This is what cultural revolution looked like in the early 1960s: youngsters dancing in a cramped television studio, as smartly dressed men and women mime love songs.
From its opening line: “The weekend starts here!” Ready, Steady, Go! was one of the most revolutionary and influential programs on British TV.
Between 1963 and 1966, Ready, Steady, Go! brought pioneering performances by the biggest pop names to millions of homes across the country. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Dusty Springfield, Lulu, The Animals, Cilla Black, Gerry and The Pacemakers, The Searchers, and even Peter Cook & Dudley Moore—who later parodied the show in their film Bedazzled.
The miming eventually stopped in April 1965, after the show moved to a bigger studio and artists were asked to play live—most notably now legendary sets by The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Manfred Mann and The Walker Brothers. It gave the show an immediacy and power its rivals could only dream about, but by 1966, as the beat revolution moved on, Ready, Steady, Go! was canceled.
Ready, Steady, Go! had an unprecedented influence on shaping musical taste, and youth fashion, and in 2011, The Kinks’ Ray Davies paid homage to RSG! with a recreation of the show at the Meltdown Festival.
It was always the voice. He may have sold it short by appearing in over-produced TV shows, or playing seasons in Vegas, or becoming a caricature of a tanned medallion man, but none of it really mattered when you heard the voice—and Tom Jones has one hell of a singing voice.
When Jones’ star was on the rise on the late-1960s, he was offered his own TV show, This Is Tom Jones, which ran for 65 episodes between 1969 and 1971. It was an instant and massive success on both sides of the Atlantic, and led to the singer receiving 2 Golden Globe Nominations. It also saw Jones perform with an incredible array of stars ranging from Dusty Springfield, Little Richard, Janis Joplin, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Cass Elliot, Burt Bacharach, George Carlin, Terry-Thomas, Sandi Shaw, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, Lulu, Nancy Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, and Aretha Franklin, amongst many others.
This is the first episode of This Is Tom Jones, which aired on February 7th, 1969. Jones sang several of his hits, and mixed with an incredible range of talent including a suave-looking Peter Sellers (who changed the script, tried out his Welsh accent and appeared in a skit written by John Cleese and Graham Chapman); a very youthful Richard Pryor in one of his first TV appearances (who looks almost teenage and has yet to find the anger that made his comedy dangerous); The Moody Blues (who reminded me of a holiday resort band); and a beautiful Mary Hopkin, singing “Those Were The Days”.
This Is Tom Jones has dated somewhat, and the sets and dance routines may look positively camp, but the quality of the performances, and the power of Tom Jones’ voice make this a special treat.
What exactly glamor-modeling has to do with revolutionary consciousness isn’t explained - other than making it fashionably chic to the bourgeoisie. Which is ironic, for it was the perceived, pernicious influence of the bourgeoisie (and its revisionist view of capitalism) that led Chairman Mao to instigate his Cultural Revolution in May 1966. While the ad men, magazine stylists and Beatles co-opted Mao’s revolutionary sentiments, the reality for millions of Chinese was a brutal and murderous oppression.
A Beginner’s Guide to Mao Tse-tung
The little red book which contains hightlights from The thought of Mao Tse-tung is the most influential volume in the world today. It is also extremely dull and entirely unmemorable. To resolve this paradox, we, a handful of editors in authority who follow the capitalist road, thought useful to illustrate certain key passages in such a way that they are more likely to stick in the mind. The visual aid is Sharon Tate and, to give credit where credit, God knows, is due, she will soon be seen in the Twentieth Century-Fox motion picture, Valley of the Dolls.
‘Whoever wants to know a thing has no way of doing so except coming into contact with it, that is, by living (practicing) in its environment
...If you want knowledge, you must take part in the practice of reality. If you want to know the taste of a pear by eating it yourself.’ “On Practice” (July, 1937)
Sharon Tate takes Merv Griffin on a tour of swinging London’s Carnaby Street, in August 1966.
A poignant piece of TV history capturing much of the innocence, idealism, and happiness that seemed to infuse the sixties. All of which is usurped by our grim knowledge of what happened to Sharon Tate only a few years later.
Terence Stamp and Michael Caine once shared an apartment in the early 1960s. Stamp was the star, with Billy Budd, Term of Trial and The Collector to his CV, while Caine was still on his way up. The turning point came when Stamp knock-backed the title role of Alfie, a role he had made his own on Broadway, but didn’t want to reprise on film. Caine spent a long night trying to change Stamp’s mind. He failed and the role was given to Caine.
Years later, Michael Caine wrote how he sometimes dreamt of that long night trying to convince Stamp to take the role, and “still wakes up sweating as I see Terence agreeing to accept my advice to take the role in Alfie.”
