Previous chapters dealing with the 1950's are too small in length to put on the blog yet so we move forward several years to the 1960's.
1960 TO 1963
THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS
A huge event occurred in 1960 that only record shops owners were bothered about. The Top Thirty was nearly just history! A magazine that was only available to the trade would print something that the British public would either rave or be utterly sick of. Record Retailer on the 10th of March 1960 started a top 50 chart that was to become the British King of Pop Charts. But not without a fight! The New Musical Express kept up its top thirty, plus was used by Radio Luxembourg, Daily Mail, Evening Standard, Evening News and regional papers in Wolverhampton, Sheffield, Glasgow, and Birmingham. One can assume that the use of this new chart caused confusion between the public and shop assistants over the actually position of a record in the two charts, however as far as most people were concerned the N.M.E. chart was the “official chart”. That isn’t so now and you have to look hard to find the charts positions of acts that made it’s charts after the March cut off date. How the Retailer chart became the “official chart” we will find out at the end of the decade. But even the conservative BBC started to take notice of the charts, though it would have nothing to do with the NME charts or any other music paper’s chart. So it came up with an hour long radio show called ‘Pick of The Pops’. As its name suggests this was no countdown show like the Americans had on their radio stations. It was a selection of records that were in the charts instead. Eventually the BBC decided to iron out the strange happenings that occurred in the various music paper charts by putting them all together and thus making it’s own chart. At first it avoid playing them in order on the new show that first aired in 1962, presented by David Jacobs, but eventually let the rule lapse. It was mostly done to avoid playing any records that were marked restricted and because records were thinly disguised about sex, they were lapped up by teenagers and thus made charts. But sex wasn’t the only reason that a record couldn’t be played on the BBC, they didn’t like records that were religious or that could be linked to the occult. Records that featured the words “black magic” for example, nevertheless once the BBC had accepted the notion of chart music and was having to broadcast them, things were looking good for the charts. Meanwhile charts would become more important to the music industry as it was after as much teenage cash it could get its hands on. It had the leading edge in getting a lot of the 500 million pounds that the Financial Times reported young people were spending in 1960. The rest of this money was being eaten by the rag trade. Only it would become more popularly known as the fashion trade. Clothes designers were being spued out of fashion courses at the colleges running them, only due to art schools only becoming popular from the 1944 Education Act. Ex students Mary Quant, Tommy Nutter, Doug Millings set up shops in London. At the centre was Carnaby Street. A chap called John Stephen had started selling clothes from shops with gay names, yet he picked up trade from pop star clients. But his clothes made strong looking men look weak and thanks to the Mod culture young men earning £10 a week were spending £14 on a shirt. Within five years he owned 18 shops there. His success proved a magnet for other entrepreneurs, like two brothers calling their shops ‘Lord John’.
Chelsea SetMary Quant was a product of education and in her case it was literal. Her parents were teachers. Typically she rejected their advice to teach art and teamed up with Alexander
Plunket-Green fellow art student, the type that turned up for lessons when he felt like it, walking around with a film script because it was cool. They spearheaded a movement called the ‘Chelsea Set’. Pyjama Parties, ethnic clothes, and jeans or defined by one of their number as “spoilt and tiresome”. Mary wasn’t satisfied with the Set and she had started selling her own designs at a shop called Bazaar in 1955. Her clothes distinguished young women from there elders. This was just the sort of thing that teenage girls needed. Clothes make the man, or in this case adolescent girls’ image. Nevertheless clothes are all-right, but if your hair looks like mum! You went to Vidal Sassoon. Unlike Quant, Sassoon was told to do ladies hairdressing by his parents and did. So Mary was having a bad hair day in 1963 and Sassoon gave her a “Bob”. Now all that was needed was some publicity for the hair cut.
One of the three known as the “terrible three” photographers was Terence Donovan. Actress Nancy Kwan knew Quant, Sassoon and Donovan and all four came together in a photo, using Quant’s clothes and the Bob cut. Women’s hairstyling was never the same again. Another one of the ‘terrible’ was David Bailey, who helped take the class out of fashion. Fashion magazines
like Vogue kept pestering him to do fashion shoots. Most models were generally aristocratic wives. Few middle-class women wanted to look like that and even lesser down the scale. On the other hand modelling school became more open to younger and less well off women. Since cosmetic surgery was still in its infancy, models were selected on their natural beauty. One such girl was Jean Shrimpton. Cameras like the 35mm Pentax gave people like Bailey more creativity in their shoots. Jean could thus be captured on film pretending to be an erotic dancer. The future model was born. Of course if you couldn’t go to Carnaby Street, you went to C & A Casual.
