The Age of Innocence
n what will hopefully be regular feature on Stylus (as long as that dude who filmed Reginald Denny getting beaten from a helicopter doesn’t get his way), we present our stash of YouTube clips worth watching. Or not worth watching. Or worth watching because they’re not worth watching. You get the point. On with the show…
Speaking of indie music critics, Rob Christgau recently said, “If these guys would like to leave their world, and especially go back in history, that’s much harder.” YouTube may be the most lucrative time waster of 2006, but it also affords us the kind of time travel the esteemed Voice veteran was speaking of.
In light of Top of the Pops’ recent demise, let’s note how irrelevant the show became by showcasing a selection of performances from Ready Steady Go!, TOTP’s short-lived rival. While RSG!, like its BBC counterpart, began in 1963 as a series of taped “mime acts,” many of the artists soon started performing live. This drew the admiration of TOTP veterans and would-be’s, who were forced to use backing tracks or lip-synch entirely. RSG! was responsible for one of Jimi Hedrix’s earliest live appearances (which still eludes YouTube). And though it’s hard for Generations X and Y to believe, the show was also known to have the likes of the Who, the Beatles, and the Beach Boys all in the space of one half-hour episode.
RSG! is now sequestered to such realms as Canadian music channel MuchMusic, the occasional documentary cameo, and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’s only TV channel, where I was fortunate enough to first see the clips below. Now such gems of the past are available to any internet user, along with a plethora of fan renditions. Each of the clips below amply shows that the program, which was cancelled in ’66, was all about the lovely moments before Things Got A Little Crazy.
The Rolling Stones – Little Red Rooster
This is one of the Stones’ earliest TV performances, from November 1964. The jury’s out on whether the guys are actually playing their instruments, but you can be sure Jagger isn’t singing. The band’s nubile innocence is startling, but then so is Jagger’s unnerving eye contact with the camera—perhaps one of the earliest indications of the womanizing and enviable haircuts to come. Surprisingly, apart from the blood-curdling scream at the beginning of the performance, the stylish girls in the audience are sedate throughout.
The Beach Boys – I Get Around; When I Grow Up
Also filmed in November of ’64, the Beach Boys were performing live in the U.K. for the first time, much to the delight of the ga-ga female audience. Here the boys, in matching striped button-downs, actuallysing two songs. These are sandwiched by an awkward, inaudible interview with host Keith Fordyce in which Wilson explains that surf music is “just beat music with surf lyrics.” It’s likely that if the camera zoomed in on the mod mosh pit, we’d see a couple of girls lying unconscious on the studio floor.
Them – Baby Please Don’t Go
Van Morrison & Co. in a lip-synched performance. Morrison’s swath of red hair and babyfaced nonchalance capture a third incarnation of 1964 cool, complete with zany swerving camera work, zoom shots, and good old fashioned reverbing. Belfast may not have been as exotic as California to the original audience, but this white-bread slice of Morrison’s career is fascinating next to the breadth of what followed.
The Beatles – Twist and Shout
The credits at the beginning of this episode inform us that this is a “special edition” of the show. “Special edition” apparently means a one-minute long parade march, complete with original songwriting, of about two hundred lady Beatles admirers. This feature is probably more interesting than the cut-off (but live!) performance of “Twist and Shout” that follows it. They’re hard to make out, but part of the lyrics to the girls’ song is, “We love the way you smile.” Indeed.
Dusty Springfield – Losing You
Dusty, who was a frequent presenter of Ready Steady Go! in its early days, rarely performed live. She preferred to mingle microphone-less with the shuffling audience members. They, for their part, seem alternately confused and enraptured during this performance. Tall, slim Springfield defies her bouffant hairdo, pale pink lipstick, and false eyelashes with a husky, powerful alto that—let’s just say it—would be racially confusing if not for her presence in the studio. Added bonuses: Fordyce announces the results of a cheesy competition; includes fan’s line drawing of Springfield.
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