This was Thursday: 1971 – Those were the Days

the conversation hasn’t stopped

The executives at CBS must have felt that America was ready for more than  idyllic, escapist TV fare when they brought  All In The Family to the small screen in January of 1971. Based upon the BBC series Till Death Us Do Part, this ground-breaking situation comedy starring Carroll O’Connor as opinionated blue-collar worker Archie Bunker presented the real world from a new but familiar vantage point.  Series like The Andy Griffith Show, Hogan’s Heroes and McHale’s Navy, while classics in their own right, had a sugar-coated outlook on life’s little problems, nothing was so terrible that it couldn’t be solved with a happy outcome in 22 minutes. Archie and his family broke that tradition with story lines that not only ran from one week to another but broached the previously unmentionable with a gusto that left some outraged and others rolling with laughter on the floor.  The paunchy loading dock worker had a big-mouth and couldn’t care less whether his opinion on everything from ethnic minorities (like his son-in-law christened “Meathead”) to the machinations of big business and government were correct or not – it was his right as a tax-paying American to let everyone know what he thought.  Producer Norman Lear was careful to temper Archie’s often abrasive character with some sympathetic qualities and liberally seasoned the shows for comic effect with the sounds of real life like belching and toilets flushing, something that would have raised eyebrows a mere five years earlier.

71bensonandhedges

One of those atheist, long-haired hippie losers archie loved to hate

All in the Family was in many respects a microcosm of American convention and deportment. Television was pushing the envelope on censorship, topics that had been taboo as entertainment were pushed to the forefront and advertising (like that of cigarettes) once commonplace was banned. Both the networks and print media embraced with open arms the changes the last decade had fought so valiantly for – it was good business to promote opposing viewpoints and socially significant themes. Whether through humour or serious exposition, it was only a matter of time before their market share increased.  Everything from the death of bad boy Jim Morrison, the Apollo 14 moon landing and Evel Knievel jumping over 19 cars on his motorcycle to Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier in the ‘Fight of the Century’ became fair game for profit. It was no wonder that a whole segment of the population with more conservative views was finding this brave new world just a bit much to digest.

As Archie and his ever-loyal Edith sang in their duet that opened the show:

Boy the way Glen Miller played
Songs that made the hit parade.
Guys like us we had it made,
Those were the days.

And you knew who you were then,
Girls were girls and men were men,
Mister we could use a man
Like Herbert Hoover again.

Didn’t need no welfare state,
Everybody pulled his weight.
Gee our old LaSalle ran great.
Those were the days.

Read more on:

Carroll O’Connor
Archie Bunker
Jim Morrison
1971
1971 JukeBox


This was Thursday: 1971

life on the other side of the fab four wasn’t all that bad

1971 was the year many believe the true digital age began with the first use of the Intel 4004 microprocessor, pocket calculator, floppy disk and liquid crystal displays ( LCD ). The first email was sent between two computers and the first e-book was published – mere words and the time it takes to transmit them would never be the same again.

Technology spread to the money markets as well: countless millions were poured into the new stock index when the Nasdaq opened on February 8. Something was definitely up on Wall Street, by May the US dollar had flooded the European currency markets threatening to bring down the Deutsche mark. In a show of unity and foresight, the central banks of Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland stopped the currency trading. The growing American trade deficit, due in large part to paying for the Vietnam War, began to undermine the value of the dollar and in one short, sharp economic shock President Richard Nixon abandoned the Bretton Woods system.  A 90-day freeze on wages, prices and rents would not go far and by December the american dollar was devalued and became, like most forms of money circulating around the globe today, fiat money unbacked by any physical asset.

Governments continued apace, countries rose and fell, coups were attempted, succeeded and failed. Ordinary people still wanted the wars to end – 12,000 were arrested in the 1971 May Day Protests in Washington. The only ones who seemed to be listening were Australia and New Zealand, they took a decisive action and removed their troops from Vietnam. Politicians knew that a greater game was afoot and the US, UK and USSR among others had the good sense to sign the Seabed Treaty which outlawed the use and testing of nuclear weapons on the ocean floor. The United States found an alternative in Operation Grommet and proceeded to detonate a 5 megaton thermonuclear warhead underground at Amchitka Island in Alaska. It was no wonder that the founders of Greenpeace were so driven – through activism, and by questioning governments management and misuse of the resources entrusted to us, they brought public attention to the threats lurking in our own backyards.

