25 Years of Rock – 1975 – 1979



Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen

John Ehrlichman and Bob Halderman jailed. Interview with John Stonehouse

Idiot Wind – Bob Dylan

John Stonehouse and Sheila Buckley returned to Britain to face trial. Vietnamese war orphans arrive in Britain.

Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen

Industry Secretary Eric Varley puts government funds into British Chrysler. Vietnam War ends. People airlifted out of Vietnam.

SOS – Abba

South Vietnam formally surrenders to the Viet Cong. Arthur Ashe wins men’s singles title at Wimbledon. Ilie Nastase gets disqualified

Come Up and See Me Make Me Smile – Cockney Rebel

Cricket pitch vandalised by “Free George Davis” campaigners

Young Americans – David Bowie

Patty Hearst’s kidnappers arrested. Symbionese Liberation Army take hostages in Greenwich Village. John Lennon allowed to reside in the USA

Pick Up the Pieces – the Average White Band

Evel Knievel injured while attempting to jump over fifteen buses

Autobahn – Kraftwerk

IRA bomb pub near Caterham Army Barracks. Interview with barmaid Kitty Stone. Ross McWhirter shot dead by IRA

One of These Nights – the Eagles

Balcombe Street Siege. Edward Heath sacked by Conservative Party. Margaret Thatcher becomes new leader.

Lady Marmalade – LaBelle

Sex Discrimination Act passed. Interview with feminist campaigner Ruth Lister.

Stand By Your Man – Tammy Wynette

Fleet Street wine bar challenges Sex Discrimination Act

Remember – the Bay City Rollers

Bay City Rollers concerts disrupted by hysterical fans. Interviews with fans.

Bay City Rollers Are the Best – Bay City Rollers fans

No Woman No Cry – Bob Marley and the Wailers

Harold Wilson calls referendum on Britain’s membership of the Common Market. Interview with Anthony Wedgewood Benn. BBC News theme. Majority of British vote to remain in Common Market.

I’m Not in Love – 10cc

Assassination attempt on President Ford. Foreign Secretary Jim Callaghan flies to Uganda to prevent execution of British lecturer Denis Hills.

Dreamer – Supertramp

Apollo-Soyuz link-up. Laker Airways launch Skytrain

Rhiannon – Fleetwood Mac

Newsbeat interview with Alex Hughes, aka Judge Dread

Big Six – Judge Dread

Magic Roundabout – Jasper Carrott

Funky Gibbon – the Goodies

Jive Talkin’ – the Bee Gees

Third Cod War begins

Sailing – Rod Stewart

Chris Drake reports from Lebanese Civil War

Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen

Inflation in Britain

It was very clever the way that they used Bohemian Rhapsody to bookend this programme. Bohemian Rhapsody was really the climax of mid-seventies pop music.
This is the only programme in the series to feature the BBC New theme, when it was used for the referendum results. The biggest news story was the end of the Vietnam War. Other big news stories were the Apollo-Soyuz link-up, and Margaret Thatcher becoming Conservative Party leader.

There’s a good selection of records in this programme (although the Tammy Wynette song was recorded long before 1975, but it did get rereleased and got to number one that year). There are some innovative records, the Bee Gees brought disco music into the mainstream, Kraftwerk were pioneers of electronic music. David Bowie had a change of image and musical style. And of course it was the year of the Bay City Rollers. By the time this programme was repeated in 1981 No Woman No Cry had been in the charts again as a tribute to Bob Marley.

There was a trio of comedy records by Judge Dread, Jasper Carrot and the Goodies. Richard Skinner said it was going to be Radio 1’s only broadcast of Judge Dread’s Big Six, but it wasn’t because they repeated it on 25 Years of Rock.


So It Goes – Nick Lowe

Jimmy Carter runs for US president. Harold Wilson resigns as prime minister

If You Leave Me Now – Chicago

Jim Callaghan becomes prime minister. Denis Healey cancels visit to Hong Kong following country’s financial problems

Don’t Go Breaking My Heart – Elton John and Kiki Dee

Princess Margaret and Lord Snowden separate

Let’s Stick Together – Bryan Ferry

Jeremy Thorpe resigns as Liberal Party leader following scandal. Interview with Norman Scott. David Steele becomes new Liberal leader.

