It was half a century ago and yet the memories of The Sixties seem as fresh as ever. This group is all about recalling key moments – people, events, music – and sharing memories. Every month we agree on the next topic. The dilemma – and it’s a nice one – will be who or what or when or where to choose? The 1960s is such a rich and vibrant time to recall and relish, a time when Britannia was cool and London was swinging, when the world was colourful and positive and, for young people especially, anything seemed possible. The old rules and conventions were there to be challenged. They say “If you remember the 60s, you weren’t really there”. We say “Nonsense” and the course is already proving it!
Group Convener: Stephen Rigg
The Group meets in Grove Avenue, N10 on the third Thursday of every month, 2 – 4 p.m.
This form may also be used to contact the Convener on all matters relating to the Group.
Our story so far …
Another full house and we welcomed another new member to the group. The afternoon comprised two presentations and one nostalgia quiz. Nicci recalled her time getting involved in student politics in the mid-1970s, then Stephen talked about the changing style of holidaymaking in the 60s and 70s.
Between the two talks, Tessa gave the group the second part of her radio quiz. It was great fun and we enthusiastically remembered The Goons and Round the Horne, which ran for four series between 1965 and 1968, and still had us laughing after all this time. She stumped us with a Robin Day programme, which was the first national phone-in broadcast. Well, you learn, laugh and live!
Another month and another full house at which we welcomed two new members to the group.
Carl gave us an entertaining and well researched presentation on George Harrison’s All things must pass triple album. He highlighted the two linking themes, spirituality and George’s song writing frustrations of being in The Beatles. Carl covered George’s being found guilty of subconscious plagiarism, copying He’s so fine by The Chiffons and the plethora of lawsuits that followed.
Ian took us back to the world of films in North London in the early Seventies. Memories flooded back as he mentioned cinemas like the Rio, the Plaza, the Scala and the Coronet. It was when they showed double features, two full length films, whether or not they were a suitable pairing. As a young and knowledgeable film enthusiast, he recalled seeing some of the early works by American, European and British directors, films which are now acknowledged to be cinematic masterpieces.
Tessa tested our knowledge of radio in the 60s and 70s by playing snatches of the signature tunes and soundbites, including Music while you Work, Dr Finlay’s Casebook, Paul Temple and Top of the Form among others? It was great fun and she agreed to run Part 2 at the November meeting. We can’t wait. “They think it’s all over”. Not yet, it isn’t!
Music was the theme of this decade-straddling meeting. Carl started with the background to Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs by Derek and The Dominos. Released in November 1970, it was met with tepid reviews (“A basket case of an album”) and a trickle of sales. It was an example of how not to promote an album – no press interviews by Eric Clapton, no marketing focus and no hit single picked and promoted. No one knew or cared who Derek and The Dominos were. Later, there were even button badges saying, Derek is Eric and in fact the musicians on the album were some of the biggest and most respected names of the time. When Layla was eventually released in 1972, it climbed to Number 2 in the charts.
The life-affirming power of music was the subject of Vivien’s talk. In particular, a certain David Bowie and his performance of Star Man on TOTP in July 1972. It empowered her to change the course of her academic life. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Clapton and Bowie are legends. Not so Peter Whitehead, Stephen’s subject. He (Peter not Stephen) made some of the great pop video films of the Sixties for bands like the Stones, Pink Floyd, Small Faces and the Jimi Hendrix Experience. He foreshadowed the era of promo clips that blossomed in the MTV era of the 80s. His film Tonite let’s all make love in London was for many critics the definitive document of Swinging London.
At the next meeting on October 17th, we’ll be considering George Harrison’s All things must pass, delving in to the cinema in the London in the early Seventies with Ian and relishing a quiz on the radio of the time, set by Tessa. Radio waves stimulating brain waves … hopefully!
Popular culture was the theme for the meeting. Nicci gave a presentation on Bunty, Judy and Jackie, all published by D.C.Thomson. In a world without iPads, laptops or smart phones, when there were just three TV channels, girls escaped into the world of the magazines. Each title was aimed at a slightly different demographic and they were remarkably successful in circulation and longevity.
The making of A Hard Day’s Night was the subject of Carl’s talk. He also showed a clip from the film, which was rushed out for cinema release because the music moguls didn’t think The Beatles would last long. How wrong they were!
Graham took us to the world of dance in the Sixties, both contemporary and classical, and recalled with pride his time when he was on the same stage as Rudolf Nureyev!
The times, they are a’changin’. We’ve talked about The Diamond Decade for over a year at our monthly meetings. We are now moving forward to look at the Seventies. The format will be same with group members talking about the people, the culture and the events that particularly resonate with them. It was a dramatically different decade, one in which we were that bit older, if not that much wiser!
We had a full house for the new style of shorter illustrated talks. The format was liked: Stephen started the meeting with That Was The Week That Was, the launch of which coincided with the Profumo affair. This was the subject of Tessa’s presentation which was enriched with recordings of the time. Vivien then took us in to the world of theatre censorship and her talk was enlivened with personal experiences of the time when she worked for a publisher, so saw first-hand the results of the Lord Chamberlain’s dictates. Finally, Ian discussed the fusion of musical styles in the Sixties, illustrating his knowledgeable talk with carefully selected tracks by Soft Machine, John Mayer’s Indo-Jazz Fusions and Miles Davies.
