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Mod Ball 1964
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April 8, 1964: ‘Ready Steady Go! Mod Ball’ (ARTV, UK TV), Empire Pool, Wembley, England
JAGGER, CILLA AND A SNAPSHOT FROM THE (SURPRISINGLY SMARTLY DRESSED) DAWN OF POP: STARS POSE DURING REHEARSALS FOR 1964’S READY STEADY GO RAVE MAD MOD BALL (from the Daily Mail, 2014)
What do you first notice about them? Jackets and ties, hair for the most part well-trimmed and almost all shoes respectfully shone. Were it not for the guitar in the centre it could be any group of young Sixties male office workers and pretty shorthand typists celebrating a collective Pools win.
But look a little closer. Isn’t that Mick Jagger next to Keith Richards, letting the side down with their longish hair and louche jumpers in the bottom left-hand corner; over on the right there’s fellow Rolling Stones Bill Wyman and dandy Brian Jones. Where’s drummer Charlie Watts? Oh, yes, up there in the back row, as glum as ever.
And the girl in the leather coat who looks like the boss’s secretary? Surprise, surprise, it’s Cilla Black — not long out of the typing pool and a star for less than six months.
(Ref. mod ball)
Then there’s the young lady with the fringe on the other side of the guitar who seems to be cowering from the attentions of the three youths around her? It’s Cathy McGowan, 50 years ago the dizziest, most envied, best-connected girl in Britain as the co-presenter of TV’s Ready Steady Go.
‘The weekend starts here,’ the show boasted, but for millions it was the Sixties that started there on ITV, every Friday night with its organised chaos of live music, ordinary kids dancing and the sheer essence of being young.
It was April 1964, and this photo captured rehearsals for the Ready Steady Go Rave Mad Mod Ball at the Empire Pool Wembley.
And, with the exception of The Beatles, who four days earlier had overwhelmed America by having the top five records there, nearly all of the beat boom stars are here, a first crop of what would soon be a golden generation of British pop stars. There’s Paul Jones, still with Manfred Mann, Freddie And The Dreamers and Sounds Incorporated.
Most dominant are the Merseybeat acts, like Cilla herself, and all the others from Liverpool’s Cavern Club, the Searchers, the aptly-named Merseybeats and heartthrob Billy J. Kramer with his Dakotas and the Fourmost, both of whom got John Lennon’s cast-off songs that weren’t good enough for The Beatles.
And what a conservative-looking crowd of kids they were, or, should we say, gang of boys, because pop then was an overwhelmingly male profession. With the exception of Cilla and Cathy, the only other non-male is blonde-haired Kathy Kirby, she of the shiny lips and tight dresses, who seems to be in conversation with Keith Fordyce, the show’s other presenter.
(Ref. mod ball)
1 Mike Millward, guitar and vocals for the Fourmost. He died from leukaemia in 1966.
2 Mike Maxfield, lead guitar for Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas. Later suffered a stroke but still involved with the band behind the scenes.
3 Robin MacDonald, bass guitar for the Dakotas. No longer involved with music.
4 Billy Hatton, bass guitar for the Fourmost. Now seen on YouTube giving guitar lessons and talking about the Merseybeat boom.
5 Charlie Watts, still drumming for the Rolling Stones after all these years.
6 Chris Curtis, drummer for the Searchers. Left the band in 1966. Died in 2005.
7 Dave Lovelady, drummer for the Fourmost. Their first hit was the John Lennon song Hello Little Girl, which Lennon didn’t think good enough for The Beatles.
8 Griff West, tenor saxophone and flute for Sounds Incorporated —one of the great backing groups of the Sixties.
9 Tony Newman, drums for Sounds Incorporated. Became a top session player, working with David Bowie, Crystal Gayle, the Everly Brothers, and on the rock musical Tommy.
10 Brian O’Hara, lead guitar with the Fourmost. Died in 1999.
11 Aaron Williams, guitarist with the Merseybeats. Now retired from music and still living in Liverpool.
12 John Banks, drummer for the Merseybeats. Died 1988.
13 Mike Hugg, drummer with Manfred Mann. Now plays keyboards with reformed Manfreds.
14 Patrick Kerr, dancer and co-presenter on Ready, Steady, Go! Famous for demonstrating the latest dance ‘moves’ for eager viewers.
15 Paul Jones, vocals/harmonica, Manfred Mann. Went solo in 1966.Starred alongside Jean Shrimpton in the movie Privilege. Now back with the reformed Manfreds.
