Ready Steady Go! Pop music grows up.

Paul Jones of Manfred Mann on Ready Steady Go!

Paul Jones of Manfred Mann on Ready Steady Go!

Our two chums Ronnie and Barry have left the Junior’s now and are about to go to big school. More excited than ever about pop music, Ronnie puts the first records on the turntable this time round.

It’s 1965 and we’re very busy. We’ve taken our ‘Eleven plus’ exam to decide which Secondary school we’ll go to in the autumn. This cruel piece of social engineering will divide friends and send us off to schools in opposite directions soon.

Sandie Shaw, knocked off the top spot by Elvis.

Sandie Shaw, knocked off the top spot by Elvis.

But for now we have the music. And the music is getting very, very interesting and exciting. As it will say many years later on The Beatles own website:

“These were the years of dash and daring. Sweeping out of the final (and wonderfully old-fashioned) 1964 family Christmas Shows into the wider world of 1965, The Beatles would soon find themselves figureheads of a movement far beyond “pop” where a counter-culture / alternative society was made flesh. National boundaries were presumed to be doomed. Millions of minds were to become expanded and many trousers would soon be spandex.”

Not in North Liverpool are trousers spandex yet, but you get the idea. Beatle Mania and the British Invasion of the USA pop charts are about to tumble over into a whole counter culture movement. But we’re eleven and we don’t care about all that, we just know that week after week the music we hear is getting better and better. Look at this, a Top 40 from June 1965:

1 Elvis Presley Crying In The Chapel
2 Sandie Shaw Long Live Love
3 Everly Brothers The Price Of Love
4 Seekers World Of Our Own
5 Rockin’ Berries Poor Man’s Son
6 Burt Bacharach Trains And Boats And Planes
7 Hollies I’m Alive
8 Shirley Ellis The Clapping Song
9 Marianne Faithfull This Little Bird
10 Bachelors Marie
11 Jackie Trent Where Are You Now (My Love)
12 Billy J Kramer & The Dakotas Trains And Boats And Planes
13 Peter & Gordon True Love Ways
14 Donovan Colours
15 Kinks Set Me Free
16 Unit Four Plus Two You’ve Never Been In Love Like This Before
17 Who Anyway Anyhow Anywhere
18 Beatles Ticket To Ride
19 Jim Reeves Not Until The Next Time
20 Roger Miller King Of The Road
21 Dave Clark Five Come Home
22 Gene Pitney Looking Through The Eyes Of Love
23 Walker Brothers Love Her
24 Bob Dylan Subterranean Homesick Blues
25 Herman’s Hermits Wonderful World
26 Shadows Stingray
27 Cliff Richard On My Word
28 Françoise Hardy All Over The World
29 Dixie Cups Iko Iko
30 Beach Boys Help Me Rhonda
31 Johnny Cash It Ain’t Me Babe
32 Moody Blues From The Bottom Of My Heart
33 Connie Francis My Child
34 Roger Miller Engine Engine No 9
35 Joan Baez We Shall Overcome
36 Barron Knights Pop Go The Workers
37 Animals Bring It On Home To Me
38 Yardbirds Heart Full Of Soul
39 Kenny Lynch I’ll Stay By You
40 Sir Douglas Quintet She’s About A Mover
The Hollies, at 7 and rising.

The Hollies, at 7 and rising.

There’s rubbish in there of course, but not very much of it. And the thrilling range and reach of pop music as it grows up you can see just looking down that list of names. Pop music, soul music, the blues, folk music, country and the first slight suggestions of psychedelia. We are lucky and we know we are at the time.

Mind you, let’s not pretend to be retrospectively hipper than I actually am in 1965. I enjoy hearing all the gems in the above chart on the radio, but looking through it and remembering what I spend my pocket money on this month? Erm, The Seekers.

What’s Barry buying at 6/8d a time (the price of a single then, about 33 pence in the ‘new’ money)?

“I’ve gone through my boxes of singles (Yes, I’ve still got them all, unlike Ronnie!) to try and remember  which other records I bought in 1965.  Obviously for an 11 year old boy relying on pocket money there weren’t many…and The Beatles always came first…but in no particular order these were….

Tired Of Waiting….The Kinks
It’s Good News Week….Hedgehoppers Anonymous
I’m Alive…The Hollies
Get Off Of My Cloud….The Rolling Stones
…and er, Pop Go The Workers by The Barron Knights (possibly to obtain ‘value for money’ ? Their novelty singles contained 6 reworkings of recent hits).

Like you I loved listening to the radio, and watching the likes of Top of The Pops and Ready Steady Go. The range of new music was incredible, although the categorisation into genres like soul, folk, protest, and so on didn’t really matter much to me…it was just great music.”

For me the growing range and reach of pop music then is best summed up on my favourite of the weekly pop programmes ‘Ready Steady Go!’ It feels like it’s made by and for young people not much older than us. By now there’s no miming, all the groups really sing their songs in the studio. And what groups! Most of those in the chart above are on, The Who and the Walker Brothers even getting their own shows. And in April of this 1965 Dusty Springfield has presented a whole edition of Tamla Motown. So The SupremesStevie WonderThe Miracles The Temptations Martha and the Vandellas and Marvin Gaye have now entered our lives.

