The weekend starts here

No Score column this week, as the Globe is filled with year-in-review summations (including David Weininger’s envy-inducingly efficient classical-music précis). But, had there been one, I would have highlighted an intriguing anniversary, that of the final broadcast of ITV’s pop-music program Ready Steady Go!, transmitted on December 23, 1966. The show only ran for three years, but has maintained an outsized aura, both within the nostalgia-industrial complex (RSG! has always been a far more common marker of “the 1960s” in Britain than, say, Top of the Pops, which debuted a few months after RSG!, but stayed on the air for decades), and (more interestingly to me) in the general way that popular culture is packaged and consumed. At the very least, the way the show cultivated an air of unpolished fandom—making a star out of its then-inexperienced presenter, Cathy McGowan; giving ample, unrehearsed interview time to its performers—seeded a certain idea of pop-music authenticity that remains in play. That an (often-illusory) projection of rawness and unsophistication still reads as more “real” than the opposite is, at least partly, a legacy of RSG!.

The show’s other great innovation was ditching mimed performances in favor of live ones, something that must have seemed positively revolutionary at the time. Witness one of the show’s finest hours, this episode, featuring a Fujita-scale performance by Otis Redding (in his UK television debut):

That’s also one of the few examples of RSG! available for viewing, legally or not: the rights to the show are currently owned by Dave Clark (of Dave Clark Five fame), and re-broadcasts of the surviving tapes have been few and far in between. Maybe most episodes weren’t as good as people remember, but even still, I would guess that a complete experience of the unfiltered, week-to-week ephemeral enthusiasm of RSG! would be a fascinating time capsule.

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