Tag Archives: 1960s

➤ It may be winter outside but here’s a feast of girl groups who put spring in our hearts

1974: Oo-oo-oooo-oo!

1961: But will my heart be broken?

1962: chugga chugga motion like a railroad train

1963: Shooby-dooby-dooby-dooby doo wah bah

1963: Da Doo Ron Ron

1964: Woh oh oh – the things he likes to doooooo


1959 ➤ When beans defined bohos and cappuccino tasted of coffee

The Look at Life tour starts at the 2I’s in Old Compton Street: click to run video in a new window

The Look at Life tour starts at the 2I’s in Old Compton Street: click to run video in a new window

➢ Tour the bohemian coffee bars of London on film

❚ FROM SMALL COFFEE BEANS a mighty fad exploded. The documentary film clip, above, immaculately preserved in rich Eastmancolor, takes us on a tour of Soho in 1959. The distinctly arch voice-over tells us: The coffee bar boom in Britain began in 1952 when the first espresso machine arrived from Italy and set up in London’s Soho. They reckoned that a cup costing tuppence to make could be sold for ninepence to 1s 6d [about £3 in today’s money], according to the trimmings. But for every three coffee bars that opened up, two closed down… / Continued at YouTube


With the arrival of ITV in the mid-50s, the UK’s two television channels competed to bring the day’s news into living rooms. In Britain’s cinemas the Rank Organisation responded in 1959 with the weekly magazine Look at Life, a series of light-hearted short films to precede the main feature on their Odeon and Gaumont circuit. This episode, titled Coffee Bar, takes us inside a few of Soho’s many haunts that took care to attract their own social segment: at the 2I’s in the basement of 59 Old Compton Street, live rock groups ensured a young clientele of jive cats, for example, while artists hung out at The French, intellectuals at the Macabre, politicos at Le Partisan, while writers and actors favoured Legrain.

Fifty years on, you’d be hard-pressed to distinguish one Soho bar’s customers from another’s – rather like the vile burnt cinders they all sell in the name of “coffee”. One sad consequence is to see the genuinely delicious stuff being edged off our supermarket shelves, presumably driven out by tastebuds destroyed in the high-street branded coffee shops.


2012 ➤ Why Brains, Parker and Lady P stayed cults long after Thunderbirds had Gone!

Gerry Anderson, Thunderbirds,Supermarionation, TV series, 1960s,

Futuristic puppet stars: Gerry Anderson with Virgil, Brains, Lady Penelope and Parker the chauffeur. (Picture: David O’Neill / Rex)

➢ Thunderbirds creator who made some of the most popular children’s TV shows of the 1960s – Gerry Anderson obituary at The Guardian

Gerry Anderson, who has died aged 83 after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, was the main mover behind a number of puppet series commissioned by Lew Grade’s Independent Television Corporation. They made the company a fortune from the space age: perhaps the best known was Thunderbirds (1965-66), and among the others were Fireball XL5 (1962-63), Stingray (1964) and Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons (1967-68).

Factoid: Thunderbirds hero Jeff Tracy and
his sons John, Scott, Virgil, Alan and Gordon were all
named after early American astronauts

Gerry Anderson, Thunderbirds,Supermarionation, TV series, 1960s,

Captain Scarlet as Royal Mail postage stamp last year

The pre-ITV world of the early 50s had been one of puppets such as Muffin the Mule and the Flowerpot Men, a mirror for a Britain on extremely visible strings. Rocket men, on BBC radio, Radio Luxembourg and in the Eagle comic, meant Dan Dare and Jet Morgan – recycled Biggles and Battle of Britain pilots. After Anderson, they were destined for the galactic dole queue, just as Eagle’s demise was hastened by the arrival of Anderson spin-offs such as TV Century 21 (1965-71). “Everything we did,” Anderson told his biographers Simon Archer and Marcus Hearn, in What Made Thunderbirds Go! (2002), “was in an endeavour to sell to America”, and Grade spectacularly achieved that with Fireball XL5, a US network sale to NBC. Thunderbirds, shown across the world and more than a dozen times on British TV, is the show that defines the Anderson achievement, yet never attracted a US network… / Continued at Guardian Online