Ban The BombIf you’ve got the clothes you needed to show them off and so the club scene grew. The Discotheque came out of Paris and was a weird sort of record library. While some clubs were having problems, these cropped up all over the place. Artists began to favour these clubs and produce dance music for them. Most successful of these was Chubby Checker with the Twist, but the Twist could be danced to anything with the same beat and Little Eva’s ‘The Locomotion’ saw the arms brought into play like the gears of a steam loco. But this type of music wasn’t seen as mainstream and it took a BBC radio presenter to sum it up how the music mainstream was heading. Brian Matthew thought the sixties would be labelled the “ten years of Traditional Jazz”. Nothing could sum it up more than record breaking chart run of Acker Bilk’s Stranger On The Shore. Traditional Jazz wasn’t an aggressive sound and appealed to older people as well. Bilk’s tune would be later adapted for the Coronation Street theme and Jazz was also used by another side of the youth movement rejection of authority. As the Cold War accelerated the threat of nuclear attacks became a strong possibility. Church groups and others were horrified at the results of the attacks on the Japanese cities during WW2 and it became clear that the human race could blow itself up! Campaign bodies were often used in universities to debate issues on various subjects. It was a group of these men and women all highly educated, who decided enough is enough and set up the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament or CND for short. In February of 1961 a 12,000 strong crowd march into Trafalgar Square under the banners of CND. Though it was meant to be a peace march things got out of hand and the police arrested over 1,000 of them. Nevertheless the movement grew and would become linked with the youth movement itself and even branded and having a logo to boot for them to wear. But even the Traditonal Jazz link would be broken from it and Brian Matthew himself would see the start of what would end its mainstream status.
Government was also concerned about how the young were acting. A report commissioned in 1960 listed those things that caused problems in society. It found that many young people were delinquents, rejecting family life and having no moral values. And that they were living off the welfare state. Although the report found them idealistic it also concluded that they were very sceptical and not surprisingly had no faith in politics or politicians. As the relentless pressure of the school culture pushed change ever forward, those in it looked for something else to blame. Sociologist J. Halloran was blaming it on TV and even the culture of the young was a creation of the media. He pointed out that children copied actions seen on Television. This was of course taken on board by the media and children were told at the end of some programs not to copy what they had seen. So you were not to blow up buildings like Captain Scarlet because ‘you are not indestructible’.
This attitude became common place as the young were consider inexperienced in the ways of life. However TV was driving some change. The broadcasters were putting out a lot of cowboy programs, imported from the USA of course. Wagon Train was very popular although the theme failed to make the chart. Nevertheless groups started to give their bands names associated with the Wild West. Even the Shadows picked up on it with there huge number one Apache. Yet that record had a huge effect on musical instrument shops, as guitars went flying out the doors. More guitars would lead to more bands, but not for a few years would the impact be seen.
Groups, however not at all common in the early 60’s, most acts were solo artists. Helen Shapiro was only 14 when she hit the top spot on the charts. Matt Munro had started off as a bus driver. These are just a few of the solo artists the record companies signed to their labels. The TV show Oh Boy was still running and gave artists the opportunity to sing on TV. They were all contracted to the major record companies’ still and recording songs that even the record label A&R man didn’t like. But if the producer of Oh Boy liked it the single was released. And records such as Adam Faith’s What Do You Want became a big hit even though Norman Newell had pretended to have the flu rather than be at the recording session of it. In the USA it was possible to do the recording of a record by an independent producer, but in the UK EMI and the rest did not like it. Despite this Joe Meek had set up a recording studio in a flat in London. Joe had failed the 11+ exam and was only interested in repairing radios. This led him to experiment with tape recorders, which he did after working hours repairing radio and TV stuff. During the 50’s he worked in studios run by IBC, who were bigger than EMI’s at that time. And he pioneered many different recording techniques. However Meek had a problem at IBC as he was over the top gay. He later on even made a pass at Tom Jones!! So many found him hard to work with and there was a great deal of anti-gay feeling around at that time. He would eventually quit IBC taking their clients to the recording studio flat in London. But Meek was still just an employee of that studio. When he tried to get his own material out via that studio they fired him! But before that happened, Robert Stigwood a close friend of Meek, had a client actor who wanted to be a pop star. His most famous role was the part of Ginger in the kids TV series Biggles. There was only one small problem. The actor, John Leyton, wasn’t a good singer. In fact Robert had sent him to audition at both EMI and Pye, both said no. So Meek was a last resort. By that time in the recording world it was possible to get around the problem of having a weak singing voice. And Meek later hit out at critics of