If You Can Remember The 1960s…..

As they say…….if you can remember the 1960s, you were not really there.

It seems to me that my earliest memories of pop culture were around 1960 in Coalisland, County Tyrone. My older cousin/Godmother Bernadette, would listen to “Housewive’s Choice” on the BBC Radio Light Programme. It was the only concession the BBC made to “pop music”. The big stars were Cliff Richard and the Shadows and Billy Fury.

Of course Elvis Presley was big too……but really people saw him (already) as a movie star rather than a rock’n’roll legend. The old Gaumont cinema (in Castle Lane Belfast where BHS now stands) nearly always had an Elvis movie……with stills of bikini-clad girls outside.

Then the Beatles burst on to the scene in 1962, followed by more “beat groups”……….the Rolling Stones, the Animals, the Who, the Hollies, Herman’s Hermits, the Dave Clark Five……….and TV started  finding programmes with unlikely presenters………TV professionals such as Keith Fordyce presented “Ready Steady Go”, David Jacobs presented “Juke Box Jury” and Kent Walton (yes the man you remember from commentating on Saturday afternoon wrestling) presented “Discs A Go Go”. And “pop” entered the mainstream when “Top of the Pops” first aired on 1st January 1964.

As an 11 year old…….I threw myself into the “new” culture. A regular reader of New Musical Express and all that. Not to mention Radio Caroline, the pirate ship anchored off the Isle of Man coast……..and not to mention Radio Luxembourg. Of course the British Government reacted to the pirate ships……eventually……..by setting up BBC Radio One (September 1967) and simply bringing the outlaws like Tony Blackburn into the Establishment.

Quick piece of Trivia…….the first record played on Radio One was “Flowers in the Rain” by The Move. And yes I was wide awake to hear it. Of course pop culture is fast moving………between 1962 and 1967, we had Carnaby Street and “Swinging London” and several of the pop groups (Swinging Blue Jeans, the Applejacks) were simply one hit wonders, while others like Freddie and the Dreamers and Herman’s Hermits settled for show biz and cabaret.

And other figures within groups…….like Graham Nash of the Hollies and Pete Townsend of the Who started thinking that “pop music” should become more serious, newly marketed as “rock music”.

1967………….the Summer of Love in San Francisco and Sgt Pepper in London. Musicians started to think of themselves as………well…….important. In the great Pop-Rock Civil War, I was firmly on the side of “Pop”. Indian gurus, sitars and all that are all very well………but call me old fashioned I just like 2 minutes 47 seconds of three guitars and drums. I dont like when Music becomes complicated.

When the “pop” thing ended circa 1971……there was a kinda choice…………progressive rock, heavy metal, glam rock……………..but I went for the singer-songwriters like Simon & Garfunkel and country rock such as the Eagles, elfin songstresses like Linda Ronstadt and girls with cowboy hats like Emmylou Harris.

Yet the 1960s are in the News again…..thanks to Jimmy Savile. As Max Clifford (the publicist) stars from that era are knocking on his door. They were, he says “hedonistic days” and stars are worried that they might have done something inappropriate or even illegal with teenage or even underage girls.

Lets be frank……pop stars of the 1960s are like todays Premiership Footballers…….or I suppose its more accurate to say that 1960s pop stars are exactly like pop stars in 2012. Even the ugliest member of any boy band need never be…..lonely.

They have won the lotto…….they are……….eligible young men and act accordingly.

But heres the thing. Way back in the 1960s……the BBC banned “Lets Spend the Night Together” (the Rolling Stones and would only play the B-side “Ruby Tuesday”. RTE refused to play “If You Gotta Go” (Manfred Mann)……………..and there were dark mutterings about “Pretty Flamingo” (Manfred Mann) as it was apparently about prostitution. Dave Dee Dozy Beaky Mick and Tich had their song “Bend It” criticised …..seemingly about …well………..how can I put this………it had the same subject matter as “Bend Me Shape Me” (Amen Corner) and “Hang on Sloopy” (the McCoys).

Surely not.

The 1960s were an odd time. I got my first record player in 1968……and the first record I ever bought was actually a “long player” (as we called albums back then). It was called “Gary Puckett and Union Gaps Greatest Hits featuring Young Girl”).

Now actually nobody ever suggested banning “Young Girl” and the subject matter was……..lin the words of wikipedia “The song is sung from the point of view a man distressed to find out his lover is under an acceptable age”.

Well that beats Banagher ………isnt that really all we need to know about the 1960s that a song about feelings about underage sex was under the radar.

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6 Responses to If You Can Remember The 1960s…..

  1. pippakin says:

    To be honest I find it quite difficult to remember the sixties. I have to be reminded by something or song. I should say that I didn’t really get too involved in the lifestyle until after I left school in 1966 and by then if I remember correctly things were moving on to flower power and cow bells.

    I do remember a great feeling of everything being possible and to be explored. I also remember Young Girl. I liked the song and do you know as hard line as I am now I didn’t give a thought to the implications of the song then. No one did.

    • Exactly.
      “Young Girl” was #1 when I was doing my O levels (16 years old) in May 1968. But when the results came out in August…my parents bought me a record player and the album was the very first record I bought.
      Yet I am glad you said that you didnt realise the implications either.
      Union Gap did very over-produced records and oddly there were other songs which were not very different…..”This Girl Will Be A Woman Soon”and “Lady Willpower”.
      Union Gap had a gimmick. They dressed in American Civil War uniforms.
      You might also like to check out (you tube) a song called “Son of Hickory Hollers Tramp” by OC Smith. It was #2 when “Young Girl” was #1.
      The chorus.
      “The path was deep and wide from footsteps leading to our cabin/Above the door there burned a scarlet lamp/Late at night a hand would knock and there would stand a stranger/Yes im the son of Hickory Hollers Tramp”

      The sons that I mentioned as banned were before 1967 (Summer of Love was the watershed) but I wonder in retrospect if the late 1960s/early 1970s were a time when morality bounced around. It was the time of “Deep Throat”, and British sex comedies like “Confessions of…..series” and the never to be forgotten “Can You Keep It Up For A Week” and “The Ups And Downs of A Handyman”.
      The odd thing is that these were mainstream with “respectable” actors and actresses.
      It seems there was just a seven year time period when there was NO clear direction.

  2. pippakin says:

    I remember Hickory Hollis Tramp very well. I might take a look at it later, its been years.

    I think you’re right it was a time of great change not technologically, although there were such changes, but deeper morals were changing and I think some of us may have been wary of sounding and being old fashioned. I think it was a time of exploration much of it now, of course, seems naive and much of it must have been exploitative but I have to admit I had a grand time!

  3. kalista63 says:

    Sam Cooke is so embedded in my brain from the earliest days. Save for Un Bel Di Vedroma, no other song touches me like A Change Gonna Come, to this very day.

    In general, I think it s the Kinks, rather than the Beatles or the Stones, that most typify the era for me.

    • Hmmm…..the Kinks…..Im not totally sure about. I remember “Waterloo Sunset”. About ten years after it came out, the fact emerged that it was about Homosexuality.
      I think Ray Davies was an acquired taste.
      He summed the 1960s up in a lot of songs “Dedicated Follower of Fashion” for example.
      A band that was “good” but never really “enjoyable”.

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