➢ F-A-B gallery of Gerry Anderson creations at Guardian Online

➢ 2011, Brains explains “lenticular” Thunderbirds postage stamps

Gerry Anderson, Thunderbirds

Thunderbirds’ secret base at Tracy Island: model kit comes with miniature versions of the Thunderbird 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. “Some assembly required.” From Dragon Models USA, $115

‘Anything can happen in the next half hour’

➢ Paul Hammans on the extraordinary dynamics of Stingray:

Gerry Anderson, Stingray,Supermarionation, TV series, 1960s,

Stingray’s Troy Tempest and “Aqua” Marina (Photo: ITV)

Anderson’s third series in Supermarionation brought a new level of emotional literacy to the genre, albeit one difficult to define. Gradually the move had been made and puppetry was continuing to move toward greater realism, but let’s not get this out of proportion; it was not the end of innocence. Puppetry of the Gerry Anderson variety, despite being set in an imaginary future began to appear more relevant at a deeper level for the audience of the day. The transaction in any learning process depends upon emotional involvement and increasingly the puppet series got you involved… / Continued at Cult Britannia


➤ David Frost salutes TW3, the TV show that pioneered satire 50 years ago tonight

Hugh Carleton-Greene, David Frost, TW3, BBC, satire, 1960s,Private Eye, Bernard Levin, JFK, Christopher Booker, Millicent Martin,

Satirists on their firing range: at left, David Frost leads the TW3 team in the studio

❚ THE MOST INFLUENTIAL TV SERIES in British history – the lodestar for all future comedy, and more – won no fulsome retrospective from the BBC on its 50th anniversary today. Only a brief item on the Today show reminded us how the earth tilted at 10:30pm on this night in 1962 with the launch of TW3 – the adopted shorthand for That Was The Week That Was. New research reveals that this politically insolent television voice of Britain’s nascent satire movement attracted complaints by the thousand. “No other programme has so many files in its correspondence section,” we were told this morning by historian Morgan Daniels on the Today programme. What it had done, according to Private Eye’s first editor Christopher Booker in his landmark 1969 book The Neophiliacs, was finally to break free from the Presbyterian straitjacket of Lord Reith, the BBC’s founder. Within weeks pubs started emptying on Saturdays as the nation made a ritual of rushing home to catch TW3’s 37 broadcasts which grew an audience of 12 million in less than a year.

A galaxy of leading “Northern Realist” writers and national newspaper journalists contributed razor-sharp sketches and what little remains available on video makes today’s comedy seem lily-livered. TW3 made the career of Sir David Frost who was its “classless” front-man at the age of 23. Though many satirists say they achieve no lasting change, on tonight’s Loose Ends radio show, Frost insisted that satire does have a knock-on influence in its day, even if it may not reform legislation in the long term. TW3’s second series was curtailed on December 28, 1963, for fears it would unbalance the general election campaign of 1964.

Roy Kinnear, David Frost, Lance Percival, TW3, satire, 1960s

At the TW3 bar: Roy Kinnear, David Frost, Lance Percival

TW3 captured a zeitgeist unique to the 60s before they began to swing. Booker argued in The Neophiliacs: “It was a final drawing together of almost all those threads which had been working for ‘revolution’ and sensation in the England of the previous seven years.” [Namely, since the election of 1955 when slippage of the tectonic plates supporting Britain’s centuries-old class system saw the subsequent rise of the “unposh” intellectual and of John Osborne’s “angry young man”] … “[TW3] brought the destructive force of the satire craze to a mass audience.”

Britain was changing. Deference was on the way out, The Beatles were on their way in. The satire boom was in full swing…/ Continued inside

➢ Read on inside for a fuller analysis by Shapersofthe80s
of the 60s satire boom – plus a gallery of rarely seen images from TW3, and more vintage videos

❏ Year-ending round-up of TW3 highlights, Dec 1963 (above) – includes notorious Mississippi number with black-and-white minstrels in the week a white protester walking from Alabama to Jackson was shot dead by the road … The consumer guide to religion … Timothy Birdsall draws the Duke and Duchess of Eastbourne … MPs who have not spoken in Parliament are named and shamed … Bernard Levin harangues a pride of lawyers with their failings.