16 Keith Richards, lead guitarist for the Rolling Stones. Seemingly indestructible.
17 Mick Jagger. What more can we say?
18 Manfred Mann, jazz musician and founding member of the Manfreds. Now lives partly in Sweden and has his own band.
19 Kenny Lynch, East Ender who was one of the first black UK singers to achieve success. Also a songwriter, he is still a lively raconteur, TV personality and occasional actor.
20 Peter Birrell, bass guitar for Freddie and the Dreamers. Later became a taxi driver.
21 Tony Jackson, bass player with the Searchers. Later played with the Vibrations and died in 2003.
22 Roy Crewdson, guitarist with Freddie and the Dreamers. Owns a Tenerife bar called Dreamers. Still lives in Manchester.
23 Freddie Garrity, leader of Freddie And The Dreamers. After string of hits, he became a children’s TV star. Died 2006.
24 Kathy Kirby, singer whose big hit was Secret Love. Diagnosed with schizophrenia, she died in 2011.
25 Keith Fordyce, disc jockey and TV presenter. Died in 2011.
26 Cilla Black, singer. From Liverpool’s Cavern to TV presenting and national treasure status — had a TV biopic earlier this year. Says she’s going deaf and lives in Barbados.
27 Alan Holmes, saxophones and flute with Sounds Incorporated. Later played on The Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper Lonely Hearts Club Band album.
28 Tony Crane, guitar and vocals as founding member of the Merseybeats. Went into property and now owns a hotel. Still with the Merseybeats, who continue to perform.
29 Cathy McGowan, breathless young presenter on Ready Steady Go. Divorced actor Hywel Bennett and now the long-term partner of singer Michael Ball.
30 Michael Aldred, co-presenter on Ready Steady Go. Now deceased.
31 John Gustafson, bassist with the Merseybeats previously in highly-respected Big Three. Played in hard rock bands and later worked with Roxy Music. Died earlier this year.
32 Billy J. Kramer, singer. Now lives in America and still tours with the reformed Dakotas.
33 Brian Jones, guitarist and founder of Rolling Stones. Found dead in his swimming pool days after being sacked in 1969.
34 Bill Wyman, original Stones bass player. Now tours with his band, Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings.
35 Barrie Cameron, keyboards and baritone sax with Sounds Incorporated. Played on a Beatles session.
36 Tony Mansfield, Dakotas drummer. Real name Tony Bookbinder, brother of singer Elkie Brooks. Left for a career in finance.
37 Mike Pender, guitarist with the Searchers. Left the band in 1985 and now leads his own line-up, Mike Pender’s Searchers.
38 Derek Quinn, guitarist with Freddie and the Dreamers. Now retired and living in Hyde, Greater Manchester.
39 John McNally, Searchers guitarist. Still touring with the band.
40 Bernie Dwyer, drummer with Freddie and the Dreamers. Died in 2002.
Fordyce was ancient in comparison with the others. Thirty-five, if he was a day, even older than Kenny Lynch, the only non-white artist, who was already 26.
The prevailing general image of the Sixties today is a colourful time of flowing hair entwined with flowers, of bells, beads and flares and Regency-styled suits.
Well, perhaps it was by 1967, but not in 1964. The tab collars and tight-across-the-crutch trousers may suggest Carnaby Street, and the Chelsea boots, with built-up heels in Mick Jagger’s case to give him an extra 2in of height, were probably Anello & Davide, who were the cobblers to the groovy back then.
But there isn’t a pair of blue jeans in sight. Showing how rich you were, how anti-Establishment and intelligent by donning denim was yet to arrive.
And at least half the performers here haven’t adopted a trailblazing Beatle moptop. Shoulder-length hair on men was years away. As for moustaches and beards, they were for old men (OK, Manfred Mann has a neatly-trimmed beard, but he was a reconstituted jazzer, and therefore cerebral.)
The people in this photo might have been going to a charity mod ball, but there isn’t much that was particularly mod or even modish about them. Casual smart was the style for stepping out in then, whether it was going to work, to the local youth club or to appear on TV.
These guys probably wouldn’t have had many more ‘best’ clothes anyway, because what we see here, with only one or two exceptions (yes you, Bill Wyman), is a generation of grown-up war babies. Thrilled by their good luck, they are young and mainly working class, born in the bomb-threatened early Forties and brought up and educated in Fifties austerity.
When this photo was taken, they were mainly in their early 20s and just about to be part of an explosion of opportunities to which their talents and the times gave them a kind of life their parents’ generation could never have imagined.
No wonder — Charlie Watts aside — they looked so happy. And I bet even he was smiling inside.
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