Sounds of the Sixties: The story of Island Records, Mersey Beat and Psychedelia
We had a great time remembering different strands of music in the decade. There were four presentations, enriched by music and images. The history of Island Records was a comprehensive review of the record label, its eclectic roster of artistes and its lasting legacy. We tripped into the world of psychedelia, and turned on and tuned in to the music which emerged during the 1960s in the USA and UK. The power of the Mersey Sound was relived, 33 Number One hits in the ten years and finally, the history and impact of Stax Records in the 60s was presented. An eclectic mix of topics, certainly, but hugely enjoyable. We sang along happily to the tunes and were surprised how many of us were still word perfect on the lyrics of My Boy Lollipop.
London in the 60s : from the grim to the glitz
We had an afternoon’s viewing enjoying two DVDs showing life in London in the Sixties. The first film, in grainy black and white, showed life in the first half of the decade. London was a city slowly being rebuilt after years of austerity. Everything seemed to be a continuation of the past and more of the same. In marked contract was My Generation, the film created and narrated by Michael Caine. This was all about Swinging London, a magnet for the young who, for the first time, felt free and bold enough to follow their dreams, rejecting the expectations of their parents’ generation. The film was in vibrant colour, had a great soundtrack and featured some of the main players: actors, designers, hairdressers, musicians, artists and photographers They did say that Swinging London was just 300 people but their effect was overwhelming, global and enduring.
Swinging London at the London Fashion and Textile Museum
On the same day that Twiggy was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire for her services to fashion, the arts and charity, some of the 1960s group met at The London Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey for the Swinging London: A Lifestyle Revolution exhibition. It presented design and fashion, explaining the style and socioeconomic importance of this period of time. There were fashion, fabrics and furniture from the period, largely the work of Mary Quant and Terence Conran. Some pieces looked charmingly outdated whilst others were as fresh today as when they were created. We all agreed that it was a most enjoyable journey back in time to when a cultural and lifestyle revolution swept through Britain, changing for ever the social landscape.
Love was all around for the films of the 1960s
This time, fittingly on Valentine’s Day, we looked at the stars of the silver screen and at the influential new wave British film directors who influenced the decade.
Michael Caine was the subject of Carl’s presentation. A six-time Oscar nominee and winner of two, Caine has been Academy nominated in each of the last five decades. Throughout his acting career, he has shown versatility and in the 1960s was an English Army Officer (Zulu), a secret agent in The Ipcress File (a world apart from James Bond’s 007), a loveable rogue in Alfie (Oscar nominated) and audacious robber in the iconic The Italian Job.
Ian was our guide to the British New Wave directors, most with a background in TV and theatre, who delivered a gritty realism on screen. They were young, ambitious and challenged the established order of film makers and film making. They got out of the film studio and into the real world. They made landmark films which have stood the test of time, including This Sporting Life, The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner, A Taste of Honey, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, A Kind of Loving, Billy Liar (of whom, more later) and The L- Shaped Room.
Suave, sophisticated and dangerous: that was James Bond, the subject of Nicci’s talk. The first outing for Sean Connery in the role was in the early 60s with Dr No, followed by From Russia with Love and Goldfinger, for many people still their favourite 007 film. Fifty years on and 24 films later, the franchise shows no sign of losing its box-office appeal.
Stephen talked about Julie Christie, who starred in five of the decade’s biggest films and gained worldwide fame and an Oscar for her performance in Darling. Her others being Billy Liar, Doctor Zhivago, Fahrenheit 451 and Far from the Madding Crowd.
The piecing blue eyes had it for both Vivien and Linda who remembered the heart-fluttering effect of Peter O’Toole and Paul Newman respectively. Both fine actors who along with Omar Sharif made a lasting impression on them and the rest of the group.
It was great fun, we welcomed a new member to the group and all in all feel that we have done justice to films in the 1960s. Thanks again to Graham for his hospitality in hosting the session.
Camera, Lights, Action
A new year and a new home for the group. We met at Graham’s house in Muswell Hill for an animated discussion on films of the 1960s. Stephen kicked off proceedings, championing the Carry On films, of which fifteen were released in the decade. “They may no longer be as funny but in their combination of end-of-the-pier innuendo, word play, bawdy slapstick and self-parody, they remain a cultural distillation of the national character.” (Ben MacIntyre, December 2018) and “Infamy! Infamy! They’ve all got it in for me!”, Kenneth Williams’ quote in Carry On Cleo was voted the funniest film one-liner in a poll by Sky Movies Comedy. Carry on Camping was the highest grossing film in Britain in 1969 and a data survey of 47,000 films has concluded, using an algorithm that calculates how often a film is referenced in subsequent movies, that the Carry Ons are the most influential British films of all time.
From the ridiculous to the sublime was how Graham introduced his presentation on 1960s auteurs. He explained that an auteur is a director, considered to be so influential that they are to the film as the poet is to the poem. He talked about the richness of European films of the period, highlighting Italian and French auteurs, as well as Spanish, Polish and British directors. He illustrated his talk with the opening scene of Fellini’s 8½, a stylishly stunning film in black and white, which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 1964 as well as the Oscar for Best Costume Design.
Carl gave the group an insight into Science Fiction films, in which he discussed the different aspects of the genre from dystopia, through alien invasion, apocalyptic/ post-apocalyptic and futurology to apotheosis. He illustrated his talk with some trailers for influential films of the period and showed some brilliant B movie posters.
Memories of movie-going in the Sixties were recalled, from Saturday morning children screenings to family outings to see Gone with the Wind, the suavely dangerous Sean Connery as James Bond, and South Pacific at the Finsbury Park Astoria. The excitement of seeing films starring our pop idols like Elvis, Cliff and The Beatles was relished.
After a couple of hours, it was agreed that we hadn’t exhausted the topic, so there could well be a sequel at a future monthly meeting with presentations including the afore-mentioned Bond, James Bond and Spaghetti Westerns.