Describe popular culture in Britain at the beginning of the 1960’s

“Strange memories on this nervous night in Las Vegas. Five years later? Six? It seems like a lifetime, or at least a main era – the kind of peak that never comes again. San Francisco in the middle Sixties was a very special time and place to be a part of. Maybe it meant something. Maybe not in the long run, but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant. ” Hunter S Thompson Essay Questions 1. Describe popular culture in Britain at the beginning of the 1960’s.

In this essay, while completing the task of describing the popular culture in the 1960’s, I hope to cover four main aspects or factors; Pop music, Radio, television and film, Fashion and Changes in society. The 1960’s is considered by many to be the best decade in living memory, which is understandable, the world had not long recovered from the shattering effects of two World Wars and was now enjoying a new enlightened period of higher independence and liberty. The Sixties are also considered, generally by older generations, to be one of the most turbulent and disruptive decades of the century.

Both of these different opinions of the 1960’s would have been determined, in some way, by the music that inhabited those unique ten years… In the late 1950’s and early Sixties America dominated the music industry; the British music scene, while established (Cliff Richard, Tommy Steele, etc. ), tended to imitate American trends and styles. In the mid-fifties a breakthrough in music technology (the seven-inch single) exposed a higher multitude of people to the musical culture due to its affordability, and versatility to requirements.

If you could not afford a seven-inch single then establishments often sold them second hand after they had been played on a jukebox system. The music industry’s expansion into the visual entertainment sector introduced an even greater number of people to popular music, mainly teenagers who were to become manufacturers’ new target group for marketing. In 1962 the music industry was set aflame with the arrival of what was to be Briton’s biggest contribution to the musical industry; The Beatles… At the beginning of the 1960’s popular, or pop, music was almost non-existent on TV and radio.

Two television programs, ‘Jukebox Jury’ and ‘Six Five Special’, were allocated for music, neither were intended for nor satisfied teenagers. Radio consisted of three channels dominated by the BBC whose programmes rarely played music let alone hit records. The only way to hear said music was to tune into pirate radio stations such as Radio Luxembourg and the later Radio Caroline. The film industry was almost fully American, movies such as ‘Ben Hur’ and ‘The Longest Day’ were massive hits and appealed to thousands of people. British films were still appreciated and many had been hits in the 1950’s.

A British company, Ealing Studios, boosted the English film industry with successful comedies and the popular Kenneth More films: ‘A Night To Remember’ and ‘Northwest Frontier’. The next factor of popular culture in Britain was influenced greatly by both of the previous categories, in the 1960’s, for the first time, fashion became a major issue within the general, and more specifically teenage, population of Britain… The 1960’s saw teenagers have money to spend for the first time. Working adolescents would receive their wages and be able to spend it on leisure, free from the responsibilities and prices of adulthood.

It is estimated that by 1959 teenagers were spending around i??8. 00 a week. This meant that companies began to target them, and a new teenage market was created. Clothing was something that undertook radical changes in the 1960’s, teenagers now had the power to look how they wanted to. An appropriate quote would be: “In the 1950’s, daughters tried to look like their mothers. In the 1960’s mothers tried to look like their daughters. ” Mary Quant was the fashion revolutionist of the Sixties, she designed simple clothes that fought against the restrictions of the pasts clothing.

She opened a shop in Chelsea, soon to be England’s center of fashion. Other designers followed her success and by the end of the Sixties the women’s corsets, girdles and petticoats of the fifties had been replaced by a massive variety of clothing including unisexual fashion. Fashion and all the previous factors all determined the next focus in this essay… In the Sixties there were radical modifications to the culture and society of Britains adolescents. Music, fashion, and lifestyle all combined to form groups of different people. The most memorable were the Mods, the Rockers, the Beatniks and, of course, the Hippies.

