Monday, 22 September 2014

1964 - history is bunk

Munchkins, I, II, & III, Idelle Weber, 1964

History has a way of being written not by who is right but by who is left.  Watching Punk Britannia you could be fooled into believing that Punk was all about the Sex Pistols and Clash.  There's no question that they were two of the first and two of the most important but Punk was about so much more. From the Drones, Buzzcocks, Slaughter & the Dogs, Eater, the Adverts, Wire, the Plague, Sham 69, Johnny Moped, X-Ray Spex, UK Subs, Ed Banger & the Nosebleeds the story was much more about those halcyon days when bands leapt on stage, though they couldn't play (furthermore they had nothing to say). 

You might also get the idea that the whole country was swamped by punk rockers.  It isn't true.  Most people didn't even notice punk in 1976. Through 1977 there was plenty of press coverage and the NME was filled with news of punk but sales were minimal and the biggest punk bands were playing to an audience of hundreds while Pink Floyd, Genesis and Yes were playing to tens of thousands.  By 1978 punk was dead on the vine.

What does this have to with 1964? Well, revisionist history would have us believe that in 1964 everyone fell in love with Beatles.  And if they didn't love the Beatles it was because they had plumped for the Stones.  I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say that although the Beatles were massive in terms of pop group popularity, that popularity was limited to a narrow band in terms of age and class.  A million sales in a country of 50 million (UK) or 200 million (US) is relatively small.  Even 73 million watching the Ed Sullivan Show does not translate as 73 million fans - at least half of those watching were parents suggesting that those longhairs cleaned themselves up, got a haircut and a proper job.

The Civil Rights Act, Vietnam, Liverpool winning the league, Beatles, Dylan, Kinks, Beach Boys, Warhol, Idelle Weber, the British Invasion, Louie Louie.  Something was happening (wasn't it Mr Jones) and the world did change eventually, but in 1964 the old world prevailed.

 High Ceiling—You Won’t Get This, Idelle Weber, 1964
(Photos: Courtesy the Chrysler Museum)

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