In the last week I have seen three old TV compilations from Top of the Pops from the 1960s; I have also listened to good old Brian Matthew on Sounds of the Sixties. It seems incredible that Brian, now aged 85, is the same person I remember presenting Saturday Club, my first exposure to pop music, on the wireless in the late ‘50s. Brian has a special place in my heart; a few years ago he played my band’s own record, made in 1965, even giving me, as lead guitar, a special mention.
I have heard it said that if you remember The Sixties, you were not there. Well, as someone who was 15 when that decade started and 25 when it finished, I think I’m reasonably qualified to say “B******s” to that. I was there, and I remember it well…
But there were great music – and fashion – changes though that short period of ten years. In 1960, No 1 hits included two by Anthony Newly, Why and Do you Mind; Poor Me, Adam Faith; Shakin’ all Over, Johnny Kidd and the Pirates; Running Bear, Johnny Preston; Three Steps to Heaven, Eddie Cochran; Please Don’t Tease, Cliff and the Shadows; Apache, The Shadows; It’s Now or Never, Elvis, and Only the Lonely, Roy Orbison.
In 1969, there was Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da, Marmalade; Albatross, Fleetwood Mack; The Israelites, Desmond Dekker; Get Back, The Beatles; Something in the Air, Thunderclap Newman; Je T’Aime…Moi Non Plus, Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg; Sugar Sugar, The Archies; Lily the Pink, Scaffold and Two Little Boys, Rolf Harris…
My original intention in researching this was to say that that period we call ‘The Sixties’ was actually several periods differing greatly from each other. In clothes that was certainly true; smart suits, short hair-cuts and hems below the knee in 1960; pretty much anything in 1969… Had the music changed? In my view, and with some honourable exceptions, much of the later ‘Sixties’ music was quite dreadful, and this is confirmed by watching the TV compilations. Still, there were some great pop anthems, and there was so much ‘music’ produced, that there is enough good stuff to fill an evening’s listening.
I realize this is heresy from someone who spent several years of his life playing in a band, and there was a time when I would have defended to the death anyone who was critical of the music of that period. But just as in the same way that we only seem to remember the long hot summers and pleasurable times of our youth, we glaze over remembering the pop music of the period recalling only the best. In truth, just like in art and literature, there was some great stuff, but the rest was mediocre at best and downright awful at the other end of the scale.
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