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3.7 out of 5 stars6
3.7 out of 5 stars
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Every now and then, culture bounds forward completely -- and takes art, movies, theatre, music, and society along with it. Swinging London was one such time, and "Ready, Steady, Go!: The Smashing Rise and Giddy Fall of Swinging London" takes a balanced, informative look at this colourful, taboo-shattering time.

As the opening chapter tells readers, 1950s London was the uncoolest city in the world -- the US was booming with rock'n'roll and teen rebellion, while Italy and France were sophistications zones. All that changed in a few years, with the introduction of new kinds of everything: shocking new fashions, sexual habits, hairstyles, music, and a subculture of excited sophistication and (allegedly) classless communication.

Among the new royalty: models, photographer David Bailey, stylist Vidal Sassoon, designer Mary Quant actors such as Terence Stamp and Michael Caine, the Rolling Stones and the Beatles, their managers, and a wide sprinkling of others -- Marianne Faithfull, Twiggy, and a bunch of "in" bluebloods. But like any era, it didn't last -- its own popularity drowned it, as drugs, death and the psychedelic fashions took over.

Charting an entire cultural era is pretty difficult, without making it boring or turgid. But Shawn Levy succeeds with "Ready Steady Go!", outlining how this colorful -- and still influential -- period began, how it flourished, and how it lost its relevance as time went on.

Levy writes in a crisp, easygoing style that makes it remarkably easy reading, especially since he's tracing a dozen different stories at once, while charting how the "Swinging London" scene metamorphosed over time. Some of these stories are well known -- such as the stories about the Stones -- but others are not nearly as well known, and just as exciting (Jean Shrimpton, Bailey and Stamp, for example).

And he does a good job describing the fashions, music and excitement of the times, without ever seeming to be too enamored of it. It's too easy to romanticize a past era, and Levy is aware of its weaknesses as well as strengths. Perhaps the only problem is that occasionally he gets a bit swept away by it all, and starts writing in a novelesque style, such as Shrimpton and Stamp's breakup.

"Ready Steady Go!" is a colourful, fast-paced look at the Swinging Sixties -- kind of like the era itself. Levy may not have been there, but you'd never know that by reading this.
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VINE VOICEon 10 August 2004
The most irritating thing about this book is the author's writing style- the zippy, clever-clever smug brezziness favoured by newspaper columnists and the attention-deficient. This is a shame as it detracts from what is otherwise a great story and an accurate description of the decade in London, and the changes in values and taste driven by a tiny group of people. Dock another star for the lack of photos- what photos have been included have an almost zen-like irrelevance to the text. In an era so driven by image, the illustrations could have been chosen better.
His taste is spot on, recognizing that certain faces from the 60s so famous now were almost irrelevant at the time (the blackballing of Twiggy by the most famous society photographers as she wouldnt sleep with them, for example, and rightly, no mention of the irritating Lulu at all). He correctly identifies the main movers and shakers and deftly dissects their worth or lack of worth. Most importantly, he gives a wonderful account of the zeitgeist's downfall into drug-addled navel gazing.
Levy actually understands what "cool" is- preening, vulgar, nrcissistic and beautiful. Don't read this as history or even as a cultural study; its more a series of potted intertwined biographies, a few people who ran British culture for a short period and breifly made us the coolest thing in the world.
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on 9 January 2013
This was a Christmas present for my Grandson. I had it given to me as a present and it brought back memories of wonderful times of my youth so I wanted him to have a copy. He was delighted.
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on 19 February 2004
'Swinging' 60's London may only now exist in Austin Powers films, but once it was the place for those few in-the-know, to the town where everyone wanted to be and finally, and just as quickly, a parody of itself.
Few books that touch the subject give the reader the full picture and intriguing cast of characters whose impact on all aspects of popular culture we still feel today. This book sets out to change that, and if it wasn't for Barry Miles' excellent "In the Sixties" book, then this would be the one to read. In fact, the author relies on Miles for a lot of his anecdotes, quotes and key-players. Both the aforementioned Miles book and his book on Paul McCartney, "Many Years from Now", have obviously been read studiously by Levy.
However, what makes this book worth reading is the truly full scope of the London scene, from start to finish, that a memoir and biography couldn't fully achieve.
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on 6 August 2005
This book is very well written & informative, a must for anyone intersted in 60's London,
it tells the tale from the perspective of the then hip young things who were making it big in town,
Terry Stamp Mary Quant ect
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on 12 January 2009
Journalist-speak by someone paid to churn out factoids established by other hacks, borrowed from other hacks etc. If you're good at speed reading, give it 2 hours and highlight with your pen anything you haven't seen before ad infinitum.
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