Hippies and Promises
Surf and Sun made for a great Australian summer
By the 1960s surfing had caught on big time. You could look out over Australia's east coast beaches in summer on just about any weekend and know you were living in the lucky country.
Back then in the 1960s there was no question of how a woman should dress for the sand or the surf. It was generally accepted that she should please herself.
Many of the migrants coming into Australia in the 1960s, generally from Europe, had similar beliefs back home so there was no worries. There was a wonderful sense of freedom that we may never experience again.
It wasn't until the beginning of the 21st Century that certain youth brought up overseas, or with overseas religious feeling concerning women, challenged this easy going way of life. One result was the Cronulla riot which began as a protest against women in bikinis being pushed around on Australian beaches but got out of hand.
Fishing was and still is a favorite sport though back then your chances of actually catching something worthwhile were higher.
Australian youth in the '60s had an adventurous spirit. Travel shows and programs about the Australian bush were popular. Skippy the bush kangaroo was a top show for adults as well as children. Of course there were fantasy elements.
A kangaroo, for example, really doesn't have the hands required to untie ropes as Skippy does in some episodes or make as much vocal noise as Skippy does in just about every episode. Even so, the show was fun and it was genuinely Australian. It was a program that touched upon the need to keep up national parks and also protect animals from poachers.
Young people in other parts of the world who saw Skippy no doubt wanted to someday visit NSW, Australia. No doubt some of them did.
In 1965 Australian soldiers were sent to Vietnam. In the '60s there were protests against the Vietnam War and the question was raised, time and time again, as to whether or not Australian soldiers should be involved.
The examination of eastern religion and philosophy became popular. There was a feeling that Christianity has let those against the Vietnam War down. There was even the feeling that the Church, both Catholic and Protestant, wanted Australia's inclusion in the war.
If Australia's inclusion in the war was a mistake then there was something very wrong with either Christianity or how it was perceived by the Christian authority of the day. There was also the feeling that the older generation had somehow lost their way and that those who are young and hip might have more of the good oil when it came to the right direction to go in.
British comic papers and American comic books made their impact on the Australian market. Australian comic books shrank in appeal.
As a kid growing up in the '60s, Marvel Comics was the go. Who could beat art work by Jack Kirby and Gene Colan? Who could beat writers such as Stan Lee? It was colorful, innovative stuff from the USA. A cover showing the red skull with the cosmic cube in hand still burns in my memory. Covers showing Daredevil swinging through New York still captivates my imagination.
What did the Australian comic book in the 1960s and 1970s have to offer? Basically artwork that could have been made anytime over the past twenty years plus reprints from the USA.
Australian comic books were dying and as a kid I said good riddance. I didn't realize back then how it would affect my generation of writers and artists. When I did realize these things I felt let down by the Australian artists and publishers of the 1960s who should have tried harder to keep up with the overseas competition.
As for the British comic papers, they created characters such as Judge Dredd in 1977 and, though they did reprint American material, they also came up with a lot of fab stuff of their own. Just like the Australians, they couldn't compete with American color but they could jolly well do alright in every other aspect of production.
The band that had real magic for many Australians in the '60s was The Seekers with hits such as A World of Our Own and Georgy Girl.
HIPPIES IN THE '60s
American rock and roll personalities may have been the big movers and shakers in the '50s but British youth took over in the swinging '60s. The Beatles, an English band, became very popular throughout the world. The Rolling Stones also had their following.
Mini-skirts on women were definitely a welcome sight. Both men and women were now walking around with splashes of color in their clothing not seen in the '50s. Ultra thin models were also popular. Long hair on both men and women was not only a fashion statement but also a statement against the Vietnam War. Soldiers tend to have their hair cut short so the protesters tended to have their hair long.
Television shows such as Doctor Who, Stingray and Thunderbirds tended to reflect the attitudes of the times. The Doctor was for the young and spoke out when he saw something that was decidedly wrong.
Stingray was a fun romp with the military showing some of the absurdities of the military way of thinking. Thunderbirds had equipment that might have been used for war being used instead for rescue.
Television shows such as The Saint and The Avengers tended to show how glamorous British television could be with lots of attractive women running around, usually with guns. Later on, budget cuts meant British television had to lose the glamor and go for realism.
The Cold War had created quite a stir in the movie industry. The best of the James Bond movies of this period had Bond representing Mother England.
The Americans and the Russians were accusing each other of theft on a grand scale and it was up to 'mother' to sort these 'boys' out and to point out that it was really some other power stealing their equipment. Of course, in order to do this, 'mother's' favorite son, Bond, was needed. It was beautiful tongue-in-cheek material. It required the viewer to have a dry sense of humor, to love plenty of action and beautiful women looking fabulous. I for one could meet such requirements and did so with wheels on.
