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Decades of Contradictions

Decades of Contradictions

Decades of Contradictions

The Thirty Glorious Years

The Swinging Sixties

If the Fifties were in black and white, then the Sixties were in Technicolor. The ‘Swinging Sixties’ remain the defining decade in Western Culture onto today. The nucleus of the transformation was London: In just ten short years, London had transformed from a bleak, conservative city, only just beginning to forget the troubles of the Second World War, into the capital of the world, full of freedom, hope and promise. It was the center of all excitement; the city where anything and everything was possible. 

By the 1960s, the first teenage generation free from conscription emerged in Europe and America. Young people were finally given a voice and freedom to do what they wanted. The parents of the Sixties teenage generation had spent their youth fighting for their lives in the Second World War and wanted their own children to enjoy their youth and be able to have more fun and freedom. By the early 1960s, teenagers were already significantly different to those of a decade ago. The phenomenon has been agreed to have been caused by the large number of young people in urban centers due to the baby boom. These young people enjoyed greater freedom and fewer responsibilities than their parents' generation, and "[fanned] changes to social and sexual politics".

Mary Quant

Mary Quant was perfectly positioned to capitalize on the “youthquake” that took hold in the 1960s. She sensed that the days of the exclusive salons were numbered, and thought that even the great Parisian designers would follow ready-to-wear trends. The look she created was sexy and fun, a sharp break with the predictable floral day dresses commonly worn after the war, when food rationing was still in place and tight household budgets meant there was little disposable income. Quant introduced miniskirts with hemlines up to 8 inches above the knee to the London scene in 1966 and they were an instant hit with young people, in part because they shocked and offended many.

Asked by the Guardian newspaper in 1967 if her clothes could be considered “vulgar” because they were so revealing, Quant replied that she loved vulgarity and embraced it. “Good taste is death, vulgarity is life,” she said, adding that the provocative poses of her models reflected the new sexual openness of the times, which was fueled by the development of the birth control pill. She said the availability of contraceptive pills made it possible for women to enjoy sex and decide for themselves whether to conceive. “Snobbery has gone out of fashion, and in our shops you will find duchesses jostling with typists to buy the same dress,” Quant once said. She called the store “a sophisticated candy store for grown-ups.”

The shop was such a success that she soon moved into other parts of London and began exporting her clothes to the United States, where the “British invasion” was in full swing.

Mary Quant
Mary Quant
Mary Quant
Mary Quant
Mary Quant
Mary Quant
Mary Quant
Mary Quant
Mary Quant
MARY QUANT

The British Invasion

The British Invasion was a cultural phenomenon of the mid-1960s, when rock and pop music acts from the United Kingdom and other aspects of British culture became popular throughout Western societies with significant influence on the rising "counterculture" on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. The rebellious tone and image of US rock and roll musicians became popular with British youth in the late 1950s.  Young British groups started to combine various British and American styles in different parts of the United Kingdom, such as the movement in Liverpool known as Merseybeat or the "beat boom".

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The musical style of British Invasion artists, such as the Beatles, had been influenced by earlier US rock 'n' roll, a genre that had lost some popularity and appeal by the time of the Invasion. However, a subsequent handful of white British performers, particularly the Rolling Stones and the Animals, would appeal to a more 'outsider' demographic, essentially reviving and popularising, for young people at least, a musical genre rooted in the blues, rhythm, and black culture, which had been largely ignored or rejected when performed by black US artists in the 1950s. Such bands were sometimes perceived by US parents and elders as rebellious and unwholesome, unlike parent-friendly pop groups such as the Beatles.

Sometimes, there would be a clash between the two styles of the British Invasion, the polished pop acts and the grittier blues-based acts, due to the expectations set by the Beatles. Eric Burdon of the Animals said, "They dressed us up in the most strange costumes. They were even gonna bring a choreographer to show us how to move on stage. I mean, it was ridiculous. It was something that was so far away from our nature and, um, yeah we were just pushed around and told, 'When you arrive in America, don't mention the [Vietnam] war! You can't talk about the war.' We felt like we were being gagged."

The Beatles

The Beatles (John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr) are regarded as the most influential band of all time and were integral to the development of 1960s counterculture and the recognition of popular music as an art form. Rooted in skiffle, beat, and 1950s rock 'n' roll, their sound incorporated elements of classical music and traditional pop in innovative ways. The band also explored music styles ranging from folk and Indian music to psychedelia and hard rock. As pioneers in recording, songwriting and artistic presentation, the Beatles revolutionised many aspects of the music industry and were often publicised as leaders of the era's youth and sociocultural movements.

Late in 1965, the Beatles released the album Rubber Soul which marked the beginning of their transition to a sophisticated power pop group with elaborate studio arrangements and production, and a year after that, they gave up touring entirely to focus only on albums. 

During this latter, studio production phase the feel and especially the lyrics of their output changed from what used to mostly be happy love songs to surrealistic but oftentimes also occult symbology - as can be readily seen by the incorporation of Aleister Crowley into the "group photograph" that makes up the Sergeant Pepper's album cover. From a clean-cut, friendly boy band with mop haircuts, the Beatles evolved into a highly complex, sophisticated group of creative practitioners whose work carries a lot of questions and unsolved mysteries onto this day.

