Continuing triage in the paper files – anyone remember this? Anyone still have either of these museum pieces?
Continuing triage in the paper files – anyone remember this? Anyone still have either of these museum pieces?
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.
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.
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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.
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…
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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….
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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.
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…
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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…
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.
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.
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…
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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.”
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…
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The boys on Madison Avenue were having a field day in 1968: not only were social mores changing and a whole new demographic of consumer coming up through the ranks but the field of advertising itself was quickly learning to capitalize on the trends. Women’s liberation was in its infancy despite how many of the gender felt but stereotypes in the media were still commonplace – in a paradox of epic proportions one can almost hear mothers across the nation calling out to their daughters to take some sandwiches along to the protest – ” Be brave, stay away from the police and make sure Bobby gets one of those ham ‘n’cheese!” Promoting old products in a modern light was, to make a bad pun, the bread and butter of the business but one couldn’t help but wonder the manner in which some of the agencies ‘borrowed” wholesale from the earlier success of groundbreakers in the fields of music and art.
Industry could hear the sound of cash flowing into their coffers with the right campaign – someone in the PR department of Campbell’s did and took back the can Andy Warhol had made iconic with its very own beach-bag mail-in offer. Now everyone could own a piece of pop art or look like the latest pop star all the girls were giddy over.
Not much has changed, except for the legal concept of Intellectual Property…
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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.
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…
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There is no doubt that 1967 was a year revolving around youth – while one segment of the population was getting down and dirty in the psychedelic Summer of Love causing conservative parents no end of grief and consternation, there was another even younger demographic that was swooning over the rise of cute and wholesome boy bands like The Monkees. Outselling both the Beatles and the Rolling Stones at their peak in this year, the group’s popularity was indicative that some audiences weren’t ready to make the leap into the great roiling unknown and craved their escapism in easy to handle, prettily packaged doses. There was some temporary relief to be gleaned from such innocent girl or boy “next door” images being put out by the media – many mothers preferred their adolescents idolize a “Lesley and Davy” over a “Janis and Jimi” any day of the week…
Twiggy was an iconic example of this trend, her aloof, waif-like look took the fashion world by storm – in a quick rise to international Supermodel stardom and with a host of magazine covers, products and accompanying endorsements, she proved to girls around the globe that anyone could become the brand.
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Military action in Vietnam dragged on for another year albeit numerous protests, marches and demonstrations including that of Muhammad Ali who was stripped of his heavyweight boxing title for refusing induction into the US army. 1967 also saw the start of turmoil in another arena as the Six Day War changed the face of the Middle East. After the Arab-Israeli war, Egypt decided to flex its strategic muscles in a blockade of the Suez Canal trapping fourteen cargo ships for a further eight years.
Russia and the US continued to play the space race but NASA suffered a tragic setback when Astronauts Col. Virgil I. Grissom, Col. Edward White II, and Lt. Cmdr. Roger B. Chaffee were killed in a fire during the test launch of the protoype command module – they were the first astronauts to die in the line of duty. Changing the world of medical treatment, Dr. Christiaan N. Barnard and a team of South African surgeons performed the world’s first successful human heart transplant (the patient unfortunately passed away 18 days later). Equally astounding, the UK decriminalized homosexuality, had its hands full with Pirate Radio and was thrilled to bits with its export of megahits by the Beatles and Rolling Stones. In its dominion of Canada, the celebration of the centennial came in the form of Expo 67, the most successful “international and universal exposition” of the 20th century.
In North America, a large portion of the population between the the ages of 15 and 30 were fantasizing about making their way to California, Haight-Ashbury specifically, to “Turn on, tune in, drop out“ – 30,000 actually made it to the Human Be-In where Timothy Leary expounded upon the marvels of embracing cultural change and self-actualization through the use of psychedelics. It melted into the Summer of Love with hippies hanging out in Golden Gate Park, the first issue of Rolling Stone tucked safely in their carpet bags while they unabashedly made love and music like free birds under the stars. Everyone made a point of getting to the Monterey Pop Festival, planned in under 7 weeks the 3 day concert brought together a veritable who’s who of the music world from Otis Redding and Jimi Hendrix to the Byrds and Jefferson Airplane. To the establishment such teeming, uncontrollable congregations were a force to be reckoned with – they represented the great unwashed, as much a threat to a well-entrenched American way of life as Fidel Castro espousing “The duty of a revolution is to make revolution”.
