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TV Pop Diaries
Pop Music on British Television 1955 - 1999

From TV Times “Ayshea, hostess of the popular Discotheque show, and Graham Bonney are the resident hosts in this new swingalong series. Each week Lift Off features favourite recording artists and newcomers to the disc scene. Graham Bonney sings top pops and a request number and the backing is the super sound of the resident group, The Pattern. And adding their own exciting interpretations of the numbers are resident guests The Ken Martyne Dancers.” Ayshea had been recording since the mid-sixties and had been the possible third voice in a trio with Peter & Gordon.


Hosted by actress/singer Ayshea Brough and ‘Wondergirl’ hit-maker Graham Bonney Lift Off was the tea time pop show to see us through to the mid-seventies. A few acts would perform in the studio, while host Ayshea would usually sing one song herself and the dance troupe would be used for one or two numbers. Each week they would feature one act which had not as yet been signed by a record company. Producer Muriel Young told the Daily Mirror ahead of the first show "We put advertisements in the music papers for groups and solo artists to send tapes of their own work. The best of these artists we had in the studios for auditions and soon we will use in the programme. Apart from the eight to fourteen year olds who will be watching, we also hope to make the programme a must for record producers who are keen to sign up new entertainers." They were also introducing comedy and cartoons "which may pop up during an introduction, or even in the middle of a number."


One of the groups that impressed Young in the auditions were The Pattern who were signed to be the show's resident group.


As Producer Muriel Young explained to the Daily Mirror at the beginning of the second series, “There are a lot of fine young musicians and singers who could hit the top if only they knew how to go about it. We hope to give them the opportunity.” Talking to TV Times in 1976 Young talked of its targeted audience "I suggested giving them a television discotheque, Lift Off grew out of that idea and it proved my point that that TV pop wasn't dead - just incorrectly aimed."


Talking about the host to TV Times in 1973 Muriel Young said "I was looking for a girl the boys would like and the girls wouldn't be jealous of."


By the second series Ayshea had the hosting duties to herself, and the live audience has now gone, but she now had company in the shape of ex-Five O’Clock Club regular Fred Barker, voiced by Wally Whyton and operated by Ivan Owen. The Ken Martyne Dancers would be replaced by The Feet who in turn gave way to ZigZag.


At the start of the third series in 1971 Muriel Young asked the viewers what they’d like to see and after wading through 4000 letters the answer came back “mostly oldies. Pop singers like Elvis Presley, Andy Williams, and old film favourites such as Summer Holiday and The Sound of Music.” These requests would be granted with musical number clips from popular movies.


By the beginning of the new series in April 1972 the title had changed to Lift Off With Ayshea, recognising her popularity. Talking about the show she claimed “We had lots of fun. I presented a part of the show at a desk with the puppets Ollie Beak and Fred Barker and the crew would tie my shoelaces together or undo my dress zip and I’d then have to sing live.”


Notable shows included 30th December 1970 when Sweet promoted ‘Funny Funny’ kicking off the pop end of the glam era, while 21st June 1972 David Bowie introduced ‘Starman’ to the world, a few weeks ahead of the more famous Top Of The Pops clip. Ayshea's beau at the time Roy Wood made several appearances one the show, even making a single for Harvest together. The show also gave time to the first incarnation of Alvin Stardust, Peter Shelley, who vowed never to do it again and employing former rocker Shane Fenton to take over. Marc Bolan appeared on the show in December 1973 claiming “I did this show because I like Fred Barker.”

The show featured pretty much all the great glam acts of the era, but sadly only three shows are thought to exist, alongside a few isolated clips. Talking to the Sunday Express in December 2016 about the archive wiping she said “I couldn’t believe it when I found out. Apparently Granada TV was transferring them to digital and instead of getting rid of the three tapes that were repeats, they ditched the 141 originals. It’s heartbreaking.” It transpires that three tapes were all that existed anyway, however it's likely that some privately recorded off-air black and white tapes of some shows might exist.



LIFT OFF / LIFT OFF WITH AYSHEA


Granada

5th November 1969 to 17th December 1974