Nuclear Testing Action Amchitka - Canada - (1971)

Like all those who were taking their destinies into their own hands, and in a caper to rival the Great Train Robbery, D. B. Cooper parachuted out of a hijacked Northwest Orient airplane during a nasty storm over Washington. The mystery man and over $200,000 in ransom money were never seen again. For over forty years the case perplexed the FBI and remained unsolved until 2011 when a woman came forward with a lead claiming her “deceased” uncle was the perpetrator.  The case is still officially open.

Deep down, we all wish to believe that we can always get what we want…

Read more on:

Ringo Starr
Greenpeace
1971
1971 JukeBox


This was Thursday: 1970 – Not just another Love song

rubber duckie#16 on the pop charts – a muppet’s ode to hygienic relationships

1970  marked the year that the music industry saw dollar signs in the faces of its followers  – the realization that there was an enormous untapped market ready and waiting for product, stadium shows and festivals with attendance in the 6-digits forced producers and promoters to take a different approach with the talent they had previously been letting float free and easy.  Pop groups and their no-holds barred lifestyle were, as Andy Warhol was quite well aware, an idea that could be fabricated, packaged and sold by those who owned the rights to the wealth of material being produced by those whose business sense was not at its best or brightest. Handlers became influential, guiding careers to unimagined heights and turning what had previously been the simple desire to create music into a hard machine cranking out a culture of celebrity.

It seemed as if the Beatles ascent to the musical firmament would continue unhindered with the release of their 12th album Let it Be, but Paul McCartney had a different vision when he announced to the world and legions of smitten young girls that he would embark upon a solo career. The legendary group’s magical mystery tour would end on a sour note, dissolved with a final flourish in the courts of Britain. Music fans were aghast, many of them held the hippie ideology close to heart and hoped that the opportunity for a long weekend of celebration was still possible – with Woodstock a fresh blur in the collective subconscious, the Isle of Wight Festival 1970 saw over 600,000 people descend upon East Afton Farm to the largest rock festival of all time. Despite sometimes nightmarish logistical problems, an influx of radical groups fomenting dissent and crowd unrest, the event included some of the biggest stars of the day – The Who, The Doors, Chicago, Miles Davis, Joan Baez, Leonard Cohen, Ten Years After, Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Jethro Tull but to name a few.

As in other years, groups metamorphosed and disbanded, formed and were reformed by the law for a variety of crimes and misdemeanours – some were even invited to the White House but one of the biggest surprises in the cult of personality was the chubby orange, striped t-shirt wearing star of Sesame Street.  Ernie had a sleeper hit in “Rubber Duckie” and would go on to record a slew of renditions with his good pal Bert among other musical luminaries like Ray Charles.

We should all be so lucky to age with an attitude like Ernie’s….

Read more on:

Rubber Duckie: the music video
Rubber Duckie: Ernie’s signature song
1970
1970 JukeBox
1970s in Music

This was Thursday: 1970

No one thought a man in a snazzy leisure suit would become the psychedelic, soulful voice of protest

1970 was a new era – the zero year launched Unix time, bar codes and the floppy disk as well as multiple voyages to the moon and a little closer to earth, Thor Heyerdahl on his transatlantic voyage in the papyrus boat Ra II. We all slept a little less fitfully knowing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty had been ratified, our IP was being protected and the movement towards eco-awareness had begun with the celebration of the first Earth Day in the U.S.

