On November 20 & 24, Heritage Auctions in Beverly Hills will be holding a huge event, the Animation Art Signature Auction. The sale features a ton of truly amazing items—there are animation cels from classic Disney films (plus some Disneyland concept art paintings), Mr. Magoo, Dr. Seuss, Peanuts and many more. The public can walk through the items starting on the 19th. All in all, there will be 126,980 lots for sale.
But what is of special interest are the 80 pieces from The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine film, which are expected to collectively sell for over $125,000. Still, at this point, with the auction two weeks away, some of the Yellow Submarine cels are pretty cheap. Some haven’t even been bid on, while others are ranging from $20 to a few thousand dollars.
By now it’s an article of faith that the Beatles are great, the Beatles were the best band that ever was, the Beatles changed the world, and the Beatles wrote and recorded the best ten thousand songs that ever were. Naturally the scale of the Beatles’ success, especially in the first 2-3 years after they broke, is a big part of the story. The near-universal love for the Beatles on the part of teenage listeners everywhere caused a massive disruption to the entertainment market—in the mythology of the Beatles, it was what World War I was to modernism.
The Beatles remain as big as ever, but the weird detritus that accompanied their rise, well, that tends to fade. So we kind of ... forget that for a time there, dozens and dozens of acts copied, mimicked, “were inspired by” the Beatles, and not all of them were especially scrupulous about the consumer understanding whether their LPs were really from the Beatles or really from ... BJ Brock and the Sultans, or the Manchesters or The Original or the Blue Beats or on and on. Actually I think these albums were mostly directed at the teens’ parents who wouldn’t have the ability to remember just what moptop band young Gidget kept babbling about at the breakfast table this morning. You can just envision the heated conversation a day later: “Daaaaaaaaaaad, this isn’t the right one! I wanted the Beatles!!” “How was I supposed to know!? It says ‘Beatlemania’ right there!”
I ran across this video several years ago, and it never fails to amuse and inform. In keeping with the mock-academic trappings of the informal “Adult Education” lecture series held at Park Slope’s Union Hall, its title is “Yeah Yeah ... Uh, No: Exploring the Audiovisual Phenomenon of Beatles-Lookalike Long-Playing Albums,” but it’s really a vastly entertaining slide show, a comprehensive look at the year or two in which the marketplace saw a glut of albums masquerading as Beatles product. Few people know this terrain better than WFMU DJ Gaylord Fields, and it’s a pleasure to behold his geeky wonder (and corny jokes) at the naked greed and deception on display here. Misleading text and pictures, outright lies, all in the name of conning people into thinking that some band’s bassist just might be George Harrison if you squinted just so. It’s a parable for our times, a parable ... of America.
Really this is a lesson about capitalism first and foremost. You can’t have a mass phenomenon without a mass market, and, as Fields rightly emphasizes, the real start of the story isn’t so much the Beatles themselves but rather the reaction of countless record executives waking up the morning after the Beatles’ appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show determined to sell a Beatles album come hell or high water, whether the Beatles were involved or not. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and popularity inspires copycats.
In the August 1966, The Kinks’ Ray Davies reviewed The Beatles’ latest album, Revolver, for Disc and Music Echo Magazine. He didn’t like it. In fact he thought it was garbage, or “rubbish” as we Brits say, and that was even after listening to each track three or four times.
BEATLES and Brian Epstein were so delighted with “Eleanor Rigby” and “Yellow Submarine”, two of the tracks on the new “Revolver” LP out next Friday (August 5), that they’re also being issued a single for the same date.
But if that celebrated songwriter Ray Davies is a reliable judge, the Beatles have made a big mistake. Ray thinks Miss Rigby was definitely dedicated to John and Paul’s music teacher back in primary school; while “Submarine” should sink into a dustbin. “It’s a load of rubbish, really”, remarks Ray.
Disc and Music Echo decided to turn over the task of reviewing the Revolver album - and the Kink certainly spoke his mind.
Here’s the album, track by track, with Ray’s inter-round summaries:
“Taxman” - “It sounds like a cross between the Who and Batman. It’s a bit limited, but the Beatles get over this by the sexy double-tracking. It’s surprising how sexy double-tracking makes a voice sound.”
“Eleanor Rigby” - “I bought a Haydn LP the other day and this sounds just like it. It’s all sort of quartet stuff and it sounds like they’re out to please music teachers in primary schools. I can imagine John saying: ‘I’m going to write this for my old schoolmistress’. Still it’s very commercial.”
