- For the former VFL player, see Bill Grundy (footballer).
William Grundy (18 May 1923 – 9 February 1993) was an English television presenter and former host of Today, a regional news programme broadcast on Thames Television. He became nationally notorious because of a foul-mouthed interview with the Sex Pistols on his show in 1976. The interview destroyed Grundy's career, elevated the Sex Pistols to notoriety, and signalled the arrival of punk rock.
The son of a factory owner, William Grundy was born in Manchester in 1923 and educated at Manchester University, where he read geology. Grundy began his career as a geologist and as a part-time journalist. When Granada Television began broadcasting in 1956, Grundy auditioned for the post of newsreader, which at first he held in tandem with his geological work. He was the first television presenter to present The Beatles on Granada Television on 17 October 1962. He appeared on several TV shows, including People and Places and Man About the House, but his greatest claim to fame was as host of the Today show. In an earlier faux pas he filmed a report to camera on the Ilford North by-election and was deeply critical of the constituency. Unfortunately he was filming in Ilford South at the time.
Grundy was also the producer of The Flower of Gloster, a children's TV serial. The 1967 drama, about four youngsters who take a narrow boat from North Wales to London, was broadcast as 13 weekly episodes. Based on a 1911 book of the same name by E. Temple Thurston, it was Granada TV's first venture into colour. Grundy also wrote a book of the same name, basically an updated version of Thurston's original.
The Today show incident
Punk rock band Sex Pistols and their entourage appeared at short notice on the Today show of 1 December 1976. They were a last minute stand-in for Queen, who had been forced to cancel. The Today show was broadcast live and uncensored at 6.00pm on weekdays and at a time when spoken obscenities were forbidden.
The interview began with Grundy introducing the band but he then began to provoke his guests. As he introduced them, he made what was probably a tongue-in-cheek comment that he was under the influence of alcohol: "...they are as drunk as I am!" Initially, he received mocking but relatively innocuous responses from Glen Matlock. However, Steve Jones, when asked by Grundy what the band had done with the £40,000 given to them by their record company, said: "We fuckin' spent it ain't we?". The obscenity was overlooked by Grundy at the time. Following this, John Lydon, in response to a question about Mozart, muttered the word "shit" under his breath. When challenged by Grundy, Lydon said that it was nothing but a "rude word" and asked Grundy to go on with the interview. Grundy insisted that Lydon repeat what he had said. When Lydon did so, Grundy mocked him.
Next, Grundy spoke to Siouxsie Sioux, who appeared as part of the band's entourage, saying "let's meet afterwards shall we?" Annoyed by this, Steve Jones responded by calling the interviewer a "dirty sod" and a "dirty old man." Grundy further goaded Jones to "say something outrageous", a challenge that Jones met by calling Grundy a "dirty bastard" and a "dirty fucker". Grundy mockingly responded "what a clever boy" and Jones retorted "what a fucking rotter." As the show ended and the credits rolled, Grundy mouthed "oh shit" as the band began dancing to the closing theme.
Although Today was only shown in the London ITV region, it became a national story due to coverage and comment by the tabloid press. As a result, Grundy was suspended for two weeks and Today was cancelled two months later. In a 2008 poll conducted by FremantleMedia, the Today show interview was the most requested TV clip ever.
The broadcast wrecked Grundy's television career. By 1979 he was presenting a book review programme, A Better Read, broadcast not at prime time like Today, but early on Sunday mornings. In 1980, while filming "Changing Trains", an episode in Series 1 of the BBC TV travel documentary Great Railway Journeys of the World, he "...apparently [fell] down the neck of a whisky bottle in Zurich ...", and, after being "air freighted home", was replaced by Eric Robson. His presenting slot on What the Papers Say in the early 1980s was his last on national British television, although he continued to present on BBC North West on such shows as Sweet and Sour and The Lancashire Lads into the mid-80s. He also appeared as an interviewer in ITV's adaptation of A Kind of Loving in 1982. Grundy died of a heart attack in Stockport, Greater Manchester, on 9 February 1993, aged 69. His obituary was by his friend and colleague Brian Inglis. Two days later Inglis himself died.
- Sex Pistols - Bill Grundy TV show. Youtube.
- "Never mind four-letter words... here's the Sex Pistols: when television met punk rock". The Independent. Retrieved 12 June 2012
- The Flower of Gloster, Grundy, Bill, Rupert Hart-Davis Ltd, London. 1970
- Matlock, Glen (June 1, 1998). I was a teenage Sex Pistol. Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-0-7119-1817-7.
- Hince, Peter (2009). "Queen: The Ultimate Illustrated History of the Crown Kings of Rock". — "When Fred Met Sid". p.119. Voyageur Press, 2009
- Sex Pistols on Bill Grundy's 'Today' show most requested clip. NME. Retrieved 9 June 2012
- "Fission Fragments 2". Ansible.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-09-01.
- Robson, Eric (2007). Outside Broadcaster: An Autobiography. London: Frances Lincoln. pp. 78–79. ISBN 978-0-7112-2779-8. Retrieved 8 March 2013.
- Deaths England and Wales 1984-2006
- Obituary: Bill Grundy. The Independent. Retrieved 13 June 2012