Top positive review
8 people found this helpful
on 4 February 2007
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.