Robert Nicholls, one of the originals, has very kindly been sharing his memories of the London Mod scene. Previously (in the second part of Rob's story) he mentioned that he had made appearances as an audience member of the show, Ready Steady Go. Here he expands on this subject in a personal insight into the show that played a large part in spreading the mod movement throughout the country.
"For me, in late 1964 and 1965, Fridays between 6:00 pm and 7:00 pm was “Ready Steady Go!” because I was often part of the studio audience. My Aunty Betty would always say, “We saw you on the telly last night,” but it was broadcast live and I never got to see myself."
With the slogan “the weekend begins here,” Ready Steady Go or simply RSG, was conceived by Elkan Allan, head of Rediffusion TV, and produced by Vicki Wickham. Hosted by Keith Fordyce and Cathy McGowan, it was broadcast from Studio 9 in Kingsway, in Holborn, and went out nationally on ITV. RSG aired from August 1963 until December 1966 and spanned the rise and decline of the London Mod culture, which it emulated, spreading the latest styles throughout Britain. Through it, week by week, Mods outside of London could stay current with music, dances and fashions. British and American bands performed in front of a live audience of dancers. The roster was impressive, British artists included the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Animals, The Who, Small Faces, Georgie Fame, Chris Farlowe, and later Jimi Hendrix with, “Hey Joe,” his first single. American R&B artists included Rufus Thomas, Solomon Burke, The Isley Brothers, Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, Kim Weston, and Inez and Charlie Foxx, whose best seller “Hurt By Love” entered the British charts after they sang it on RSG.
In April 1965, Dusty Springfield introduced the RSG Motown Special featuring Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, Diana Ross and the Supremes, the Temptations, and (Little) Stevie Wonder.
Regarding my appearances on British TV shows, I cannot remember which studio sessions came first, but I believe I might have entered the RSG audience towards the end of 1964 following my appearance on the taping of parts of the RSG Motown Special, where, as a member of the TM Appreciation Society, my attendance was expected. Otherwise, RSG had periodic auditions which selected members of the audience for the forthcoming weeks, which I later attended. RSG was recorded in Kingsway, but the auditions took place at a hall in Wembley. It was a meat market of sorts, we would be briefed and then expected to find a partner and dance. While R&B records played, Vicki Wickham and a young man whose name I’ve forgotten, would circulate among the dancers sizing them up and if they liked what they saw they’d give a ticket to an individual, and sometimes, but not necessarily, to a couple. On one occasion my relationship with my latest date abruptly ended when I took her to an audition and I was selected and she wasn’t. For a while, Vickie and the young man got to know me and I was regularly invited. Following the audition, all attendees got a free ticket to go to club that was being promoted in Wembley. It had a spacious dance floor and was suitably lit, but desiring to get back to familiar turf, I wouldn’t stay long.
As an audience member, during the RSG shows one was expected to mingle, dance continuously, when appropriate clap, be generally enthused, but most of all stay on your toes and keep out of the way of the cameras. Of these the first four were easy, but the last, surviving a camera assault, was the most difficult. Several cameras circulated during the show. A camera was a mobile unit driven by the camera man and gaffers. It moved according to its own preferences mindless of human impediments. In a few of the tapes you can see a human head bouncing off to the side as a result of impact. Although I was a regular, my remembrances of different shows tend to blur into one. The experience of actually being there was calculated to inspire a blissful torpor. I remember being close to a stage while the Moody Blues were waiting to begin. I was fascinated by their thick studio make-up which from my viewpoint made them look like plastic dummies. In my time, I have been fortunate in seeing a lot of great performers, being filmed or otherwise, but at RSG I do particularly recall an energetic performance of Solomon Burke, resplendent in a robe and crown belting out “Everybody Needs Somebody.”
Unlike in the early days, by the time of my RSG appearances, Mod clothes could be bought off the rack at menswear boutiques in the West End. This tended to result in a standardization of the Mod look, and the originality of Faces and independent thinkers was less in evidence. In 1966, when the sixties Mod culture was fading, RSG was cancelled. Following this Dave Clark bought the rights, and selections are aired occasionally in UK and the USA and are now available on DVD.
(the first part of Rob's story can be found here)
This work is the copyright of Robert Nicholls, Ph.D. The views expressed are purely those of the author and are not attributable to any other person or institution.
I know Rob would love to hear any feedback on this article. You can discuss it with him in the forum here or I will pass on any messages to him using the contact address.
Rob is also interested in publishing his memoirs and would like to hear from anyone with any advice or with an interest in publishing them.