Swinging London

Yes, that’s me, quite appropriately standing on Great George Street in London.
The next generation discovers Swinging London. Yeah, baby!

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Why doth it swing?

[Swinging London] most probably began at precisely 11.3 a.m. on the morning of March 22 1963 — when John Dennis Profumo, Secretary of State for War, rose in the House of Commons to lie about his association with Christine Keeler. . . .  The young reacted [to his resignation] with a rich parody of patriotism seen in Union Jack dishcloths, bathmats, tin mugs, tote bats, and the insolent craze for Guardsmen’s scarlet tunics. . . .

David Bailey and Peter Evans, Goodbye Baby & Amen: A Saraband for the Sixties, 8-9 (Coward-McCann 1969).

Nobody, it seemed, wanted to be thought too responsible or mature or less than a groove, baby.

Id. at 8.

As Time famously described:

In this century, every decade has had its city. . . .  Today, it is London, a city steeped in tradition, seized by change, liberated by affluence . . . . It swings . . . . Ancient elegance and new opulence are all tangled up in a dazzling blur of op and pop.  The city is alive with birds (girls) and beatles, buzzing with minicars and telly stars . . . .  The guards now change at Buckingham Palace to a Lennon and McCartney tune, and Prince Charles is firmly in the longhair set. . . . Mary Quant, who designs those clothes, Vidal Sassoon, the man with the magic comb, and the Rolling Stones, whose music is most in right now, reign as a new breed of royalty. . . . In a once sedate world of faded splendor, everything new, uninhibited and kinky is blooming at the top of London life.

London, The Swinging City/Great Britain: You Can Walk Across It on the Grass, Time, April 15, 1966.

As London's Weekend Telegraph unpacked it:

Several theories have been suggested as to why all this is happening, where all this explosion of creative energy came from. It has been suggested that England, shorn of its world-wide responsibilities for keeping the peace, has turned its energies, previously dissipated in running the colonies, inward toward personal self-expression. . . . I think this is quite true but there’s another factor. The English, I think, had a long Dark Age which started in the depression of the Thirties, continued through the long and terrible war and culminated in a long period of austerity, much longer than anyone else’s . . . . that didn’t end really until about 1958. After any prolonged darkness, the Middle Ages, or the Napoleonic Wars, there’s a renaissance, a flowering, a release of pent-up energy — and London is right in the middle of it.

John Crosby, London: The Most Exciting City, Weekend Telegraph, April 16, 1965.

An amorphous generation did not suddenly shape up and cry, “We are . . . swinging London”; their immediate elders initially promoted their image, while they themselves gave it real life and form. But this new-blast generation . . . was the first generation ever to wrest the . . . media into its own hands . . . .

Heather Cremonesi, Yeah, Yeah . . . , in Young London: Permissive Paradise, vii (George G. Harrap & Co. LTD 1969).

They had to fight that unarticulated prejudice that young people are not supposed to enjoy themselves . . . . [T]ill fairly recently, if young people were not habitually at war . . . they were hard at work from their tenderest years. . . .

Id. at viii.

[T]he young revolution . . . It came from the young people who have a “hard day’s night”, who have been “working like dogs” . . . . Young London, Young Britain, has caused such a stir . . . because it earned enough and could afford all the records, clothes, jewellery, beats, Indian silks, kaftans, Greek Shepherds’ coats, cigarettes and beer, discotheque prices and accessories that change constantly in a near-monthly fashion cycle. . . . During the day these boys and girls work hard . . . . They rush home to transform themselves into the wondrously attired magical-mystery tourists of life in London town . . . .


Swinging London also represented cultural appropriation of a sort involving:

the social embezzlement of that time: the passe rich robbing the fashionable poor . . . of their accents and attitudes, of their tastes and slangy improvised vocabularies. 

Goodbye Baby and Amen at 6.

BBC Crimes Against Swinging London

#1 — The end of pirate radio:

Ranged against the [pirate] stations were those who defended the BBC monopoly, not least of course in the BBC, which connived and conspired with the government to silence the pirates and prevent the thing it feared – an alternative, licensed, land-based system of commercial radio.


#2 — The erasure of episodes of iconic TV shows such as Adam Adamant Lives!, Dr. Who . . . .

“Television meant being live, over, and done with,” says Richard Molesworth, a BBC historian and author of Wiped!, a detailed chronicle of how the channel discarded a large chunk of Doctor Who history. . . . Because tapes often came out of a show’s budget, wiping old episodes and reusing them saved money. Barely any episodes from the entire first season of The Avengers, for example, are believed to have survived . . . .


#3 — Making the Kinks change “Lola”!

The BBC found the song’s content objectionable . . . not for reasons of gender and sexuality [but] because the original version of it mentioned Coca-Cola. Since the BBC felt the original lyric could be viewed as advertising, The Kinks had to re-record the song [inserting] cherry cola rather than Coca-Cola.


#4 — Banning the Who’s “My Generation”!

[T]he song didn’t offend censors at the implication of a swear word that never quite materialises, or because of the anarchical outro they’d play live that would sometimes involve Pete Townshend smashing his guitar to pieces and Keith Moon blowing up his drum kit . . . the record was actually banned because of Roger Daltry’s vocal stutter, and the fear that it might be offensive to other stutterers. 


Websites to Peruse

The Movies




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