In early May 1963, The Rolling Stones were at the old Olympic Studio in Carton Street in London’s West End, to record their first single, a cover of Chuck Berry’s ‘Come On’ – at 1 minute and 45 seconds it was typical of so many beat group singles that were being made in the wake of The Beatles success, and not much like the kind of blues songs they were playing in the London clubs. It was released on 7 June and Decca and the band’s management feverishly set about trying to get them on British television to promote their record.
Thank Your Lucky Stars, at this time the most important pop programme on British television. The show’s producers agreed to have the band come to Alpha Studios in Aston, Birmingham to record an appearance on 7 July 1963.
Thank Your Lucky Stars first appeared on British television screens in 1961 in direct competition with the BBC’s pop programme, Juke Box Jury. The format of TYLS was both predictable and very safe. Each week singers and bands were featured, miming to their latest recordings in a contrived, and somewhat staid set, even for the time.
By the time The Stones were asked to appear on TYLS it was well established. The band’s TV debut was to be broadcast on 13 July, but there was just one problem, according to Andrew Loog Oldham, their manager, “If they’d dressed the way they wanted, they wouldn’t have been allowed inside the TV Studios. They were asked to wear ‘uniforms’ of some description”. His solution to this was to take them shopping in Soho on the weekend before their TV appearance.
A couple of weeks before they were to appear, Loog Oldham took them to Carnaby Street, where they were measured for black trousers, and black and white dogtooth jackets with black velvet collars. They also bought blue shirts, black knit ties, and blue leather waistcoats. All very suitable…
On Friday 5 July, The Stones played The Ricky Tick Club, at the Star and Garter Hotel in Windsor and because they needed to leave London early on Sunday morning to drive to Birmingham they cancelled a Saturday night gig that they were due to play in King’s Lynn, in Norfolk, on England’s east coast.
Among the other artists on TYLS in the week of The Stones’ first TV appearance were guest DJ, Jimmy Henney, along with singers, Helen Shapiro, Mickie Most, Johnny Cymbal, Patsy Ann Noble and two other groups, The Cadets, an Irish showband, and The Viscounts.
The set on which the Stones were placed, while miming to their single, looked like the veranda of a wild west style saloon; Mick, Keith, Brian, Bill and Charlie all wore their new dog tooth jackets and looked, by their standards, exceptionally smart, all except for their hair. The Stones’ hair was anything but long – it was at worst a little unkempt. After they finished their spot, Pete Murray made some remarks about a delegation from the Hairdresser’s Union wanting to see the band because they hadn’t had a haircut since last year.
A little over two weeks after appearing on Thank Your Lucky Stars, ‘Come On’ finally made the charts, entering the UK Top 40 at No.32. The television had worked it’s magic…
Listen to ‘Come On’ and other radio recordings made during the Stone’s formative years for BBC shows of the time on the compilation, The Rolling Stones — On Air, that can be bought here.