I remember thinking this is so different from what the Beatles have produced before. I liked many of the songs but was somewhat concerned the "boys" were getting weird. But what was really happening is that they were spreading their wings, trying new material, expanding the idea of what an album could be. They needed to do that to stay fresh and creative. I think it was a turning point album for them.
The Beatles looked for new directions for their music and their lives; and because of their fame, they acted as Pied Pipers for many members of a generation that too were looking for the new and unconventional. With the teachings of sitar master Ravi Shankar and meditation guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Harrison introduced the Beatles and thousands of followers to Indian music and culture. Paul McCartney helped open the Indica Gallery in London that was an outlet for contemporary art and literature. John Lennon, working with Jonathan Cape, created a book of comical illustrations and verse, showing that poking fun of the establishment was "cool."
I thought London was the center of the universe. I was a teenager living in the States and a huge Beatles fan. I imagined that everyone living in London was going to the "Bag of Nails" or "Scotch of St. James" clubs dressed in the latest Mary Quant outfits and surrounded by the Beatles, the Stones,, or any of the "British Beat" bands. The excitement and color of London wafted across the Atlantic in a big way that was irresistible.
Thanks for your recollections. I love the image of the bouffant hairdo with the shorts under the skirt with a slit. I am curious about "only the boys drank, usually beer, the girls all had soft drinks." What do you think that was about? Sexism? Male chauvinism of the times? "Real ladies don't drink alcohol" kind of sentiment?
I loved shopping at the stalls in a market on Kensington High Street where there were colorful Indian patterned skirts and jackets. Occasionally I would venture into a small boutique and purchase an Indian designed tunic with embroidered beads and flowers. When I had a bit more pocket money, I'd go to Biba, but usually came away with only cosmetics. I wasn't skinny enough to fit into Biba clothing!
I dressed for warmth! Usually wool pants, maybe they were bell bottoms, and layers of sweaters. A bright red coat with black buttons was about as trendy as I got on a daily basis. My attempt at looking London chic ended in disaster when I went to the Vidal Sassoon school to get a hair cut. The hair stylist began chopping off all my long hair and I panicked and told her to stop. She tried to rectify the new "do" but I never achieved "chic-dom."
Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, endorsed the ‘I’m Backing Britain’ campaign, encouraging workers to work extra time without pay or take other actions to help competitiveness, which was spreading across Britain.“There is too much knocking of Britain,” he said. “What we want is ‘back Britain’ not back-biting.”
In January 1968 a movement to rejuvenate Britain’s economic state began with the slogan “I’m Backing Britain.” The movement had started after five women typists at Colt Ventilation and Heating Ltd in Surbiton made a New Year’s resolution to work an extra half an hour a day without extra pay. The story was picked up by the media and soon other companies announced that their employees would also be working an extra half-hour. “I’m Backing Britain” badges, mugs, car stickers and T-shirts were all the rage. It turned out that many of the items had been made in Portugal. As was to be expected, the trades unions were not keen on a campaign that involved unpaid overtime. By the end of March, the campaign had been reduced to general patriotic slogans to “buy British”.
On March 17, 1968, a demonstration in London’s Grosvenor Square against U.S.involvement in the Vietnam War resulted in 91 police injured and 200 demonstrators arrested.
Remembering the Anti-War Protest in Grosvenor Square
“The American invasion of Vietnam wasn’t a British war, not even a blunder of the British empire, but the Wilson government publicly supported the Americans, though it did manage to avoid—that time—sending troops as proof of their support.” “What the Americans were doing in Vietnam was startlingly clear; everywhere people watched TV reports and read in newspapers of a world power napalming peasant villages in the hunt for an ill-equipped guerrilla army, in the name of US security.” ” If what America did wasn’t my fault, I had no doubt that it was my responsibility to stand against it.” Jenny Diski, The Sixties; read her book for a vivid account of an anti-war march on the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square.