“I’m Only Sleeping” - “It’s a most beautiful song, much prettier than “Eleanor Rigby”. A jolly old thing, really, and definitely the best track on the album.
“Love You Too” - “George wrote this - he must have quite a big influence on the group now. This sort of song I was doing two years ago - now I’m doing what the Beatles were doing two years ago. It’s not a bad song - it’s well performed which is always true of a Beatles track.”
“Here There and Everywhere” - “This proves that the Beatles have got good memories, because there are a lot of busy chords in it. It’s nice - like one instrument with the voice and the guitar merging. Third best track on the album.”
“Yellow Submarine” - “This is a load of rubbish, really. I take the mickey out of myself on the piano and play stuff like this. I think they know it’s not that good.”
“She Said She Said” - “This song is in to restore confidence in old Beatles sound. That’s all.”
“Good Day Sunshine” - “This’ll be a giant. It doesn’t force itself on you, but it stands out like “I’m Only Sleeping”. This is back to the real old Beatles. I just don’t like the electronic stuff. The Beatles were supposed to be like the boy next door only better.”
“And Your Bird Can Sing” - “Don’t like this. The song’s too predictable. It’s not a Beatles song at all.”
“Dr. Robert” - “It’s good - there’s a 12-bar beat and bits in it that are clever. Not my sort of thing, though.”
“I Want To Tell You” - “This helps the LP through though it’s not up to the Beatles standard.”
“Got To Get You Into My Life” - “Jazz backing - and it just goes to prove that Britain’s jazz musicians can’t swing. Paul’s sings better jazz than the musicians are playing which makes nonsense of people saying jazz and pop are very different. Paul sounds like Little Richard. Really, it’s the most vintage Beatles track on the LP.”
“Tomorrow Never Knows” - “Listen to all those crazy sounds! It’ll be popular in discotheques. I can imagine they had George Martin tied to a totem pole when they did this.”
So, after listening to each track three or four times, the Ray Davies verdict:
“This is the first Beatles LP I’ve really listened to in it’s entirety but I must say there are better songs on Rubber Soul. Still, “I’m Only Sleeping” is a standout. “Good Day Sunshine” is second best and I also like “Here, There and Everywhere.” But I don’t want to be harsh about the others. The balance and recording technique are as good as ever.”
There you have it…
The Beatles—‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ (Take One) Semi-Acappela.
The Beatles—‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ Isoalted Guitar Solo—not backwards.
The Beatles—‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ Partial backing tape—Isolated Drums and Bass.
The Beatles—‘Tomorrow Never Knows’—Tape Loops.
The Beatles—‘Tomorrow Never Knows’—Drums and Vocals.
Forget The Beatles. Forget The Mersey Sound. Liverpool’s biggest star during the 1960s was the comedian Ken Dodd. Oh, yes!. So great was Doddy’s fame that his only rival was The Beatles.
Dodd was a box-office smash at clubs and theaters across the country, had hit TV shows (including the brilliant kids series Ken Dodd and The Diddymen, and had a recording career that saw him out-selling most pop bands, achieving nineteen hit singles, with his hit track “Tears” becoming the biggest-selling single in the U.K. for 1965. Indeed, after The Beatles, Dodd is Britain’s biggest-selling pop star for the 1960s.
Ken Dodd was born in the Liverpool district of Knotty Ash in November 1927. He started his career (rather nervously) as a Music Hall comedian in 1954. By the early sixties, Dodd was the biggest comic in the country. With his electric-shock hairstyle, buck teeth and tickling sticks, having Doddy on any bill guaranteed a truly “tattifelarius” evening, which would leave the audience “absolutely discumknockerated.”
In 1964, Dodd had an unprecedented and record-breaking 42-week sell-out season at the London Palladium. It was also during the Swinging Sixties that Doddy earned his place in the Guinness Book of Records for the world’s longest ever joke-telling session, where he told 1,500 jokes in three-and-a-half hours (which works out at 7.14 jokes per minute), at a performance in Liverpool.
While The Beatles split, and the pop world went Punk, Disco, Acid and Grunge, Doddy continued his exuberant comic career, with sell-out tours, and long summer seasons at the seaside resort of Blackpool.
Now, incredibly, 86-years-of-age, Doddy still tours with his comedy shows (Happiness Shows), which can still last up to five hours.
