Saturday, July 17, 2010

Swinging Sixties London Week & a new book to read

This weekend marks the beginning of the inaugural London 60s Week. The best way to describe the festival is as an umbrella for multiple independent events that will be going on throughout the capital, each taking the 'swinging sixties' as their theme. Music, art, literature, theatre, all kinds of 'happenings' taking their cue from that revolutionary decade. The event kicks off with an attempt to break the world record for the number of people dancing the twist at any one time... And where better to launch this than Carnaby Street with legendary DJ , Jeff Dexter, doing the turntable honours from the safety of a local rooftop!

'Be there or be square'?

The idea is the brainchild of Chris Pleydell. Though Chris wasn't actually around for that mind-expanding decade, he's a big fan of the creativity that was spawned throughout the arts during that period. Having a belief that it should be celebrated and used as an inspiration for today's young talent, he's spent the last year pulling it all together.

If you are in London over the next week to ten days it will be worth checking out what’s on:

Coincidentally, I was sent a new book to review this week; 'The Beatles and the Stones in the Swinging Sixties' by Steve Overbury. Overbury's last book was the highly informative 'Guns, cash and Rock 'n' roll: the managers', and this is a worthy follow-up.

As the title suggests, the material concentrates on the two bands that dominated the decade. It explores not only the dynamics of each band, and their inter-relationship, but puts them into their social context, introducing a cast of hangers-on, drug-dealers, gangsters,sexual deviants,birds and sundry London 'bight young things' that made west London swing.

There's a lot of juicy information here; not a lot new, but much that has deservedly been moved from the footnotes to the main page. Some of it is pretty sleazy. What Overbury highlights is that the revolution was art driven, not political, but was not without its casualties. The pages are littered with the dead and dying. Most, it seems, dying of self-inflicted drug wounds. Selfish and uncaring excess appears to have been the order of the day. The survivors don't always come out smelling of roses. It can make uncomfortable reading and there are a few tales that might provoke a reassessment of your favourite stars.

It's a fairly weighty book at nearly 400 pages, though this could undoubtedly have been shortened by better editing. Overbury is good at holding the reader's attention. While readers of a certain age will have heard of many if not most of the individuals the book is great at making the connections between them. For those taking their first 'trip' into the decade, this is a great primer.

There's a fair amount of repetition, though perhaps it serves to remind the reader of the characters in this cast of hundreds. A good proof-reader might also have spotted the many typos in the text.

All-in-all, a very interesting read with the right balance struck between anecdote and general overview of the period. A perfect companion to London60s Week, it retails at £12.99. A special discounted price of £10 (plus postage) is available to followers of this blog.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Bruce, cruel but fair

    Yes, I must aplologise for the appaling typos in my boook. That's the last time I trust that editor (me).

    As recompense, if anyone wants to read the two missing chapters, please drop me a line at and a pdf will be on its way to you post haste.