New York City held its first marathon but its participants were not the only ones taking to the streets: the Women’s Strike for Equality marched down Fifth Avenue and over 210,000 United States Postal Service workers went on strike for over two weeks walking off the job in at least 6 states. In more violently blatant demands for attention, civilians were hurled into the fray with the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ) blowing up mailboxes, taking hostages and sparking the War Measures Act as a response to the October Crisis. The short-lived visions of peace and love that had wafted through the air in the 60s seemed to vanish in a puff of smoke – many countries gained independence, squabbled and made-up, broke treaties and engaged in peace talks in a seemingly endless quest for autonomy whether through self-rule or under the thumbs of benevolent dictators. Terrorism became daily news with the Dawson’s Field airplane hijackings, RAF anarchists run amok in West Germany and the Arms Crisis where government officials colluded in furthering sectarian violence in Ireland.

Radical groups rose up everywhere but ordinary citizens were also tired of government rhetoric. When Nixon ordered U.S. forces into neutral Cambodia, the threat of the Vietnam War spreading into one vast South-east Asian theatre of the absurd sparked nationwide riots. In Ohio the aftermath of an anti-war rally turned ugly, small town officials panicked and called in the National Guard: within 48 hours America was witness to the unmentionable – their own troops had fired upon civilians in the Kent State Shootings.

542274 dead in ohio – neil young puts into words a country’s lament

In the long days that followed, in the largest student strike in American history, over 4 million individuals and 450 educational institutions decided to take a stand against the events that had brought them to the edge of the abyss… it would take 5 more years before the war ended.

1970 saw the loss of innocence – bystanders, civilians, young and old, soldiers and statesmen, luminaries from many fields – Bertrand Russell, Mark Rothko, Gypsy Rose Lee, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, Pierre Laporte, Abdel Nasser and Charles de Gaulle amongst so many others passed into the hereafter, closing the book on lives ordinary and illustrious…

Read more on:

1970
1970 JukeBox
War
Edwin Starr
Kent State
Ohio – music video 

iPhoneography Monday: Nature

waitingthe postman never rings twice

It is in his nature to wait patiently, anticipating, ready for the daily flip-out directed at the man in blue who unluckily has our house on his route…

Shot with the iPhone 5 with the iSight camera, no edits for iPhoneography Monday: Nature.

Have a look at Frames & FocusLens and Pens by Sally and Watching Photo Reels to see the originators of this challenge and their interpretation of the theme.  You may also join the challenge by clicking here.

This was Thursday: 1969 Wild, Wet and Woolly

beautiful people

A look copied and loved by thousands today

When the first rumblings about the music festival of the century hit our neighbourhood many went into “long and hard planning in secret” mode. Everyone fantasized how they would get there, who they wanted to go with and what they would tell their parents they were doing when they were actually heading on down the highway with a t-shirt and change of underwear to what was arguably one of the most popular concerts of the decade. Woodstock – four days of music in the fields of a dairy farm outside Bethel, New York where standing in line for water and toilets wasn’t a big deal and clothing was optional.

Couture had already picked up on the exotic nature of the hippie lifestyle – Woodstock would provide them with enough material for a few more seasons-worth of collections, it was the real thing. In Europe, designers like Ken Scott and Zandra Rhodes took the best elements of bohemian colour, texture and design and translated it into eminently wearable, statement-making clothing.  The appeal of the counterculture refined hit the high street in a splash of vibrant prints and previously unused fabrics that changed the way we all looked at fashion – if the hippies and the hoi polloi could wear it, well, so could everyone else…

Hippie Couture - Dress by Ken Scott photographed by David Bailey for Vogue Italia, 1969

Dress by Ken Scott photographed by David Bailey for Vogue Italia, 1969

In our own time there is a huge resurgence among the under 30s in the terrible oxymoron that is hippie couture. The market with all the disposable cash that now asks their grandfathers if perhaps a vintage Levis jean jacket is tucked away or if that carpet-bag Grandma was holding in that faded black and white is still around are the ones being targeted by everyone from t-shirt and denim manufacturers to perfume panderers.  It is not much of a stretch to guess that someone is making wads of cash on the replication of an era that eschewed most things related to capitalism.

