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Tuesday 7 April 2015

The Beatles on Ready Steady Go!

The Beatles, Helen Shapiro, Dusty Springfield,
Eden Kane and Keith Fordyce on the set of RSG!
Ready Steady Go! (or RSG!) was a British rock/pop music television programme every Friday evening from August 1963 until 23 December 1966. It was conceived by Elkan Allan, head of Rediffusion TV. Allans wanted a light entertainment programme different from the "bums and tits" style of light entertainment transmitted by ATV. The programme was produced without scenery or costumes and with a minimum of choreography and make-up. Allan recruited a fellow journalist, Francis Hitching, as producer. Hitching became a major figure in light entertainment in the 1960s. Robert Fleming was the first director, followed by the documentary director Rollo Gamble, then Michael Lindsay-Hogg, Daphne Shadwell and Peter Croft.

The programme was produced by Associated-Rediffusion, the weekday ITV contractor for London, called Rediffusion-London after 1964. The live show was eventually networked nationally.

20 March 1964: John Lennon on Ready Steady Go!
The show gained its highest ratings on 20 March 1964 when it featured the Beatles being interviewed and performing "It Won't Be Long", "You Can't Do That" and "Can't Buy Me Love". That particular show also starred Dusty Springfield, Bobby Vee, The Animals, Alma Cogan and Millicent Martin. With the growing increase in popularity the show was extended and moved to a 50 minute slot starting at 6:08 p.m.

20 March 1964
The Beatles performed on the show on three occasions. Unlike their appearances on other regular UK TV shows "Top of the Pops" and "Thank Your Lucky Stars", all Beatles material from "Ready Steady Go!" has survived. In the eighties, this material was used to produce several archival episodes of "Ready Steady Go!" for TV as well as products for the home video market.

The show went out early on Friday evenings with the line "The weekend starts here!", and was introduced by the Surfaris' "Wipe Out", later by Manfred Mann's "5-4-3-2-1", then Manfred Mann's "Hubble Bubble, Toil and Trouble", then the Stones, lastly, with "Goin Home"). It was more youth-orientated and informal than its BBC rival (from 1964), "Top of the Pops". It was notable for featuring the audience as dancers and for the interaction of artists and audience. Artists appeared on different mini-stages, sometimes on studio gantries and stairs, or on the main floor for solo artists, closely surrounded by the audience. The producers choose the audience in London clubs, picking out the best or the most fashionably dressed dancers. This ensured a hip audience in tune with the artists.
20 March 1964

Initially, RSG! artists mimed but by late 1964 some performed live, and the show switched to all-live performances in April 1965. It was noted for allowing artists to perform the full version of songs rather than short versions demanded by other shows.

The show was recorded at small studios in Rediffusion's headquarters in Kingsway, London. Although the company had bigger facilities at Wembley, it was easier to attract stars and audiences to central London. The best known presenters of the show were Keith Fordyce and Cathy McGowan, though early shows were introduced by Dusty Springfield.

Paul is being interviewed by Cathy McGowan
Cathy McGowan was recruited as an advisor from 600 applicants, and had been in the fashion department of "Woman's Own". While McGowan had answered an advert for 'a typical teenager' to work as an advisor, she found herself presenting the show. Her strength was that her status as a fan of the artists was evident in her style; stumbling over her lines, losing her cool and apparent inexperience only made her more popular, and by the end she was presenting the show alone. She may have been the inspiration for Susan Campy from the Beatles' 1964 film "A Hard Day's Night", when George Harrison tells the producer of a fictitious teen television show that Campy is "... that posh bird who gets everything wrong", to which the producer played by Kenneth Haigh replies, "She's a trendsetter. It's her profession." McGowan was the same age as the national audience; she wore all the latest trendy shifts and mini-dresses; and she spoke with an earnest, ceaseless barrage of teenage slang, praising whatever was 'fab' or 'smashing', and damning all that was 'square' or 'out'.

Cathy McGowan: "Keith Fordyce, the other presenter on the show, was down to interview John, leaving me with Paul, George and Ringo. Bit of a job, you might think, interviewing three Beatles. That's what I thought. But they could not have been more considerate. They sat down with me over tea to help work out the kind of things we might discuss. During transmission, they seemed to sense when I was having to think hard about the next question, and they just kept on talking till I was ready. They even asked me questions from time to time". From Keith Badman's book: "The Beatles Off The Record".

Friday 4 October, 1963

October 4, 1963: adrift in collarless suits
The Beatles performed three songs during their first of three appearances on Ready, Steady, Go!

