Time Machine

Turn on:

I wonder what you would do, where you would go, if you had one crack at a time-machine? I would not try anything fancy, in case I damaged the fabric of time itself, so I would go back to London, in 1967, just as the Capital was bursting with artistic energy which, like a black hole, sucked in creativity from all over the world and spewed it out again with people like Jimi Hendrix or David Hockney or Peter Blake or of course, The Beatles. To walk through the streets of London in the 1960's was to feel the kind of energy you get when being mildly electrocuted. Habitat had opened a store in the Fulham Road. All of a sudden, you could buy things you did not really need. (This was a novelty back then). But you could also create style and statements.

My uncle's flat in Chelsea bristled with modern lighting and a Braun radiogram that went on to become a design classic. Harrods was about to open the Way In, a very groovy boutique, on the top floor. You could go to Carnaby Street and buy T shirts with purple swirls on them. (You have to remember...not wearing a tie was regarded as bad form in most formal and semi formal situations.)

If the 1960's got one thing right, it broke a lot of conventions. You could be born on a lousy council estate in Rotherham, go to London and become a star. This was the first time this happened to any great extent. Suddenly, the young were important and visible. There was a sense of mutability and dynamism that affected the Arts and the way we live our lives. Compared to 2010, it was liberated, free-thinking and exciting.


Jim Baxter said...

Let’s have a wee think back to the sixties. Maybe include the early seventies too because, youngster that I am, that’s when I first discovered what you could do as an ‘adult’... and couldn’t do.
I wasn’t too familiar with London back then, having moved back to Auld Scotia when I was four. My memories of London from four and before were of women in cloth coats (good Monarchist cloth coats – ha – spot the tricky reference there) and brimless hats with swirls. A line of shops all with coloured awnings and produce outside on the fake green green grass of Home (Counties). Iron mongers that smelled of Brillo pads. But those were early memories, before I found out more.

Back to Scotland now and supermarkets with tins, tins and tins. Fresh chillies, ginger, courgettes, garlic, curry powder? A delicatessen counter? In a supermarket? Nah. Anywhere else? Nah. Vietcong gorillas (sic) attacked by US forces. Those poor gorillas. A tortured man, plagued by self-doubt, in the White House. And I mean LBJ. Two giant closed societies to the east capable of God knows what. The Soviets in Prague – protect and survive... shared privies common in tenements in all Scottish cities.

Self-styled ‘restaurants’ in Edinburgh, greasy waitresses with fags dripping out the corner of their greasy mouths as they took your order for greasy egg, soggy chips, and dry, encrusted baked beans scraped from the bottom of the pot. Chips shops maybe open after ten but nothing else. Nothing much else before ten either. Centre of Glasgow? A ghost town after 6 pm.

The seventies? A drink at three in the afternoon? No. In a pub on a Sunday? Not in Scotland pal. From an off-licence on a Sunday? Not in Scotland pal. Drink after ten at night? Only if you were a member of a club that could stay open until 11.

Holidays abroad - £50 limit on spending money. Basic income tax? 33% rising to 85%. Cops’ word was law. Serious Fit-Up Squad ruled the justice system.

Had enough yet?

good old days said...

I do miss spangles though. And getting some points in the Eurovision 'song' contest. 'Congratulations' by Cliff Richard. Or Dusty Springfields ' Puppet on a string' were my favourites.

Jim Baxter said...

Multiname, that would be Sandie Shaw I reckon.

good old days said...

Thanks Jim. Sandi Shaw that's right. The barefooted lassie.


Wrinkled Weasel said...

A desultory reply, from me, but Jim. In those days, a politician's career was ruined by being proven to have lied to Parliament. When Profumo was found out, he had to spend the rest of his life in disgrace, atoning for a night with a call girl.

Mark Oaten, who was a candidate for leader of the Lib Dems, who got caught in coprophiliac delights with rent boys, got a round of applause when he appeared on Question Time shortly after being found out.

Gordon Brown lies all the time to Parliament, and he is supported in his mendacity by the entire political class.