juicy couture perfume ad

Living the fantasy with a bottle of perfume the price of a 1969 Volkwagen…

45 years after half a million trudged through the mud, got stoned, listened to some of the best musicians of the decade, made love and planned how they were going to change the world, their descendants want “it” also.  They want to buy the idea of 1969 – the cool factor of the beads and feathers hinting at an irresponsibility and freedom that just looks so good it has to be documented and shared, now: it is rebellion of the commercial sort neatly packaged by one of their favourite brands. Today’s petty-bourgeoisie has been agitated into a credit-driven fervour not by the ideals and aspirations of past generations but by what those who made history at Woodstock were wearing – hippie chic. Perhaps an unconscious  longing for a new beginning underlies the obsession with these latest fads but that too seems questionable without an understanding of the original.

gal-woodstock-2-jpg

Grandpa Woodstock shows a peace sign as he walks with his wife Queen Estar. The couple were attendees of the original 1969 music festival. Photo courtesy of NY Daily News

The reality of it all is somewhat less glamorous. Time plods on or flies by depending on your state of mind and whether we sold out, became the man, kept our ideals and stayed on the commune or managed to find a nice balance between doing the right thing and still making a living, we’ve come a long way, baby…

Read more on:

Woodstock
Ken Scott Reborn
David Bailey
Remembering Woodstock – a slideshow
Where are they now?
1969

This was Thursday: 1969

a prayer for the lost and anthem for the hopeful

Richard Milhous Nixon had his work cut out when he became the 37th President of the United States of America in January of 1969. Despite attempts at negotiation for settlement of the increasingly long and bloody action in Vietnam, and Nixon’s pleas to the “silent majority” for support, by November of the same year little had been effectively accomplished – hundreds of thousands of protesters across the country showed their peaceful agreement with his policies in the Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam demonstrations and the “March Against Death” in Washington, DC. Even John Lennon and the much maligned Yoko Ono staged their own nonviolent protest for peace with their second Bed-In in Montreal, Quebec. Southeast Asia was not, however, the only forum for battle – Russia kept its armies busy in Czechoslovakia and on the Chinese border, British troops marched into Northern Ireland, civil war raged in Biafra and a coup brought Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi to power in Libya.

The march of progress could not be stopped as the predecessor of the internet, UNIX and the microprocessor were developed. The aeronautics industry also spread its wings with the maiden voyage of the Boeing 747 and the first Concorde test flight. In the health sciences, the puzzling death of an American teenager in Missouri of an odd medical condition would only be identified some 15 years later as the first confirmed case of HIV/AIDS in North America. Little did those who clashed against New York City police in the Stonewall uprising realize the gravity of the epidemic that would soon sweep through their ranks. This time marked the birthing pains of the modern gay rights movement in the U.S. and the beginning of a decades long battle against prejudice, pain and sorrow.

Kids big and small would never be the same as Sesame Street, one of the best children’s television shows ever produced, premiered on the newly broadcasting PBS.  Older consumers had no idea what was in store with the openings of the first Wendy’s, the Gap and Walmart. Nor were they aware of the far-reaching implications of the Union Oil Platform spill of over 80,000 barrels of crude oil onto the coast of Southern California -the crisis inspired Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson to organize the first Earth Day the next year and created an awareness of marine stewardship that continues to this day.

In the United Kingdom, while Charles, Prince of Wales was being invested with his title at Caernarfon, a photograph of the Beatles sauntering across Abbey Road became one of the most reproduced acts by tourists from the world over: one can see the zebra crossing in real time 24/7. Led Zeppelin and the BBC’s Monty Python’s Flying Circus also made their debuts much to the delight of many who attended the Woodstock Festival. After they had washed the mud out of their hair the hordes cruised south to the Altamont Free Concert – a random and violent turn of events brought chaos to the crowd and it came to be seen as the “end of the sixties.”

