At last, Countdown – the show that my generation grew up with – is back where it belongs, at 6pm on Sundays, each week featuring clips from the 13 years it graced our television screens.
Growing up in the Countdown era was our generation’s compensation for having been too young to have truly witnessed the music of the 1960s – the Beatles, the Stones etc.
Instead of Mick and Keith and Paul and John, we got TMG, LRB, ELO, ELP (Emerson, Lake and Palmer), JPY and BTO (Bachman-Turner Overdrive). We also got Mi-Sex, Elton John, Eurythmics, the Ferrets, Captain Matchbox, Cheetah, Marty Rhone, Sherbet, Skyhooks, Kate Bush, Christie Allen and Australian Crawl. We got Joe Dolce, INXS, Marcia Hines and Mark Holden.
Clearly the acts ranged dramatically in talent, but that wasn’t the point. The point was they all gave us someone to talk about at school on Monday. Didn’t see Countdown the night before? Social death.
For 13 years – 1974 to 1987 – I made it my business to be in the vicinity of a TV at 6 o’clock on Sunday night. Most people I know did, too. It was the tribal gathering spot of a generation, powerful and galvanising in a way that’s difficult to understand in today’s world of fragmented media and a drift from watching TV, or at least watching it when everyone else is.
Growing up with music and writing as my two main interests, it seemed natural that I would one day put some of these stories onto the page. When I received a call from a publisher about writing a book, the Countdown era was a rich seam to mine.
“OK,” the publisher said, “here’s your job for the next year: ring up all the pop stars you spent your youth adoring and interview them about what they did on Countdown. Over a few beers if you need to. And then write it down.” Um, OK.
In the next year, as I researched that book, Glad All Over, the Countdown Years, I called all of the Skyhooks, most of Sherbet, a couple of TMG. I even phoned Iggy Pop and asked him about his infamous 1979 performance, bouncing up and down shirtless and terrorising the young girls in the audience with leery grins and a wayward mike stand.
Sadly we have lost some of the people I interviewed for the book, including Ted Mulry, Shirley Strachan and Paul Hester of Crowded House, one of the funniest and most engaging people I have known.
I can’t wait for Countdown to return. On Sunday night, I’m going to get some mates together, order a pizza and sit around the TV, and have a laugh. We might even yell at the telly in exasperation and joy. Just like the old days.
- CLASSIC COUNTDOWN \ ABC TV 6pm, Sundays, from September 17
- Peter Wilmoth’s Glad All Over: The Countdown Years 1974-1987 was published in 1993.
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