The following remembrances are excerpts from The Guardian, May 21, 2008
Chris Morris photographed the Grosvenor Square riot for an Italian news magazine. “So did 1968 achieve anything? It was a year, concludes Morris, that ‘showed what was possible. Forty years on, I still feel outraged by governments duping voters and ignoring their feelings. Far from becoming more conservative with age, I feel more leftwing the more I’m patronized.'”
For Geoff Wolfe, “capitalism is good at absorbing protest. Most of the protesters went on, like me, to have good white-collar jobs.” It is easy to be nostalgic, he reckons, but “every generation must find its own 1968.”
For Gordon Coxon, who was still at school at the time, “This must have been the first big demo I’d been on. I recall marching down Oxford Street, putting anti-war stickers on to cars and shop windows. It had certainly kicked off by the time we got to the square. It was quite scary being caught up in the crush. I actually fainted. May ’68 had a big impact on the outlook of many of my generation, and on the political culture we inhabited,” he feels. But then, he wonders, “What do I know? I ploughed my way through my Marcuse along with the best of them, [but] pretty soon after I was living in a commune in south London, consuming large quantities of pot and playing drums in a rock band. Then came the hallucinogens – and the world really changed.”
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.
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?
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
• 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.
“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.” John Bell, 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!” A former bank clerk in London
Art galleries in London in the 60’s
Gallery owner Robert Fraser
The Swinging Sixties’ Grooviest Art Dealer: In London, Remembering Robert Fraser
by Edward M. Gómez on March 21, 2015 in Hyperallergic
“LONDON — Looking back at history, one encounters certain individuals who reflect the changing attitudes, social values, or cultural trends of their times, while certain others seem to define and embody them; they’re the ones who become the symbols of the spirit of an age.
The art dealer Robert Fraser (1937–1986) became one such emblem of a particular place at a memorably effervescent moment; his was “Swinging London” of the 1960s, with its explosion of sexy-goofy fashion, its soundtrack of the Beatles and Rolling Stones, and its unabashedly open expressions of sexuality. Swinging, grooving, and fueled by pot and pills, London in the sixties was a post-imperial pop-culture hub whose tradition-busting, style-setting forces Fraser played a large role in setting in motion.
Known as Britain’s main purveyor of Pop Art in both its home-grown and imported, American varieties, his Robert Fraser Gallery became London’s — and Europe’s — unrivaled, hip-art emporium. Around Fraser and his exhibitions orbited a vast cast of friends, admirers and associates, including, among others, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Marianne Faithfull, and Paul and Linda McCartney; Francis Bacon, Jim Dine, Claes Oldenburg, Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, and Jean-Michel Basquiat; the British Pop artists Peter Blake, Jann Haworth, Clive Barker, Richard Hamilton, and Eduardo Paolozzi; and many forward-looking collectors. A master at assembling exhibitions, Fraser was irresponsible when it came to running his gallery and routinely neglected to pay his artists. Often he was drunk or drugged-up, but still he managed to function. As Dine once observed, ‘Robert knew everyone in the world at one point.’ ”
The Destruction in Art Symposium (DIAS) was held at the Africa Centre in Covent Garden, London, from 9-11 September 1966, launching a series of events. It brought together a diverse group of international artists, poets, and scientists, including key representatives of the counter-cultural underground, to speak on the theme of destruction in art. Throughout September Happenings, poetry readings, and performances took place in venues all over London.
Effective marketing by the Honorary Committee, led by Gustav Metzger, brought the symposium a great deal of attention in the national and international media, as well as throughout the international art community.
This general overview of DIAS was taken at the Africa Centre in Covent Gardens, London in 1966. The DIAS press release claimed that: ‘The main objective of DIAS was to focus attention on the element of destruction in Happenings and other art forms, and to relate this destruction in society.’