1017px-NASA_AS-11-40-5875

History immortalized by NASA

In an unprecedented moment of global fixation on a single event over 500 million people watched Neil Armstrong take man’s first steps on the Moon. It became a defining moment for many and reminded even the sceptics that there was some hope for the future…

Read more on:

Norman Greenbaum
Spirit in the Sky
1969
1969 JukeBox

This was Thursday: 1968

classical gas in a time of chaos

As much as the flower children hoped for peace on earth, the chances of achieving it in 1968 were slim. The world was still in the grips of the Cold War when in an unprecedented move North Korea seized the US Navy ship Pueblo and held 83 on board as spies in a drama that would take 11 months to resolve.  During that period the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia, the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops launched the Tet offensive and in one of the most horrific atrocities in American military history soldiers massacred over 300 civilians at My Lai.

Social unrest manifested all over the world – the issues that Martin Luther King Jr. had fought so hard to bring to the forefront became that much clearer on April 4 when he was shot down while standing on the balcony of a motel in Memphis, Tennessee by James Earl Ray. As news of the assassination spread, violence broke out in cities nationwide. This and the ongoing “Poor Peoples Campaign” that King had had a guiding hand in organizing gave President Lyndon Johnson the necessary impetus to sign the Civil Rights Act of 1968. Murder of public figures did not end with King, less than two months later Sen. Robert F. Kennedy was shot and critically wounded in a Los Angeles hotel after winning the California primary and died June 6.

stop series

A painting inspired by contemporary political events from the STOP series by Peter Kennard

The young and disenfranchised everywhere felt the pinch of authority – in May the Paris Student Protest triggered a nationwide crisis and was followed by a month of protest by the National Labor Unions which shut down the Sorbonne, paralysed communication and transportation network and brought the country to a virtual standstill. In one of the largest protests in a single city, 800,000 teachers, workers and student protesters marched through the French capital during a one day general strike. War-weary Americans must have taken note of how numbers could elicit change for later that summer anti-War protesters mobilized against the Police in a street battle at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

Despite the chaos some success was achieved throughout the year – the first manned mission Apollo 8 orbited the Moon restoring hope in the space programme, the invention of amniocentesis made advances in reproductive science and the Emergency 911 Telephone service was started in the USA. Proving once more that England could export more than Rolling Stones and Beatles chart-toppers, Reg Varney, the comedian, in a nice bit of publicity used one of the first ATM machines at Barclays Bank in North London, they would soon crop up all over the US.

In 1968, Andy Warhol coined the expression that would become an enduring concept for generations then unborn – “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” He would have laughed if he knew how true his words were to become…

Read more on:

Mason Williams
Peter Kennard
1968
1968 JukeBox

F is for Friday: Behind the apple


son of man 1964

Everything we see hides another thing,
we always want to see what is hidden by what we see.

Magritte

We have a joke that runs something like “what happened in the 80s, stayed in the 80s” not because of the nature of the events that transpired but rather because there seem to be huge blocks of time that lie hidden by what came after.  For many, it was a continuation of the hard-hitting party scene of the late 1970s where weekends began on Wednesdays. Certainly, it was a knock-down drag’em out decade for living large in the most conspicuous ways possible but underneath the silk and sequins was the attempt to make a place for oneself in a world that was expanding faster than most could keep up.

Surrealism held a strange fascination for the up and comers – in those years, a plethora of counterfeits by famous artists circulated in the most unexpected places. There was a generation of eager collectors – just a little too young to have gotten mired in the mud of Woodstock, they had found sources of income (legal or not) that brought heavy benefits; the stock market was booming and flush with cash, they wanted to acquire those trappings – good Italian suits, then hard to find luxury brands, fast cars and art – that would give them an aura of class and refinement. Unfortunately, and not for lack of trying, most of them didn’t know the difference between sh*t and shinola.

It was too good to be true in so many ways – young budgets with an eye on the future, and a taste for art that wasn’t suitable for hanging in their parents’ dining rooms, were wise investing in better quality, limited-edition traceable prints by artists like Leonor Fini and Saul Steinberg. We bought what we liked, whether it was on canvas or paper, sculpted out of iron or old tin cans – our aesthetic a tangible addition to the layers that we built up around our personas.  Whether it is worth anything today is a story for another time…

For more skewed views have a look at:

René Magritte
Salvador Dali
Surrealism
Abstract Expressionism