The Sixties



I was reading what Drew wrote here about the late 80s, about how in ’88 people were into the new dance music or the newish indie dance (or indie shuffle) and how there was some crossover between the two. After getting in from a colleague’s gothic wedding reception last night I slumped in front of a Neil Young documentary. The combination of the two (Drew’s post and Neil Young, not the goth wedding) got me thinking- around ’88 everyone (well maybe not everyone, but y’know..) who was into music was into 60s bands. Not the really obscure, Nuggets garage bands but the then cult bands who’ve since become the 50 quid man mainstream- Buffalo Springfield, The Doors, the Velvet Underground, Love, The Byrds, Jefferson Airplane, Bob Dylan et al. All American now I look at the list. I suppose British bands were there as well- The Stones, The Kinks, The Small Faces. At the time the 60s seemed so long ago. 1968 was twenty years before and we weren’t even twenty yet. In ’87 there was a rash of interest in it being twenty years since Sgt Pepper and in ’88 some media interest in it being twenty years since the events of May 1968. No-one I knew bought cds except one lad who wanted to be the sort of person who bought cds, a yuppie wannabe. The cd reissues of back catalogues hadn’t begun. Funnily, it almost seemed further ago then than it does now, now we’re completely saturated in 60s (and 70s, and 80s…) culture. In ’88 we devoured anything we could find- records obviously (not always easy to get, scouring second hand shops and bargain bins. It took me until about 1995 to find a copy of Neil Young’s On The Beach. Now I’d just download it), but also books, odd magazine references, very occasional clips on TV late at night, two fingers poised over the Play and Record buttons on the video. Without Youtube, feature length documentaries, books and autobiographies, box sets, reissued cds and magazines like Mojo there was so little information, so few pictures, so little source information. What we had was poured over. I knew next to nothing about Neil Young. On chance I bought Harvest on cassette for £4.49 (with that Price Cuts! sticker. Early entry level retro culture) but had no real context to put it in, other than as part of the rest of the stuff I listened to. This sub-cult 60s influenced both parts of what Drew described- the indie shufflers and the dance scene (maybe not as obviously and many of the key players wouldn’t acknowledge it for fear of contaminating the newness, and let’s not forget dance culture led some misguided souls to suggest that ‘the 90s will be the 60s upside down’). I suppose the twenty year rule also explains the current and recent vogue for 80s sounds in pop music. Our youth becomes period drama, as the 60s generation’s youth was for us. The 60s bands had a bad 80s with some terrible records, still recovering from the kicking punk gave them a decade earlier. Since the megatours started most of these bands have played an arena somewhere near you, something pretty unthinkable in 1988, apart from the then 40 something Rolling Stones. The 60s also seems to have become less defined, part of a musical cultural mush that lasts all the way up to punk (and all the punk artists grew up listening to… those 60s bands). I watched the Neil Young documentary last night and there was a clip of Buffalo Springfield playing Mr Soul on US TV. Electrifying. I would’ve killed to have had instant access to this in 1988. I suppose the technology is a good thing, but part of the thrill in the late 80s was the chase, the constant looking for stuff, seeking it out and hunting it down, and the heartstopping moment when you found an lp you’d previously only heard about. This is Neil Young doing Mr. Soul live, acoustically, sometime in the early 1970s.

Two pictures, I don’t know why. It won’t let me remove one.