Stamp made Modesty Blasie instead, which on paper sounded fabulous - directed by Joseph Losey; starring Monica Vitti and Dirk Bogarde; adapted by poet and writer Evan Jones from the best-selling Peter O’Donell comic strip. Sadly, it flopped, and the blue-eyed, angelic Stamp was slowly eclipsed by his former room-mate, Caine.
Yet, Stamp was no longer interested in making films for the sake of making films. He was beginning to choose roles because he wanted to make them. He turned down an incredible amount of work, as he later explained in an interview with Valerie Singelton in 1978:
‘I didn’t accept a lot of work because I was of the opinion, if one wanted the long career, one should do good, interesting things. One shouldn’t do anything.
‘So, that was a kind of a political decision really, apart from the fact I enjoyed to do things that interested me. It didn’t interest me to play Tate and Lyle lorry drivers, you understand? I did that already. I didn’t want to do that in a movie. I wanted to play princes and counts, and intellectuals and things that I wasn’t, rather than something I was.’
After Modesty Blaise, Stamp opted to work with radical film-maker Ken Loach, on his first movie Poor Cow, which co-starred Carol White. The film was a surprise hit in America, largely down to Stamp’s casting. He then appeared in John Schlesinger’s Far From the Madding Crowd with Julie Christie, Alan Bates and Peter Finch. Yet, for all his success, there was something missing.
‘And this thing which came later was a feeling of an inner emptiness success didn’t fill. I had assumed that this inner poverty would be transformed when I became rich and famous. And it took me a few years of being rich and famous to understand that the inner void was very much there.
‘And, you know, if I couldn’t fill it with one Rolls-Royce, I couldn’t fill it with three.
‘I started traveling and looking at myself. Looking, thinking the answer was outside still in a form of, you know, I transfered from beautiful female companion, to highly, holy, spiritualized person. So I was kind of looking for that in truth - it was an inner odyssey that was going on.’
Stamp moved to Italy and then onto an ashram in India, where he found he could get ‘Groovy Kashmiri hash or groovy golden guru - you get what you’re looking for.’ Here he was “transformed from Terence Henry Stamp to swami Deva Veeten.”
The years passed and the roles had dried-up, until (as in all good tales) one day in 1977:
‘On this particular morning, as we enter, I am hailed by the concierge who showed me to my original room. Apparently he remembers me. “Mr. Terence”, he says in an accent worthy of Peter Sellers. “We have a cable for you”. He extricates the telegram from the depths of his nightstand and presents it to me. Dog-eared, with tickertape strips glued onto the square envelope and smeared with dust, I have no idea how long the urgent missive has been waiting. However, as it is dropped into my palm it has the psychic weight of the English breakfast I am about to order. I read the typed front piece and realize why. It is addressed to: Clarence Stamp, The Rough Diamond Hotel, Dune, India. It is a miracle that it is even in my hand. Goose pimples spread up my arm and I have a sense that my life is about to change. The telegram is from my long-suffering agent James Fraser, who came across me playing Iago at the Webber-Douglas Drama Academy in 1958 and, bless his heart, has represented me ever since. The telegram reads: ‘Would you be prepared to travel back to London to meet Richard Donner regarding a role in the Superman films 1 & 2. You have scenes with Marlon Brando. Could you stop over in Paris to talk to Peter Brook who is going to make a film of George Gurujieff’s Meetings With Remarkable Men. I read it again. Can hardly believe it, but yes, it’s there, in the palm of my hand. And yes, my life is about to change.’
After Superman, Stamp was cast as the Count in a London production of Dracula, (one of several productions about the great undead vampire that had appeared on both sides of the Atlantic). It was during this production that the following interview with the BBC took place, where Terence Stamp explained, to interviewer Valerie Singleton the attraction of Count Dracula.
‘I always think of evil and the Devil being terribly groovy - not unattractive at all, they have to be really interesting and really seductive because that’s the magnetism of evil, you know, it has to be outwardly beautiful and fetching.’
The joyful hedonism of the 1960s was in part a response to the trauma to the Second World War. The same way the twenties swung after the first great conflagration. And like that decade, it was primarily the white, upwardly mobile, metropolitan, middle class that enjoyed the sex, the drugs and the rock ‘n’ roll.
London may have been swinging in 1967, but for the rest of the country not a lot changed. It would take until the 1970s for most of the country to get a hint of what London experienced. The most important changes, apart from pop music and American TV shows, were the legalization abortion and de-criminalization of homosexual acts between consenting adults - both of which set the scene for bigger and more radical changes in the 1970s.