➢ Click through to compare and contrast the satirists of the 60s with the “alternative comics” of Alexei Sayle’s generation when they formed the Comic Strip – Analysis by Shapersofthe80s from 1980


1961 ➤ No wonder The Beatles changed the shape of music after 456 sessions practising in public

Beatles, Cavern club, Liverpool,Pete Best, John Lennon, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr

Their regular gig: The early Beatles at the Cavern club in 1961 with Pete Best on drums

❚ ON THIS THIS DAY 50 YEARS AGO four Scousers played the first of 292 gigs at the Cavern club in Liverpool — 292! They were paid £5 and Pete Best was playing drums that day, although when they played their last Cavern lunch date two years later, in Feb 1963, Ringo Starr sat behind the kit and Please Please Me was heading towards No 2 in the charts to be followed by four No 1 hits in a row.

Bob Wooler,DJ, Cavern club, Liverpool

Bob Wooler, Cavern deejay: urged the owner Ray McFall to give The Beatles a try. Picture from Liverpool Post

Two hundred and ninety two gigs is the equivalent of playing every night for 48 weeks without break. In fact, many of those dates were, like the first on Thursday Feb 9, 1961, played to few dozen office workers at lunchtime. Practice may well make perfect but, even so — 292 at one venue! The Cavern’s deejay Bob Wooler booked the bands and gave The Beatles their residency, “playing lunchtime and evening sessions for about 25 shillings a session”, according to Ray Coleman in a definitive biography of John Lennon. “The Cavern, with little ventilation, appalling acoustics, walls dripping with dampness… would tax even the most enthusiastic of young musicians.”

Coleman explains why playing in this club was a decisive tipping point: “It was a hotbed of traditional jazz… The audiences were, in John Lennon’s opinion, snobs against rock’n’roll. He hated them for their superior attitude. The Cavern was to represent, to John, something more than success for The Beatles. He saw it as a crusade against jazz and all it stood for.

“John told jazz singer [author, journalist and cultural guru], George Melly, who had played the club with the Mick Mulligan Band: ‘You lot kept us from getting into the Cavern and other places much earlier. All that jazz crap held us back.’

George Melly, jazz singer, The Beatles, Revolt Into Style

“The game was up”: Jazz singer George Melly in 1960. Photographed © by Ray Moreton

“Melly conceded this point to Lennon… With rock’n’roll groups, led by The Beatles, pulling in students, previously jazz’s natural audience, ‘the game was up’, as Melly succinctly puts it. Lennon relished the kill.” On that cramped stage in that desperate year of 1961, Coleman maintains: “Lennon’s demeanour could be likened to that of a caged tiger. Here, he honed his short-sighted, head-tilted, legs-astride stance into a statement of defiance, much more than mere music.”

The Cavern residency was a testament to the determination of the man who had been a founder-member of The Quarrymen in 1956. Let’s not forget that the world-beating band who evolved from them also played four seasons in the German city of Hamburg between their bass player Stuart Sutcliffe eventually naming them The Beetles in August 1960 [a spelling Lennon later changed to reflect the beat], and securing their first recording contract in June 1962 with EMI, which was to turn them into the most famous pop group in history.

Beatles, Hamburg, Astrid Kirchherr, Stuart Sutcliffe

The Beatles’ beat look, 1960: honed in Hamburg by photographer Astrid Kirchherr who took this picture when guitarist Stuart Sutcliffe was in the lineup

So how many gigs did these musicians from Liverpool have to play in order to clinch a deal with a major London label in an era when the metropolis viewed the provinces as a foreign land? These were the dark ages before the internet, when television was only starting to replace newspapers as the mass medium, and when many singers upped their vocal register as far as falsetto to be heard clearly through the latest piece of technology, the handheld transistor radio.

A chance phone call in 1960 won The Beatles their first stint in Hamburg where they played seven nights a week at £15-a-week, Aug-Oct (46 gigs at the Indra club) straight on through Oct-Nov (57 gigs at the Kaiserkeller). They returned to Liverpool with moptop hairstyles and bespoke cuban-heeled Chelsea boots from London’s theatrical shoemakers Anello & Davide. After their Cavern debut the next year, 1961, The Beatles returned to Hamburg, Mar-July (98 gigs). They were viewed at the Cavern that November by Brian Epstein who agreed to manage them a month later, and played their first southern gig in Aldershot to 18 people. It was back to Hamburg in spring 1962, April-May (49 gigs), to find that Epstein had a deal ready to sign† the week after they returned. So let’s say that those four tours of duty in Germany amounted to almost exactly 250 gigs. Two hundred and fifty!