Livin’ Thing – Electric Light Orchestra

John Curry wins gold medal for ice skating at Winter Olympics. Southampton win FA Cup James Hunt wins World Drivers’ Championship

Convoy – CW McCall

Palestinian terrorists hijack plane in Uganda. Chaim Herzog addresses United Nations. Interview with Idi Amin.

Blinded By the Light – Manfred Mann’s Earth Band

Margaret Thatcher responds to journalists who described her as “The Iron Lady”.

Tonight’s the Night – Rod Stewart

New Rose – the Damned

Government job creation scheme. Interview with unemployed young man.

You Should Be Dancing – the Bee Gees

Ian Smith says there will be no black majority rule in Rhodesia. Black protesters shot by police in Soweto, South Africa. Nigeria boycotts Olympics. Nadia Comaneci wins three gold medals for gymnastics

Dancing Queen – Abba

Bjorn Borg wins Wimbledon men’s singles. Government passes drought bill as Britain has driest summer since records began

Sir Duke – Stevie Wonder

Viking 2 lands on Mars. USA celebrates its bicentenary. Queen visits the USA.

Bicentennial – Loudon Wainwright III

Jimmy Carter on peanut farming

Why Not the Best? – Oscar Brand

Gerald Ford runs for re-election

Show Me the Way – Peter Frampton

Jimmy Carter elected US president. Chairman Mao Zedong dies

More Than a Feeling – Boston

Women in Belfast start Peace Movement

Night Moves – Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band

Thirteen mercenaries tried in Luanda, Angola. Four of the mercenaries executed.

Love and Affection – Joan Armatrading

Howard Hughes dies. Interview with Ron Kessler.

Take It to the Limit – the Eagles

Richard Skinner interviews the Sex Pistols

Anarchy in the UK – the Sex Pistols

Sex Pistols swear on live television. Bill Grundy suspended. Bill Haley says punks are carrying things too far.

When this programme was first broadcast 1976 was the start of the current era. Margaret Thatcher was already Conservative Party leader, Jim Callaghan became Labour leader and prime minister, David Steele became the Liberal Party leader, and Jimmy Carter was elected President of the United States. And it was the start of the punk explosion, the last truly original youth cult and the most outrageous, which paved the way for the then current rock scene.

So It Goes wasn’t a big hit at the time, but it was the first record on Nick Lowe’s own Stiff Records label which would play an important part in the punk/new wave scene.
Convoy was almost a forgotten record by 1980, and I don’t think Loudon Wainwright’s response to the American bicentenary celebrations had been heard much in the UK. But much of the music in this programme consists of ‘safe’ acts such as Abba, Chicago, the Eagles, Elton John and Kiki Dee.

Rather incongruously New Rose by the Damned appears somewhere in the middle of the programme, but it should have been the second to last record. The programme ends with Radio 1’s interview with the Sex Pistols and the third record that changed everything forever.


Go Your Own Way – Fleetwood Mac

Jimmy Carter’s inauguration. Jimmy Carter visits Britain for G7 summit meeting

Rocking All Over the World – Status Quo

Delegates arrive at G7 summit meeting. Great Lakes blizzard

Hotel California – the Eagles

Gary Gilmore executed

Gary Gilmore’s Eyes – the Adverts

Interview with Johnny Rotten. Sex Pistols fired by EMI. Interviews with Sir John Reid and Malcolm McLaren.

EMI – the Sex Pistols

Sex Pistols fired by A&M

God Save the Queen – the Sex Pistols

John Peel defends God Save the Queen. Queen celebrates Silver Jubilee

Fanfare For the Common Man – Emerson, Lake and Palmer

Queen’s Jubilee walkabout

Heroes – David Bowie

Manchester United beat Liverpool in FA Cup Final. Liverpool win European Cup.

