Sunday, 28 September 2014

1969 - the sixties were like science fiction

"The sixties were like science fiction" said Paul Kantner of Jefferson Airplane. 

 Nice start, fellas. Giles cartoon, Sunday Express July 1969
This thread started in 1961 with Yuri Gagarin, returning safely from space. And here we are in 1969, walking on the moon. To a nine year old boy this seemed entirely natural, the logical next step following from steam engines and trains, the internal combustion engine and cars, magic and airplanes, rockets and sputniks and Mercury Men and cosmonauts and astronauts and Apollo, today walking on the moon, next year building a space staion in the Bay of Tranquility, holidays on the moon by 2001. Logical. 

Obviously the science was backed up by television: The Jetsons, Doctor Who, Star Trek, Lost in Space, Thunderbirds, The Outer Limits and the Twilight Zone. The movies too: 2001, A Space Oddysey came out in 1968 as did Planet of the Apes. First Men in the Moon (1964) and First Spaceship on Venus (1960) and Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women (1968) all sound like classics (although I'm sure I didn't see any of them). It was in the air, it was in comics, newspapers, on the news, children's television, we took it for granted. This is the future. Just round the corner. We really were promised jet packs.
 Purple hearts taste ever so nice, Giles cartoon, Sunday Express, 31 August 1969
What else happened in 1969? Woodstock.  Hippie heaven.  Altamont.  Hippie hell.  And in between: the Isle of Wight festival.  These cartoons from the Sunday Express illustrate the gulf between straight Britain and the counter culture.  For Sunday Express readers hippies were just another alien group, ripe for taking the piss, along with Union Leaders, Football Hooligans, mini skirted MPs, striking ambulance crews, striking nurses, striking postal workers, traffic wardens, civil servants and dodgy market traders selling genuwine moon rocks.
Having a happening, Giles cartoon, Sunday Express, September 2nd 1969
Wrapping up the space age (part one) was David Bowie with Space Oddity.  Released in November 1969 and often dismissed as a cash-in novelty song it was in fact a brilliant bit of writing.  If you listen to the version performed by the Langley Schools Music Project you can hear the menace, the fear, the loneliness of the long distance space traveller, the emptiness at the heart of the whole space programme.  Nowhere is this more evident than in this video from Commander Hadfield

This is incredible.  This is what it really is all about.  Space Cadet Hadfield fulfils the life dream of every kid born in the early 60s: to be an astronaut AND a freakin pop star.  In space. Singing Sapce Oddity.  And at the same time making space travel entertaining for the first time in four decades - something that NASA failed to do.  True that his youtube channel brings to mind Astronaut Wolowitz but Hadfield actually did it.  Respect.  Good luck, Mr Gorsky!

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