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AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Iron Maiden: 10 rock bands’ earliest TV appearances

Planet Rock takes a look back at when some of biggest names in rock made their earliest appearances on national television.

From Pink Floyd being scalded for their alleged “boring” music on their 1967 debut to Bon Scott hilariously donning schoolgirl attire with AC/DC in 1975 through to Iron Maiden vehemently snubbing Top of the Pops’ miming policy in 1980, check out some fascinating moments in rock history below.

Pink Floyd
May 1967, The Look of the Week
Just days after their fabled Games for May concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Pink Floyd were invited on BBC1 show The Look of the Week for their British television debut where they performed future The Piper at the Gates of Dawn tracks ‘Pow R. Toc H.’ and ‘Astronomy Domine’. The appearance turned out to be infamous due to the unbelievably cantankerous host Hans Keller (imagine smoking a cigarette on TV nowadays?!) who labelled them as “boring” in his intro and opened his subsequent interview by asking Syd Barrett and Roger Waters “Why has it all got to be so terribly loud? I just can’t bear it.”

March 1975, Australian music show Countdown
One month after Phil Rudd and Mark Evans joined the band, AC/DC made a truly unforgettable television appearance on Australian TV show Countdown. Typical of his sense of humour, and reportedly unbeknown to his band mates until seconds before the performance, Bon Scott emerged on stage as a cigarette-smoking schoolgirl complete with blonde braids, dress, make-up and earrings. Phil Rudd in particular couldn’t hold back the laughter throughout the rendition of the ‘High Voltage’ opener.

Red Hot Chili Peppers
March 1984, Thicke of the Night
Anthony Kiedis, Flea, Jack Sherman and Cliff Martinez’s TV debut came on the ill-fated Thicke of the Night show (it lasted for just one series) in the early 1984 five months before the release of their self-titled debut album. Unable to keep still like hyperactive schoolkids, 20-year-old Kiedis and 21-year-old Flea preceded their performance by trading jibes with the late Alan Thicke including plucking his chest hair and the host quipping that ginger-haired Flea is auditioning for Annie. They then performed their ridiculously funky single ‘Get Up And Jump’.

Led Zeppelin
March 1969, TV Byen, Denmark
Having previously appeared on Swedish television lip-synching to ‘Communication Breakdown’, Led Zeppelin performed their first full live set of songs in front of a studio audience on 17th March 1969 for TV Byen. Recorded at Danmarks Radio Studios less than six months after their live debut at Gladsaxe Teen Club in the same country (when they were still known as The Yardbirds), Jimmy, Robert, John Paul and Bonzo proved they were already a scintillating rock powerhouse by performing a blistering and spine-tingling five-song set consisting of ‘Communication Breakdown’, ‘Dazed and Confused’, ‘Babe I’m Gonna Leave You’ and ‘How Many More Times’. An incredible moment in rock history – the only baffling thing is the muted response from the audience.

Iron Maiden
February 1980, Top of the Pops
Shortly after the release of their debut single ‘Running Free’ in 1980, the fast rising Iron Maiden were invited to appear on Top of the Pops at a time the BBC show was attracting in excess of 10million viewers a week. As per was the norm, producers on show wanted Maiden to mime along to the track, however, Steve Harris, Paul Di'Anno, Dave Murray, Dennis Stratton, Clive Burr and manager Rod Smallwood stood their ground and insisted on performing live saying “no live, no Maiden”. The producers eventually relented, however, Maiden were forced to turn their amps down to lowest setting. Despite this, it was still an exhilarating performance.

Black Sabbath
September 1970, Top of the Pops
When ‘Paranoid’  – a song Sabbath hastily wrote as a three-minute album filler – stormed in at number two on the UK singles chart in the late summer of 1970, the heavy metal overlords were invited on TV institution Top of the Pops; something Tony Iommi was against. Eventually agreeing, they were introduced by Tony Blackburn, who refused to play their records on his Radio 1 show, and the band blitzed through a powerful performance of the classic. Starkly juxtaposing the pummelling music, seemingly unable to comprehend the sounds the audience gently danced along as if The Carpenters or The Jackson 5 were on stage.

Def Leppard
September 1980, TopPop, The Netherlands
With ‘Hello America’ at number 50 in the charts, Mercury Records had Def Leppard record a performance for Top of the Pops – sadly, the song slipped off the charts and it never aired (it did later appear on 1988 compilation video Historia). Several months later they appeared on Dutch TV show TopPop to belt out the tune with aplomb. Planet Rock’s very own Joe Elliott is seen wearing the same fetching heart outfit he wore on stage at the Reading Festival in late August of that year.

March 1974, ABC In Concert
Millions of Americans had their first glimpse of make-up clad glam rockers KISS when they made their national television debut on ABC In Concert. Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss performed a trio of their early classics – ‘Nothin' to Lose’ ‘Firehouse’ and ‘Black Diamond’ and. We suspect the suits at ABC didn’t know about the subject matter of ‘Nothin To Lose’ before they booked KISS!

Foo Fighters
August 1995, Late Show with David Letterman
A month after the release of Foo Fighters’ eponymous debut album (essentially a Dave Grohl solo record), the band consisting of Dave, Pat Smear, Nate Mendel and William Goldsmith made their debut on the Late Show with David Letterman performing a gloriously raw version their first major single ‘This Is A Call’. An avid fan, Letterman went on to invite Foo Fighters onto his show a further 10 times before he retired in 2015. 

January 1980, RTE’s The Late Late Show hosted by Gay Byrne
With The Edge dressed as a chef and Adam Clayton as an 80-year-old grandmother, the then unknown Irish rockers performed their New Wave song ‘Stories For Boys’ on Gay Byrne’s The Late Late Show. Byrne made no effort to find out much about U2, telling journalist John McKenna “Can I ask you John to introduce them as you know more about them then I do.” Somewhat boldly, McKenna then described U2 as “titans among rock and rollers” and “the band for the future, the eighties or nineties, who knows?”

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