his use of recording techniques, saying that even artist who he did not work with such as Helen Shapiro, were compressed, echoed, used feedback and were equalised on their records. So Meek did what he did best and reworked the sound of Leyton’s voice. A big hit at the time in the USA was Ray Peterson Tell Laura I Love Her and as Meek spent most of his time doing cover versions of USA hit songs it was decided to use this for Leyton. But getting a single to the shops was a big problem. And shops didn’t deal with independent labels. Robert Stigwood had managed to get Top Rank records to take on Meek as an independent producer so the label was able to put out the record. Unfortunately Top Rank was in trouble, so it was taken over by EMI. Now they too knew a good USA tune too when they heard them and had already recorded the single with Ricky Valance. They put no effort into marketing Leyton’s version and lots of into Valance. So Leyton’s version was pulled from the shops. Since the record was about the death of the singer, though not the actual singer. It didn’t go down with the church, nor parents or teachers. Who got it into their heads lots of teenagers would get onto motorbikes or racing cars trying to get themselves killed. The BBC bosses also got the same idea and promptly placed “death” records on the restricted list – or banned them! Of course this increased record sales of them, as they knew they would sell, so song writers produced more. And so when a song came up called Johnny Remember Me that was perfect for John. Meek pulled out all the stops for the production, as he knew it would have to be great to get past the ban. Leyton had not given up acting and played the part of a singer on an ITV drama on TV, where he sang the song. Within a short time it was number one in August 1961.
Meek had found out the hard way of trying to have hit records without having the distribution to send them to shops earlier in 1960. He had in partnership set up a record label called Triumph. Another pop show on ITV called ‘Wham’ had found a new star called Michael Cox. He was signed to Triumph and his first single was called Angela Jones which sold like hot cakes. But to keep 7000 record dealers supplied with copies was just too much. Customers asking for the Triumph label record were told not in stock. A story went around that some even told them “have you tried the chemist?” It turned into a nightmare and Cox didn’t get any royalty payments despite it reaching number 7 on the Record Retailer chart. On the NME chart MGM star Johnny Ferguson also had a hit with the same song.
In the end Meek resorted to cheating with future records. It wasn’t too hard to get a list of the shops that supplied the charts with sales figures. So Meek went around 60 chart shops known to be in London and bought 10 records in each. As it only took around 100 copies to make the charts it would be an entry in the chart. Then he told DJ’s that the record was in the chart or they could see for themselves and the record would then take off. One record he probably didn’t need to hype was Telstar. In July of 62 the Telstar satellite started sending live TV pictures back from the USA. Meek was nuts about the subject and wrote a piece of music about it. Using an electric keyboard called a Clavioline and an organ he mixed a weird sounding instrumental track together. The critics hated the track, saying the only thing that wasn’t distorted in sound was the organ. All the same Meek put a band together and called them the Tornadoes, the single hit the top spot in September of 1962 and went on to become the first number one in the USA by a UK group in 1963.
Give It Five!ITV at some point saw the need to actually put the young person’s point of view across on some of its shows. One such show was Thank Your Lucky Stars. It was a talent show and musical acts would get points from the judges, the maximum being 5. Presented by none other than Brian Matthew in a pullover and tie! It featured a young teenage girl from Birmingham as a judge. Janice Nichols quickly became popular with the public and the phrase she used “I’ll give it five” quickly court on. It would be used to rate anything for quite some time afterwards. Even sex! But the show itself will be forever linked to the group that would put and end to Brian’s prediction of what the sixties would be known as.
Though young people were changing due to this new pop culture that came about from the increased education, they were not the only things changing. Places were changing as well as attitudes.
A steelworks town like Sheffield was very backwards at moving forwards, but entrepreneurs drive some fast cars and make drastic decisions. One such person and a steelworker who was frustrated with his work and though he tried to get a band off the ground with a mate called Jimmy Crawford, it came to nothing. Probably because his group couldn’t find the right places
|Club 60 Girls|
Adolescent GroupsAt this stage in our musical history big stars were largely famous on their own individual merits. They may have guidance from other people about what to do, but they were generally alone. There doesn’t seem to be a single cause why the solo singer ruled till the sixties and yet the formation of the band…Let’s be clear on this…individuals formed around a central person, generally, but not necessarily the lead singer…were, one could say, a natural thing. The group really should have formed sooner and should have been around from the start of popular music. Why they weren’t may be due to the education culture, holding it back in some way. Just how I don’t understand yet, which is sort of ironic, because later on it encourages the formation of groups. Even so these groups formed during adolescence are virtually guaranteed a limited shelf-life. To understand this we need to see why groups (in general not just music connected) form.