The Mods and Rockers were at first very violent towards each other, police were called to fights and every bank holiday became a trip to Brighton to participate in the mass conflict there between these two groups. This hostility is fundamentally due to the groups contradicting lifestyles. Mods followed fashion, Rockers rejected it, Mods liked mod bands such as The Who, Rockers liked rock bands such as Led Zeppelin. Both experimented with drugs but even these started to be segregated into mod and rocker substances. By 1965 their conflict was over but friction remained.

Beatniks were more intellectual and rebellious, they wore plain European clothes and listened to music such as Bob Dylan. As with the majority of teenagers in the Sixties Beatniks also experimented with illegal (or legal) substances. The Hippies were the most threatening to Britains traditions and authorities. Hippies completely rejected all social values and ideals, they became unemployed, radical and explicit. They abused masses of substances; mainly psychoactive or hallucinogenic. Many things in the Sixties influenced popular culture and what came out at the end was nothing like what went in at the beginning. . Why did groups like the Beatles and The Rolling Stones have such great impact during the 1960’s? By the end of this essay I hope to have gathered an understanding of how popular bands had such a massive impact during the 1960’s. To do this I will examine three main factors: Pre-Sixties conditions, Music and Lyrics. Music has always been a part of our lives, we have used it for entertainment, communication, creative outlet and simple pleasure; but why did the Sixties see a musical revolution that effected every aspect of peoples lives and is still going on today?

In the years before the Sixties Britain was sombre. It was the Age of Austerity, values and standards were Victorian and conservative. The Sixties were affluent, permissive and liberal. It is easy to see how the Cultural Revolution was so successful; people were ready for anything after the constrictive 1950s. What happened at the start of the Sixties to allow this revolution can probably be summed up into three points: The youth of Britains increase in spending power and, thus, independence, in the early 1960s had caught the attention of commercial marketers.

This affluence was displayed by the purchase of more clothes or records. The US president John F. Kennedy was assassinated and this left America in a state of shock, without a sense of direction and vulnerable; Britain could no longer tag along in the wake of their music industry. The British youth, dragging the rest of the country with it, had decided that the Beatles were best… In the late 50’s a man named Lonnie Donegan popularised a form of music called ‘Skiffle’ (Dictionary Def. “a kind of folk music played by a small group, mainly with rhythmic accompaniment to singing guitarist”).

This simple style was accessible to any collection of teenagers with musical inclinations, just one guitar and someone who could vaguely keep a rhythm on a washboard or other improvised instruments. By the early 60s in the major cities a large and highly competitive band scene emerged in which hundreds of local bands fought to find and perform the latest imported songs and to get the attention of the discerning young audiences. In Liverpool, the music they played was an amalgam of the American style performed with a touch of the Mersey humour and individualism.

Then came the concept of a ‘Merseybeat’ the sound of youngsters producing the music they wanted to hear. In 1962 the Beatles exploded onto the scene and after a brief scuffle with Gerry and The Pacemakers they were crowned as the kings of pop. The Beatles music was original and catchy, they achieved hits with songs such as ‘Love Me Do’ and ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’… Lyrics were an important part of the musical revolution, this new teenage scene was supplied with lyrics aimed for adolescents. The youth of the 1960’s finally add music they could relate to and understand the songs were unlike the music of previous generations.

They criticised and questioned and explored and experimented. This shocked other generations as topics such as sex, radical politics and drug abuse became features in some songs. Throughout the decade lyrics, along with the performers, became more and more wild. Bands such as the Beatles and The Rolling Stones became to be seen as affiliates of Britains problematic alternative underground and in some cases they were perceived as the root of this scene… Macmillan’s ‘wind of change’ had certainly blown by the middle of the 1960’s.

