“The weekend starts here.” That’s what they used to say on the UK’s celebrated TV music show of the 1960s, Ready Steady Go!, and it was never more true than on 29 January 1965, when the show welcomed the television debut of The Who.
The group had had a tumultuous last few months of 1964, in which they changed their name from the High Numbers and started the ‘Maximum R&B’ Tuesday night residency at London’s Marquee Club that did much to confirm their popularity. Then producer Shel Talmy secured the deal with Brunswick in the UK and Decca in the US that led to the debut Who single ‘I Can’t Explain.’ It was released in America in December, and at home in the new year, on 15 January.
The success of that 45, which went on to No. 8 in the UK in April, owed an immense amount to the vast exposure offered by the band’s performance of it on ‘RSG.’ A television institution since its introduction in the summer of 1963 with presenters Keith Fordyce and Cathy McGowan, it was a real starmaker of a series, and The Who became frequent visitors to TV House in Kingsway, London where the show was recorded.
On the edition that staged their debut appearance, they were in the company of major hitmakers the Animals and the Hollies; Goldie and the Gingerbreads, whose appearance led to their only hit, ‘Can’t You Hear My Heart Beat’; the up-and-coming but yet-to-chart Donovan; and a not-quite-20-year-old Elkie Brooks, many years before she became a hit soloist or even before her days with Vinegar Joe.
To ensure a good reception, The Who’s co-manager Kit Lambert arranged for the audience to be well-populated with members of the group’s fan club, who were given Who football scarves to wear. The next night, the quartet were back in regular gig action with a show at one of their true spiritual homes, the Ealing Club. The group’s association with RSG topped the UK EP chart continued when, in December 1966, they with the five-track Ready Steady Who disc.
The Who Hits 50! can be bought here.
Follow the official The Who Best Of playlist.