In the northeastern United States the focus was less esoteric, more immediate in action with emotions at flash-point and riots erupting regularly, it came to be known as the “Long Hot Summer”. During this year interracial marriage had been declared constitutional by the Supreme Court and the American Civil Rights Movement had gained momentum but relations between ordinary citizens, police and the government continued to be strained. It reached a violent, 5-day long climax in the Detroit Riot – 7000 National Guard were called in to quell the chaos incited by a “prejudiced” police department and in the end 43 were dead, 467 injured, over 7200 arrests were made and more than 2,000 buildings destroyed. Detroit, much less the rest of the country, would never be the same again.
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Paco Rabanne, enfant terrible of French fashion in the 60s, was one of the first to use black models – here Donyale Luna, the first African American to appear on the cover of British Vogue, was photographed by Richard Avedon wearing one of Rabanne’s controversial metal and plastic link creations.
Anyone in a dress that radical would have needed this as an accessory…
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Everyone knows that bad habits are hard to break but those that may masquerade as good ones are sometimes even more difficult. What once upon a time seemed like frivolity, a dalliance, a minor amusement, can become addiction, obsession, a time-sucking void upon whose edge we teeter precariously while all else falls away into the blackness of eternity.
So with that in mind, in an effort to fit as much creative productivity into 24 hours while still managing to get some sleep, attend to the quotidian demands of real life and retain some semblance of sanity without losing too many bits, Across the Bored resolves to:
We also find ourselves having to:
So not bad in all, nothing all of us can’t live with and hopefully just as entertaining…
Find as many visual declarations as there are days in the New Year at the Weekly Photo Challenge: Resolved.
The biggest story of the year was the Vietnam War – over 360,000 men had been shipped off, with 5500 dead not to mention the missing and injured – Britain’s Prime Minister Harold Wilson, Canada’s Prime Minister Lester Pearson, even Pope Paul VI tried for peace in 1966. The list of conscientious objectors was formidable, from the UN Security Council and the US Congress down to demonstrations 10,000 strong in front of the White House… but to no avail.
Civil unrest and military coups continued to foment in African countries, Indira Gandhi took the reins in India and Fidel Castro declared martial law in Cuba. The race to the moon continued between the Russians and the Americans with the Soviet Luna 9 technically getting there first while we fed our obsession of getting out into the galaxy with the first regeneration of Dr. Who and the premier episode of Star Trek.
As today, innovative and experimental art and music found their most eager audience in the young. Here was a generation that passed into early adulthood having grown up with transistor radios, record players and the sought-after living room fixture, television. The new wave of audio-visual bombardment, combining music with light-shows, art with sound and each new “experience” with mind-altering drugs was not only easily accepted but sought after. Their parents, many of whom had come of age in tougher times and were more concerned with being entrenched in Vietnam and the Cold War were often horrified and tended, in the parlance of the age, to” freak out.” Psychedelia in its infinite forms began to seep into our awareness at multiple levels – its very vocal proponents have left us with a graphic and musical heritage that is currently seeing a resurgence among our own progeny. Oddly enough, it comes out of the very place of its birth – San Francisco.
People were starting to understand that there was room for change – although some of them would have to be dragged kicking and screaming towards the unknown, many suddenly realized that they could be the architects of their own futures by joining together in a social, political, labour or artistic movement. A year that had seen Acid tests of many varieties ended with the prohibition of LSD. Clearly, to the establishment, expanded consciousness was a dangerous thing…
Tri-colour metallic Portrait of Bob Dylan by Martin Sharp used as the cover of Oz No.7
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In 1965, the Old Guard mourned the passing of many notables – Sir Winston Churchill, Adlai Stevenson, Albert Schweitzer and T.S. Eliot among so many others – while the assassinations of Malcolm X, Hassan-Ali Mansur and James Reeb underlined the dangers of being an activist. December saw the waning of year-long clashes between many factions – Bloody Sunday, the Watts Riots in Los Angeles, the 35,000-strong march on Washington and the burning of draft cards by Anti-Vietnam protesters. Civilians as well as countries were declaring their right to independence in a world that was quickly becoming politically intertwined.
Nostalgia would have us remember this month as one filled with suburban cocktail parties where women in tight-fitting, heavy satin dresses with matching heels would circulate among their men, sampling a now-regrettable spread of cheese balls, devilled eggs, Chex mix and jello molds. Multiculturalism wasn’t even a word in the urban dictionary then but an exotic undercurrent was infiltrating rec rooms with the sultry strains of the Bossa nova. Their parents kept busy imagining the pleasures of far-off Brazil left young ladies free to pull on Mary Quant’s mini-skirt, listen to the Rolling Stones or any of 4 new Beatles albums and sigh over the rugged looks of Omar Sharif in Dr. Zhivago or Sean Connery in Thunderball.