In 1976, Ken Dodd gave presenter Michael Barratt a personal tour of his hometown Liverpool for the magazine programme Nationwide. It’s a delightful snapshot of one of the U.K. most loved comedians.
Bonus clip of Ken Dodd and The Beatles, plus a selection of his record covers, after the jump…
In early 1968, Hollywood producer Si Litvinoff was trying to find a director for Terry Southern’s screenplay adaptation of Anthony Burgess’ novella, A Clockwork Orange. He sent the script around to the likes of John Boorman, Roman Polanski, Tinto Brass, Ken Russell, Nicolas Roeg and John Schlesinger with cover letters suggesting that The Beatles were interested in doing the soundtrack and that Mick Jagger or David Hemmings would be good for the lead Droog “Alex,” the role that went to Malcolm McDowell in Stanley Kubrick’s film.
At one point Jagger actually owned the rights to the Burgess novella—he bought them for about $500 at time when Anthony Burgess was apparently flat broke—and then later sold them at a nice profit to Litvinoff.
When the news reached the Stones camp that Hemmings was the favorite for the role, not Mick, Marianne Faithfull, all of The Beatles, Candy director Christian Marquand, artist Peter Blake and several others sent a note to Terry Southern:
DEAR MR SOUTHERN, WE, THE UNDERSIGNED, DO HEREBY PROTEST WITH EXTREME VEHEMENCE AS WELL AS SHATTERED ILLUSIONS (IN YOU) THE PREFERENCE OF DAVID HEMMINGS ABOVE ****** MICK JAGGER ****** IN THE ROLE OF ALEX IN ‘THE CLOCKWORK ORANGE’...
In 1964 Great Britain celebrated the 400th birthday of William Shakespeare. In 1964 one subject on everybody’s mind was The Beatles, who had become a nationwide sensation the previous year. It was obvious: Why not combine the two?
That’s exactly what happened on a show called Around The Beatles, which seems to have been a variety show with many musical segments. For the Shakespeare bit, the concept was to peform the rude mechanicals’ performance of the “play within a play” about Pyramus and Thisbe from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Paul plays Bottom/Pyramus, John plays Flute/Thisbe, George plays Starveling/Moonshine, and Ringo plays Snug/the Lion. The show was taped and aired the same week as Shakespeare’s birthday—and, as it happens, his death day (they’re the same: April 23).
Mad Magazine uses Shakespeare to twit the Beatles, 1965
Following days of rehearsal, Around the Beatles (at least, the portions requiring the Beatles’ presence) was apparently filmed in just over an hour this evening.
[Then comes] the Beatles’ Shakespearean debut, performing the “play within a play” from act V, scene 1 of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Paul and John take the roles of doomed lovers Pyramus and Thisbe, hamming up their parts enjoyably. Ringo plays the fierce lion, while George is Moonshine, complete with “lanthorn,” thorn-bush, and dog.
They stick to the general outline of the Bard’s text, altering the dialogue when necessary. ‘Then know that I, one Snug the joiner, am/A lion-fell, nor else no lion’s dam; For, if I should as lion come in strife/Into this place, ‘twere pity on my life” becomes “Then know that I, one Ringo the drummer, am; For, if I was really a lion, I wouldn’t be making all the money I am today, would I?” Members of [the backing band] Sounds Incorporated fill in for Theseus, Demetrius, and Hipployta, interrupting the “play” with heckling comments, such as “Roll over, Shakespeare!” and “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.”
Eventually, their constant interruptions ad the scereams of the audience become distracting, but seeing a golden-wigged and deep-voiced John tell Paul “My love thou art, I think” makes it all worhwhile. The “lovers” conclude with “Thus Thisbe ends: Adieu, adieu, adieu,” segueing into “I Do Like to Be Beside the Seaside.”
Paul does a very serviceable job as Pyramus; the same is true of George as “the Moon”—and the atmosphere in the room could hardly be better, with tons of playful, even collegiate call and response between the performers and the audience, who seem to be in a very intimate space. John, as Thisbe, wore a ridiculous blond wig and had blackened out one of his front teeth. Ringo as the lion is simply hilarious.
