ITV: TWW (Television Wales & West)
14th September 1961 to 15th December 1965
This was an independent challenge to the big four companies which dominated the ITV network from 1955 to 1968 (ATV, Granada, Associated Rediffusion, ABC), and came from TWW, or Television Wales & West, broadcasting first from Cardiff, then mainly from Bristol. Though it failed to get transmission in the Big Four’s backyards, it was taken up by the smaller ITV companies.
The thirty-minute programme was broadcast 7 pm to 7.30 and ran from 14th September 1961 to 15th December 1965, and the only surviving videotape was a 1968 one-off special as part of TWW’s shutdown when it failed to retain its licence. The first show was a Thursday, the last a Wednesday, and some people mention it as a Monday show, others as a Saturday show. It was possibly broadcast on different days in different regions. I’m convinced it was shown in our area, on Southern Television, because I strongly recall the first time I saw The Beatles on TV was Love Me Do with John Lennon on harmonica. Love Me Do was recorded December 3rd 1962 and precedes their first network appearance in January 1963 on Thank Your Lucky Stars. That was Please Please Me. It was sold to most of the smaller stations too … Anglia, North, Tyne Tees & Borders.
In 1963, the audience was claimed at nine million, though TWW also said that in 1961 the potential audience had been two million. So maybe the potential audience rather than the actual audience was nine million.
It was a half-hour show broadcast from allegedly “the gayest coffee bar in town”. There was a non-speaking girl running the coffee bar in a dumb blonde role. The coffee bar setting for a pop music show was imitated in the Gonks Go Beat cult pop movie in 1965.
The main presenter was Kent Walton, known for Radio Luxembourg’s Honey Hit Parade and ITV’s Saturday afternoon wrestling broadcasts. He was assisted by Tony Prince who moved on to Radio Caroline. It is said to be the first UK pop show with a black co-presenter, a girl from Bristol, called Cynthia.
For a somewhat minor show, it was innovative, and originated some major features of subsequent shows. It had a resident dance troupe, The GoGos. The show’s logo was GoGo The Fox, and they used cartoons of the fox to illustrate songs where the performers were not present in the studio, which The Old Grey Whistle Test later did with vintage cartoons. The performances in front of a live studio audience was the template for Ready Steady Go. The “performances” were lip synched to a backing track.
A further innovation was the ‘smooch spot’ where the camera would pan around the floor in a slow number and settle in on a smooching couple. The GoGos were made to participate in this.
Badge collectors’ website points out that the Fox badge is so common that it must have been distributed in vast quantities.
John Barry’s Starfire was the signature tune and a list of those performing on the show include The Beatles, The Who, Lulu, Dave Clark Five, Herman’s Hermits, Billy J. Kramer, Cilla Black, Spencer Davis Group, The Riot Squad, Donovan, The Moody Blues, Ben E. King, Georgie Fame, The Yardbirds.
Decca put out the EP in 1963 with Jet Harris, The Vernons Girls, Billy Fury and Karl Denver. So it warranted a major label’s interest, as can be seen from the artistes who appeared.
The sleeve notes proclaim:
They called it GoGos, the gayest coffee bar in town. But no coffee bar was ever like this. Cameras weaved through a solid mass of gyrating dancers. Blazing studio lights sent the temperature soaring. Microphone booms swung low over bobbing heads, The atmosphere was electric as the sound of beat music flooded the big studio..