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The Fifties Youth Revolution

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  • dick.richardson@rocketmail.com
    The Fifties Youth Revolution [ Last night I enjoyed a presentation by public television, hosted by John Sabastian, about the late fifties folk revolution. ]
    Message 1 of 2 , Dec 2, 2010
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      The Fifties Youth Revolution

      [ Last night I enjoyed a presentation by public television, hosted by
      John Sabastian, about the late fifties folk revolution. ]

      It was fun to be there to watch it, live it, and be a part of it. Youth
      had never had it so good; and it certainly was a social revolution.
      Like so many things it eventually went pear shaped and sad, but it was
      good at the time for about ten years. What has always intrigued me is
      to how and why it happened, and then caught on all over the globe –
      like the Blue Tits opening milk bottles on the door step for the cream
      :- )

      I have no idea as to when it got going and under way in other places,
      but I know when it got underway here. It came to maturity in about 1952
      or 53, but from hindsight it is easy to see where its seeds lay, at
      least in London, I don't know about other places, and they can speak
      for themselves. But one can see the seeds of it back in 1946 and 47;
      and even before that; albeit that one did not know what was coming and
      one was not trying to start anything new. But where I came from it
      was due to wartime kids, for they were always free, they would do what
      they like and go where they liked, there was nobody there to tell them
      what to do or even help them do anything. So, it was just natural. They
      were wild but not uncivilised. No old ladies were beaten up in those

      But most of them during the war and just after it did jobs here and
      there to get some money to buy some gear – records, zoot suits,
      crazy hair cuts. It was a time it was. So, within just a few years of
      the war ending, and jobs were so easy to get, those war time latch-key
      snotty nosed brats had cash to spend on `gear'. The top
      favourite at the time was smart black Edwardian Suits with velvet
      collars and cuffs, and crape shoes with aluminous pink socks :- ) I
      kid you not they (we) did look smart. My wife threw my zoot suit away
      about six years ago without telling me, and it still fitted perfectly
      at the time. It was made of Black Barathea and made by an old Jew boy
      close by to where I lived. I had to go in for about five fittings over
      the weeks. It cost about three weeks wages, but all the lads chipped
      in. The coats came down nearly to our knees and the trousers were drain
      pipes; whilst coming well off the shoes so that the luminous pink socks
      would glow in the dark; shocking pink they used to call it :- ) But
      the three big things were the music, the gang fights at pre-arranged
      places, bicycle chains were often used – but not with oil on them
      for that would spoil the suits; and the dances on a Saturday night, and
      then the dozens of private parties throughout the year. Then we all got
      cars and got mobile :- ) But, for that generation it got stopped by
      having to go the army – that changed them :- ) And they were men by
      the time they came out. Good thing too.

      But the new generations took it over and added their own thing here and
      there, and I suppose it started to go nuts in the early sixties with
      drugs and too much booze. By then it was not what it set out to be
      – freedom for the kids to live their lives without being told what
      to do and when to do it. But they had done that all throughout the war
      from about the ages of three and four anyway. The army was a fast new
      learning curve for that generation of kids. They could not even spell
      discipline for they had never heard of it :- ) I remember I was told,
      advised, to get my hair cut before I went into the army by an officer in
      the recruiting centre. I laughed and thought F.Off mate !

      On the first day in the army in 1956 I walked into the dining hall of
      the Number One Training Battalion of the REME whilst still in civilian
      clothes, the Zoot suit, two inch crape creeper shoes and pink socks,
      and with hair well down over the collar. About four hundred soldiers
      stood up and banged their mess tins with spoons and cheered :- ) I was
      not expecting that or I would not have done it :- ) That evening in
      the NAAFI they made me sing (somebody had told them) so I sang Singing
      the Blues :- ) The next six weeks were not the best ever, so much boot
      camp and bullshit; but we had a lot of fun. And how songs bring it
      all back eh. You go in the army at sweet seventeen and come out three
      years later married with a child; and telling people to smarten
      themselves up :- ) Hectic times were they. So yeah, the real seeds of
      that social revolution were born during the war and because of it. No
      doubt about that. But, a side effect of it was that that generation
      wanted to give their kids the things which they did not have when they
      were young. Nice idea in principle; but in practice it spoiled the next
      generation, and made them lazy and expecting everything done for them.
      Many a not too good thing comes from the best of intentions. Such is
      life. But I was glad that I did not miss it.


