THIS week, Ready, Steady, Go! — Britain’s most popular pop show — moves from its crowded, informal niche in Television House, Kingsway, to the suburban, wide open spaces of Wembley Studios.
The jam-packed atmosphere of a Mod cellar-club has gone. Replacing it — slicker presentation, more glitter.
Gone, too, the tried-and-trusted record pantomime of most television disc shows. Defying tradition, Ready Steady Goes Live!
Why the changes?
Elkan Allan, executive producer of the show and head of Rediffusion’s light entertainment, said, “Ready, Steady, Go! started to go sour on us six months ago.
“The standard of dancing. The clothes teenagers wore. Every factor had fallen away from its former high point. Something had to be done to reignite interest.” Elkan decided to cut disc miming from the show. Teenagers had written to say they felt it gave a false impression. Nevertheless, a brave decision.
A decision that set Tin Pan Alley and show business generally a-buzz; a decision that will cost money.
It means a 50 per cent increase on the shows weekly budget: for extra musicians, backing singers, and arrangements. Plus a hefty outlay for new electronic equipment.
Producer Francis Hitching positively gloated as he described it: “More than £10,000 has been spent on the most up-to- date apparatus,” he said. “The studio will be littered with echo chambers, limiters, compressors, equalisers… It should be the most advanced sound technique ever used in a television studio.
“We don’t claim to produce an authentic ‘record’ sound. What viewers will see and hear is comparable to a live stage performance… with all its accompanying excitement.”
New sound. New studio, too. More space for dancers. No more elbow-to-elbow jostling. Now there’s room for 250, exhibiting all the intricacies of the latest dance crazes without space restriction.
Room for artists to breathe. To move about without dodging camera booms. Or wires. Or clusters of fans.
One thing Ready Steady Goes Live! must capture is atmosphere. Their old home, however cramped, did have an informal feel about it. The new studio must try to acquire this spirit.
In an effort to do just this, an R.S.G. Club will be formed. About two thousand teenagers will be selected as dancer-members… and work in a rota to appear on the new show.
New sound. New studio. Almost new compere. Until now, 20-year-old Cathy McGowan has been a sort of perky Girl Friday on the programme. Now she will be in charge.
Nervous at the prospect? Certainly. But bubbling over at the prospect of the show’s new image.
Enthusiastically she explained the R.S.G. Club. “The girls will look smashing and all the boys will be so good-looking you won’t believe it,” she said. “And they will ALL wear the very latest clothes.
“If they don’t arrive at the studio looking smart and up-to-the-minute, they won’t be allowed on the show and they will lose their club membership. We want to return to the style of the early days, when teenagers bought a special with-it outfit just because they were appearing on the show.”
Will the actual pop quality of the show change? Yes, it should improve. Lined up to appear on the new show are Gerry and the Pacemakers, Georgie Fame, The Animals and The Rolling Stones.
All-important musical direction for the first month will be handled by Johnny Spence, who has arranged backings on hits for artists like Matt Monro and P. J. Proby.
How do stars feel about Ready Steady Goes Live!? Particularly about the new feature that affects them — the miming ban?
Dionne Warwick and Cliff Bennett are in Friday’s show. Said Dionne: “I’m quite happy to do live performances. This is the way we work back in the States and it suits me fine.” And Cliff Bennett: “Much prefer to sing live. It creates much more atmosphere in the studio and this makes for a better programme.”
Will there really be a big difference in the new show?
Last word from Elkan Allan. His ideas sparked the show off originally. He’s behind the big new moves.
“Change?” he said. “Certainly. It will be far more exciting!”
About the author
Dave Lanning (1938-2016) wrote features for the TVTimes for over 28 years, was a regular darts commentator on ABC/LWT's 'World of Sport' and was a television critic for the Sunday People.