All of these will become much more important to us in the next few years, but for now they’re just a part of the richness of our musical lives.

“Some records of that time have not dated well…I have to admit that I haven’t listened to The Barron Knights for some time.  But I definitely remember hearing certain songs throughout 1965, and instinctively thinking that these were great, and always will be. Songs like ‘You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling by The Righteous Brothers,  Go Now by The Moody Blues, Satisfaction by The Rolling Stones….all Number Ones.”

And of course, as well as all these riches, we still have The Beatles. Their next 1965 single is one of their best, with two A-sides ‘We can work it out’ and ‘Day Tripper.’ They’re experimenting with new sounds now, moving on from their Merseybeat days, very aware of being creatively pushed by new British groups like The Who and the Small Faces and the Americans now invading Britain, like The Byrds and The Beach Boys.

How is Barry’s Beatles collection doing?

“My 11th birthday occurred on 15th January 1965, and I was thrilled to receive The Beatles LP ‘Beatles For Sale’  which had been released in December. I still have it. The accepted wisdom these days is that this isn’t one of their classics in the overall scheme of things, but I loved every second of it, and still do. The sleeve notes ( by Derek Taylor, replacing Tony Barrow ) supplied the priceless information that George Harrison “applied a thump to an elderly African drum because Ringo was busy elsewhere in the studio playing bongos” on Mr Moonlight. And that “On ‘Words Of Love’ Ringo plays a packing case”.  Marvellous.

Amazingly The Beatles released a further 2 albums in 1965….’Help’ and ‘Rubber Soul’ as well as a string of Number 1 singles…Day Tripper / We Can Work It Out,  Ticket To Ride, and Help. I acquired them all.”

The Who, challenging The Beatles. Sheet music for 2/6d.

The Who, challenging The Beatles. Sheet music for 2/6d.

The Beatles have made a second film ‘Help’ which has a bewildering storyline I don’t get. But what I do like is the way they’re all shown to be living in four terraced houses all knocked together. We feel like we’re growing up in a world where anything is possible.

All living happily together.

All living happily together.

And I could tell you how thrilling it is to have Bob Dylan and protest singing Joan Baez in the chart. But they’re for later in my life. In 1965 I don’t notice them. Nor does Barry.

“I didn’t notice Bob Dylan either in 1965.  And thinking about it, despite him being one of my top 5 favourite artists of all time and owning virtually everything he’s ever released, the truth is that I didn’t really appreciate him in 1965.  I have a vague recollection of hearing ‘The Times They Are A’Changing’ on the radio, and liking it, but that’s about it.”

We notice Pirate Radio though, which takes us back to the ‘Eleven plus’ exam. I pass and get rewarded with a transistor radio, a Binatone. These are still relatively rare and this one is found for my proud parents by my spiv Uncle Arthur who can ‘find’ anything. I have it permanently tuned to Radio Caroline, our local pirate station, broadcast from a boat somewhere off the Isle of Man.

Radio Caroline North.

Radio Caroline North.

Pirate stations have become essential because pop music has got so good while the BBC is still rubbish (apart from Brian Matthew’s ‘Saturday Club and Alan Freeman’s ‘Pick of the Pops’). So any time of the day I can turn on my precious radio and hear instant magic – the Walker Brothers singing ‘The sun ain’t gonna shine any more’ or the Rolling Stones “(I can’t get no) Satisfaction’, while over on the BBC the Light Programme drones on like the 1960s aren’t even happening.

But they are and we are all ears!

“Oh yes, the generation gap was still very much in evidence in 1965. The few LP’s in our household were still dominated by film soundtracks, Irish rebel songs and MOR artists, and amongst the list of great Number One singles of that year lurked ‘Tears’ by Ken Dodd and ‘Where Are You Now’ by Jackie Trent. As hair got longer and fashions more extreme, it seemed that parents began to get more anxious about the way society was changing at a rapid speed in the sixties. I can still remember my dad’s outraged reaction to The Rolling Stones and Sonny & Cher (another great record..’I Got You Babe’) on Top Of The Pops.  But to us hip 11 year old youngsters we knew that our music was here to stay. The possibilities were endless.

But surely that’s to come in the next instalment covering 1966 and 1967.”

Meantime it’s August 1965 and me, Barry and Paul are off to a shop in faraway south Liverpool, for some reason, to get fitted out for our new uniforms for St John Bosco’s Grammar School, in Bootle, where we’ll be starting in September. Including blue blazers made out of some new ‘miracle’ fibre:


‘Not for school but for life we learn;

“Do you remember how flimsy they were…they were very lightweight, not traditional blazer material, and very quickly got worn out. My mum went mad at the school about them, as did a lot of parents.”

Yes, and our mums all cut the badges off and sewed them onto ‘proper’ blazers. So all that’s survived on Google now is this image of one of the cut off badges. Fortunately the music of this wondrous year has survived much better.


See also the ‘Food in the 1960s’ series by us two. Regularly the most viewed posts on many days!

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