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    • dick.richardson@rocketmail.com
      Re: The Fifties Youth Revolution [ My experience was quite a bit different. In 1956 I was living on a rather remote Kansas farm/ranch without electricity or
      Message 2 of 2 , Dec 2, 2010
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        Re: The Fifties Youth Revolution

        [ My experience was quite a bit different. In 1956 I was living on a
        rather remote Kansas farm/ranch without electricity or indoor plumbing.
        I joined the Air Force in 1960 and after about a year of electronics
        training was stationed in Marin County, California as a weapons control
        mechanic, working on the radar and computer systems on an interceptor
        that carried infrared missiles and nuclear rockets. We were just a
        short distance from San Francisco and Sausalito was even closer. The
        folk scene and beat culture were all around, though it was years before
        I came to see it as a counter culture.

        You mention "Singing the Blues." The Guy Mitchell version was one of my
        favorite songs. Just a couple of days ago I heard another tune he did
        "Knee Deep in the Blues," but the version they played was the Marty
        Robbins cover from a few years later.

        DaveW ]

        Yes, the version I had, and sang, in those days was the Guy Mitchell
        version. It seems to be often the case that the first well known
        version of a song, or tune, turns out to be seldom the best and most
        popular version; but in some cases it stays the best and most popular
        version. I think they call it staying power :- ) I never heard a better
        version of that song anywhere. Perhaps the best example of that ever was
        in the case of the song Unchained Melody. The Righteous Brothers was
        not the first version of it by a long way, but it sure was the first
        big popular one. It still is. It must be one of the most recorded songs
        ever, in terms of pop music, hundreds of versions; and some really good
        ones, and many really bad ones; but that one is still the best loved,
        including by me. Some songs also do the rounds every five to ten years
        and keep coming back – that is real staying power.

        One of the things which I found fascinating when it comes to music on
        ones computer is the vast collection of versions of a song which one can
        listen to. I have only ever used two programs for that: iTunes (where
        one has to pay to download the song or bit of music; but it was very
        inexpensive) and the one that seems to be restricted to Europe only,
        Spotify. With Spotify one does not pay anything at all, but you do not
        download them; you listen to them on-line. You build your own music
        lists and you can share them with friends. It is pointless trying to
        compare those two ways of listening to music and songs because they are
        so different. I like them both and use them both every day (no not at
        the same time :- ) But, with iTunes then given the fact that one has
        to pay for them then I always listened to the bloody lot of them before
        paying for one. With some songs there are quite a few versions but with
        another song there are hundreds of versions :- ) So I used to plough
        through them all and listen to them all whilst working, and then buy
        the one which to me was the best. But I quit buying any more when
        Spotify came on the scene.

        One day, quite a few years ago now, somebody asked me to do a list of my
        favourite bits of classical music. So I thought, OK, Easy. But by the
        time I got to three hundred bits I thought sod this and quit :- ) I
        never tried to do the same thing with songs; but the top favourites
        would run into many hundreds :- ) If ever I was asked to do that radio
        program Desert Island Disks, where you had to choose eight pieces of
        music then I would have to tell them to sod orf :- ) But it is a good
        test. Imagine that for the rest of your life you could only listen to
        ONE piece of classical music and ONE pop song – then which would
        you choose? Tis one hell of a thing to have to do isn't it. But IF
        I HAD to do it then the choice would be: Vaughan Williams, Fantasia on
        a Theme of Thomas Tallis: and The Righteous Brothers, Unchained Melody.
        But the fun bit is that one can listen to them all in ones head. I had
        a thing with music in that I only had to hear a bit once and it was in
        there writ in mental cement :- ) Whereas I could learn to spell a
        word a hundred times, and then forget it and still not be able to spell
        it :- ) It is a waste of time my trying to learn how to spell :- )
        But I can hear music at any time, whether it is out there or not. True,
        it is best if it is out there, and then one can join in with it.

        Ref your comment about living up to 1960 without electricity and running
        water there in the USA, then the only time I have experienced that is
        when out camping in tent. Electricity and running water were standard
        on the scene when I was born in 1938. You went from the Country to the
        Town but I went from the Town to the Country when I was seventeen, by
        choice :- ) Far from the maddening crowd :- ) But I still had
        electricity and running water, even way out in the middle of nowhere :-
        ) But this is a tiny place and North America is Continent. They do
        say that it is getting four inches further away from Britain each year;
        but I have never measured it :- ) I wonder what life here will be like
        in a thousand years time. Cant imagine it.


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