There was no reason to believe that the 1st January 1960 would be any different to the 31st December 1959 and it wasn’t, but what would happen between the 1st January 1960 and 31st December 1969 would lead anyone to believe that it wasn’t even the same century, let alone the same decade.
The Tommys and the Cliffs would be television regulars for the first three years. They were popular, safe, reliable and good value. They could handle singing, dancing if necessary, comedy routines, duets with guests, everything was at least given a good go. The Val Parnell factory continued to turn out Spectaculars for ATV with not only Cliff, but also new finds like Adam Faith and there was really no sense from anyone concerned that this was about to end, but end it did. They had no idea of what was to hit them in 1963, but until then they were gainfully employed to hoof it around Elstree singing medleys with Alma Cogan and Petula Clark, introducing the latest singing sensation from France, playing straight man feeding lines to Arthur Haynes and wrapping it up with an old hit. A good menu for a night in. Only diversions like The Twist would occasionally change the flavour.
The decade started with the end of Mr Rock and Roll Television, Jack Good. Boys Meets Girls, his second series for ABC would come to an end just before occasional guest Eddie Cochran died in April 1960, while his third show Wham! would also only last one series and would rely too much on charisma free British singers. Good would leave the UK and take his Oh, Boy! formula to the USA. His ventures were seen as a failure and now Pop TV was back in the hands of established station producers. This, together with the decision made in June 1960 that pop only shows were to be abandoned in favour of pop singers and trad jazz bands being parachuted into existing variety formats would have been seen as surrender, but in reality television was only reacting the perceived disinterest that the public was having with pop music at the time. No new major pop stars had been made since the 'Oh, Boy!' era, but we now know they didn't have to wait long for Merseybeat to come to our rescue.
Pop only shows were not new, Jack Good had shown the way, but it was still surprising
that ABC were willing to give it another go, and on Saturday tea-
1962 came along and station producers still clung on to trad jazz acts, which was
only fair, Mr Acker Bilk's 'Stranger On The Shore' wasn't only the biggest single
of 1961 in the UK, but in America too the following year. Ex-
The failing pop music scene was still regularly represented on both ITV and BBC from
parlour games like Juke Box Jury through to Saturday tea-
Producers wanting to put pop stars on television more often than not reduced them
to singing / lip synching to their new release and not to engage then in banter with
the host unless it was strictly scripted. The wit of the new, mostly Scouse talent
like The Beatles, Cilla Black, Gerry Marsden that came through in 1963 was a unexpected
birthday present to producers who made friends with Brian Epstein immediately and
gave him access to the kind of theatre and television contacts that he only would
have got had be been a success at RADA. Pop music had never been considered regional
before the term Merseybeat had been cast, but there it was and North-
Commercial television had pretty much taken the lead due to the BBC's disinterest and lack of money. It was obvious that 'Juke Box Jury' was showing its age and they felt that had to respond properly this time. The BBC's Light Entertainment boss Bill Cotton Jr had the idea to respond to Rediffusion's Ready, Steady, Go! with a show which only featured songs in the chart, which the public would already know from the radio, rather than featuring unknowns and imports from America. Top Of The Pops launched on New Year's Day to good ratings and a good reception for the four DJs who would work in a weekly rotation. The show would not be without its problems. The decision to broadcast from Manchester would restrict the number of visiting American acts, while many British acts who moved to London would have to take the ageing plane specially set aside for the show northwards. On some occasion the weather would determine who would appear on the show and who wouldn't. After an experiment in summer 1965 the show moved to London permanently in January 1966. 1964 also saw the introduction of an alternative channel, BBC2 which would almost immediately gain its own Ready, Steady, Go! knock off, the sadly forgotten (due to lack of remaining footage) Beat Room.
Most of the regional ITA stations would contribute something to the pot during the
year, TWW's Discs A Go-
1965 wouldn't see much of a change with practically all the major shows remaining,
with only Beat Room failing to get a Happy New Year, being as it was replaced by
the clumsy sounding Gadzooks It's All Happening. However Rediffusion were plotting
Ready, Steady Go!'s demise as many of their ITV partners had started to replace the
show, seeing its tea-
However 1966 would be the watershed year for pop music on British television. Despite
the special status we now grant the year, voted in many polls as the greatest year
for pop music ever, it was bad news for Ready, Steady, Go!, Thank Your Lucky Stars,
Shindig! (in the USA) and very nearly the end of the line for Top Of The Pops too.
Ratings fell for many of the shows we now see as untouchable classics and overhauls
were plotted and planned. ATV's new soap Crossroads had been successful and other
ITV stations had chosen to go with that instead at tea-
1967 wouldn't see new replacements for the mod and teenage shows as the flower children
didn't watch television, preferring to make their own happenings, and while over-
Despite our collective memories of these wonderful shows, in most instances those memories are the only things that have survived. So many of those shows were wipes, or not even recorded in the first place. And despite our love for these shows that love was not shared by the British public at large as so few of these shows ever made it to the TV ratings chart.
The only major occurrence in the history of pop on British television in the latter half of the sixties would be the pop star as variety show host. Previously it would be established comedy teams or all round entertainers given the host's job, but by 1969, Lulu, Cilla, Sandie Shaw, Tom Jones, and even Scott Walker were given their own series. Lulu and Cilla, together with Cliff Richard would indulge the usual variety mix of songs, comedy and dance routines which proved so popular at the beginning of the sixties. But something was missing, a little colour perhaps?