Hauled in on a platform
The show was recorded at Television House on London's Kingsway. During the afternoon The Beatles rehearsed for the cameras, and recording took place from 6.15pm onwards.

"A friend was designing sets for Ready, Steady, Go!, and he invited me to their first live TV performance. They were wearing the famous grey, buttoned-up suits, which really stood out at the time. I was the only one at the rehearsal when they played this song. To me it sounded like very good rock 'n' roll. But it wasn't just the music, it was their personalities, the way they looked, the whole thing."  Peter Blake, artist.

The Beatles mimed to "Twist And Shout", "I'll Get You" and "She Loves You", and were interviewed by hosts Dusty Springfield and host Keith Fordyce. Helen Shapiro made an appearance performing the song "Look Who It Is" in a sequence with three of The Beatles. When asked why only three of the four Beatles (facing away from the cameras until she turns them around) she advised "The song had just three verses, so only three of them could appear. They flipped a coin, or something, to see who would be on, and Paul came up short."

During a competition of miming performances, Paul McCartney was the judge, and he chose Melanie Coe as the winner. A few years later, Melanie created news headlines when she ran away from home. The headline inspired McCartney to pen his song "She's Leaving Home", not realising that he had actually met the girl!

The episode was transmitted from 6.15-7pm. The performance of "She Loves You" was repeated on RSG! on 8 November 1963, and the full set was shown again during a special New Year show on 31 December.

Friday, 20 March, 1964

Recording took place at Television House on London's Kingsway. Following a quick rehearsal The Beatles appeared on the show, which was broadcast live from 6.15pm-7pm.

The Beatles mimed to three songs: "It Won't Be Long", "You Can't Do That" and "Can't Buy Me Love".

During the show they also took part in a mock fashion parade and were given an award from US magazine Billboard in recognition of holding the top three singles chart positions simultaneously. They were also interviewed by host Cathy McGowan.

The performance of "Can't Buy Me Love" was broadcast again at 6.10pm on 24 April, during the show Ready, Steady, Go To Montreux!, and again on 15 July 1965 on the programme "Pick Of The Songs".

"In March 1964 The Beatles were appearing and a huge crowd started to form in the morning up Kingsway. When we opened the big glass doors at the front of the building there was mayhem and the doors buckled and nearly smashed. The police had to be called and several avid fans managed to get in through the boiler room. Good for them! Suddenly the meaning of FAME and how big they were hit home." Vicki Wickham, editor of the original Ready Steady Go! series, and also Dusty Springfield’s manager.
Judging a fans' art contest, two of the judges disagreed. 

Monday 23 November 1964

The Beatles recorded their third and final performance for pop music show Ready, Steady, Go!, this time at Wembley Studios in London.

Members of the audience clapped and danced while the group performed. The Beatles mimed to four songs: "I Feel Fine", "She's A Woman", "Baby's In Black" and "Kansas City/Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey!". They were also interviewed by presenter Keith Fordyce.

The recording was edited into the 27 November 1964 edition of the show, broadcast from 6.08-7pm on the ITV network.

Friday 16 April 1965

In early 1965 the Musicians' Union threatened to 'black' the show if the lip-synch miming to recorded music wasn't stopped by 31st March, so April 1965 saw a temporary name change to 'Ready Steady Goes Live' to highlight the fact that, for the first time, all the artists were actually singing, and performing to live backing music. After having performed on the show Ready, Steady, Go! on three prior occasions, The Beatles preferred not to do so again. However, in order to promote their "Ticket To Ride" single, John Lennon and George Harrison gave an interview at production company Rediffusion's Wembley Studios.

The Good Friday show was broadcast live from 6.08-7pm. Lennon and Harrison were interviewed by the host Cathy McGowan. The other guests included Adam Faith, Doris Troy, The Kinks and Herman's Hermits.
20 March 1964 rehearsal
In late 1966, when the 'beat boom' was fading, the show was cancelled, despite its popularity. Michael Lindsay-Hogg: "Most of the shows were wiped because tape was so expensive, so stuff like the James Brown special and The Who special are gone forever. I took home £37 a week but, every so often, I'd buy a video tape and preserve it. It cost me £1 a minute, but the only reason any shows survive is because I did that."

According to "LostShows", out of an original total of 178 episodes, 170 episodes are missing and a further 3 are incomplete.

Eighties revival

In December 1981, it was announced that drummer Dave Clark from the Dave Clark Five had bought all footage and copyrights to the surviving recordings from the estate of the original production company and planned to release it worldwide. Lucky for him and us, all the Beatles' appearances on the show had been preserved. Compilations released on VHS as well as Beta video cassettes included a Beatles live special and The Sounds of Motown special edition. A video cassette series titled Volume one, respectively two and three were also compiled from many performances with different groups and artists on the show.