Indica Gallery was a counterculture art gallery in Mason’s Yard (off Duke Street), St. James’s, London, England during the late 1960s, in the basement of the Indica Bookshop co-owned by John Dunbar, Peter Asher and Barry Miles. It was supported by Paul McCartney and hosted a show of Yoko Ono’s work in November 1966 at which Ono first met John Lennon. In addition to Yoko Ono, the sculptor Takis, ‘kinetic poet’ Liliane Lijn, Mark Boyle and Joan Hills exhibited at Indica.
John Dunbar quoted in Tate Magazine (Summer 2004):
“I had just left Cambridge University, where I had been studying Baroque art under the great Michael Jaffe. I was introduced to Barry Miles in 1965 at the seminal poetry reading at the Albert Hall. We shared an interest in the beat poets Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs and had the same taste, so we decided to set up a gallery. We found a place in Mason’s Yard (now James Hyman Gallery). We felt that we needed to do something that went against the stuffiness of the existing galleries, but we didn’t really know what we were doing. I was very young and quite innocent about what was going on.
We showed artists such as Soto, de Marco, Julio Le Parc, Takis and Liliane Lijn. There were no painting shows, just what you might call conceptual works. From the beginning the place became a stopping-off point – everyone came through Indica. One of those who did was Yoko Ono, who had just been over for the Destruction in Art Symposium. She asked me if she could have a show and I said, yes…
We had a casual way of running the gallery. I never took it seriously as a business in the way that they do now. We funded the space on a day-to-day basis, and we enjoyed it. Even though it was a critical success, at that time the galleries had to be there for ten years or so before the public institutions thought about buying anything.
The gallery became very popular, and there were always press turning up to do interviews with us. We were being paid a lot of attention. The gallerist Robert Fraser liked what we were doing and subsequently gave John Lennon his first one-person show there. It wasn’t competitive, though. We were friends. We were the first post-war generation, and the biggest changes happened then. It was a very different time. Everything was on the move – it made you want to do new things, whether it was in art, film, music.”
L-R: Peter Asher, Miles, John Dunbar outside Indica Gallery, 6 Mason’s Yard, 1966
Born David Jones, Bowie’s debut release was the 1964 single “Liza Jane” by Davie Jones & the King Bees. He released two more singles in 1965 under the names of The Manish Boys and Davy Jones & the Lower Third. His first release using the name David Bowie was the 1966 single “Can’t Help Thinking About Me“, which was released with The Lower Third. Bowie’s next single, “Do Anything You Say“, also released in 1966, was the first release by simply David Bowie. Bowie released four more singles and his debut album, David Bowie (1967), in the late 1960s before he first had success in the United Kingdom with the 1969 single “Space Oddity“.
Born and raised in south London, Bowie developed an interest in music while at Burnt Ash junior school and showed aptitude in singing and playing the recorder. When he left school he studied art, music and design, and became proficient on the saxophone, forming his first band that year at the age of 15. He embarked on a professional career as a musician in 1963, and received his first management contract shortly afterwards. “Space Oddity” became his first top five entry on the UK Singles Chart after its release in July 1969. During his career, Bowie released 27 studio albums (2 as part of a group), 9 live albums, 49 compilation albums, 6 extended plays (EPs), 120 singles, including 5 UK number one singles, and 3 soundtracks. Bowie also released 14 video albums and 58 music videos.
