What they say about living in London in the 60’s. . .

John Cleese, actor, comedian, member of Monty Python

From: So, Anyway. . .  by John Cleese, Crown Publishing Group, 2014

Living in London in 1962-63

. . . I was discovering the excitement of living in London. Like most of my generation, I had developed a very strong, highly emotional patriotism about my country, so the idea of being in the capital thrilled me. I was proud of what we had done in the war, I was aware of our long history and our centuries of empire. I was also confident of what I felt to be the basic decency and fair-mindedness of our culture, and wherever I went in London I would see a building or perhaps just a name inscribed somewhere that would remind me that I was a part of this deeply impressive civilization. It may sound naive, but it brought a kind of significance to my life. Of course, I was embedded in a very particular middle-class culture; it was fundamentally well educated, well mannered and orderly. And as I slowly learned more about all its various faults —its sexism, its racism, its bottomless class-consciousness—I also felt an optimism that things would inevitably and inexorably improve.


John Bell, former chef at the Savoy, London

I was born and grew up in Oldham and left to come to London in 1966. Having enjoyed my early and mid teens up North, which mid teens up North, which wasn’t all bad as the Beatles and The Hollies were northern groups, London was amazing to me. The swinging had just started and I knew I was in the right place at the right time. I had come to London to work in the Savoy as a chef and I loved every moment. I lived in Bloomsbury and walked down through Covent Garden every morning, it was like being on the set of My Fair Lady or Oliver. I bought my clothes in Carnaby Street and the Kings Road. Every day was an event, famous names at the Savoy, the latest Beatles album, concerts and mini skirts. I left catering in 1968 shortly after I met my first wife and led rather a hippy existence thereafter, but those first few years in London in the Sixties were the stuff of dreams.

 Barry Miles, writer

From: In the Sixties, Barry Miles, Pimlico, 2003

I think of the 60s now as a supermarket of ideas. We were looking for new, valid ways to live. Some people took a lot of drugs, others abstained from everything, including coffee. There were chaste Christian communes, and others where there were no doors on the bedrooms and monogamy was banned. Everything was up in the air. We were just trying to make sense of it and not be conditioned by the ‘British Way of Life’.

A former bank clerk in London

In 1966, I was working at Midland’s branch in Brixton —so old fashioned that it conjures up images of the office of Ebenezer Scrooge. It still had large sloping desks in the back office at which you had to stand to hand post the deposit ledgers, a task that was done on a ‘real time’ basis. Caribbean immigrants settling in South London opened “new deposit” (non-checking) accounts and they were wont to deposit and withdraw cash into and out of these two of three times a day! One of these customer’s first name was Winston St Leger. His parents were proud of Churchill’s achievements during WW2 and also enjoyed horse racing. The St Leger inaugurated in 1776 is still one of the premier flat races in the English flat racing calendar! Sadly during my two year sojourn in Brixton, I was not aware of the emergence of a talented young singer, David Bowie, who was born here and performed regularly at the Brixton Ritz. My musical interests at that time revolved principally around modern jazz. I remember catching the Dave Brubeck Quartet at the Fairfield Halls, I have to admit that I was largely oblivious to the ‘swinging Sixties’ in London. I’m not sure I can recall ever walking down Carnaby Street then either!

Gill Palin, former Marks & Spencer department store employee in the 60’s

We wore very very short mini skirts. Prior to minis we had worn very full net petticoats under full skirts and dresses. We starched the petticoats so they stood out. Another fashion was hot pants, these were like shorts worn under a skirt with a slit at the front. My favourite outfit was most definitely a very short dress and a white pvc raincoat with knee length white pvc boots. I was very fortunate because by working for M&S in the head office I had lots of my clothes given to me. They were samples from the buying department and the buyers liked to see us wearing their merchandise. One important thing was we were pulled up if we had a ladder in our tights and immediately sent to the office to get a new pair (no charge). Those were the days. We had to have our cardigans either on or off, not round our shoulders and our dress length was scrutiniesed by the staff manageress. It gave us a good grounding, we worked hard but the perks were fantastic.

David Bailey, photographer

I hate being so nostalgic about the Sixties.


