Saturday, August 06, 2022

WEEKENDER: A View From The Past, by Wiggia

Probably THE party anthem of the Sixties

As with so much with us of the older generations we get berated for opinions that are dated, do not take in the advances made since our youth and being stuck in a supposed ‘golden age’ that never really existed, except in many cases as with all else it did.

Anyone who was in their late teens or early twenties and lived through the Sixties would probably agree it was the best decade in modern times, we had it all.

The music that exploded across the world was nearly all our making and changed the landscape of popular music. It was without a precedent, nothing before or since has matched it.

British fashion was a bad joke until the Sixties. Suddenly an explosion of talent changed all that and we led the world in fashion design: the mini skirt became an icon of the age, Mary Quant hairdos, and barbers became hairdressers much else in design such as promoted by Terence Conran, and innovators appeared and were hugely successful in that same decade.

And through it all up till the present day Twiggy represented the age with style:

And alongside Twiggy a bevy of photographers changed the way the camera recorded the age: David Bailey, Terence Donovan, Brian Duffy and the photojournalist Don McCullin, and Tony Ray-Jones the social photographer changed the way in their respective fields how Britain was seen, here and worldwide.

Bailey could almost be accused of making the Krays ‘popular’,
 such was the success of his portraits of them.

Our way of life changed, not necessarily all for the better as ‘free love’ via the contraceptive pill, came with certain problems but the earlier prudish approach to relationships was swept away in that decade. Women advanced their case more in the Sixties than all the decades before, equal pay after the Dagenham Ford strike was demanded and started to be accepted as the norm, even though the resistance to it stayed for years after.

We started to venture abroad for our holidays and those weeks at Butlins started to became a faint memory for many.

There was full employment, good wages and working conditions were being transformed. At the beginning of that decade hardly anyone owned a motor car at the end of it nearly everyone did, and we got the E-Type Jaguar and the Mini.

And pre-EU we were successful as a nation. The old nationalised industries were slowly being privatised and became more competitive, we led the world in nuclear fusion, had a more than competitive aircraft industry and still had armed forces that could be a force anywhere should the need arise.

Concord first flew in ‘69 and to this day is a marvel of aviation. Anyone who saw it could not help but be amazed something like that was actually flying. Yes, I am aware it never made money but at the time who cared.

Entertainment through the medium of television created the first stars of the screen, pubs and working men's clubs provided entertainers who went on television and became household names, who without that medium would have remained undiscovered.That Was TheWeek That Was broke new ground in the presenting of news and satire with brilliant writers and presenters.

Sporting achievements were capped when we won the football World Cup, we had our first world road race cycling champion in ‘65, we had a whole raft of innovative race car and engine designers who changed the whole way that race cars were built and we won world championships on two wheels and four. John Surtees won the world drivers championship in ‘64 and became still the only man to have won world titles on two and four wheels' Hill Clark and others cemented our position at the top of Grand Prix racing. Lynn Davies and David Hemery made gold in the ‘64 Olympics

No decade is perfect. We went from Harold Macmillan 'You've never had it so good' to Harold Wilson 'From now on, the pound abroad is worth 14 per cent or so less in terms of other currencies. That doesn't mean, of course, that the Pound here in Britain, in your pocket or purse or in your bank, has been devalued' - quite………….

You could see your GP at any time and he would visit if necessary in the middle of the night. The hospital system was more rudimentary but it worked and there were no real waiting lists.

Prices in ‘65 adjusted to today's allowing for inflation:

A pint of beer £1.70, newspaper 25p, average house price £50,000 and you got space inside and out, Ford Cortina 9,500. Not all was cheaper: new technology was much more expensive than now inline with the first mobile phones, and some food items are much the same, but transport was cheap.
Posting a letter cost 19p adjusted in ‘68 compared with 67p today.
Petrol per gallon - see here for how it has gone upwards ever since the motor car became a tax gift.

Eating out, something that simply did not exist in the Fifties started to happen in the Sixties. Rudimentary it may have been, nonetheless although Chinese and Indian restaurants had been around for decades they were never really a pull for the general population. That all changed and with the change came food with taste, and along with the spicy food came lager. So much before had been so bland as to be instantly forgettable. As usual not all was good, Wimpy bars arrived!, and Bernie Inns, but it nonetheless got people out to eat in a way not seen before.

We really did not eat out, even the pubs only had a plastic cheese roll under a glass dome that had been perspiring for days and a choice of crisps: salted and unsalted.

Wine started to appear on menus. Till then wine had been something that Colonels drank in the shires; Mateus Rose and Blue Nun changed all that - basic, but a start.

Among other technological advancements in the sixties, carbon fibre was invented at the Royal Aircraft Establishment in ‘63.

The touchscreen was another British invention in ‘65, who would have believed then what an influence it would become in later years.

Barclays Bank saw the first ATM in action in ‘67 - a British, in its final form, invention; and James Goodfellow a Scottish engineer pioneered the PIN system which incorporated in with the credit card made cash withdrawals from ATMs a part of normal life in ‘66.

Technological advancement meant people had more leisure time. The microwave appeared along with transistor radios and colour TVs; Radio Caroline opened up a whole new a whole new world with DJs who promoted popular music.

Film mirrored the age and actors like Michael Caine, David Hemmings and a list that seemed endless advanced on the world stage, plus the films that were made when we sill had a functioning film industry, many remain classics and icons of that time.

My Generation | Official Trailer from Photon Films and Media on Vimeo.

People spoke to one another in the street down the pub. Today all you see is people glued to mobile phones. The art of dating has been lost as all go online to meet someone of the opposite sex, and same sex! - can’t think of a worse way to set out in the world with a new partner, it’s like colouring by numbers, you get a result but they are all the same.

Nobody gets married any more and single parents prevail, a backward step on all counts for the child especially, and a further burden on the taxpayer.

Being unemployed during the Sixties carried a stigma with it, no one wanted to go on the dole; today you can’t get a large percentage of the population weaned off it, it has become a lifestyle choice and is aided by the State.

And our ruling class of all colours gets ever more ridiculous and incompetent, yet people still vote for them.

As is the case younger people with no knowledge of earlier times are inclined to sneer at what was a golden age sans smart phones, it’s all they know, which is sad as they missed something they could never envisage. Who knows they might even have enjoyed it, the music was certainly better.

Politics has changed as well, no longer any orators or even speakers with any authority, who today could emulate this from Harold MacMillan:

Or this….

Or this…

Instead we are reduced to this, though it could have been any one of dozens today of the self-serving dross that is foisted upon us:
"I am Kamala Harris. My pronouns are she and her, and I am a woman sitting at the table wearing a blue suit." Second in command of the most powerful nation on the planet. God help us.
The Sixties was Britain pre-EU,  a world that we left behind to join a trading bloc? Something else the later generations would not have a clue about. It was on reflection a decade we largely took for granted at the time such was the speed of change, but there has not been a decade like it since.

“If you remember the ‘60s, you weren’t really there.”

That line though with some basis of truth for a small section of society was not of the time, it was first uttered by American comedian Charlie Fleischer in ‘82 and he would be just ten when the Sixties started so probably knew little about the decade. It assumes everyone at the time was on something, that was also not true but it makes a good punchline.

Tottenham Royal with the Dave Clark Five on stage, a regular haunt of mine during the Sixties.
Many top bands played there as they did up the road at the Astoria Finsbury Park (later the Rainbow.)

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