Halfway to Paradise

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from Chapter Five - HIT AND MISS

...For a while Six-Five Special was an unmissable event – it was even reported that street gangs in Liverpool changed their meeting time on Saturdays from seven to seven-thirty so that they could catch it – but, as the novelty of its existence wore off, the restrictions of the format began to grate.

‘It may be argued that the show set out to be a teenagers’ programme, and has never claimed to be essentially an all-music show,’ wrote one of the NME’s correspondents in January 1958. ‘But it is my belief that a majority of viewers are interested solely for its music content, and all else is just so much ballast. By all means, have the occasional relevant interview, but some of the comedy is a little trying.’

By then a new co-producer had been appointed in the shape of Dennis Main Wilson, a man who was probably the greatest producer of broadcast comedy ever (The Goons, Hancock’s Half Hour, Sykes), but who had little to contribute on the music front.

Although the audiences were still hugely impressive (up to 12 million at its peak), there was too much of a sense of compromise. An outside broadcast in November 1957 came from the 2Is, which had some cultural point, but which also included for no obvious reason an appearance by Gilbert Harding, television’s first grumpy old man. Harding was later to re-enact the broadcast in the film of Expresso Bongo, where he insisted: ‘Teenagers are regarded by the corporation with the deepest reverence.’ This might have explained the limitations of the show.

The first to realize that the series was becoming stale was Jack Good himself, who jumped ship and defected to ITV, where, unfettered by anyone else at all – or so it seemed – he created his masterpiece, Oh Boy! Indulging his theatrical tendencies, Oh Boy! featured fabulously dramatic lighting, stylized stagings and nothing but rock and roll...

Cliff Richard
Cliff Richard on Oh Boy!
Harry Hammond (© V&A Images)