Neil Handerson checks out Ready, Steady, Go! The Weekend Starts Here, a new book by Andy Neill that has been 16 years in the making.
For those who were ‘there’ Ready Steady Go really did live up to its claim that ‘The Weekend Starts Here!’.
From its television debut on August 9, 1963, through its meteoric rise and eventual fall in just three-and-a-half short, but fast lived years, the pop show, the first of its kind to be squarely and unapologetically aimed at youth, the complete story is here.
Putting music and clothes obsessed teenagers at its core, bringing the coolest performers, current pop talent and emerging names to its weekly audience and put together with a creative boldness never seen before, Ready Steady Go looked and felt like the club that every young person wanted to attend.
Hard to fathom then that it’s taken until now for someone to chart the programme’s lasting influence, cultural significance and ground-breaking production template that still endures today.
Many reading this will have craved such a book as this since clips of the show were broadcast on Channel 4 back in 1985, I certainly did.
Well, the wait is finally over with the publication of Andy Neill’s hefty tome.
With a forensic and almost obsessive attention to detail to detail that wouldn’t have been out of place among the programme’s hand-picked mod audience, Neill has produces a masterful and visually stunning account from those who made it, those who appeared on it and those who tuned in religiously every Friday evening.
We must remember RSG was essentially a teenage pop show, showcasing the best of the chart acts.
Often it could be a tad naff with its miming competitions, celebrity tug-o-war and the like.
However, mainly thanks to programme editor Vicki Wickham’s ear for the latest club sounds, RSG continuously provided British music with its first glimpse of American Rhythm and Blues acts such as Marvin Gaye, Kim Weston, Ike & Tina Turner and Rufus Thomas.
And Neill covers it all. From the Georgie Fame and The Blue Flames bringing a switch to live performances after being the first act to do so on the show to James Brown’s infamous special which attracted a deluge of criticism which resulted in Rediffusion wiping clean the tapes just days after broadcast.
From Cathy McGowan’s as the style icon for millions of female viewers, The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Kinks and The Who, to RSG’s promotion of Tamla Motown with a specially dedicated show and, best of all, Otis Redding’s blistering and awe-inspiring showcase, Neill never misses a beat, giving first -hand accounts of those legendary performances from those who made it happen.
Lavishly crammed with hundreds of photographs, many of which have never been seen before and over 100 interviews with everyone from RSG creators Allan Elkan and Michael Lindsay-Hogg, dancers Patrick Kerr and Sandy Sarjeant and a myriad of performing pop stars and those lucky enough to be involved, Neill had produced the definitive account.
Sadly, the only voice not here is that of the public face of RSG, Cathy McGowan, who these days declines all media requests to talk about the show that made her a style icon for millions of women and a household name.
The book is the end product of 16 years of hard graft for the author and one that is not only essential reading for anyone even remotely interested in sixties music and culture but more importantly a publication that has raised the bar both in its depth as well as its artistic achievement.
It’s a book you have to own.
Note that Ready, Steady, Go! The Weekend Starts Here is out now and is actually discounted from its original price of £39.99. You can now pick it up for £27.55.
Note that there is a vinyl box set too.