The new teenage music scene had affected everyone in Britain, for better or for worse the Mods and Rockers and Beatniks and Hippies were here to stay. 3. To some people the 1960s were the best of times, to others it was a period when many things went wrong in society. Why so people have such different ideas about the 1960s? In order to determine a conclusion to the above question I will examine three main factors in this essay, these will be Generation gap, Liberalism and Changes in law and society. I think that people’s opinions about the Sixties usually depend on their age during them…

The generation gap in the 1960′ became very significant as the decade progressed, the people of the older generation, the authority figures, the mothers and the fathers, were of a period of order and restriction. They had been raised under traditional Victorian ideals, while the younger generation, the adolescents of the Sixties were being raised in an era of change and new heightened freedom and independence. They had more money and were more intellectual than past generations of youths this meant that they demanded more opportunities and began to ‘attack the Establishment’.

The younger generation of the Sixties are the people who now look back and are fond of their memories of the decade, because they enjoyed it’s aura of change and revolution. The people who reflect upon the Sixties as an attack on British society are the elder generation of the 1960’s, they were the Establishment and they had to watch as their established values and ideals were swept away by the emancipation of youth… One factor that is a reason for both extremities of opinion regarding the Sixties is the liberalism that the younger generation of the decade experienced.

The Sixties saw the juvenile age groups finally break away from their elders. They no longer imitated their parents but developed their own culture and lifestyle; this was seen by the Establishment (when I refer to the Establishment now I no longer mean it the context of the government but as the elder generations of the 1960’s) as a degeneration of the family. The violence between different culture sectors was certainly distressing to the Establishment, and for a while, to an older Britain raised on war, discipline and National Service, it looked like the breakdown of everything they held dear.

The Sixties also saw the birth of mass feminism; the Feminist Movement became very influential and challenged the traditional roles of women throughout the 1960’s, many other organisations followed. This was coupled with the arrival of the contraceptive pill, something that gave women the choice of birth control and career planning. Another wrong of society that is generally recalled as a negative impact upon British society is the excessive experimentation with mind-altering substances during the decade.

Some of the Establishment remembers the Sixties as a drug fuelled party frenzy, as do some of the decade’s youths, but it has to be remembered that intoxicant experimentation is something that has been occurring for thousands of years, often in far greater amounts than in the Sixties. Some of the ‘problems’ can also be reverted back to the Establishment, LSD, one of the most commonly used drugs of the Sixties which was formulated in 1938 and became widely used from 1942-1966 (notably by many elder generations, specifically the American upper class) but was only criminalised in 1967…

Many modifications to the law and societal structure in Britain took place during the 1960’s. These, although obviously enforced by the government, were generally considered controversial and were criticised by the Establishment as aspects of the social disintegration of the Sixties. For example the legalisation of abortion was coupled with development in contraceptive technology as dangerous opposition to religious and traditional teachings.

Other legislative changes included the legalisation of homosexuality in discreet conditions and the abolishment of capital punishment, both of these were seen as factors in the degeneration of Britain’s society… So it can generally be seen from the above points that the reasons for the younger generations enjoying the Sixties are usually the very reasons for the older generations disliking the decade. Nevertheless the Sixties are still remembered by some to be the best of times and the worst of times. Source Questions 1. What can you learn from Source A about the impact of the Beatles in the 1960’s?

Source A is an account of a summer day in 1964. The author, Joanna Lumley, recounts (it was written in the 1990’s) how the Beatles, on the evening of a live television broadcast, had such significant influence over the lives of so many ordinary people. Lumley describes empty streets and shop stalls as she walked through London en-route to her mother’s apartment in order to watch the live programme. A period of twenty-six years may have clouded Joanna Lumley’s memory but this is still obviously an adequate interpretation of the anticipation and tension preceding the Beatles performance.

This is supported by the Beatles massive popularity and control over the music industry at the time. 2. Study Sources A, B and C. Does the evidence of Source C support the evidence of Sources A and B about the effects of pop music in the 1960’s? Source C is not entirely relevant to Source A but it does convey the admiration and fan base that the Beatles held. The fact that Source C is written in 1984 questions the relevance of the content, but this is counteracted by the author being Paul Macartney, a member of the Beatles. This fact, alone, makes Source C probably more reliable than either Source’s A or B.

