YES, I remember the Sixties;
they gave me a bad back, caused by the twist. Up till then, my ballroom
dancing, following Victor Sylvester’s spoors, was characterised by
sedateness and dignity resembling rhythmic funeral processions.
either favoured the Statue of Liberty stance or clapped me to their bosoms
like a Belladonna plaster. They did not expect to encounter someone moving
convulsively as if a jellyfish had been dropped down his shirt. Some
attempted their own twists, resembling well-upholstered pneumatic drills,
while others stood, apparently in shock.
But they were the "swinging"
years when "to do your own thing" was a mantra chanted almost with
Buddhist intensity that indicated an era - depending on how you or Tony
Blair-types looked at it - of self-liberation or selfishness. I did my own
twist until I tied myself in muscular knots, unravelled occasionally by
I am not bitter and, you might say, warped because
I was living in that great social sunburst in which hippies, the often
drug-ecstatic young who had rejected conventional society for unstructured
lifestyles based on communal living, had usurped the prerogatives of
children to dress up in fantastic, multi-coloured clothes with matching
flowers and bells and behave irresponsibly.
As one, then in his early,
tweed-jacketed and grey flanneled thirties, I regarded the decade that
held the promise of society freed from restrictive moral conventions with
close-weaved suspicion. The contraceptive pill was rolled out and taken
with the avidity of children swallowing Smarties.
doubtless wallowing in moral depravity, bought houses to live in although
unmarried. A conflagration of Walpurgis Night-type parties - I seldom
received invitations - spread across Britain held by all-too-liberated
young and, to a sonic boom of national shock and horror, John Profumo,
Secretary of State for War, resigned after admitting lying to the Commons
about improper relations with "model" Christine Keeler.
got worse. The Beatles received MBEs, causing me to return my Wolf Cub
woggle in protest. DH Lawrence’s long-banned Lady Chatterley’s Lover was
declared not to be obscene by an Old Bailey jury, a ruling that led to a
Field and Stream review stating that "the account of an English
gamekeeper’s day-to-day life was full of considerable interest to
outdoor-minded readers. Unfortunately, one is obliged to wade through many
pages of extraneous material and, in this reviewer’s opinion, the book
cannot take the place of JR Miller’s Practical Gamekeeping".
this festering Gehenna of beehive hairstyles, flaunting of mini-skirts,
flower power, Mateus Rose and Bull’s Blood wines, I saw the birth of the
supposed brave new age.
Attending the 1963 Edinburgh Festival Drama
Conference in the McEwan Hall, I witnessed the notorious event - part of a
Play of Happenings staged by the Los Angeles, avant-garde, director,
Kenneth Dewey, in which an Edinburgh model, Anna Keseler (19), was wheeled
in a trolley nude across the organ gallery, a flash of flesh seen by the
naked eyes of the audience, too briefly in my glazed view, for deploring
LORD Provost, Duncan Weatherstone blasted, "The
perpetrators are sick in mind, hand and heart", while at the London Moral
Re-Armament Conference, Michael Barratt, an Edinburgh member, unleashed
alliterative thunder. "Edinburgh," he said, "seems to be producing dirt,
debts and decadence." Several days later, Miss Keseler was charged - and
afterwards found not guilty - at Edinburgh Court with "acting in a
shameless and indecent manner" and the case against John Calder, publisher
and the conference’s organiser, for allowing the incident to take place,
The journalist and author, Bernard Levin, claimed
that the event marked the start of the Britain’s permissive society. If
so, permissiveness progressed alarmingly. In 1968, the hippy musical Hair
opened in London, a day after the Lord Chamberlain’s theatre censorship
was abolished. The cast bombarded the audience with confetti and the
four-letter word, took their clothes off under a blanket and then
displayed themselves on the bare stage. Ripples from that liberating tidal
wave are with us still.
Nudity and explicit sex are regularly shown on TV
and cinema screens and theatres in scenes that would, I suspect, be
regarded as bad form in better-class bordellos.
the decade was a moral pain in the neck. For me, it was an ache in the
back - the old twist twinge. Thank you, Sixties.