Cilla Black was an icon of the 1960’s British music phenomena. Born in Liverpool, she was a friend of the Beatles and worked at the Cavern Club. In May 2010 new research published by BBC Radio 2 showed that her version of “Anyone Who Had a Heart” was the UK’s biggest selling single by a female artist in the 1960s
Model Jenny Boyd blonde) in photo shoot, Summer 1965
Grammar schools go comprehensive: Education Secretary Anthony Crosland’s role by Dominic Sandrbook, Daily Mail, July 29, 2015
“In July 1965, he issued his notorious Circular 10/65, using his department’s financial muscle to force local authorities to scrap their grammars and go comprehensive ‘If it’s the last thing I do,’ he gleefully told his wife, ‘I’m going to destroy every f*****g grammar school in England.’ This was a shameful moment in our recent history. It is not just that Crosland wilfully destroyed many good schools which had worked wonders to improve the life chances of children from poor, working-class homes. It is that he saw his role as that of a petty dictator, using the power of Whitehall to trample on local objections.” Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2894963/Why-Britain-wrecked-1965-Fifty-years-ago-UK-socially-morally-culturally-different-country-ways-better-people-far-worse.html#ixzz3hKFk8u90 Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook
Beatles “Help” album and film are released
Kinks release See My Friends
“Fifty years ago, at the height of the British Invasion, The Yardbirds released Heart Full of Soul (28 May 1965) and The Kinks, See My Friends”(30 July 1965). Both attempted to evoke something exotic, mysterious, and distinctly different from the flood of productions competing for consumer attention that summer. Drawing on Britain’s long fascination with “The Orient,” these recordings started sixties British pop down a path that proved both rewarding and problematic.”
Gordon R. Thompson is a Professor of Music at Skidmore College. His book, Please Please Me: Sixties British Pop, Inside Out, offers an insider’s view of the British pop-music recording industry. Check out Thompson’s posts on The Beatles and other music .
See more at: http://blog.oup.com/2015/07/british-invasion-orientalism-summer-1965-pop-music/#sthash.s4pLh0bv.dpuf- See more at: http://blog.oup.com/2015/07/british-invasion-orientalism-summer-1965-pop-music/#sthash.U6svM23I.dpuf
What was the weather?
August – Slightly below average temperature; near normal rainfall and sunshine.
Mean Temperature 16.6°C
Monthly Highest 25.8°C Total Rain 59 mm
Monthly Lowest 9.1°C Total Sun 188 hrs
After a fine day on the 1st, the 2nd was cool and wet. Nearly 16mm of rain fell and the temperature only reached 16°C. It then became fairly warm with plenty of dry weather. On the 12th, the temperature almost reached 26°C. Atlantic fronts brought some bands of mostly light rain, but at the end of the third week frontal systems became more active and temperature levels fell. On the last day of August a northerly wind blew and the maximum temperature was only 17°C.
Sounds of the Sixties
There was the music of course. But in addition, these are some of the sounds people associate with the 1960’s in London What sounds do you remember?
‘Penny for the Guy’ leading up to the 5th November Bonfire nights
Clink of milk bottles being delivered on your door step
“Mind the gap” announcements in the Underground
Calls of the rag and bone men
Clippity clop of the dray horses
The bells and ticket machines on the buses and the tinkling sounds of coins in the conductors’s pouch.v0_master
Factory horns announcing starting and closing times
Newspaper vendors yelling “Staaandard, get your Evening Standard here”
Air raid sirens once a week
“Clunk and clink of the record changer on the Dansette record player.maxresdefault
Children playing in the street and the occasional yell of “car!”
“Car horns that played a little ditty.”
Picking up the phone and hearing another conversation on the trunk line
The “whoosh” of the metal container used in department stores to move money from the sales desk to the accounts department on another floor
Review by Iain Morris, The Guardian, April 28, 2015
Analysis of a revolution A combination of arts criticism and political commentary demonstrates why the events of the 1960s are still relevant
Is there a single year that can be said to have bequeathed us the Britain we live in today? For journalist Christopher Bray it is 1965, when a confluence of cultural, political and socio-economic developments smashed apart the certainties of the postwar period and ushered in the modern era.
Although just three years old in 1965, the author – who has published acclaimed biographies of Sean Connery and Michael Caine – is evidently an aficionado of the swinging 60s, a label that has already paid homage to the decade’s profound impact on Britain’s cultural and political landscape. This is not, however, to suggest that 1965 lacks originality. Blending arts and literary criticism with biography and political commentary, Bray serves up a nostalgia-tinged appraisal of the year’s key characters and events, never failing to show why these remain relevant.