Many things were bad in the 1960's, but one or two people were quite articulate about the way Britain was going. Enoch Powell for example.

I digress. Today, Grayson Perry tells us there are "no go areas" for artists. He would not, for example, do an artwork that might upset Muslims. "I have a wife and kids, and a wardrobe full of frocks to think of" he said. (ok, I added the bit about the frocks)

Sure, Police raided the odd art gallery, but all the boundaries were being pushed all the time, for better or worse, and the establishment was shown up to be the hypocritical bunch of pervs that it always was, but managed to cover up.

Lennon was the vanguard of the abolition of deference. No artist, or group of artists, has changed culture and society, in such a profound way, since.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

I miss spangles too, which is why I made up that absurd bit of drama.

Dave said...

I moved to London in 1962 and spent my teenage years just off Ladbroke Grove. Everything we did was for the first time. Going to see bands like Hendrix, Fairport, Arthur Brown, Pink Floyd, Soft Machine and King Crimson was seeing something original. I bought a Haphash poster of Hendrix in an indian headdress. It was revolutionary. No one had designed anything like it before. The clothes were revolutionary, teh music was revolutionary, the venues were fiercely independent.

Now it's all second hand. It's all been done before. The fashions come around again but we were there the first time. I was in Hyde Park when the Stones played. I was in the crowd outside the US Embassy.
Nowadays everything is marketed and tightly controlled. Music that spawned a revolution is now used to sell cars and insurance.
As Joni sang
"You don't know what you've got til it's gone"

Jim Baxter said...

'atoning for a night with a call girl'

Aye, while he was Minister for War and Keeler was sharing her time with the Soviet military attache.

Compare what didn't happen to JFK for sharing Judy Campbell Exner with Sam Giancana (Hi Clams).

Could Derek Jarman have made 'Sebastiane' in the sixties, talking about pushing the frontiers of expression? 'Brokeback Mountain'?

'Guess Who's Coming to Dinner' was considered to be avant guarde.

Nah. It was a mean-spirited, repressed, dishonest time when the axctivites of paedophiles in schools were 'overlooked' for the sake of the school's good name. I recall a middle-aged (male) PE teacher who used to pull young tennage boys (ha) out of the doorless changing booths when they'd stripped and dried, throwing them naked back into the swimming pool, grabbing at their cobblers when they climbed out again.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

Jim, the cobblers grabbing was something I experienced more than once at the "hands" of the headmaster. But if you went to fee paying school, it was sort of in the prospectus as an extra-curricular activity.

I was not traumatised by the the experience. I considered it odd at the time, and now, mildly amusing. Sorry, but I have a thick skin about these things. My son was in a boys association, the leader of which is now on the sex offenders register, after doing six years. I often wondered why they went to the swimming pool such a lot. Do I have issues with him? Not really. He was naughty and should not have done it, but nobody died. What fucked me up was my parents, and they did it by playing mind games.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

Dave, you were there. To some extent, so was I. You had to be there.

good old days said...

I'd go back to 1997 if I had the chance. Get mortgages for about ten flats to let. Then in 2006 I'd start selling the flats off except the smallest one until they were all sold ( hopefully by Dec 2007 at the latest.)
I'd convert my sterling into gold and foreign currencies ( Aus dollar, Euro, US dollar etc).
That would bring me to today.
I'd keep my small flat as a useful bolthole in the UK for free medical care etc and buy a nice villa in Spain with the Euros where I would live most of the year. I'd keep the gold and convert the other currencies back into sterling and buy ten flats outright and use them as buy to let income to fund my early retirement.

Jim Baxter said...

I doubt if any of us were traumatised by that either. We just called him an old poof (married, to a woman, of course) and left it at that. But it didn't quite fit the austere, studious, God-fearing image that the insitution liked to project. Hypocrisy. That was what was despicable about it.

Life for most in the sixties was a grey drudge when owning your own TV was 'aspirational'.

Life for the young, talented, independently minded is wonderful today. You can see it in their eyes.

just say no said...

"Life for the young, talented, independently minded is wonderful today. You can see it in their eyes."

That's the jellies and the bubbles Jim.