Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Saturday, 2 January 2016

1966 and all that ...

Its official, 1966 is now 50 years ago - those of us who were young then, and there will have fond memories .... as I shall return to.
After some good reviews I just had to order this new book by music journalist Jon Savage, taking us through the year month by month, mainly focusing on the music - all those fab singles out every week and those groundbreaking albums. I did not realise though it would be such a heavy tome of 650 pages ... too big to carry around for casual reading on the train!  Let's look at the blurb:

2016 will see the 50th anniversary of defining year in global pop cultural history, 1966. Jon Savage's exploration of the key highs, lows and revolutionary moments, will be at the centre of reflection on what made that year so uniquely resonant. extraordinary year in popular culture.
'The 'Sixties', as we have come to know them, hit their Modernist peak. A unique chemistry of ideas, substances, freedom of expression and dialogue across pop cultural continents created a landscape of immense and eventually shattering creativity. After 1966 nothing in the pop world would ever be the same. The 7 inch single outsold the long-player for the final time.
Jon Savage's 1966 is a monument to the year that shaped the pop future of the balance of the century. Exploring canonical artists like The Beatles, The Byrds, Velvet Underground, The Who and The Kinks, 1966 also goes much deeper into the social and cultural heart of the decade through unique archival primary sources.
From Haight Ashbury to pirate radio, via the prosecution of the Rollling Stones and the arrival of the first double-album by a major artist (Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde), 1966 represents both a watershed and a high water mark in post war culture,
This book has music at its heart – whether looking at Joe Meek, Motown, Stax, the Velvet Underground, the Byrds, the Kinks, the Who, Jimi Hendrix, the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band or Tom Jones; music both reflected the times and changed them. From songs of protest – to those lampooning the protesters - from folk rock to soul and the emergence of rock, music pours forth from the pages and will make you reach for your own collections to play those songs, which still sound so fresh and relevant today

England was at the forefront of the new changes in the air, a trend picked up by TIME magazine with their Swinging London cover story ..... other British successes included all those trendy films, the new Hovercraft crossing the channel on a cushion of air, the Harrier Jump Jet, and of course England winning the World  Cup. But what did 1966 mean to me? How was I living then? 

Well I was just 20, and finally left my bedsitter/furnished room in North London where I had been since I arrived in London in April 1964, aged 18. My younger brother had arrived in London too and took over my room, as I moved on .... I had found a room in smart Bayswater, sharing a large apartment in Queens Gardens - where I played Bob Dylan and Francoise Hardy 4-track Extended Play disks, and Paul Simon's "I Am A Rock", and The Beatles RUBBER SOUL was still top of the charts - as would their REVOLVER later that year.  . I could walk up to Notting Hill Gate at night, for late night movies at the Classic Cinema, and began exploring the city and going to the theatre. There were some good shows that year: FUNNY GIRL with that new sensation Barbara Streisand - which I saw from the front row! and THE ROYAL HUNT OF THE SUN up in the cheap seats at the Old Vic. THE KING'S MARE was an amusing comedy about Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves, which I enjoyed and some evening when I was out in theatreland I passed the stage door and there was actress Jane Merrow so we had a great conversation - as she sang a song in the play based on a Bob Dylan tune ... I had liked her in THE SYSTEM - it turned out she was David Hemmings' girlfriend at the time. I did not know then that he was off making BLOW-UP for Antonioni at the time - that would be the sensation of 1967 in the then swinging city. We prowled around the Prince of Wales theatre too hoping (in vain) to see Streisand - but got her co-star Kay Medford instead. There was also Ingrid Bergman's success in A MONTH IN THE COUNTRY, I got the cast autographs for that - and was taken backstage by a showbiz acquintance to meet the cast of the hilarious THE ANNIVERSARY and they all signed the programme: Michael Crawford, Sheila Hancock, Mona Washbourne, June Ritchie, Jack Hedley, James Cossins - most of them were in the 1968 film.

The movies just kept coming: I joined the crowd at the premiere of MODESTY BLAISE hoping Monica Vitti would be there, she was not but I saw Dirk Bogarde with Rosella Falk (Mrs Fothergill) on his arm, Monica, Dirk and Terry were my pin-ups of the year.. Other hits of the year were Bergman's PERSONA, Lelouch's UNE HOMME ET UNE FEMME (where Anouk Aimee was perfection, when not endlessly fiddling with her hair), and Sophia Loren and Gregory Peck wonderful together in ARABESQUE - a very 60s confection. WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? was a stunner Malle's VIVA MARIA has the 'house full' sign up when a friend and I turned up to see it at The Curzon in Mayfair. (still here, for now, as the developers move in). "Films and Filming" and "Sight & Sound" kept us up to date with all the new movies.  

