Category Archives: The View from Here and There: Londoners on America, Americans on London

Civil Rights

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.

America to an English teenager

To the teenage me, living in the drab end of North West London, all things American shone out as exciting, vibrant and ahead of us in culture, music and attitudes, and its citizens seemed to live life in technicolour. Pop singers from across the Atlantic appealed to me far more than their British counterparts, even the Beatles, with Elvis as King, of course. My mother had an opposing view of Americans and called Elvis a ‘bruiser’, which upset me greatly but confirmed my beliefs. A girl from the US joined us in our sixth form at school and said ‘Hi’ instead of ‘Hello’ which seemed so ‘cool’ to me at the time. She was pretty too, with a blond pony tail, if my memory serves me correctly, and seemed to epitomise confident American youth. By the time I reached the end of my teens I had become more sensible and realised you should judge people by their merits, not by their accents, and that all people are equal until proved otherwise!
Julie Norton

London to an American teenager

During the late 60’s, I was of course quite intrigued by the music coming out of England. The influence of the Beatles, Stones, Dave Clark Five, Hollies, Kinks, Herman’s Hermits, Yardbirds, Zombies and on and on and on was so strong that it set me on a path of curiosity and appreciation that ultimately led to my seeking a career in the record business. However, I have to say that I don’t think this interest led to a significant interest in my learning more about London — probably because music is auditory (of course) and it was well before the time of video being associated with music. The pictures of the bands on the record albums didn’t really say “London” to me. It said “fashion” and “style” and “individuality” — all things somewhat important to me as a curious teen.

What DID speak to me about London, though, was Monty Python. Although it was probably the early 70’s before” PBS began airing their “Flying Circus” shows, the humor screamed the “60’s” and the sets they performed on gave me a humorous introduction to the culture and spirit of London. Scenes of great humor being played out in front of places like Westminster and Big Ben — or in ordinary London neighborhoods — provided some context of the city for me, and to this day frames my image of London in the 60’s. Joe Maita

“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 sailed across the Atlantic in a big way that was irresistible.” Lynn Stelmah

Music

“Until the Beatles arrived, American popular music and singers dominated and I was a great Elvis fan. British singers like Cliff Richard and Billy Fury seemed weaker versions to my 14-year-old self. Then the Beatles changed all that and we were on the map too.” Julie Norton

Vietnam War

“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 View from Here and There

twiggyyoungAn American View of London in the 60’s

OK, call me shallow, if you must, but London came to my attention when Twiggy came to my attention. Here was this woman who was my height and my weight and was making big bucks by showing herself off. My tomboy figure was nothing I ever celebrated until Twiggy showed up. Is it possible that I too could achieve fame and fortune with an asset that I had always tried to hide in over sized shirts ? Teens everywhere are looking for role models and why not cross the seas to find one? Now that London was on my radar, I found that the cool 60’s British Bands, the Eiffel Tower and SoHo were pretty interesting too. I knew this place was a must see and would be part of my later travels. And while I haven’t met Twiggy yet, I’m happy to report that this still tomboy like body has visited her home several times and recently taken up an acting/modeling career in her 60’s ! Thanks, Twiggy.   Luanne