THE CONQUEST OF OUTER SPACE
The space race begun in the 1950s was definitely on. The USA was determined to beat the Russians to the moon. In 1969 they succeeded.
Surfing was not only taking off in Australia, it was also becoming a phenomenon in places such as Hawaii and California. France was also catching on. Bali was becoming a place to go for both surf and sun.
American troops took an active role in the Vietnam War in the '60s. Little did the politicians of the day know how long the fighting would last or how unpopular the war would become.
The Cold War made Americans nervous and with good reason. Badly handled the Cuban Crisis might have ended in nuclear missiles being launched. Luckily the powers that be kept their heads.
On the comic book scene, the American superhero was doing quite well in the USA, Britain and Australia. Marvel Comics ruled with costumed characters such as Captain America (a past hero taken out of mothballs but doing alright in the '60s) , Spider-man, the Fantastic Four, the X-men, and the Hulk (Hey! Torn purple trunks could be considered a costume.)
D. C. Comics did alright with Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, and the Metal Men.
WORSHIP OF THE ROTUND GODDESS OF DISCO
THE SOLID '70s
THE USA, BRITAIN AND AUSTRALIA
The swinging '60s gradually gave way to the '70s. The hopes and dreams the '60s either created or inspired slowly faded away. The promise of peace on earth could not be kept by the Hippies. Human nature simply would not allow this to happen.
The promise of the disco proved to be false. It was all glitz and glamour without much hope for the average person. It was possibly worse in Sydney, Australia than in the USA. I cover this is my novel Disco Evil.
By the mid-'70s, the Hippies no longer had a great cause - the ending of the Vietnam War had seen to that. Make love, not war no longer meant what it had meant when there were soldiers fighting and young men being drafted to join in the fight. It was time to move on but to where?
Maybe music could help. Maybe television and the movies could lend a hand to the disillusioned. The Hippies had won but they really didn't know what to do with their victory.
The Hippies could and did continue to protest against the build up of nuclear weapons. Both the USA and the Soviet Union were in the process of sending themselves broke over weapons never to be used. It was an insane situation.
Eventually the Russians did cut a deal with the USA because it became obvious to them that they could not keep up with this arms race but that would occur at the end of the '80s.
In the meantime there were Comix (underground comic books) outlining the stupidity of spending heaps on weapons when there were a lot of other more sensible things to spend the money on. Regular comic books with superheroes were beginning to look a little tired and old fashioned by the end of the '70s.
After the landing on the moon in '69 interest in space exploration began to wan. The Russians were not going to build bases on the moon from where they could launch missiles at the USA.
The moon itself didn't appear to contain much of value to outweigh the expense of getting there and back. Mars probes gave no indication that this planet was inhabitable. Venus was definitely not the place to send astronauts.
Music took some interesting, even exciting turns. There was heavy metal which was sometimes played at discos instead of the sickly sweet stuff we usually associate with such places. Deep Purple, an English band that came into existence in 1968, was a premiere heavy metal band of the '70s. They threw in blues for good measure making them somewhat unique.
MASH was one American television series that had long running appeal. Though it was set in a mobile surgical hospital unit during the Korean War, it was easy for viewers to read between the lines and realize it was also criticizing the Vietnam War, and the nature of war itself. It ran from 1972 to 1977.
For my money, the 1970 movie MASH the television series was based on was nothing compared to the series. Mind you, earlier on in the series, they had one very strange Australian doctor who sounded like he hailed from the Whitechapel area of London rather than anywhere in Australia. And what was with the cheesy moustache?
By the mid-70's, economic conditions in Britain were not good and there was a lot of youth unemployment. This was reflected in the growth of Punk music.
There was a general feeling among the British youth that the past generation or generations had let them down. The most influential of the Punk bands was the Sex Pistols.
Bands such as Siouxsie and the Banshees moved from Punk into the ultra smooth and very Western New Wave. With New Wave there has always been a sense of this form of music spearheading a more science and technology based future.
Like Punk, New Wave showed little regard for the past.
Both Punk and New Wave continue to be popular in Britain and Germany though not as popular as in the mid-70s to early '80s. In Australia Punk and New Wave had a following in Sydney and Melbourne. In the USA I believe they caught on for a time in New York.
The New York band, Blondie, touched upon New Wave and Punk. Its biggest hit was Heart of Glass.