I used to go to the big Classic cinema in Baker Street for revivals (not having a television then), and that new vegetarian store Cranks had opened next to it, I was in there one day and there was a small Japanese woman shopping next to me - I knew she was Yoko Ono, then (before John Lennon) a performance artist and avant garde film-maker (her film with all those naked bottoms!)  who featured in those new Sunday supplements. Another Sunday supplement regular was artist David Hockney - I went too to one of those new gay bars in Pembridge Road, Notting Hill - and recognised him there - looking at me, with the peroxide hair and the round glasses - perhaps he was over from California? I did not linger though and left after finishing my drink .... perhaps if I had stayed I might have been one of those boys in a blue pool ...

It was time though to move again - we moved a lot in those days, sharing apartments for maybe 6 monhs or so. Now it was on to West Kensington sharing a pad with 2 friends of a friend - it was just a temporary thing - Julie Christie it seemed lived in an apartment block there which we passed a lot, but never saw her., I saw that famous World Cup win there on a small black and white set (it was still the era of just two TV channels - imagine! - which closed down early and no colour) - no wonder young people were out making music and being creative and creating their own events. 

Finally, that autumn it was down to Clapham South, where I became a South London boy, sharing another flat with Stanley - who turned out to be my best friend, until he died in 1992 - we sharing flats on and off up to the early '70s and again later in the mid-80s before romance took me off to the South Coast for a decade or more .... We finally got television then, and that new trendy station BBC2 opened - LATE NIGHT LINE UP, MAN ALIVE documentaries - including one on those still illegal gays dancing in their clubs and wearing white polo neck sweaters; the popular soap THE NEWCOMERS, and crime series Z-CARS and even DIXON OF DOCK GREENDR WHO (Patrick Troughton) at Saturday teatime followed by THE SIMON DEE SHOW - all in shades of gray, and Sunday afternoon drama serials like a great THREE MUSKETEERS with Jeremy Brett, and KENILWORTH.on BBC2. It was also the year of that hard-ditting drama CATHY COME HOME and saw the start of Alf Garnett in TILL DEATH DO US PART. Later in the decade we loved those comedy shows like ME MAMMY (Anna Manahan and Milo O'Shea) and BEGGAR MY NEIGHBOUR where June Whitfield (still going now) had a knowing twinkle in her eye whenever mentioning a neighbour who "lived down by the maisonettes and was good to his mother". 

We began frequenting the West End coffee bars and early gay discos when the teens danced to Tamla Motown - The LE DEUCE in D'Arblay Street was a particular favourite.. So, 1966 ended on a high - but 1967 would be even better: as psychedelia hit London (we already liked that West Coast sound of The Mamas and Papas, and the New York combo The Lovin' Spoonful), BLOW-UP hit town in March and it was like seeing oneself up there on the screen, and then The Beatles released SERGEANT PEPPER .... Stan and I and Linda, the girl upstairs, went stark raving mad. We went to see The Stax Tour, just before Otis Redding took that fatal flight. 1968 brought Aretha Franklin to town and I joined the hippie set seeing The Doors and Jefferson Airplane at the Roundhouse at Camden, where everyone was on acid - ditto at 2001 A SPACE ODYSSEY in Cinerama and so much more, like going to the Middle Earth club in Covent Garden and getting the hippie magazine "International Times" and that new weekly listings mag "Time Out" ...  Above right, me sporting the tousled Rolling Stone look on Clapham Common in '66.

4 comments:

  1. Best post ever. There, I just had to say it.

    Colin

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  2. I am almost inclined to agree with Colin on this one. I loved reading about your misspent youth in London and what do you know, you were actually dishy in those days with those big Irish cow-eyes; I could even have fancied you myself! But then that was 100 years ago in a galaxy far far away .... ;) However, I must add that if name-dropping were a crime you would get life plus 150 years!

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  3. You are going to get such a bitchslap when you venture over here again - surely you will be over for Sheridan as the new FUNNY GIRL at The Savoy ?

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