Sunday, 21 September 2014

1963 - take a trip around the world (dedicated to Brandan)

It is no accident that the first couple of posts in this series were headed up by pictures of astronauts.  The first was Yuri Gagarin, first man in space: he did it, he actually sat in that tincan, floating in a most peculiar way, planet earth being blue and there being nothing he could do (nothing that Laika couldn't have done presumably).  The second (from 1962) was an artist's impression of men on the moon - then still a few years away but within reach.

My paternal grandfather was born in 1895.  In the late 60s he told me that he remembered the first airplanes and now look, in his lifetime, Man was walking on the moon.  Where, we wondered, would Man be walking when I was his age?  In my first decade we'd gone from the first man in space to landing on the moon - and. perhaps even more impressively, returning safely to earth.  The concept of progress was just there, in the air.  Well, it was if you were a nine year old boy.

Progress went a different way though.  Once there was a Stars & Stripes planted on the moon space travel got knocked on the head.  But the development of computers (and associated technologies) has been staggering.  In 1978 (or thereabouts) the tech college I went to got a computer.  So we were told.  Never saw it or knew anyone who did.  Apparently it took up up a whole floor.  And was probably as powerful as a pocket calculator.  And nowadays . . . Last week we were talking about an event in my grandfather's life back in 1919.  He'd fought with the Liverpool Scottish at the Somme and Paschendale during the Great War and was still Over There in 1919.  He was part of the guard of honour at the memorial for Captain Fryatt at Antwerp. I googled Fryatt Antwerp on my phone and a few moments later we were watching this video.

The opening pictures of the Liverpool Scottish in their kilts coming down the steps carrying the coffin caused a collective gasp.  We're still not sure which one is grandad but these men are his comrades, his brothers in arms.  Until now all we've known about this event is a single still photograph.  And by the wonders of a technology unimaginable a couple of deacdes ago we are watching a film of this on a mobile phone.

The development of music during the 60s was similarly startling, exemplified by those lovable moptops, let's hear it again for John, Paul, George and Pete Ringo.   Following the abortive Decca audition they'd been signed by EMI, released a single and in February 1963 recorded their first album, Please Please Me.  One day in February.  February 11th 1963.  The same day Sylvia Plath commited suicide.  Patti Smith once said something to the effect that as a teenager she had sometimes felt suicidal but didn't want to miss the next Rolling Stones record. While I've never looked forward to hearing the Stones I understand what she meant.  Everyone needs landmark events to look forward to, whether it is Xmas, a new car or a new One Direction cd.

Please Please Me, it goes without saying, is a lot better than the Decca audition.  There's no Sheik of Araby or Besame Mucho for a start.  But it is still rooted in what went down well in Hamburg and the Cavern.  It still isn't miles away from what other beat groups were doing.  But just wait. 

There were a whole bunch of Lennon/MacCartney instant classics - eight of the fourteen tracks were Beatles originals, the others were covers. Amongst them was Anna.

Anna, Arthur Alexander, 1962

Anna, Beatles, 1963

Anna, Humble Pie, 1971

What else happened in 1963?  Martin Luther King's I have a dream speech, Kennedy's assasination, Moors Murders, Profumo, a brand new baby brother.  And a move to a brand new house.  In a brand new housing development.  We recently helped my oldest daughter move into her first brand new house.  In a brand new housing development.  As I was carrying a box of stuff into the house I looked along the road and saw the same scene repeated time and again all the way along the road.   Everyone had got their keys the same week.  This Saturday morning there was a flotilla of white hire vans, peopled with young couples, dragooned parents and friends, helping a new generation take flight.  Same as it ever was, same as it ever was.

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