Released by Picture Music International in association with Dave Clark International, the following Beatles performances were included.

Ready Steady Go! Volume 1 released in November 1983, featured The Beatles' performances of "You Can't Do That" and "Can't Buy Me Love" from March 1964.

Ready Steady Go! Volume 2 released in May 1984, featured The Beatles' performances of "Twist and Shout" and "She Loves You" from the 1963 show.

Ready Steady Go! Volume 3 released in November 1984, featured The Beatles' performances of "She's A Woman", "Baby's In Black" and "Kansas City/Hey Hey Hey Hey" from November 1964, as well as interviews with the Beatles.

In June 1985, the first of seven TV episodes titled "The Weekend starts here" (catch phrase of the original RSG! series) was broadcast on Channel 4 in the UK and during its run, the television series had quite a bit more footage than previously released on video cassettes.

In the USA, the then adult Disney Channel broadcast the series in 1989 and the video cassettes were also released as laserdiscs by Pioneer - Picture Music International.

In Japan and Norway, a special edition of just The Beatles' performances on Ready Steady Go! was released on laserdisc (Japan) and video cassette (Norway).

Japan Laserdisc
The contents of this laserdisc/video cassette was:
  1. Love Me Do (just played over captions)
  2. Twist and Shout
  3. Interview with George
  4. I'll Get You
  5. Interview with John
  6. She Loves You
  7. Interview with John, Paul, George and Ringo
  8. It Won't Be Long
  9. Interview with the group including Billboard award for singles no 1, 2 and 3 in the US chart and an interview with Paul.
  10. You Can't Do That
  11. Interview with George
  12. Can't Buy Me Love
  13. Interview with Ringo
  14. Please Mr Postman (over shots of the group, Ringo dancing) Interview with John about his book
  15. I Feel Fine
  16. This Boy (over shots of the group with fans' painting contest)
  17. She's A Woman
  18. Baby's In Black
  19. Interview with the group
  20. Kansas City/Hey Hey Hey Hey!
  21. Interview with the group
  22. Yesterday (footage of Liverpool in the sixties)
  23. Let It Be (music over end captions)
Ready Steady Go! has not been officially released on DVD or Blu-ray, and this of course has given bootleggers a lucrative market for their products.

A list of the mimed performances from RSG! and where they were officially released:

"Twist And Shout" Ready Steady Go! Volume 2 and the Norway/Japan release
"I'll Get You" Ready Steady Go! Volume 2 and the Norway/Japan release
"She Loves You" The Norway/Japan release
"It Won't Be Long" The Norway/Japan release
"You Can't Do That" Ready Steady Go! Volume 1 and the Norway/Japan release
"Can't Buy Me Love" Ready Steady Go! Volume 1 and the Norway/Japan release
"I Feel Fine" The Norway/Japan release
"She's A Woman" Ready Steady Go! Volume 3 and the Norway/Japan release
"Baby's In Black" Ready Steady Go! Volume 3 and the Norway/Japan release
"Kansas City/Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey!" Ready Steady Go! Volume 3 and the Norway/Japan release

Advertising poster for the Ready Steady Go! Special Edition
 The Beatles Live release on VHS and Beta.
An April 1985 "Ready Steady Go! Special Edition; The Beatles Live" video release was a different thing entirely. It was not really part of the Ready Steady Go! series, the release consisted of just the Beatles' musical part of the 1964 show, "Around The Beatles". You may remember that in the original 1964 TV show, they also did a humorous take on a scene from Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream". The songs were not really performed live either, the Beatles mimed to pre-recorded audio, especially recorded for the show.

Songs performed, or should I say mimed to: "Twist And Shout", "Roll Over Beethoven", "I Wanna Be Your Man", "Long Tall Sally", a unique medley of hits consisting of "Love Me Do", "Please Please Me", "From Me To You", "She Loves You" and "I Want to Hold Your Hand", going straight into full length versions of "Can't Buy Me Love" and "Shout!" (the Lulu hit).

At the time of writing, all existing Beatles footage from the Ready Steady Go! series is available on YouTube, courtesy of various uploaders.

The Beatles Bible

RSG! Sixties Episode guide
1980's Episode guide

This posting is part of a series of articles about The Beatles' appearances on British TV shows. Also in this series: "The Beatles on Scene at 6.30", "The Beatles on Top Of The Pops" and "The Beatles on Thank Your Lucky Stars".

1 comment:

Bazilnerk said...

There is a book due soon from Kaleidoscope publications about the show, which I believe will detail all surviving clips.