BEATLES

When photographers and fashion models become cultural icons

Robert Mapplethorpe

David Bailey

Iconic fashion models: Twiggy, Jane Shrimpton, Veroushka

C.CULTURE
VISUAL ICONS
BRITISH INV.

David Bowie

David Bowie (1947 – 2016) was an English singer, songwriter, musician, and actor. A leading figure in the music industry, he is regarded as one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. Bowie was acclaimed by critics and musicians, particularly for his innovative work during the 1970s. His career was marked by reinvention and visual presentation, and his music and stagecraft had a significant impact on popular music.

Ziggy Stardust was Bowie's stage persona during 1972 and 1973. Ziggy is an androgynous, alien rock star who came to Earth before an impending apocalyptic disaster to deliver a message of hope. After accumulating a large following of fans and being worshipped as a messiah, Ziggy eventually dies as a victim of his own fame and excess. The character was meant to symbolize an over-the-top, sexually liberated rock star and serve as a commentary on a society in which celebrities are worshipped. Influences for the character included English singer Vince Taylor, Texan musician the Legendary Stardust Cowboy, and Japanese kabuki theatre. Bowie retired the character on 3 July 1973 at a concert at the Hammersmith Odeon in London, which was filmed and released on the documentary Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.

David Bowie - Ziggy Stardust
David Bowie - Ziggy Stardust
David Bowie
David Bowie - Ziggy Stardust
David Bowie - Ziggy Stardust
David Bowie
DAVID BOWIE

The Counterculture

The Sixties gave birth to a culture in film and music that reflected and influenced the decade's social upheavals: the rise of Cold War politics, civil rights movements, student protests, and the Vietnam war all profoundly affected American society and culture. As the counterculture movement developed, artists began making new kinds of music influenced not only by politics but also by the use of psychedelic drugs. Lyrics became an important part of the work, as rock artists took on serious themes and social commentary/protest instead of simplistic pop themes. One of the contributing elements to this new awareness among artists and musicians was the widespread usage of consciousness altering drugs such as psilocybin mushrooms and LSD:

During the 1960s, a group of casual lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) users evolved and expanded into a subculture that extolled the mystical and religious symbolism often engendered by the drug's powerful effects, and advocated its use as a method of raising consciousness. The personalities associated with the subculture, gurus such as Timothy Leary and psychedelic rock musicians such as the Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, the Byrds, Janis Joplin, the Doors, and the Beatles, soon attracted a great deal of publicity, generating further interest in LSD.

The popularization of LSD outside of the medical world was hastened when individuals such as Ken Kesey participated in drug trials and liked what they saw. As most research on psychedelics began in the 1940s and 1950s, heavy experimentation made its effect in the 1960s during this era of change and movement. Timothy Leary and his Harvard research team had hopes for potential changes in society. Because of their personal experiences with LSD, Leary and many of his colleagues, including Aldous Huxley (The Doors of Perception) and Alan Watts (The Joyous Cosmology), believed that these were the mechanisms that could bring peace to not only the nation but the world. 

Woodstock

The Woodstock Music and Art Fair, commonly referred to as Woodstock, was a music festival held during August 15–18, 1969, on Max Yasgur's dairy farm in Bethel, New York, 40 miles southwest of the town of Woodstock. Billed as "an Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music" and alternatively referred to as the Woodstock Rock Festival, it attracted more than 460,000 attendees. Thirty-two acts performed outdoors despite overcast and sporadic rain. It was one of the largest music festivals in history, and became synonymous with the counterculture of the 1960s. 

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The festival has become widely regarded as a pivotal moment in popular music history as well as a defining event for the silent and baby boomer generations. The event's significance was reinforced by a 1970 documentary film, an accompanying soundtrack album, and a song written by Joni Mitchell that became a major hit. Musical events bearing the Woodstock name were planned for anniversaries, which included the tenth, twentieth, twenty-fifth, thirtieth, fortieth, and fiftieth. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine listed it as number 19 of the 50 Moments That Changed the History of Rock and Roll. In 2017, the festival site became listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Woodstock 1969
Woodstock 1969
Woodstock 1969
Woodstock 1969
Woodstock 1969
Woodstock 1969
Woodstock 1969

Psychedelic Graphics

The word “psychedelic” is a combination of the Greek words psyche and delos, meaning “mind manifesting” or “soul manifesting.” In order to emulate the visual experience of an LSD trip and the soul-manifesting ideals of the movement, psychedelic artists infused their designs with vibrant and intense colors, optical illusion patterns, and hard to read typography - very often all at one. Hallmark psychedelic characteristics include curvilinear shapes, intense color vibration, and Inspiration from Eastern, African and Native American cultures.

Psychedelic design didn’t just emerge fresh from the brains of LSD-fuelled hippies. As with other art styles, it was highly influenced by previous genres. This includes Art Nouveau, which tended to include looping shapes and organic imagery, Surrealism, which was dreamlike and trippy, Op Art, which used optical illusions to mess with the viewer’s perception, and Pop Art, which used super bright colours.

Psychedelic design is also infused with the ideas and motives behind San Francisco’s hippie movement. Set against the backdrop of the deadly Vietnam War, the counterculture movement promoted peace and love as opposed to war and hatred, raged against the military-industrial complex, and hated the inevitable poverty created from unchecked capitalism. These ideals were reflected in psychedelic art by way of flowers, natural shapes, and non-conformist elements, tending towards the experimental and away from the conservative. 

Biba