“The weekend starts here!” was the opening catchphrase for Ready, Steady, Go!—the preferred pop show of choice for millions of British youth between 1963 and 1966. Filmed in a small studio in central London, Ready, Steady, Go! was the first pop show (from 1965 onwards) to present bands playing live—unlike its rival Top of the Pops that continued with predominantly mimed performances until the late 1990s.
Though it may not seem it now, Ready, Steady, Go! was revolutionary television when first broadcast, leading one TV historian to see the program as “a line of demarcation drawn between one kind of Britain and another.”
The “Queen of Mods,” Cathy McGowan was the program’s best known host, who had originally been hired as a production advisor after replying to an advert looking for “a typical teenager.” Other presenters included the (middle-aged) Keith Fordyce and (briefly) singer Sandie Shaw. Unlike most music shows at the time, Ready, Steady, Go! brought in a live audience that could be seen dancing, cavorting and occasionally mobbing the acts.
The show also benefited from allowing artists to play full versions of their songs, and one of the highlights was the specials featuring bands like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Animals showcasing recent hits. Between ‘65 and ‘66, The Rolling Stones made two showcases performing a variety of tracks including “Under My Thumb,” “Paint It Black” and “Satisfaction.” These sets have since been edited together as a Ready, Steady Go!: Rolling Stones Special which was aired on Channel 4 some thirty-odd years after first broadcast.
Some of you will have seen parts of this show before (most likely The Stones’ mimed performance of Sonny and Cher’s “I’ve Got You Babe”) but here is the program in its entirety—and this is certainly one to watch before it’s pulled down.