Night Fever – the Bee Gees

IRA bomb goes off in London disco. Black Muslim extremists take hostages as protest against film The Message

Short People – Randy Newman

Skateboarding craze

Road Runner – Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers

Jimmy Carter urges Americans to cut down on fuel

2-4-6-8 Motorway – Tom Robinson Band

National Front march in London causes riot

White Riot – the Clash

Black people complain about police racism. Two senior police officers found guilty of accepting bribes from pornography dealers

Watching the Detectives – Elvis Costello

South African students arrested at protest over the death of Steve Biko. Interview with Alex Haley, author of Roots

Float On – the Floaters

I Feel Love – Donna Summer

Virginia Wade wins ladies’ singles title at Wimbledon

Lido Shuffle – Boz Scaggs

Victor the giraffe dies

Don’t Cry For Me Argentina – Julie Covington

Marc Bolan dies in car crash. Members of Lynard Skynard killed in plane crash. Elvis Presley dies

Way Down – Elvis Presley

Funeral of Elvis Presley

Sex and Drugs and Rock n Roll – Ian Dury and the Blockheads

EEC butter mountains. British Leyland workers calls for Day of Action

Get a Grip on Yourself – the Stranglers

Jim Callaghan and David Steele form Lib-Lab Pact. Firemen’s strike

I Can’t Get No Satisfaction – Devo

President Anwar Sadat of Egypt visits Israel. Tony Greig stripped of captaincy of England Cricket team. Interview with Tony Greig. Geoff Boycott scores one-hundredth century. Interview with Geoff Boycott.

Pretty Vacant – the Sex Pistols

Scotland win British Home Championship. Football hooligans invade pitch.

Mull of Kintyre – Wings

The programme begins with Fleetwood Mac and ends with Wings, so punk didn’t change everything. There is punk from the Clash, the Stranglers and the Adverts. (Surprisingly there are no interviews with punks, as they did with teddy boys, mods and rockers in the fifties and sixties programmes.) There was already new wave music coming out of the punk scene, with Ian Dury and Elvis Costello, and there are some rarities like Jonathan Richman’s Road Runner and Devo’s version of I Can’t Get No Satisfaction. Disco music was also popular.

But once again the highpoint of the programme is the Sex Pistols. God Save the Queen was banned by the BBC in 1977, but three years later it was included on 25 Years of Rock.
God Save the Queen leads neatly into the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, when everyone looked back at the fifties, sixties and seventies. When Jimmy Carter became president of the USA it was as much a breath of fresh air as President Kennedy’s presidency sixteen years earlier. 1977 was also the year of the skateboarding craze.

The news stories in these programmes aren’t played in chronological order. For example Elvis Presley (who I don’t think had even been mentioned since the 1961 programme) died in August 1977, Marc Bolan died in September, and the Lynard Skynard plane crash was in October, but in the radio programme they left Elvis Presley’s death until last because it was the biggest news story.


Rat Trap – the Boomtown Rats

Clip from Star Wars

Theme from Star Wars – John Williams

Star Wars premieres in Britain

War of the Worlds – Jeff Wayne (narrated by Richard Burton)

The neutron bomb

I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass – Nick Lowe

Leon Spinks beats Muhammed Ali in world heavyweight championship. Interview with Muhammed Ali.

Sultans of Swing – Dire Straits

Religious cult led by Rev Jim Jones commits mass suicide. California holds referendum on Proposition 13. Speech by Howard Jarvis.

Le Freak – Chic

California makes tax cuts after Proposition 13 goes through. Vox pops on quangos

Baker Street – Gerry Rafferty

Princess Margaret and Lord Snowden get divorced. Roddy Llewellyn makes a record.

Jilted John – Jilted John

If the Kids Are United – Sham 69

Nottingham Forrest win Football League. Argentina win World Cup. Willie Johnston sent home from World Cup, and banned from playing for Scotland after failing drug test. Michael Parkinson interviews Geoff Boycott. Steve Ovett wins gold medal at European Championships

You’re the One That I Want – John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John

Interview with Olivia Newton-John

Roxanne – the Police

Oil tanker Amoco Cadiz runs aground in France. Vietnamese boat people arrive in Britain

I Don’t Want to Go to Chelsea – Elvis Costello

Jimmy Carter arranges for Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin to sign Camp David Accords

Mr Blue Sky – Electric Light Orchestra

Ambassador Andrew Young tells French newspaper that American jails have political prisoners.

Follow You Follow Me – Genesis

Muhammed Ali regains heavyweight title. Times newspaper strike

Miss You – the Rolling Stones

Pope Paul VI dies. Pope John Paul I elected.

By the Rivers of Babylon – Boney M

Pope John Paul I dies. Pope John Paul II elected.

Forever Young – Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan plays in London. Interviews with Bob Dylan and fans. Eric Idle in The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash

I Must Be In Love – the Rutles

Jim Callaghan announces he will not be calling an early election. Interviews with Margaret Thatcher and Denis Healey.

