Monday, February 23, 2009

Napalm Death's BBC 'Arena' documentary 1989

Question: In the 1989 napalm death live arena special is that you dig in the front row centre lighting up a fag just before they play you suffer? im wondering what was the show was for as lee mentions that its for the bbc before the band start the song? From:

Answer: Nah not me dude,my dreads were long gone by 1989,and I've never smoked. Y'know, I wish I could have been down the front of this gig, but sadly I was right at the very back, literally in the rafters of the Kilburn National Theatre (capacity 4,000) in London where this gig was filmed for the BBC's long running flagship arts series 'Arena'. I spent the entire gig stood next to the BBC's back cameraman and a gaggle of A-lister journalists because I had cite the name of each song during the set, so the tapes were properly labelled and reviews were correct. It was annoying at the time because this gig was the bands biggest crowd ever, it was a defining moment and was basically a culmination of the grindcore scene's unbeleivable explosion into the Uk public's consciousness.It went from Peel to NME to BBC in 12 unreal months.

The BBC is a remarkable broadcaster in that its funded by UK licence payers,which frees it up from purely commerical concerns- also part of its remit is to actively broadcast, promote and expose new UK music. Napalm Death were the hot new band at the time,plus thrash metal fans were unavoidable on the street - so what began as a documentary covering the Thrash scene became way more focused on Napalm Death, simply because the director of the documentary Helen Gallacher took a real shine to the youthful band. She was the reason that they got more screentime than say Black Sabbath. Remember also back then this was before Sky Tv, the hundreds of Digital channels didn't exist- the nation had a choice of just 4 channels to watch every night.The Arena show is highly influential, it legitmised the band as culturally relevant in the UK. The morning after it was broadcast,even taxi drivers knew what Napalm Death were all about.

Rock & metal music is nowadays massively under-represented on the BBC Television. After the passing of John Peel it seems the BBC has lost its only person who had the vision and openmindedness to embrace Rock/metal.They might cite Jools Holland on BBC 2 as covering rock, but Kaiser Chiefs are probably the heaviest thing on the show, and its not even barely rock/metal.

Forgive the rant, but the BBC TV's coverage of music is fixated on covering Glastonbury and the drum n bass/garage/dance scene, which to be fair are both massively important to the nation's culture and youth, but so is Metal. I'd argue that the metal/rock audiences for this summers Download, Sonicsphere, Hammerfest,Damnation and Bloodstock fests will even exceed the Glastonbury crowd, yet where is the BBC's TV coverage of new rock/metal acts!!? They should film Evile or Bring Me The Horizon right now.

Heres the highlights of the set which were rebroadcast as Thrashed To Death, the programme was hosted by 80s gothic vamp Elvira.


Anonymous said...

Wasn't the Arena set actually recorded at London ULU on the 23rd February 1989? Clips from it appeared on BBC2's 'Snub' a week or do after that show. Also, there was a crowd barrier at Kilburn, which isn't in the crowd shots of the Arena set...

Unknown said...

Yup, this is at ULU, Great gig, always have a chuckle at myself stage diving all those years ago, I remember Bolthrower being on the bill, who else was?