Yet, as so many of the media are Baby Boomers, the love of all things sixties ensures TV fills its schedules with documentaries on that legendary decade. 1967: The Summer of Love is better than most, as it covers the cultural, social, and political changes that the decade brought. With contributions form Germaine Greer, Donovan, Nigel Havers, Bill Wyman, John Birt and Mary Quant, together with some excellent color archive, this documentary is a cut-above the usual retro-vision.
In 1964, Stanley Kubrick wrote to science-fiction author Arthur C. Clarke. He explained he was a “a great admirer” of his books, and that he “had always wanted to discuss with [him] the possibility of doing the proverbial really good science-fiction movie.”
Kubrick outlined his ideas:
My main interest lies along these broad areas, naturally assuming great plot and character:
The reasons for believing in the existence of intelligent extra-terrestrial life.
The impact (and perhaps even lack of impact in some quarters) such discovery would have on Earth in the near future.
A space probe with a landing and exploration of the Moon and Mars.
The pair met, and a treatment was written, based around Clarke’s short story, “The Sentinel” (later published as “The Sentinel of Eternity” in 1953), in which a strange, tetrahedral artifact is discovered on the Moon. The story’s narrator speculates that the object has been left as a “warning beacon” for some ancient alien intelligence to signal humanity’s evolutionary advance towards space travel.
At the same time Kubrick was making 2001: A Space Odyssey, Clarke was writing his own version as a novel.
Having viewed Kubrick’s film rushes, Clarke wrote an explicit interpretation of the film, explaining many of the themes left open-ended in the movie. In particular, how the central character, David Bowman ends his days in what is described as a kind of living museum or zoo, where he is observed by alien life forms.
Kubrick was never as explicit, and refused to be fully drawn over the film’s meaning, or its many differences from Clarke’s novel, usually stating that his intention had been to make a “really good science-fiction movie.”
In an interview with Playboy in 1968, Kubrick gave an answer on the meaning and purpose of human existence, which could almost be a description of 2001:
“The very meaninglessness of life forces man to create his own meaning. Children, of course, begin life with an untarnished sense of wonder, a capacity to experience total joy at something as simple as the greenness of a leaf; but as they grow older, the awareness of death and decay begins to impinge on their consciousness and subtly erode their joie de vivre, their idealism – and their assumption of immortality. As a child matures, he sees death and pain everywhere about him, and begins to lose faith in the ultimate goodness of man. But, if he’s reasonably strong – and lucky – he can emerge from this twilight of the soul into a rebirth of life’s elan. Both because of and in spite of his awareness of the meaninglessness of life, he can forge a fresh sense of purpose and affirmation. He may not recapture the same pure sense of wonder he was born with, but he can shape something far more enduring and sustaining. The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent; but if we can come to terms with this indifference and accept the challenges of life within the boundaries of death – however mutable man may be able to make them – our existence as a species can have genuine meaning and fulfillment. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.”
The documentary 2001: The Making of a Myth is introduced by James Cameron, who looks at the stories behind 2001: A Space Odyssey, examining why the film has endured and why it still generates such interest. With contributions form Arthur C. Clarke, Keir Dullea, Elvis Mitchell, and Douglas Trumbull.
A short clip from Come to London, British Pathé‘s featurette highlighting some of the attractions available in the Swinging Sixties’ capital. This is worth watching for the water-bike, but especially for Peter Sellers giving Britt Ekland a birthday cake in 1966.
Your favorite James Bond tends to be the one you saw first. I saw Sean Connery first in a double bill of Thunderball and You Only Live Twice, at the Astoria Cinema, Edinburgh. This was soon followed by Diamonds are Forever at the Playhouse. Of course, Connery being Scots means I am probably biased, but his Bond had what made the series work best - sophistication, humor and thrills.
If it came to a second choice? Well, Moore never seemed sure if he was playing Simon Templar or Lord Brett Sinclair, and by Octopussy, he was cast as a sub-Flashman character in a dismal script by Flashman author, George MacDonald Fraser. Timothy Dalton was too dull and way too serious, perhaps he should have played it more like Simon Skinner, a slightly unhinged secret service man with a license to kill. Pierce Brosnan was good but deserved far better scripts - his Bond should have eliminated the scriptwriters. And as for Daniel Craig - started well, but he looks like he’s in a different film franchise.
For me George Lazenby in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is the only possible second choice. He tried to make his Bond more humane, and kept much what was best in Connery’s interpretation. He was also assisted by a cracking script by Richard Maibaum (additional dialog by Simon “the mind of a cad and the pen of an angel” Raven); an excellent supporting of Diana Rigg as Countess Tracy di Vicenzo, and Telly Savalas as Ernst Stavro Blofeld; and one of the best opening theme tunes (and a glorious song sung by Louis Armstrong) of the series by John Barry.