Whether or not 1965 really does have greater significance than 1964 or 1966 (take your pick of the bunch), there is a neat logic about its selection as the turning point. In that year, the first baby boomers were due to come of age, while guardians of the old order such as Winston Churchill and TS Eliot were being interred. It was seven years since Eliot had written The Elder Statesman, but with the passing of Britain’s true elder statesman, along with “the high priest of high culture”, as Bray calls Eliot, a new generation of adults was free to escape the past in a way that Lord Claverton, the protagonist of Eliot’s final play, could never do.
Cue a revolution in the arts and literature that saw the marriage of high culture and “pop”, as European surrealist influences seeped into the comedy of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, the music of the Beatles and the film-making of Roman Polanski. Ever since the Industrial Revolution, there had been a stratification of western culture along class lines, with frivolous entertainment for the masses and highbrow art for the elite. What the Beatles and their contemporaries achieved, writes Bray, “was to lay waste to this tragic bifurcation”, meaning pop (if not all of it) could acquire the respectability it had previously lacked.
Change was also afoot in education and transportation, although with less positive long-term implications, as far as the author is concerned. In the vast territory of America, cars remain a symbol of the freedom the 1960s was supposed to be all about, but in comparatively lilliputian Britain their spread since then has blighted cities and countryside alike, reckons Bray, while our railways have been left to rot. As if to resist being conveniently pigeonholed on the basis of his political sympathies, he expresses an equally forthright opinion that educational reforms carried out in 1965 – aimed at replacing grammar schools and secondary moderns with comprehensives – were a misguided affront to meritocracy that have ultimately made today’s education system “one of the bulwarks of class division in our society”.
Far more egalitarian was the reforming zeal of Roy Jenkins, whose efforts after becoming home secretary in 1965 to legalise abortion and homosexuality, abolish capital punishment and penalise racial discrimination arguably make him one of the two postwar politicians who have most influenced present-day Britain. Margaret Thatcher, the other, also features in Bray’s narrative as the figure to whom so many of the hippies eventually turned more than a decade later, by which time the countercultural interest in personal freedom and permissiveness had evolved into a hostility to state involvement in individual affairs. Was Thatcher’s 1980s revolution simply the progeny of the one that occurred 20 years earlier? If so, the 1960s hold more sway than most readers could ever have imagined.
“Their efforts abroad to keep the Union Jack fluttering proudly have been far more successful than a regiment of diplomats and statesmen.” The Beatles are each awarded an MBE (Member of the British Empire) In June 1965
The Marquee Club – September 1965
01 Al Stewart
02 The Steampacket Boz and the Boz People
03 Gary Farr and The T-Bones
06 Jimmy James and the Vagabonds The Crowd
07 The Mark Leeman Five
09 The Graham Bond Organisation Boz and the Boz People
10 Gary Farr and The T-Bones
13 Jimmy James and the Vagabonds
14 Manfred Mann. The Mark Leeman Five
16 Spencer Davis Group The Bo Street Runners
17 Gary Farr and The T-Bones
20 Jimmy James and the Vagabonds The Sidewinders
21 Spencer Davis Group The Silkie
23 The Graham Bond Organisation Boz and the Boz People
24 Gary Farr and The T-Bones The Crowd
27 Jimmy James and the Vagabonds
28 The Moody Blues
The Greater London Council replaces the London County Council and greatly expands the metropolitan area of the city.
Ronnie and Reggie Kray are arrested on suspicion of running a protection racket in London
In June 1968, Paul McCartney recorded “Blackbird.” Introducing the song in recent concerts, he says that the song was inspired by the Civil Rights movement in the U.S and the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr in April 1968. McCartney says he had in mind a black woman as a symbol of black American women, and that he wanted to support them in their struggles agains inequality.