In 1967 and 1968 the Beatles were feeling ambitious. They founded Apple Records. They also started a division called Apple Films run by an associate named Denis O’Dell who had been instrumental in getting A Hard Day’s Night made. Apple Films was more successful than people remember—it released the Beatles’ 1967 TV movie Magical Mystery Tour, the theatrical Beatles releases Yellow Submarine and Let it Be, 1972’s The Concert for Bangladesh, and a few others, including the 1974 John Hurt cult movie Little Malcolm and the T.Rex concert film, Born to Boogie, which was directed by Ringo Starr.
One of the projects the Beatles were interested in pursuing—particularly John—was a Beatles adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.
In 2002 Paul McCartney ran into Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson at the Academy Awards and told him of the Beatles’ plans. Jackson told Wellington’s Evening Post newspaper, “It was something John was driving and J.R.R. Tolkien still had the film rights at that stage but he didn’t like the idea of the Beatles doing it. So he killed it.”
John Lennon wanted to play the grasping, thieving creature Gollum in a 1960s Beatles version of the “Lord of the Rings,” New Zealand movie director Peter Jackson told Wellington’s Evening Post newspaper.
George Harrison was to play the wise wizard Gandalf who advises the hobbit Frodo in his quest to destroy the evil golden ring at the center of the epic tale of good versus evil, one of the most popular books of the 20th century.
Ringo Starr was to play Frodo’s devoted sidekick Sam, while Lennon would take the part of the hobbit-like creature that tracks the heroes throughout the story, trying to get his hands on the powerful ring
Mockup of a fake—yes, fake—soundtrack for a Beatles/Kubrick Lord of the Rings movie
Notice there’s no mention of who Paul would have played. Some sources say he would have played Frodo. To direct, The Beatles wanted to get either David Lean or Stanley Kubrick. According to Fab: An Intimate Life of Paul McCartney by Howard Sounes, John wanted to play Gandalf.
Why Tolkien’s animus towards the Fab Four? It’s not entirely clear, but Matthew Schmitz at First Things does point out the following:
In a 1964 letter to Christopher Bretherton, Tolkien complained about “radio, tele, dogs, scooters, buzzbikes, and cars of all sizes but the smallest” making noise “from early morn to about 2 a.m.”
“In addition,” Tolkien wrote, “in a house three doors away dwells a member of a group of young men who are evidently aiming to turn themselves into a Beatle Group. On days when it falls to his turn to have a practice session the noise is indescribable.”
We don’t have the Beatles Lord of the Rings movie, but we do have the inevitable YouTube mashup—here’s a bunch of LOTR footage matched up to a big chunk of Side 2 of Abbey Road.
Maybe I’m jaded, maybe I’m unprincipled, or maybe I’ve just completely internalized the wanton commodification of art, but I can’t find it in me to be outraged whenever I hear a favorite song in a commercial. These days, for bands old and new, it’s a way to be heard and maybe make a little money. Any shock has just worn off for me. Jonathan Richman’s music advertised rum, Das Racist did Kmart, Hunx and His Punx hocked bifocals for Lenscrafters, and The Buzzcocks were featured in commercials for both Subaru and the AARP. Clearly, “respectable” artists gotta make that paper, too.
But esteemed music in major ad campaigns hasn’t always been old hat. In 1987, Nike purchased the rights to The Beatles’ “Revolution,” (from the always tasteful Michael Jackson, no less), for a then-unprecedented half a million dollars. The remaining Beatles were so opposed to the use of the song they attempted to sue, but before the artists themselves took action, the backlash among fans was already intense. The letter below is an absolutely blistering condemnation of Nike’s use of the song, so much so that it’s rumored to hang framed at Nike’s corporate office. The guy is really mad.
March 30, 1987
3900 SW Murray
Beverton, OR 97005
Dear Sir or Madam:
This letter of complaint is in response to a very nauseating advertisement of yours which I saw on television yesterday. From your complete lack of taste you have created a commercial for your “Michael Jordan” shoes which exploits, defiles and utterly insults Beatles’ fans, and all others of musical distinction. Your debasement of the Beatles’ song, “Revolution”, in the commercial ad is apparently indicative of your lack of integrity as a business. Your tactic, obviously, is to use the Beatles’ universal popularity to sell your product. Have you sunk that low? “Is nothing sacred anymore?”, as the cliche’ goes? Your only motive is to make more money for your greedy selves, and in the process you seemingly could not care less that you have trampled and befouled the precious memories of millions and millions of people throughout the entire world. Your kind makes me puke; you low, vacuous, malodorous perverts. Your dearth of sensitivity is equaled only by your plethora of obnoxiousness. To your credit, you have waited nearly seven years since the death of John Ono Lennon; but it was obviously not done out of respect (Huh? What’s that?) for the deceased.