The child in all of us still marvels at how Charlie Brown and the Peanuts Gang stole everyone’s heart forever with their very own Christmas special – here was cartoon art at its finest that remains as fresh as the day Charles Schulz first put pen to paper. Slightly kitschier but with his own track record of pop-culture longevity, the Pillsbury Doughboy was created luring generations to the oven with his siren call of easy, poppin’-fresh baked goods.
What’s not to love?
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In the Leap Year that was 1964, the Mods and Rockers were duking it out in the streets, race riots erupted, students staged (the first of many) sit-ins at the University of California and Cassius Clay won the World Heavyweight Boxing Championship. On one side of the world, Sidney Poitier was the first African-American to win an Academy Award while on the other, Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life imprisonment. Much to everyone’s dismay, the war dragged on in Vietnam.
Beatlemania continued its sweep of North America but the bad boy stance and rougher sound of UK bands like The Kinks, the Zombies and the Rolling Stones reached out hungrily for their own idolizing demographic. They still towed the line for their public performances by appearing in matching suits but their hair was a little longer and less coiffed, their gyrations less restrained and so the desperate cries from female audiences became just a little lustier.
The music produced in this year has provided a blueprint for successive generations but the arts and media were not far behind with innovation of their own. Pop Art was graphic dynamite for many at the New York World’s Fair, its embrace of commercial techniques and mechanization proved appealing to those who didn’t live in fear of the bomb, the birth of computers and rapidly encroaching technology. It was a wake-up call to the establishment – not only the old and entrenched had a voice in popular opinion – the reins of censorship and oppression were being grabbed by the younger generation and thrown to the side. All anyone wanted to do was get their fingers into the mane of freedom and ride bareback into the sunrise.
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And lo, the world wept for Pope John XXIII, Kennedy, Vietnam and the many victims of disasters natural and airborne. Although the first woman in space and the reawakening of the feminist movement signalled that the fairer sex was making strides toward equality the road to was still a rocky one for many other minorities. Martin Luther King had a Dream but not everyone saw eye to eye with his vision and racial tension in the US continued with sometimes violent results. It was the beginning of the end of fiscal and moral willpower for many as American Express introduced credit cards and the Profumo Affair rocked the UK.
As in other years, the ordinary man sought solace in those things that painted his life with broader strokes – music, movies and cool stuff! Troll dolls reared their little mugs everywhere, Beatlemania drew squeals of desire from even the most proper young things and Surf Culture was washing over the nation with an attitude and the music to match. Television shows like Dr. Who and the Beverly Hillbillies along with the popularization of the Smiley Face showed the need for a little levity amidst the news of the world – Graphic art with a message and a bolder, brighter, more humorous approach by mass media was the beginning of the Creative Revolution…
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While 1962 continued the trend in global politics towards civil war, skirmishes and upheaval, it also marked a time where vassal nations were achieving their independence. America felt the world getting just a little bit smaller with the start of the Cuban Missile Crisis yet still managed to look to the stars with their nascent space programme and the launch of the first commercial communications satellite able to transmit a Trans-Atlantic television signal. Youth were also starting to expand their horizons with Andy Warhol exhibiting the now infamous Campbell’s Soup Can, 007 getting a hit film with Dr. No and the Beatles recording Love Me Do – 3 convicts figured they could ride the tide of firsts and successfully escaped from Alcatraz. Many of the ideas and trends put forward in that year have become embedded in our reservoir of cultural consciousness – 50 years later, Booker T. & the M.G.’s crossover hit single shows us exactly how relevant they still are…
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Tensions at home and abroad seemed to be the order of the year as the Cold War continued throughout 1961 – turmoil in Africa, South Korea and the Middle East left no doubt that a new world order was in its infancy. While Freedom Riders rode the bus to racial awareness in the US and the European Social Charter forged a guarantee of positive civil and political rights, Etta James crossed the barrier to bring lovers together in one fluid slow dance.
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1960 can be seen as pivotal in terms of art, culture and music – here we find the roots of the counterculture, the civil rights, free speech and anti-war movements, feminism, environmentalism and gay liberation. In a world of barely over 3 billion, people started to realize that they didn’t have to tow the party line – there was plenty of room for freedom and self-expression. Duane Eddy seemed to be riding high on that tide of change and gave a big, rough kiss goodbye to the 50s with this remake of Peter Gunn.
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