Yet no matter what Lazenby did, or how good the film, he faced the momentous task of filling a role made by Sean Connery, and he was damned by a lot of critics for it. In this rarely seen interview, George Lazenby talks about the difficulties faced in making On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the rumors, the on-set niggles and why he was banned for growing a beard. First broadcast on the BBC, February 4th, 1970.
Roughly 6 months after their first gig (where they were billed as ‘The Yardbirds med Jimmy Page’) this is Led Zeppelin giving a hint as to why they will dominate venues and stadia across the world during the 1970s.
Recorded at the Gladsaxe Teen Club, Denmark, for TV Byen / Danmarks Radio on March 17, 1969, Led Zeppelin perform “Communication Breakdown”, “Dazed and Confused”, “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You”, and “How Many More Times”. Impressive and tight, this was what I considered as “grown-up Rock ‘n’ Roll” when I was young - the kind of music you studied after achieving good grades in Bowie and Bolan - and forty-three years on, it is still a cracking masterclass.
Established by James East in the 1950s, Burgess Hill School (aka the Beat School) in Hertfordshire, England, allowed its pupils to do what they wanted, in the belief this was the best way for youngsters to learn. Rules were frowned upon, and “Tradition,” it was claimed, “was clinging to the dead past.” Even smoking in class was tolerated, for as Headmaster East explained to Time Magazine in 1962:
“Kids always smoke, and I’d rather know about it than have it done in secret.”
Such openness encouraged the young uns to fulfill their potential, and find happiness in doing so, which is how it should be.
Like the best of the British Pathe clips, this short clip on Burgess Hill Beat School leaves you wanting to know more. What happened to the school? Did the experiment of a Beat School work? What did these children grow up to do? Where are they now? It would make for an interesting documentary on BBC 4, and one hopes a dozen researchers are penning such a proposal right now.
In June 2004, Dave Davies suffered a stroke as he was exiting a lift, in BBC’s Broadcasting House.
Suddenly the right hand side of my body seized up and I couldn’t move my arm or leg. Although I didn’t lose consciousness, I couldn’t speak. Luckily my son Christian and my publicist were there, so they carried me outside and called an ambulance.
Though he had warnings signs - waking up one morning to find he couldn’t move his right hand or speak when he opened his mouth - and was examined by a doctor, nothing indicated the imminence of his stroke. As Dave later wrote in the Daily Mail in 2006:
I was told I’d had a stroke - or, in medical terms, a cerebral infraction. An ‘infarct’ is an area of dead tissue and there was a patch of it on the left side of my brain - the bit that controls movement on the right side.
The doctors told me I had high blood pressure and that this was what had caused the stroke. They thought I’d probably had high blood pressure for at least ten years….
...Two weeks after my stroke, I finally plucked the courage to pick up my guitar. I held it across my lap, pressing on the strings. I could feel everything but the hand itself was virtually immobile.
I knew I was going to have to work very hard if I was to get better, and I started using meditation and visualisation. I thought if I could visualise myself running, walking and playing the guitar, it might prompt my brain to remember how I used to be.
It took Dave 18 months of physio, determination and hard work, to get “about 85 per cent back to normal”.
I believe my stroke was meant to happen to slow me down. I’d like to write and male films and start a foundation where I can help people be more spiritual…
...For now I appreciate my slower pace of life. I feel I have discovered an inner strength which I know will see me through any adversity.
Made in 2011, Julien Temple’s pastoral documentary Kinkdom Come is a touching portrait of the other half of The Kinks, Dave Davies.
Opening with Davies in the wilds of Exmoor, where he revels in the desolation and the quiet, Temple’s film moves through Dave’s life story, examining key moments in his childhood, his career as guitarist with The Kinks, his openness about sexuality, his (some would say torturous) relationship with his brother Ray, and the damagingly high cost of that all of his fame, success and position as “iconic Sixties figure” has cost him.
Throughout, Dave comes across as an honest, gentle soul, slightly lost, beautifully innocent, almost ethereal, as if he is a visitor from some other galaxy.
Dangerous Minds is a compendium of oddities, pop culture treasures, high weirdness, punk rock and politics drawn from the outer reaches of pop culture. Our editorial policy, such that it is, reflects the interests, whimsies and peculiarities of the individual writers. And sometimes it doesn't. Very often the idea is just "Here's what so and so said, take a look and see what you think."
I'll repeat that: We're not necessarily endorsing everything you'll find here, we're merely saying "Here it is." We think human beings are very strange and often totally hilarious. We enjoy weird and inexplicable things very much. We believe things have to change and change swiftly. It's got to be about the common good or it's no good at all. We like to get suggestions of fun/serious things from our good-looking, high IQ readers. We are your favorite distraction.