Beatles relaxing, probably 1961: Rare photo including Stuart Sutcliffe at left and Pete Best at right. (Photo courtesy Yoko Ono Lennon)

The Beatles themselves described their far from meteoric progress in their own words in the monumental Anthology published for their company Apple Corps in 2000. It makes you want to weep.

John Lennon says: “In Hamburg every song lasted 20 minutes and had 20 solos in it. We’d be playing eight or ten hours a night. [This is rather more practice than young musicians achieve at a western conservatoire, and rather less than Chinese music students.] That’s what improved the playing. And the Germans like heavy rock… Paul would be doing What’d I say? for an hour and a half.”

Paul McCartney says: “What’d I say? became like trying to get into the Guinness Book of Records — who could make it last the longest… It has the greatest opening riff ever… then the chorus… then it had the killer ‘Oh yeah!’ — audience participation.”

George Harrison says: “We had to learn millions of songs. We had to play so long we just played everything — Gene Vincent, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, Fats Domino — everything. Hamburg was really our apprenticeship, learning how to play in front of people.”

Ringo Starr, who met the others in Hamburg while playing drums in Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, says: “This was the point in our lives when we found pills, uppers. That’s the only way we could continue playing for so long. We’d get really wired and go on for days. So with beer and Preludin, that’s how we survived.”

Brian Epstein, Beatles

Brian Epstein: local businessman who became The Beatles’ manager

When they signed with EMI their average age was 20. The band calling itself The Beatles had played 250 gigs in Hamburg, and averaging their Cavern appearances over the year and a half before signing suggests they played 206 gigs there.

So in addition to many other local dates, it took The Beatles at least 456 live gigs to clinch their future as the most commercially successful group in pop. In the UK The Beatles have had more number one albums than any other musical act, and in the US they top Billboard magazine’s list of the all-time top-selling Hot 100 artists.

Four hundred and fifty-six live gigs! And in 1980, when Spandau Ballet signed to Chrysalis just less than a year after assuming their New Romantic identity, they had given — as part of a cunningly formulated plan — exactly 18 live performances (six in the UK plus 12 in St Tropez on-stage nightly). Whatever this says, it’s a measure of how effective mass communications had become during the intervening two decades. And what an exhilarating hurricane they swept before them as the 80s turned into the second great era of British pop.


❚ THE 1999 PHOTO-BOOK HAMBURG DAYS — a limited edition box-set by Astrid Kirchherr and Klaus Voormann — reveals that the early Beatles lineup (with Pete Best as drummer but without Stuart Sutcliffe who had left the band) had signed their first recording contract in 1961 with Bert Kaempfert, the German Polydor agent who also ran a celebrated light orchestra.

Hamburg Days,Astrid Kirchherr, Klaus Voormann

Hamburg Days: the cover shot

He had hired The Beatles to play under the pseudonym The Beat Brothers to back singer Tony Sheridan, with whom they’d often jammed at The Indra club. On June 22 1961 at the Friedrich Ebert Halle — seen in the slideshow (above) of wonderful early Silver Beatles photos — they all recorded the Sheridan single My Bonnie, which effectively became the band’s first commercial recording when it was released in October 1961 and reached No 5 in the hit parade.

It has become part of Beatles folklore that it was a Sheridan fan called Raymond Jones who brought the band to Brian Epstein’s attention that November by asking for My Bonnie in the record-shop Epstein ran in Liverpool. What Kirchherr and Voorman reveal, contrary to most accounts, is that it was not until May 25 1962 while the band was engaged at the Star Club in Hamburg that Epstein finally persuaded Kaempfert to release The Beatles from his contract with them, effective from June 1. (Only after The Beatles auditioned for George Martin at Abbey Road on June 6 was an EMI deal confirmed.) The Kaempfert contract actually had a further year to run until July 1963. Imagine how mad he must have been when 1963 came round and The Beatles notched those four No 1 hits in a row.


The late Charlie Gillett, in his consummate history of rock, The Sound of the City (1970), passes this judgement on the Fab Four: “Musically, The Beatles were exciting, inventive and competent; lyrically, they were brilliant, able to work in precisely the right kind of simple images and memorable phrases that distinguished rhythm and blues from other kinds of popular music… But there was something else about them, and it was this that transformed the nature of the world’s popular music as decisively as rock’n’roll had done nine years before — their character as people.”