Source B suggests that some performers, eg. The Rolling Stones, feared the intensity of their fans this is justified by Source C’s statement that indeed fans were sometimes fanatic and performers were often attacked. All Sources A, B and C convey the massive control that the Beatles wielded over the public and how pop music changed the youth of the time and gave them new opportunities. 3. Study Sources D and E. How useful are these sources in helping you to understand why many young people believed that the 1960’s gave them opportunities they had never had before? Source D is a flyer that featured in the TV Times in 1965.

It is an advertisement for a programme that includes several major celebrities who were part of the popular musical culture in Britain at the time. The 1960’s were the first time that teenagers had the opportunity to watch their favourite performers on TV on programmes designed for them, not adults. The next source is a description of radio in this period, we presume it is written from the perspective of youth. It describes the positive pleasure in listening to the early stations, such as Radio Luxembourg, which played the music of the youth culture, another privilege that previous teenagers had never enjoyed.

Source E is written around 30 years after the Sixties leaving it open for scepticism, but the depth and description of the content implies its accuracy and reliability as a source. No other period in history had seen a market for teenagers, they now had their own clothes, their own music and their own lifestyle. Both Sources are just two examples of new freedoms and opportunities that previous generations of youths never enjoyed. 4. Use Sources F and G, and your own knowledge, to explain why some people came to see the 1960’s as a period of bad influences on British society.

Source F is an extract from an article in The Daily Mail, instantly a point due consideration because of the newspaper’s obvious bias and slightly conservative stance. This source helps to understand how some people viewed the 1960’s as turbulent and negatively influential upon the society of Britain. This article relates how Mary Whitehouse, a schoolteacher in 1964, challenges the BBC and campaigns against its apparent bias towards work which is devoutly Christian. The article implies that the BBC challenges traditional beliefs and censors ‘much which is good and clean in our national culture’.

With the aid of this source it is possible to comprehend Mrs Whitehouse as a catalyst in the reaction against popular culture in the 1960’s. But it must be remembered that she is a traditionalist of the Christian faith and does not represent all of the BBC’s viewers in 1960’s Britain. Source G is an excerpt from a biography of Janis Joplin, a national star of the Sixties. This Source is defiantly not biased; it simply portrays an account of Joplin’s life but does serve as an example of why some people saw the Sixties as a negative period for British society.

Source G says Joplin was a rebellious teenager who rose to prominence trough vocal talent and finally died in 1970 from overuse of drugs, a habit that is evident throughout her life. It could be interpreted that if a drug-abusive, rebellious individual could become a celebrity in the 1960’s then that era, a period that to an extent tolerated substance experimentation, had a negative effect on society. The fact that Joplin died from a narcotic over-dose only add weight to the previous statement.

I think examining the changes in social groups is a helpful method of understanding the title question; the Sixties saw many rebellious and anti-authoritative social typecasts be born. Mods, Rockers, Beatniks and Hippies all questioned approved values and ideals; they experimented and demanded more freedom. Established authorities disliked these groups and wished them to conform, this accounts for some people’s view of the Sixties as a period of turbulence in British society. 5. Study all of the sources. ‘Popular culture in the 1960s did more harm than good. Use the sources and your own knowledge to explain whether you agree with this view. The popular culture of the 1960s was both damaging and constructive to different groups of people. As has been already examined in this coursework the damaging or constructive effects of the pop culture were fundamentally linked to the elder and younger generations respectively. The adolescent generation of the Sixties, as a collective body, took drugs and were sexually promiscuous these were probably direct results of the popular culture condoning such activities through channels such as lyrics in music.

These were some of the problems of the 1960’s for some people, whereas they almost certainly weren’t for other groups of people, mainly the participants. It is hard to gauge as to whether the 1960’s did more harm than good as a lot of positive and negative things happened in the decade. The only certain conclusion, regardless as to whether the 1960’s were harmful or not, is that the revolution that occurred in the 1960’s was inevitable and had to manifest in Britain at some time, sooner or later.