Sherbet was an Australian rock band that did well with hits such as Slipstream (1974), Summer Love (1975) and Howzat (1976). Howzat is probably their best remembered song. Their music was played quite often in Sydney discos of the '70s despite the fact that it wasn't technically disco music.
FADE TO GREY
THE WONDROUS '80s
Australian television shows such as Prisoner (Cell Block H 1979-1986) did very well overseas. On the home front, A Country Practice (1981-1993) reminded Australians of our beautiful country towns and wonderful bushland. Some of the colorful non-human characters included Doris the pig and Fatso the wombat.
One British New Wave band that took the airwaves by storm was Visage with their 1980 hit Fade to Grey. It was weird and at the same time compelling. It definitely belonged in some science fiction flick but was great on its own.
Between April 1982 and June 1982 Britain was embroiled in the Falklands War with Argentina. The British won.
The first Discworld novel, The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett, came out in 1982. It was followed by The Light Fantastic in 1986.
For a warped out but very funny take on Australia there is the Discworld 1998 epic The Last Continent.
Unfortunately Terry Pratchett has passed away.
Out of Heavy Metal came Speed Metal. Bands such as the British Motorhead took off in the late seventies and '80s but it was in the 1980s that Speed Metal really became popular.
Hell and damnation were and are favorite topics of this form of music. Finland took well to the idea of Speed Metal with bands such as Damage and Vendetta.
The '60s was a time when music was reaching to heaven. By the '80s there were a number of streams of popular music supposedly, if somewhat tongue-in-cheek in some instances, reaching in the complete opposite direction.
In America the idea that greed is good was pushed hard.
The 1987 movie Wall Street was and remains a timely warning.
DISCO EVIL, GHOST DANCE, AND DESK JOB
These decades marked changes in attitude and dress which have been recorded on film and in the novels of the day. For those people who grew up in them, these decades mentioned form an important part of what they are today and no doubt what they are going to be like in the future.
As for this writer, the influence of these decades can be seen in my novels Disco Evil, Ghost Dance, and Desk Job.
In Disco Evil there is the disappointment of a young man missing out on the Hippy age by a hair's breath. The Disco Age not being quite as good.
In Ghost Dance there is a young man with a werewolf problem who has a more forgiving and open attitude to discos and disco music.
In Desk Job there are people dead set on preserving the free and easy weekend life style of the Australian beach that began even before the 1960s against certain newcomers with bizarre ideas on how people should dress for the beach.
Generally I feel that people should dress how they want to dress for the beach and no one should have the right to dictate a dress code. You don't like women wearing bikinis on the beach in summer? Well then go to a beach in another country or simply don't go to the beach at all. That way you won't be offended.
Australians are an easy going people but, generally, speaking, the beach in summer is of great importance to many people who don't have a lot of money and maybe not a lot of hope. It is a place of importance for all who live along the coast.
Being fair to one another and looking out for the other fellow is very Australian. The idea of life guards may not have originated in Australia but the life guard has become a definite and well respected institution. Those who save lives are honored and not the reverse. If the reverse occurs for what ever reason you can bet on trouble from the locals, especially after a lifesaver has, in fact, done his duty by saving a life.
Memories of the good surf days of the '60s and '70s linger in Desk Job and there is the desire to keep the good times rolling well into the future. Maybe certain people may be too old to surf as much as they would like to but they want to see their sons and grandsons right as far as all that is concerned. And why not? Also having the women surf and also dress as they please is also a big part of the whole thing.
Political correctness was something developed in the universities and colleges. The general idea wasn't bad and various governments and private companies decided to go along with it. Truth is that it would work brilliantly if it were not possible for two cultures to clash without any possible compromise.
It would also work brilliantly if everyone played fair and you didn't have situations where, because of politically correct concerns, certain people became more equal than certain other people.
Things became bad in the 1990s with political correctness causing all sorts of office and social craziness. In the end the truth must out that humans are complex and one suit fits all solutions often don't work and when they do work they don't do so for very long. Hence you have amendments in the American constitution.
Hence you have the writings of Franz Kafka and also those of Lewis Carroll, Terry Pratchett, and yours truly. Since the early '90s, Terry Pratchett has been poking fun at political correctness and with great success. I wish to do the same.
More by this Author
Islamic State, milk and honey, Australia, the USA, the UK, mini-skirts, bikinis, slavery, Gandhi, French Revolution, Karl Marx, Holland, starvation, Ancient Rome, Robin Hood, World War One, Syria.
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Bullying in the USA, Australia and France. School boy bullies. Nations throwing out democracy for dictatorship because of bullying. Religious bullies. Computer bullies. Fighting against bullying.