Throughout my high school years as a basketball player, on to my college years, and up to present day, I have bought your athletic shoes. However, as of this very day, I can assure you that I, and many of my friends, will never, EVER, contribute in any way whatsoever to your sickeningly corporate-selling tactics. You know, with people like you in the world, euthanasia has untapped possibilities.
Thank you, and I hope you choke.
Very untruly yours,
I have to say, on some level, I admire this guy. Sure it’s self-righteous, but it also shows a resilience in the face of cultural capitalism. He’s uncynical, still truly believing in the sacredness of music. It’s a utopian idea—art protected from commodification—and I sort of like the idea that there might still some folks out there this mad about commercialization (perhaps, though, the use of The Kinks’ “Picture Book” in that Hewlett-Packard commercial sent him over the edge of sanity).
Me, though, I’m too broke to be principled. I’m well aware that I have my price. Hank, can I get an “amen?”
Other than a personal item, or the infamous, quickly withdrawn “Butcher” cover that saw The Beatles smiling broadly covered in baby dolls and steaks, this limited edition of their Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album, with a cover featuring 40 Capitol Records executives’ faces, is perhaps the most unusual Beatles collectible that I’ve ever heard of. One of them is being auctioned off:
Beatles Ultra Rare Album CoverSgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Capitol SMAS 2653, 1967). Most collectors think of the censored “butcher cover” when the topic of rare Beatles album covers comes up. But this super-rare version featuring 40 Capitol Records executives’ faces rather than the original collage of celebrities is much more scarce - it’s believed only 40-50 copies were ever produced! They were distributed at a Capitol party, essentially one for each of the executives pictured! In a special poll conducted for the December, 2011 issue of the UK’s Record Collector this cover was ranked #1 on a list of the world’s most expensive record covers, valued at approximately £70,000 or more than $100,000. Noted Beatles expert Perry Cox describes it as “among the rarest and most interesting artifacts produced during the original era of the Beatles.”
The custom cover came out in late 1967 after the initial pressings earlier that year, and bears the “All Rights Reserved ...” print at the the bottom right back cover and “NEMS Ent ...” at the lower right back cover. “With a Little Help From My Friends” is printed correctly on the record, another marker of the later 1967 pressing.
This particular copy belonged to Marvin Beisel, Capitol’s national sales director and one of the executives pictured on the cover. The auction estimate? $15,000 and up. Click HERE for a larger view.
Thank you kindly to Mr. Apollo, who can uproot trees with his bare hands…
When The Beatles released their eponymous double album (aka the White Album) in 1968, each of the original copies were stamped with an individual number starting with “A0000001.”
For years, “A0000001” was considered not to exist, and if it did, would most certainly belong to one of The Beatles, right? Well, it now turns out that there is indeed a Beatles’ White Album, numbered “A0000001” and it is about to be auctioned as “Lot 46154” by Heritage Auctions, with an opening bid of $10,000.
The owner is David Mincks, who purchased the album from Clifford J. Yamasaki of Let It Be Records in San Francisco, on April 2, 1989.
The album comes with all of its original inserts, and a letter of authentication from Mr. Yamasaki, which reads:
“This is to certify that ___ purchased Beatles ‘White Album’ number: A0000001 in mint condition on this date. It is one of approximately two dozen copies given out as early promotional items to the Beatles and top Capitol Records executives. I purchased said copy from one of the above executives in the early 1970’s. Said executive was head of the classical division at Capitol Records. The ‘White Album’ number A0000001 was shown at a Beatles Convention one time only. ‘White Album’ copies with this number A0000001 were never sealed with records or sold to the public. I certify that all of the above is true and correct.”
In December 2012, The Beatles White Album number #A0000023, was sold for $13,750 (Lot 46242) after “a battle between seven bidders,” so you can imagine what this beauty is going to make.
If you fancy adding this important record to your collection, then put your bid in here.
Below, artist Richard Hamilton tells the story of one of the only records to become known by its artwork rather than its actual title. In Hamilton’s own words, it was “possibly the first ever conceptual record cover.”
