‘Ready Steady Go!’—Britain’s Groundbreaking Rock TV Series Celebrated in New Book

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For a brief period in the mid-1960s, the London-based Ready Steady Go! was as important to the U.K. as American Bandstand was to the U.S. in the 1950s. Mick Jagger has called it “the best rock ’n’ roll show of all time” and the Kinks’ Ray Davies has said that “there was no other live showcase like it.” Pete Townshend, meanwhile, has noted that it “reflected the color and vivacity of the times better than almost any medium” and Eric Burdon has proclaimed it simply “the best music television show ever produced.”

Such raves would have seemed unlikely in the wake of the program’s Aug. 9, 1963, debut, which featured an underwhelming lineup that included some now-forgotten acts. Episode two, which aired a week later, also offered an unimpressive guest list and garnered a review that termed the show “a mess.”

The Rolling Stones performing on Ready, Steady, Go!

But things began to change after that. The third week’s edition presented a Rolling Stones performance and an interview with Brian Jones; and Dusty Springfield and her then group, the Springfields, appeared on episode number four. Pretty soon, everybody who was anybody wanted to be included. Episode 11, for example, offered the Ronettes, Dion, Ray Charles, Brook Benton, Lesley Gore, Dee Dee Sharp (“Mashed Potatoes,” a #2 hit), Jimmy Gilmer (the chart-topping “Sugar Shack”), and more—all in one fast-paced, 45-minute program.

Watch the Stones on RSG in 1964

By the time Ready Steady Go! ended in December 1966 after 173 shows, the list of artists who’d performed on it had grown to include a virtual who’s who of British Invasion acts and up-and-comers, among them the Dave Clark Five, the Beatles, the Hollies, Manfred Mann, Peter and Gordon, the Kinks, the Animals, Spencer Davis Group, Rod Stewart and the Moody Blues. The series had also featured countless leading American performers, such as Del Shannon, Gene Pitney, Roy Orbison, Gary U.S. Bonds, Marvin Gaye, Jimi Hendrix, the Righteous Brothers, Stevie Wonder and the Supremes.

Related: 12 “Lost” British Invasion hits

Watch Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames perform “Yeh Yeh” on RSG

The bad news is that only about 5 percent of the program’s filmed performances have survived. However, Andy Neill’s new LP-sized, 268-page hardcover book, called Ready Steady Go! The Weekend Starts Here, does about as good a job as any print publication could do of conjuring up this video phenomenon. It includes essays and comments from many of the artists and others involved with the program, plus hundreds of color and black-and-white photos of the musicians, the sets and assorted memorabilia. There’s also a show-by-show guide that lists performers, songs, dancers, directors and even regional broadcast times for each episode throughout the U.K.

Watch John Lennon, Ringo Starr and George Harrison make a cameo appearance with singer Helen Shapiro

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