Many people who lived outside London during the beat boom now recall it largely in terms of the way it was reflected in the influential ITV programme, Ready, Steady, Go! (Aug. 9, 1963 -Dec. 23, 1966). Swiftly developing into TV’s most invaluable pop barometer, it faithfully recorded the changing fashions in music, clothes and dance, while everyone who was anyone dropped into the jam – packed studio to chat or perform.
The Who – “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere”(Ready Steady Go 1965)
Atmospherically it carried a charge un-approached since the days of Oh Boy( (1958-59), but technically it was way ahead of its time, no British pop show since has bettered it’s direction and camerawork. RSG! made a star out of its ideally ingenuous commère, Cathy McGowan, who (with Keith Fordyce and Michael Aldred) was a co-presenter before taking total control after miming was ditched in favour of live performances in 1965. Simultaneously, the programme was relocated in a larger studio, took some weeks to overcome the loss of intimacy, but triumphed. An arbiter of fashion to the last, it came off the air as British beat began to die.
The Beach Boys – I get around(Ready Steady Go! 1964)
Meanwhile, other programmes had sprouted. In 1963 both channels, acknowledging that “the public for pops gets younger and younger”, began supplying rock for children. The BBC offered Australian Rolf Harris in A Swingin’ Time, while ITV revamped its two-year-old Tuesday Rendezvous as a junior version of RSG! , called Five O’Clock Club. New acts, trying to break into the charts, fought to appear even though it might mean sharing the bill with Sylvano’s Sophisticated Chimps.
On New Year’s Day, 1964, BBC-1 offered a challenge to RSG! in the undernourished shape of Top Of The Pops, little more than an illustrated recital of the hit parade. At first clumsy and unimaginative, the programme since became slick to the point of sterility. Also in 1964 BBC-2 presented it’s first pop show, The Beat Room, a sophisticated descendant of Oh Boy!
The Kinks – You realy got me (beat Room 1964)
Most pop fans, however, remained tuned to ITV, whose coverage of contemporary music reached saturation point during the year. Apart from the programmes mentioned (plus the already established Thank Your Lucky Stars) the channel also staged the RSG Mod Ball, covered the New Musical Express Poll Winners’ Concert and turned over peak-hour viewing to blues, gospel and folk as well as promoting Ready, Steady -Win!, a talent contest in which aspiring beat groups competed for £1,000 worth of musical equipment.
The adverse criticism that such excesses aroused resulted in severe cutbacks the following year, and only the BBC premiered new shows. On BBC-2 Gadzooks! It’s All Happening (The Beat Room in all but name) begat Gadzooks! It’s the In Crowd (an experimental mixiture of pop, folk and comedy), which in turn begat plain Gadzooks!, which was without issue.
JOhn Lee Hooker – Boom boom boom (Beat Room 1964)
BBC-l made a brave but unsuccessful attempt to catalogue the Glaswegian pop scene in Stramash! and, in 1966, the year in which ITV axed practically all its pop shows, introduced A Whole Scehe Going, the first programme to bring music into focus with the rest of pop culture (an idea expanded upon two years later when Tony Palmer presented his series How It Is). Between 1961 and 1968 – TV relegated rock to the minority interests department, although two pop-based chat shows (Jonathan King’s Good Evening and Simon Dee’s legendarily awful Dee Time) won prime time. Typical of the new attitude, however, was BBC-2’s late-night Colour Me Pop (1968), not only the first pop show in colour but the first to highlight heavier rock; it was a forerunner of The Old Grey Whistle Test.
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