Away from the world of music a solo individual is not an effective force in most instances. Stripping away our lifestyle down to its earliest form, it’s obvious that one person, having no great physical advantage. has little chance of catching large animals on their own. A small number of people (say up to six) would have an effect. Greater numbers would probably lead to errors causing the hunted animal to flee. By definition they must work as a team and trust becomes highly important. Male brains seem to be wired to give them the upper hand in these situations. Though it’s likely that some females went also hunting, its clear males formed most groups. In the larger tribes, competition between groups would have been seen. Alluding to pop groups the similarities is all too clear with the hunter groups. The size of the group and even the rivalry like with the Beatles and Rolling Stones and Blur and Oasis. However that is where the parallels end. This is again due to the education culture, for the hunter groups were formed from persons with greater individuality and respect for one another. They would tend to last longer, despite deaths in the group. The process for joining a hunter group in the first place would be more like replacing a band member in a highly famous long-lasting rock band. Since this would probably need the public’s acceptance as well, few bands have gone through this procedure and generally call it a day.
Pop groups therefore have difficulty with individuality and split when it rears its head. As for respect, well most adults say that young people don’t have respect, so you’re not going to see much in bands. Apart from that a band is essentially a hunter group! So who did destroy the solo singer’s control of the music business? Let’s find out with one distorted lad, who was to make a bigger impact when he joined three other Liverpudlians.
His mind distortions began when he joined Quarry Bank Grammar school at the age of 12. The
same year the NME launched its chart. This place of mind control was nicknamed the ‘police state’ by it’s new and former inmates, yet our lad who was named John, was to still get into trouble and cause a lot of trouble that would end with his death 28 years later. Keeping out of the way with authority yet being a complete pain in the arse to it was to serve him well. He wasn’t exactly the anti-hero you would expect him to be; he was a coward and a bully. Very polite, just in an insulting way, which the teachers found out. The surge of testosterones was completely messing with his head. Nobody was bothered. He was there to learn. And he did, all about naked women around the back of the bike sheds, gangs and bullying. Gang members smoked, so did John, nonetheless he never wanted to fight and when the worms turned so did John. Like his hero Elvis Presley, he listened to pop music and changed mentally with the times. He was stuck in this school till 16 and his communication was with teenagers precisely like him. The media catering for this young crowd played pop music before the film and someone would buy it, like John’s friends in the gang. Rock N Roll hit John, just as he was passing puberty and the World would know the result. The desire to achieve and for someone to take notice of him was due to a total lack of communication with adults. Although he didn’t have the conventional family background, this was nothing to do with how he turned out. And I dare say even he wouldn’t agree with that. Still his aunt (who did bring him up) didn’t neglect him and even encouraged his musical passion by buying a guitar. She had just no-idea that John was in a band till the headmaster told her when John was about to leave school, plus that he failed the GCE O Levels!
Can you imagine John Winston Lennon in the ARMY! Yes all the above was him and his ant was now pressing him to go in the army or get a job or go to Art College. What would have become of him if those first two options had he taken. Well I don’t think we would have heard of John Lennon. He of course only had to be arty to get in to Liverpool’s Regional College of Art; there were no real entry requirements. The college however made it more likely to Lennon to be... Let’s say improve his development of being noticed. In 1960 the Sunday People made him noticed alright as a ‘Beatnick Horror’ and he ‘revels in filth’. Of course he and his fellow students were completely set up. The journalists telling them they were doing an exposé on living on grants. But the students gave the middle-class valued reporters a great deal of nonsense which students and academic types like to spout about. A lot of which Lennon remained talking about when he was famous. Such as: dreams, souls, communism, poetry and
of course slagging off the government and so forth. Lennon was of course hanging around with another gang of lads at the same time, but why did they become big when the same man that turned them down, turned a Lincolnshire talent show band down called the Zircons for the same reason. And contrary to popular beliefs he wasn’t a fool. Something changed......
But precisely what?.....
As this is a work in progress more will be added to this chapter later