The BBC’s first pop music show, Six-Five Special, was broadcast on this day, November 16 1957, from the tiny 2i’s Coffee Bar in London, know as the birthplace of British rock ’n’ roll.
Six-Five Special was so called because it went out at 6.5pm (6:05pm) on Saturday nights and was created to replace the one-hour so-called “Toddlers’ Truce” on that day. Under the Truce restrictions, no television programmes were allowed to be broadcast on any day of the week between the hours of 6pm to 7pm so that young children could be put to bed.
The Government Minister who oversaw broadcasting in those days was the Postmaster General, a now disappeared office held at the time by such a Charles Hill. He was opposed to the Toddlers’ Truce, saying: “This seems to me absurd. It is the responsibility of parents, not the state, to put their children to bed at the right time.”
And as a result, under pressure from the emerging independent television companies, who were losing advertising revenue, Hill abolished the restriction.
So the 2i’s Coffee Bar in the Soho district of Central London became a rock ’n’ roll institution in the late Fifties.
Its name came from two former owners, Freddie and Sammy Irani. Live music was played in the basement and it was here that Britain’s first rock ’n’ roll stars were discovered, including Tommy Steele,nthe biggest pop name at the time, Cliff Richard, Adam Faith, Joe Brown and the later disgraced Gary Glitter, then performing and better know as Paul Gadd.
Adam Faith was among those appearing on the live Six-Five Special broadcast from the 2i’s, as was its most famous celebrity, Tommy Steele who, 48 hours later, would top the bill at the London Palladium’s Royal Variety Performance.
Jack Good, the Six-Five Special producer, endured something of a running battle with BBC executives over the format of the show: he wanted it to be crammed with music but they insisted on including educational and information elements.
Finally, Good resigned and joined ABC, an independent broadcaster, where he launched Oh Boy!, a rival non-stop pop extravaganza which not only established Cliff Richard as a major star, but trounced Six-Five Special in the ratings. And, not long after that, the BBC dropped their show.
The 2i’s closed its doors in 1970.