In the swinging sixties of the United Kingdom, a cultural revolution was in full swing, and at the heart of it all was “Ready Steady Go!”. This British rock and pop music television programme left an indelible mark on the entertainment industry. In this article, we will delve into the history and significance of this iconic show and explore its impact on the music scene of the time.

The Birth of Ready Steady Go!

Ready Steady Go! came to life on August 9, 1963, and continued to captivate audiences until December 23, 1966. Its conception can be attributed to Elkan Allan, who was the head of Rediffusion TV. Allan’s vision was to create a unique light entertainment program that would stand out from the more conventional offerings of ATV. Ready Steady Go! was produced with a distinct approach; it featured minimal scenery, costumes, choreography, and makeup.

The Masterminds Behind the Show

To bring his vision to life, Allan enlisted the help of Francis Hitching, a fellow journalist, as the producer. Hitching played a pivotal role in the success of light entertainment in the 1960s. The show had various directors during its run, including Robert Fleming, Rollo Gamble, Michael Lindsay-Hogg, Daphne Shadwell, and Peter Croft.

Broadcasting and Ratings

Initially produced by Associated-Rediffusion, the weekday ITV contractor for London, Ready Steady Go! was eventually networked nationally. One of the program’s highest-rated episodes was on March 20, 1964, when it featured an iconic interview with the Beatles, who also performed their hit songs “It Won’t Be Long,” “You Can’t Do That,” and “Can’t Buy Me Love.”

The Unforgettable Introduction

The show had a memorable introduction with the tagline “The weekend starts here!” It was set to the tunes of famous songs like “Wipe Out” by the Surfaris, “5-4-3-2-1” by Manfred Mann, “Hubble Bubble (Toil and Trouble)” also by Manfred Mann, and finally, “Goin’ Home” by The Rolling Stones. There are speculations that The Who’s “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere” was also used as the theme music for a short period.

Unique Features of Ready Steady Go!

Ready Steady Go! stood out for being more youth-oriented and informal compared to its BBC rival, Top of the Pops, especially after 1964. One of its distinguishing features was the active involvement of the audience as dancers, creating an electrifying atmosphere for both the artists and the viewers. The show’s producers selected the audience from London clubs, ensuring a trendy and artistically aligned crowd.

Evolution of Performances

Initially, Ready Steady Go! artists mimed their performances. However, by late 1964, some artists started performing live, and by April 1965, the show transitioned to all-live performances. This was a notable departure from other programmes that demanded shorter versions of songs. It’s worth mentioning that Ready Steady Go! never made it to the United States, likely due to its black-and-white format when major American networks were transitioning to colour broadcasting.

The Charming Studios

The show was recorded in small studios at Rediffusion’s headquarters in Kingsway, London. Although the company had larger facilities at Wembley, central London’s location made it easier to attract stars and audiences. The compact studios made it impossible to conceal the cameras, and they often became an integral part of the action.

Youth Culture and Mod Subculture

Ready Steady Go! quickly became a favourite among young people, particularly within the mod youth subculture of the 1960s. Its vibrant and engaging format resonated with the youthful spirit of the era.

The Unfortunate End

In late 1966, as the “beat boom” was fading, Ready Steady Go! was cancelled despite its immense popularity. In later years, compilations of the show were broadcast, and VHS videos featuring iconic performances became collector’s items. Surprisingly, the show never officially made its way to DVD.

The Birth of “The Weekend Starts Here”

The iconic tagline, “The weekend starts here,” was born after the pilot episode was recorded on July 16, 1963. Keith Fordyce, one of the presenters, asked a group of Mods from Sheffield’s King Mojo club about their Tuesday visit to the show, saying, “I expect you’ll be eager to go home and get back to work, what with the weekend coming up and all.” John Varney, one of the Mods, replied, “Are you kidding, mate? The weekend starts here,” and history was made.

Presenters and Producers

Throughout its run, Ready Steady Go! had notable presenters, including Keith Fordyce, Cathy McGowan, Dusty Springfield, David Gell, and Michael Aldred. Cathy McGowan, in particular, stood out for her authentic and relatable style, endearing herself to the audience.

A Showcase of Musical Legends

RSG! featured a multitude of legendary artists of the era. The lineup included the Who, the Beatles, the Hollies, the Merseybeats, the Zombies, Dusty Springfield, the Supremes, the Temptations, the Walker Brothers, the Kinks, and many more. It was a platform that celebrated the best in music, from rock to soul, and everything in between.

The Impact

Ready Steady Go! holds a special place in the history of British music television. It marked a shift in the way music was presented to the masses and allowed artists to fully express themselves through their performances. It was a phenomenon that showcased the essence of the 1960s, encapsulating the spirit of a generation.

Remembering the Legacy

In 2020, BBC Four paid tribute to Ready Steady Go! with a documentary that featured original clips and interviews with several iconic figures from the show. This documentary served as a reminder of the lasting impact of RSG! on the world of music and entertainment.

In conclusion, Ready Steady Go! was more than just a TV show; it was a cultural touchstone that continues to be celebrated for its contribution to the vibrant 1960s British pop scene. Its influence on music, fashion, and youth culture cannot be overstated, making it a timeless symbol of a bygone era.