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Sgt. Pepper 50 Years Old

June 1, 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ album “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.”  On his website www.PaulMcCartney.com, McCartney recounts how the title came to be:

PaulMcCartey.com [PMc]: Do you remember coming up with the cover and band concepts? We understand that the original concept came from you doing a doodle on a plane based around an Edwardian military band?
Paul McCartney [PM]: Yeah! Well, what really happened was I was coming back from a trip abroad with our roadie, Mal Evans, just the two of us together on the plane. And we were eating and he mumbled to me, asked me to pass the salt and pepper. And I misheard him. He said [mumbles] “saltandpepper”. I go, “Sergeant Pepper?” I thought he said, “Sergeant Pepper”. I went, “Oh! Wait a minute, that’s a great idea!” So we had a laugh about it, then I started thinking about Sergeant Pepper as a character. I thought it would be a very interesting idea for us to assume alter egos for this album we were about to make.

So that’s what we did. And yeah, I started doing drawings of how the band might look. I sort of got this military look thing going and one of my ideas was that they were being presented by the Lord Mayor of some Northern town in a park. And in the old days they used to have floral clocks, they called them. It was like a clock that was made out of flowers. So I did drawings of the floral clock and then, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band”, AKA The Beatles, getting an award. So they’ve got a big cup and they’re getting some sort of award from the town.

So that’s where the idea came from and then I just talked to all the guys and said, “What do you think of this idea?” They liked it and I said, “It will mean, when I approach the mic, it’s not Paul McCartney. I don’t have to think this is a Paul McCartney song”. So it was freeing. It was quite liberating.

So, you know, we didn’t keep that idea up all the time, but that was the basic idea that we would make something that was very free. Something that this other band might make, instead of doing something that we thought The Beatles ought to make. It originally came from that mishearing of salt and pepper!

What do you remember about hearing the album for the first time?

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London 1967


What the media focused on:


Yes, some people were “swinging.”  Others were involved in political protests and new ways of living.

From the Radical History Review byAnne-Marie Angelo

The Black Panthers in London, 1967 – 1972: A Diasporic Struggle Navigates the Black Atlantic

“Here, the symbols, chants, and demands of the U.S. Black Panther Party (USBPP) crossed the Atlantic, stimulating shared racial and class identifications across national borders and intersecting with these Afro-Britons who identified themselves as the British Black Power Movement from 1967 to 1968 and as the British Black Panther Movement (BBPM) from 1968 to 1972. As the first Black Panther Movement to form independently outside the United States, the British Panthers took their ideological inspiration from the U.S. Panthers. The U.K. Panthers appropriated the U.S. Panthers’ revolutionary aesthetic as a model for protest, necessary violence, and for engaging with the state. The “Definition of Black Power” flyer that protestors had distributed revealed that its authors thought their plight was part of an international anticapitalist struggle asserting that the history of the oppressed peoples of Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and the Americas over the last four hundred years has demonstrated that the world has been divided into two irreconcilable camps. A handful of western capitalist imperialist nations have mercilessly oppressed and exploited the broad toiling masses and ravaged the material wealth of the three continents. That the well- being of the imperialist nations rests on the hundreds of millions of broken backs in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and the Americas is the reality.”

Wages and Cost of Living in 1967

From Jaki in London: “1967: Girls temping got nine shillings an hour before tax; needed a male guarantor to get credit. Not much swinging.”


From Woman’s Realm magazine. 1967

Income:  Husband earns £700 after tax

Expenses: £700

• Mortgage £60

• Rates £21 10s

• Insurance (house and personal) £36 10s

• Saving cerificates £52

• Coal £35

• Gas and Elec £52

• Clothes £52

• Holiday savings £52

• Husbands pocket money £75

• Food, cleaning materials and extras: £264


First cash-out (ATM) machine

John Shepherd-Barron, managing director of De La Rue Instruments in the 1960’s, wondered:  if he could get chocolate from a machine, why not cash? This was in an era when most banks still opened at 10:00 a.m. and closed at 3:00 or 3.30 p.m.. Mr Shepherd-Barron’s machine required single-use cheques impregnated with mildly radioactive carbon 14 put in the machine, and cash – the maximum being £10 – dispensed in return. Like today, a PIN number was needed for access. Four digits were decided on as his wife thought she couldn’t hope to recall more than four figures. The first of his machines opened in London’s borough of Enfield on June 27 1967 with actor Reg Varney being its first customer.

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