Why We Love… “Later…With Jools Holland”

Although it’s often berated by, on the surface, grumpy music fans; Later… With Jools Holland is very much a show that is to be treasured. Without it, there would be very little in the way of current time music coverage on television and, despite some jumping on its oft-habit of booking the more popular end of the indie market you just know there would be an outcry if it were threatened with cancellation.

It’s true, that in keeping to its ethos of something for everybody there is the inevitable chance that the odd hit and miss episode will surface but music being music, it’s not going to be a feeling that every viewer will share. The truth is that, for this writer at least, it’s the one show that is religiously watched whatever the occasion. Indeed, since the addition of the Live edition of Tuesday evenings, conveniently tucked in before the evils of the world are reviewed on Newsnight, it’s added an extra treat in the traditionally quiet earlier part of the week.

But what is it that makes watching the show so essential despite the knowledge you may not come out with a firm favourite or new favourite artist? It could merely be the fact that each week is different, and it’s difficult to find a more varied line up of artists on regular programming. Each artist is treated almost equally, the viewer given the choice of who to get behind or avoid with all the intensity they desire.

Perhaps the reason there is the odd grumble in the stratosphere of music fans and musicians alike is merely because the artists are rarely of the kind you see in the local pub or club. It’s something that can’t be denied and in truth, it’s perhaps better that it isn’t the case. Later, despite its easy flow and cheerful musical banter, is a touch point for status. An appearance on the show is an indicator of a job well done. There are many other steps along the way, including both local and national radio, music blogs, print publications and a lot more besides and, truth be told, it’s a positive to get a mention or play on any one of those mediums.

An appearance on Later… therefore definitely is a cherry on the cake of musical success. That’s what makes it worth watching. Over the years (including many from way before #SRCZ was even a digital glint on a server’s memory bank) we’ve found out about many artists we would never have found were it not for the show. The value of the show is therefore in the discoveries that can be made rather than in moaning about ‘commercial’ music being on the airwaves. In these days of austerity it’s a wonderful thing that music, often considered to be disposable, is taking centre stage for 90 minutes. How many less people would be exposed to music on mainstream British television if not for Later? Arguably, not that many!

Indeed, with so many more ways to enjoy music now in existence since the show began way back in 1992 it’s remarkable that the show has remained virtually the same in format. Age can take its toll, studio’s can be redesigned and even moved but the indefinable magic of seeing live music on television doesn’t fade. Having watched Later… since the turn of the millennium, I can certainly say that it has lost none of the enjoyment it held when I was discovering music fifteen years ago.

Now to sort out those other “music” channels…

(S. Gahan) 

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