The Byrds

Michael Clarke • Ready Steady Go! • August 6, 1965


Rehearsals, Rediffusion Television Studios, Studio 1, Wembley, north-west London 

ITV’s Ready Steady Go! — Broadcast live, 6:08-7:00 pm


The Story

Michael Clarke, about to take the stage during rehearsals on the set of Ready Steady Go!

Two nights before the Ready Steady Go! broadcast, The Byrds appeared at the Starlight Ballroom in Morecambe, Lancashire. Among the support groups that evening were The Executives, whose drummer, Roy Carr, later became a journalist for the New Musical Express. Carr recalled of The Byrds that evening in a 2003 story for the UK music magazine Uncut: “None of them, you have to say, look especially happy, usually staring glumly from under their moptop helmet of hair at whatever camera is being pointed at them. What also strikes us is how, er, disoriented they are. By which I mean we strongly suspect drugs have been involved. Especially in the case of Michael Clarke. At one point I find him slumped in a backstage corridor trying to assemble his drum kit. An hour later, he’s still at it. Which is when myself and a stagehand do the job for him.”

Carr’s story has merit based on the memoir of former Beatles and Byrds publicist, Derek Taylor: “Mike was not well on the British tour… and at the BBC one afternoon, rolling over and over in simulated agony, ignored by Crosby, rejected by the others, minutes before the final run-through of their act he took a walk and vanished, just like Ringo in A Hard Day’s Night. He returned — believe it if you will — one second before the live television show started. It was that sort of thing throughout the British trip — all the time (aggravation) and panic.”

Author Johnny Rogan continues the story, “The Byrds were not amused by this stunt, and soon began arguing among themselves whether Clarke ought to be fired or not. It was all hot air, of course, for they knew that Michael’s irresponsibility was ultimately part of his maddening charm. After receiving some harsh words, he shrugged his shoulders and breezed through this mini-crisis with characteristic nonchalance.”

Also appearing on this week’s Ready Steady Go!: The Who (who perform as a three-piece without Roger Daltry, who is ill), Sonny and Cher, and Brian Poole & The Tremeloes.

Photographer unconfirmed — likely Cyrus Andrews / Image formerly from the London Features International Ltd — John Halsall archives

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