Denis – Blondie

Debbie Harry announces Radio 1’s new wavelength

Radio Radio – Elvis Costello

Elvis Costello announces Radio 1’s new wavelength. Newsbeat review of the year

Wuthering Heights – Kate Bush

Interview with Kate Bush. Interview with Sid Vicious. Sid Vicious charged with the murder of Nancy Spungen. Newsbeat interviews Father Abraham

The Smurf Song – Father Abraham and the Smurfs

Do You Think I’m Sexy? – Rod Stewart

Jeremy Thorpe charged with conspiracy to murder Norman Scott

YMCA – the Village People

Ian Smith makes Internal Settlement with African nationalist leaders Demonstrations against the Shah of Iran

Bat Out of Hell – Meat Loaf

It’s 1978 and punk’s not dead. Some punk groups, such as Sham 69, made their breakthrough after the main punk explosion. The programme begins with Rat Trap by the Boomtown Rats, but it should have been the last record as the first new wave record to get to number one actually topped the charts towards the end of the year. Other new wave acts who made their breakthrough in 1978 included Blondie and the Police.

As well as obvious classic pops songs like Wuthering Heights (which should have been the first record played) and Baker Street, there are some ephemeral records by Jilted John, the Rutles and the Smurfs.

One of the most memorable events of 1978 was the murder of the Italian prime minister Aldo Moro, but surprisingly that wasn’t included in the programme. Neither was the death of Keith Moon.

1978 is remembered as the year that we had three popes. We hear the news report about the election of Pope John Paul I, and then after the next record we hear the news of his death. This was also the year of the Camp David Agreement. And three years after the end of the Vietnam War the repercussions were still being felt.


Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick – Ian Dury and the Blockheads

Winter of Discontent: Britain hit by industrial action

Brass in Pocket – the Pretenders

Jim Callaghan calls general election after vote of no confidence. Margaret Thatcher becomes prime minister

Oliver’s Army – Elvis Costello and the Attractions

Shah of Iran deposed. Ayatollah Khomeini takes over Iran.

Dance Away – Roxy Music

Dancin’ Fool – Frank Zappa

Interview with Frank Zappa

Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough – Michael Jackson

Radiation leak at Three Mile Island nuclear generating station. Interviews with residents.

The Logical Song – Supertramp

Lord Mountbatten murdered by IRA. Airey Neave murdered by INLA. Sid Vicious dies. Interview with Steve Jones and Paul Cook.

My Way – Sid Vicious

Anthony Blunt exposed as member of spy ring. Interview with Anthony Blunt. Jimmy Carter signs Strategic Arms Limitations Treaty

Pop Muzik – M

Pope John Paul II visits Poland, Ireland and USA.

Rapper’s Delight – the Sugarhill Gang

Ambassador Andrew Young resigns after meeting with PLO

We Don’t Talk Anymore – Cliff Richard

Interview with Cliff Richard

Video Killed the Radio Star – Buggles

Skylab returns to Earth

I Don’t Like Mondays – the Boomtown Rats

DC-10 crashes at O’Hare International Airport, Chicago. Federal Aviation Authority cancels all DC-10 flights.

Message in a Bottle – the Police

Interview with the Police

Walking on the Moon – the Police

Interview with Trevor Francis. Nottingham Forrest win European Cup. Interview with Brian Clough.

Lucky Number – Lene Lovich

Chas Smash Introduces… One Step Beyond – Madness

Teacher Blair Peach dies after National Front clash with Anti-Nazi League in Southall.

Eton Rifles – the Jam

Abel Muzorewa elected prime minister of Rhodesia. Jimmy Carter intend to stand for re-election

Gangsters – the Specials

Eleven fans killed at Who concert in Cincinnati, Ohio

Are Friends Electric? – Tubeway Army

Jeremy Thorpe found not guilty

Heart of Glass – Blondie

Interview with Debbie Harry. Police receive message from man claiming to be the Yorkshire Ripper

My Sharona – the Knack

Iranian students hold staff at American Embassy as hostages Soviet Union Invade Afghanistan

Ayatollah – Steve Dahl

Ayatollah Khomeini bans western pop music

Another Brick in the Wall – Pink Floyd

Various quotes from the past twenty-five years

Rock Around the Clock – Bill Haley and the Comets

(The selection of quotes and the reprise of Rock Around the Clock were omitted from the 1985 repeat.)

