Napalm Death once appeared on a children's BBC TV show in 1989, just after a cartoon about cats

Napalm Death appear on the children's BBC show What's That Noise? presented by Craig Charles
(Image credit: BBC)

Unless you owned a satellite dish, the opportunities to see metal on TV were few and far between in the late 80s

Sure, there was the excellent rock show The Power Hour, which served up a weekly dose of the latest videos and interviews, but that was broadcast during the night. So if you forgot to set the video – ask your old relatives – you were screwed. No second chances. Metal fans back then didn’t have the luxury of TV on demand or YouTube. We had to actively look for it and more often than not, when we did find it, it was like discovering a fiver in your coat pocket.

Normally, after a dull day at school, I’d spend a couple of hours either listening to my small record collection (Iron Maiden and Metallica) or cassette copies of obnoxious thrash bands. Sometimes I’d just lie on the sofa and watch one of the four TV channels available to us plebs. 

The afternoon of October 10, 1989 has been forever etched on my brain. On BBC One, sandwiched between the cartoon Heathcliff with Cats and Co and Newsround was the music show, What’s That Noise?, presented by Red Dwarf star Craig Charles. With a wide range of musical guests and live performances, it subtly educated its viewers on the myriad genres beyond the Top 40 Singles Charts. Sneaky, but appreciated.

That show featured Cliff Richard, Cold Cut, percussionist Alasdair Malloy, and members of jazz pop act Matt Bianco. All largely unremarkable stuff, but right in the middle of the show were grindcore pioneers Napalm Death. 

Napalm Death. I'd seen a clip of them on an Arena documentary about metal earlier that year, but a children’s TV show? It still doesn’t seem real, even 33 years on. I mean, they rattled through You Suffer while I was trying to process what was unfolding.

“Is that it?” joked Craig after the one-second song, before joining the Birmingham four-piece – vocalist Lee Dorian, guitarist Bill Steer, bassist Shane Embury and drummer Mick Harris – on the studio floor to discuss the finer points of their music and their lyrics. 

To his eternal credit, Craig didn’t use the band’s appearance for cheap laughs, as you may expect a mainstream TV show to do. Instead, he pulled out the inner sleeve from their second record From Enslavement to Obliteration. And with a true sense of awe, he read out some lines from the song Evolved As One: “Your pride, why should your pride be so restricted? Restricted to a mere fraction of this earth. This earth from which we have all evolved.”

"Poetry", he called it, before introducing the band with a few words which somehow didn't make Steer cringe himself inside out.

“They’re rootin’, they’re tootin’, they’re electrocutin’,” says Charles. “This is music for young lovers, step aside Kylie Minogue! Turn up the TV, plug in your pacemaker, don’t get out of breath. Ladies and gentlemen, Napalm Death!”

The band stormed through the title track From Enslavement To Obliteration, which to this 13-year-old’s ears, sounded like ape-operated artillery. I was now a confirmed fan. My jaw was probably still on the carpet by the time Newsround presenter John Craven arrived on screen to kill the mood with his awful jumpers and lack of grindcore headlines . 

Relive this historic TV moment by watching the whole clip below.

But, a word of warning if you’re sensitive to flashing lights – the lighting during the live performance is strobe-heavy. 

Simon Young

Born in 1976 in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Simon Young has been a music journalist for over twenty years. His fanzine, Hit A Guy With Glasses, enjoyed a one-issue run before he secured a job at Kerrang! in 1999. His writing has also appeared in Classic RockMetal HammerProg, and Planet Rock. His first book, So Much For The 30 Year Plan: Therapy? — The Authorised Biography is available via Jawbone Press.