’t the only reason this appearance will go down in history. It was the last ‘for-TV’ footage the band would ever shoot following the suicide of lead singer Curtis. The Jam’s performance of the punk anthem ‘Eton Rifles’ would be aired on the same show and carry a similarly high voltage.
Below you can find a handy compilation, as well as individual clips of these powerful and poetic performances from the home of punk on television Something Else. The show that inspired a generation of punks across the nation.