When this programme was first broadcast this was the music and events from last year.

It was the year that the new wave finally got into the mainstream, and most of the records featured are records which got into the upper reaches of the charts and are still well remembered.

Somewhat incongruously the second record played, Brass in Pocket by the Pretenders, was a number one hit early in 1980. (If the series had been made later Brass in Pocket would probably have been included in the 1980 programme.) Two-tone music was big in 1980, and this programme includes early hits by Madness and the Specials. So the last episode of 25 Years of Rock really was up to date with the current pop scene.

This the last programme in the series to feature cinema newsreel clips, British Movietone News stopped making them in 1979.

There are two stories that stand out. Firstly there’s the tape from a man claiming to be the Yorkshire Ripper. When Peter Sutcliffe was caught it turned out that the message was a hoax. And the other story is Anthony Blunt being exposed as a spy. In the first programme there was a clip of Kim Philby denying that he was part of the same spy ring, so the first programme had a news story from twenty-five years ago and the last programme had a related story from last year.

In 1955 American and Russian scientists were planning the first space satellite, in 1979 Skylab returned to Earth. In 1955 there were nuclear tests in Nevada, in 1979 there was a nuclear accident at Three Mile Island. In 1955 Eisenhower met Krushchev at a summit in Geneva, in 1979 Carter and Brezhnev signed a treaty in Vienna. In 1955 Juan Peron was ousted, in 1979 the Shah of Iran was ousted. In 1955 Winston Churchill resigned, in 1979 Margaret Thatcher became prime minister.

Two of the last stories in the programme were the Iranian hostage crisis and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The latter led to the United States boycotting the 1980 Olympics which took place while 25 Years of Rock was being broadcast, and both event played against Jimmy Carter in the 1980 presidential election.

The programme plays out with Another Brick in the Wall (album version) and a creaky recording of Rock Around the Clock.

25 Years of Rock still stands up very well. My only criticism is the various records and events which were omitted, but then they did only have an hour to include what they did.

The series proved popular enough for Radio 1 to give it a repeat run in 1981, but then the programme was dated in as much as it now only went up to two years ago. However there was an updated version of the series a few years later ….
winter of discontent.jpg

7 thoughts on “25 Years of Rock – 1975 – 1979

  1. My thanks to the moderator for putting this article up for me. (And for fans of eighties pop music, I didn’t forget about the five extra programmes that made up 30 Years of Rock.)

    I wrote the articles, but the illustrations were provided by the moderator.

    It’s a shame the moderator couldn’t get hold of the pictures that appeared in Radio Times for 21-27 June 1980 in the article about 25 Years of Rock. (I don’t know if there are an Radio Times collectors here who have that issue.) They picked one year from each half decade, and one of the most influential pop singer or group of that time. They had illustrations of the events of 1956 and Elvis Presley, 1963 and the Beatles, 1967 and Jimi Hendrix, 1972 and David Bowie, and 1977 and the Sex Pistols.

    Unfortunately this was before Radio Times was a full colour magazine, and only the Hendix and Bowie pictures were printed in colour. I don’t know if the original paintings exist anywhere. But this was when tv listings magazines were tv listings magazines.


  2. We all know Punk rock was big in 1976-79 but were more kids still into long hair (for guys), flares and heavy rock/metal than punk over that entire period?

    I ask because I am thinking of doing a short story or possibly a script set in the late 70s.


  3. My recollection was that it was more New Wave/Mod revival/Two Tone/Rockabilly revival in the late seventies than Punk. HM was still a thing too, so it’s fair to say that you could pick and choose which movement to follow – there was plenty of choice …


    • If you look at the records at the top of the charts in 1979-80 it was dominated by the new wave acts, so that was the main focus for the later episodes of the series.

      Radio 1 later did a series called The Story of Pop, which I’m sure did an episode on heavy rock.


  4. If you look at the top of the charts in 1979-80 it was dominated by new wave, so that was what the later episodes focused on. And they only had an hour for each programme

    Radio 1 later did a series called The Story of Pop which I’m sure included a look at heavy rock.

    How big was rock n roll in 1955?


  5. Teenage Kicks is an example of a record that wasn’t included in the later editions of 25 Years of Rock because it wasn’t regarded as a classic pop record until later.


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