The Two Eyes – Birth of the British Pop Movie – Part Two

The British experience of pop music was quite different from the American. There was more influence from the music-hall era of pre-war entertainment (rather like vaudeville). Pop crooners and bands tried for the entire world to imitate American song smiths. The British invention of skiffle was inspirational and exclusive to British teens alone, America had none of it! There were also no top-40 AM stations in England, pounding a pop message to youngsters as in the States, but rather the benevolent BBC, which only gradually allowed rock’n’roll to transgress its airwaves. Most of the early pop came across the channel later via clandestine ‘pirate’ stations aboard stationary ships like Radio Caroline, or continental stalwarts like Radio Luxembourg and finally Radio One in 1967. The newspapers, television, theatres and radio were all run by a different generation that had no idea what youngsters wanted. For decades they had manipulated and controlled them (as portrayed in The Golden Disc and Expresso Bongo), but now the youngsters wanted to create their own fashions 유흥알바.

The Popular Press

Suddenly, there was an awareness of being ‘young’ and just as teenagers were beginning to earn money (which gave them spending power); young people wanted their own look, their own music and their own films. The teen magazines like the New Musical Express were their voice. It was a paper for them, crammed with photos and information about their groups, which is why it also began to appeal to youngsters throughout Britain as its coverage extended nation-wide from London’s Soho and more predominantly Old Compton Street. In 1952, big band leaders like Ted Heath dominated the music press, with young dance orchestras like Johnny Dankworth and Ronnie Scott getting the odd ‘look in’. It was all polite,

boring and strictly ballroom. Dancehalls around the country forbade jive dancing and it was only in the jazz clubs in London’s Soho that the new sound could be danced to. This was the more ‘modern’ sounds, the kind the teenagers were buying: trad, rock’n’roll and skiffle. Ronald Kinn, the creator of the New Musical Express, introduced a chart of record sales. Launched in November ’52, it was the first weekly chart anywhere in the world In the May 7th issue of 1954, the New Musical Express reported that the BBC radio censorship saw fit to ban Johnny Ray’s Such A Night because the ‘grunts’, ‘ohs’ and ‘ahs’ and were considered liable to inflame libidos were and deemed ‘unfit’ for decent people. Elvis Presley had already styled himself on Johnny Ray. In the February 4 issue 1955, New Musical Express boasted ‘the largest circulation in the world for any music paper’ – a staggering 100,000. Kinn, a sharp gossip columnist, sniffed out trends early and dictated the scene. On 20 April 1956, he told readers ‘Remember the name Elvis Presley. This young American country and western singer is destined to emulate Johnny Ray as the teenagers’ delight’.


As movie attendances in the United States dropped dramatically in 1957, producer Sam Goldwyn said ‘Why go to the cinema to see bad movies when you can stay at home and watch bad television’.

Television took the 1950’s by storm in its exploitation of the teen phenomenon. The BBC acted first, with Hit Parade in 1952 and Off the Record following in 1955. Neither managed to portray the burgeoning youth subject very well. The History of ATV states ‘It featured too much middle-of-the-road rubbish for the kids and too much caterwauling for the grown-ups.’ Cool for Cats (1956) from Associated Rediffusion came next, closely followed by Six-Five Special (1956) from the BBC. Six-Five Special hit the zeitgeist, attracting both mutually exclusive audiences to sit down together… but this was possibly because the BBC in the words of The History of ATV ‘sent the programme rapidly down the ‘variety and filmed inserts’ path of least resistance’. mmm…

The first true family pop show was made by independent television. Its tendency towards the programming of popular culture outweighed the conservative high brow attitudes of the BBC. ABC in London was a company looking for a niche. The company was young and hip – it had already started hiring some of the youngest staff in the business; people who didn’t know what couldn’t be done on television. In the eyes of its directors, those people were the ones to make great pop television. The result was ‘Oh Boy!‘ a frantic live show where one song moved smoothly into another, where top recording artists sang together and separately, where older tunes freely interspersed with the hit parade. The frenetic pace and high-energy output suited the teens and the sense of frivolity attracted the adults. Families sat down and enjoyed a happy hour in front of the television – with intervals of ABC’s advertisements.

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