Route 66 revisited

Landschlacht, Switzerland, 20 September 2016

Fifty years.

Half a century has gone by since the Sixties, the decade of my birth, a truly Dickensian “best of times”/”worst of times” decade.

What had been sowed, both good and evil, from the previous decade bore bittersweet harvest: apartheid produces the Sharpeville Massacre, Castro´s revolution leads to the Bay of Pigs fiasco, JFK becomes US President and plays nuclear roulette with the Russians, racial tensions explode with the assassination of Martin Luther King and Black Power is the response, the British government falls in the Profumo scandal, Nelson Mandela is jailed, the Greeks depose their King.

Above: Painting of the Sharpeville Massacre, 21 March 1960

Above: Che Guevara and Fidel Castro


Above: US President John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Soviet-R-12-nuclear-ballistic missile.jpg

Above: Soviet missiles displayed in Red Square, Moscow

Above: Martin Luther King Jr.- organised March on Washington, 28 August 1963

Above: Black Power demonstration at Mexico City Olympics 1968

Above: Robben Island Prison where Nelson Mandela was jailed

Good-bye Che Guevara, Adolf Eichmann, the villagers of My Lai, the miners of Aberfan, Jayne Mansfield, Norma Jean Baker (Marilyn Monroe), Judy Garland, JFK and brother Bobby…the day the music died.

Above: Jayne Mansfield

Monroe c. 1953

Above: Norma Jean Baker (aka Marilyn Monroe)

Rfk assassination.jpg

Above: Robert Kennedy just after he was shot 0n 5 June 1968

It was a time of Flower Power and peace, when “all you need is love” in the land of Camelot, at the dawning of the Age of Aquarius.

It was a time of riots, protests and revolution, anarchy on campus and Reds scaring us everywhere.

The Berlin Wall goes up, the Apollo Mission ends in tragedy, Firenze flooded, Skopje wrecked by earthquake, the jumbo jet and the Concorde first fly, man in space and on the moon, Nureyev dances, Bob Dylan believes “the answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind”, while women put all their faith in the Pill and US election campaigners tout Nixon with signs that read “I like Dick.”


Above: The Berlin Wall

Above: Apollo 11 moon landing, 20 July 1969

Dylan with his guitar onstage, laughing and looking downwards.

Above: Bob Dylan, 1963

Vietnam, a conflict which America couldn´t lose, but did.

Above: US tank convoy, Vietnam War

Algeria, Kenya, Cyprus, Aden and Nigeria struggle for freedom.

The casbah is rocked.

The Six Day War, a conflict which Israel couldn´t win, yet did.

Biafra: 2.5 year war, a million innocent people starve to death.

Hope and terror in Prague as Soviet tanks roll down the streets of spring.

10 Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia - Flickr - The Central Intelligence Agency.jpg

The rise to stardom of Camille Javal (Brigitte Bardot) causing male temperatures to rise to stellar heights.

Above: Brigitte Bardot, 1961

The age of the epic film: Ben Hur, Lawrence of Arabia, Cleopatra, The Sound of Music, 2001: A Space Odyssey (which everyone loved but no one understood), Psycho, The Birds, Planet of the Apes, La Dolce Vita.

Ben hur 1959 poster.jpg

Charles Manson commits unspeakable acts.

The Rat Pack sing, George Lazenby is unloved On Her Majesty´s Secret Service, prompting Sean Connery to remind movie goers that he´s still  “Bond. James Bond.”

Above: Sean Connery as James Bond 007

It is the rise of Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol, One Flew over the Cuckoo´s Nest, the high priests of hippiedom: Leary, Hoffman and Rubin, Arthur Miller and Norman Mailer, Samuel Becket and Dave Brubeck, Pavarotti and Edith Piaf, Stravinsky and Shostakovich.

Above: “Wham!”, Roy Liechtenstein, 1963

Above: “Campbell´s Soup I”, Andy Warhol, 1968

And pop culture was pop music: Elvis, the Beatles, Ike and Tina Turner, Sonny and Cher, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Doors, the Supremes, the Bee Gees, the Who, the Everley Brothers, Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder, Joe Cocker…the list goes on.

Presley, wearing a tight black leather jacket with Napoleonic standing collar, black leather wristbands, and black leather pants, holds a microphone with a long cord. His hair, which looks black as well, falls across his forehead. In front of him is an empty microphone stand. Behind, beginning below stage level and rising up, audience members watch him. A young woman with long black hair in the front row gazes up ecstatically.

Above: Elvis Presley, 28 June 1968

A square quartered into four head shots of young men with moptop haircuts. All four wear white shirts and dark coats.

Above: The Beatles, 1964

Above: The Rolling Stones, 1965

John and Yoko in beds in Amsterdam, Toronto and Montreal hotels and all they are saying is “give peace a chance” and uninhibitedly naked in a picture that remains shocking.

Above: John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Queen Elizabeth Hotel, Montreal, 1969

Yves St-Laurent, Twiggy, “boots made for walking”, pork pie hats and mini macs, paper dresses and mini skirts, allowing the ladies to “twist again like we did last summer” to the Top of the Pops and pirate radio.

Above: Lesley Hornby, aka Twiggy, 1967

Squatters and “jacking up” and Woodstock.

Woodstock poster.jpg

The Greatest floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee, whether his name is Cassius Clay or Muhammed Ali.

Muhammad Ali NYWTS.jpg

Above: Muhammad Ali, 1967

…and Adam West is Batman and Hugh Hefner redefines the word “bunny” and folks wonder if Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds is psychedelic or was caused by something psychedelic…

All of this remembering makes me want to go to London…

“You Say You Want a Revolution?: Records and Rebels (1966 – 70)” is a new exhibition that started ten days ago and will continue to 26 February 2017 at the Victoria and Albert (V & A) Museum that explores how a flourishing counterculture of rebellion, expressed through music, fashion, art and political protest, challenged existing power structures in the late 1960s.

Acid test

Here one can find the suits worn by John Lennon and George Harrison on the cover of Sgt. Pepper´s Lonely Hearts Club Band, shards from a Jimi Hendrix guitar and copies of the underground magazines Oz and International Times.

The Beatles, holding marching band instruments and wearing colourful uniforms, stand near a grave covered with flowers that spell "Beatles". Standing behind the band are several dozen famous people.

Imagine looking at LSD as a positive influence – not just used for recreational purposes but used to push boundaries and open the doors of perception.

Experience Pink Floyd playing in a backdrop of dazzling lights and avant garde films and feel the impact of Hendrix´s solo performance at Woodstock of the Star Spangled Banner.

(Even Colin Kaepernick would stand up for this!).

A black and white photograph of a man playing an electric guitar.

Above: Jimi Hendrix, 1967

Get high with a little help from the V & A.


Sources: Wikipedia; The Independent, 27 February 2016; V & A Museum.



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