Every year, scores of tourists and locals alike attempt to recreate the famous Abbey Road crosswalk scene, even folks who might otherwise find such efforts at photographic performance “cheesy.” Director Chris Purcell elegantly employs the dulcet tones of Liverpudlian performance poet and literary polymath Roger McGough, creating this soothing mediation on photography, iconography that spans generations, and the passage of time.
Fun fact: Roger McGough once wrote a poem entitled, “To Macca’s Trousers,” about a pair of Sir Paul’s pants given to McGough by The Beatle’s younger brother, Mike McGear.
The Beatles opened their first Apple Corp. business enterprise, the Apple Boutique, at 94 Baker Street in London, on December 7, 1967. Technically it was simply called the Apple “shop,” because John Lennon disapproved of using the word “boutique.” The exterior of the shop, described by Paul McCartney as “a beautiful place where beautiful people can buy beautiful things,” was originally covered in a bright, swirling psychedelic mural designed and painted by Dutch art collective, The Fool (Simon Posthuma, Marijke Koeger, Josje Leeger, along with Simon Hayes, and Barry Finch). This mural was painted over after outcry from nearby businesses and an order from the Westminster City Council. The 18th-century Georgian building contained demo recording studios upstairs as well as in the basement, with the clothing and groovy accessories boutique on the main floor.
What do you need when you start an ambitious business enterprise with Eastern spiritual leanings and a hippie sensibility?
Of course, you’d require a professional on-staff astrologer.
Caleb Ashburton-Dunning was hired not only as the assistant manager of the Apple boutique but as the house astrologer to do daily horoscopes for the Beatles when asked and charts for any special event or problem. He worked out of a small office in the Apple building. His fiancee, a graphic artist named Mishi, worked as a salesgirl downstairs. Ashburton-Dunning did the majority of his astrological work for John Lennon and Yoko Ono until he had a falling out with John.
Jazz and progressive rock guitarist and bassist Roger Bunn (who later joined Pete Brown’s band Piblokto!) used the upstairs recording studio at Apple. He wrote in his unpublished memoirs, The Right Side of the Tracks, in 2000:
“I first met Mishi through Diana’s friend Caleb Ashburton-Dunning, the Beatles astrologer, and manager of the Apple shop. Wherein, after Djinn had split, and while James Taylor recorded his demos in the basement, I was on the top floor recording “Life is a Circus” [later recorded by David Bowie]. Caleb had since left Apple in disgrace, reason being he told John Lennon to drop Yoko and return to Cynthia. Unfortunately, for Caleb Ashburton-Dunning, he was also in the process of going acid-ape.”
Ashburton-Dunning was devastated over being fired by Lennon simply for predicting that his relationship with Yoko Ono would not go well. He turned to the The Process Church of the Final Judgment, a bizarre new religious organization that had its headquarters in London.
The Process Church was founded by an English couple, Robert Moor (later calling himself Robert DeGrimston) and Mary Anne MacLean, who were former Scientologists. The Process were derided as Satanists because their teachings included the need to worship Jehovah, Satan, Lucifer, and Christ equally. This organization faltered in the mid-1970s and underwent many attempts at revival and renewal, eventually morphing into the Best Friends Animal Society, an animal rescue group.
Ashburton-Dunning seems to have disappeared after the initial disbanding of The Process. Mishi divorced him in 1969 and became the long-time common law wife of Roger Bunn.
In the clip below, from the 1968 comedy ‘Hot Millions,’ a young Maggie Smith shops at the Apple Boutique as Bob Newhart looks on.
Roger McGough reads “Blazing Fruit or The Poet as Entertainer,” and talks to critic Michael Billington about his approach to writing poetry.
McGough came to fame in the 1960s, along with Brian Patten and the late Adrian Henri, as part of the Liverpool Poets. Their seminal volume of collected poems The Mersey Sound, brought poetry out of the academies and into the coffee-houses, bars, and working men’s clubs of swinging England. As McGough said at the time:
The kids didn’t see this poetry with a capital p, they understood it as modern entertainment, as part of the pop-movement.
Associated with The Beatles, as part of the “Liverpool Explosion,” McGough went onto form the popular music, comedy and poetry group The Scaffold, with comic John Gorman, and Paul McCartney’s brother, Mike McGear, which famously led to a number 1 hit “Lily the Pink” in 1968. McGough later teamed-up with Neil Innes for GRIMMS, and since the mid-1970s has been one of Britain’s best known and best loved poets.
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.