Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Our World 1967

Our World '67 (detail)
I've thought about posting this photograph for a while now. It's a recent re-discovery, and I was really chuffed to find it. I'm sure it was taken by my father in the Winter of 1967. I'm wearing the white polo neck top, my sister Carole is behind me, and our friend Robert is to my right. What's so intriguing about this snap is that it's not just an interior shot (which is rare enough to come across in family photos of this time), but this is our bedroom - and pinned to the wall, and scattered around, are tantalising glimpses of the ephemeral stuff of our world at this very specific moment in time.

I wonder if my Captain Scarlet Annual had been specifically opened to show off the double-page spread of the 'Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle'? The television show which had just begun that September was all the rage, following on from Gerry Anderson's Supermarionation smash 'Thunderbirds'. The 'SPV' had the rather unusual feature whereby the driver and his companion actually viewed the road through a projector screen - whilst sitting with their backs to the oncoming traffic. I note too that there's an Angels Painting Book to the left of my hand. More merchandising from the same TV show, and it was my sister's book - most likely because The Angels were female jet pilots. I can also just make out on the left-hand corner of the photograph, a copy of my sister's 'Jack and Jill' comic, which is beside some clothes piled on top of the bed. Unlike Captain Scarlet of the 21st Century, this comic presented rather sedate tales of the likes of Tiger Tim and Freddie Frog, who along with Jack and Jill, were by then throwbacks to the pre-Space Age era.


What fascinates me even more when I saw the picture was that I now had visual proof that my sister was a huge fan of the singer Paul Jones, who had left the pop band Manfred Mann to go solo, and to pursue an acting career. This confirms a collective memory that we'd talked about from time to time over the years. Bizarre to think that my sister was just over 5 years old at the time - and already a pop fan! But then, Radio 1, like Captain Scarlet, had burst onto the scene in September '67, and it was already the soundtrack to our childhoods. On the wall, to the left of a hand-painted Union Jack, are two colour pictures torn out of magazines - one of Paul Jones, and the other, shows two members of the Manfred Mann band, Klaus Voormann and Mike D'Abo (who had replaced Jones in 1966 as the lead singer).

There are other pictures on the wall, including various of our artworks, a scroll depicting a girl with her cat, a framed folksy picture of a boy and girl,  a partially coloured-in drawing of a leaping Batman and the Gotham City skyline, a circus elephant - and there's another image of Paul Jones, on a small newspaper clipping with a still from the Peter Watkins film 'Privilege'. A very 60s dystopian-pop satire where Jones plays a disillusioned pop star who is being manipulated by the church and state who want to turn him into a kind of messianic hero.

I would first get to see Privilege when I was in my twenties - but by then I'd already heard the Patti Smith Group's version of the anthem 'Free me' which had been sung by Jones in the '67 film.

Patti Smith had retitled the song 'Privilege (Set me Free)', which was on her 1978 'Easter' album and an LP that was considered pretty cool by some of those sixth formers at my school (and not me) who were seeking someting a bit more "deeper" than three chord punk 45s...

Anyway, 'Set me Free' is a terrific song, and sorry Patti, good on you for being inspired to revive it, but the original '67 version wins out for me. I must add, that any mention of Peter Watkins, the director of 'Privilege', compels me to think of the devastating impact that 'The War Game' had on me, when I saw his banned BBC TV film (which was shown in kind of samizdat 16mm versions for decades after the ban) at one of the umpteen anti-nuclear bomb gatherings.

But as I conclude this nostalgic romp triggered by this photograph, I'm reminded by how much of a deep and lasting impression so much of that popular culture scattered around our bedroom in the Winter of 1967 has left on me. In a good way.


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