Thursday, 21 November 2013

This Weekend in 1963- it was a busy one!

This weekend is the 50th anniversary of no fewer than three historic events. What a weekend that was- and I'm just old enough to remember them all.

Friday 22nd November 1963

1.  The Beatles " I Want to Hold Your Hand"  single and LP "With the Beatles" released. Historic because those records formed the main part of 'The British Invasion' that changed the way records were made for good, and brought America up to date. I remember hearing the single and finding it sophisticated and glamourous beyond words! And I couldn't figure out how it was made- it no longer sounded like just four guys, it was magically much more than that now. Of course, years later I discovered the reason; it was the first record they made on 4 track tape, so there were more overdubs and tweaking of the sound than before. And the LP, what a great album- probably the first time an LP had been made which wasn't just a collection of hit singles with a few dashed off sub-standard songs thrown in, and that moody cover, not a smile in sight. The future had arrived!

2.  However, that evening the mood changed. Sometime between 7 and 7.30, as the family were watching 'Harry Worth' on BBC tv, the screen went dark and the words 'News bulletin' came on. We held our breath as the announcer told us that president Kennedy had been shot and killed in Dallas. I still remember the look of shock on my dad and my uncles' faces- and then the BBC went back to Harry! Of course the mood was somewhat darker and soon after, we put the radio on to hear more. That day is very vivid even now. Of course, over the weekend the news stayed dark and dramatic and over the intervening years a mystique has grown around the young president (same age as my dad) and the assassination and how American politics went on from that day- increased involvement in Viet Nam, Nixon ordering troops to kill American teenagers on the street and on the campuses, Watergate... nothing was too bad to consider any more.

So that day was pretty significant. It was really the shuddering sound of the Post War era dramatically entering The Sixties.

And then there was
Saturday 23rd November 1963
Now this was something I'd been excited about for a few weeks! Me and my dad usually watched saturday tea-time TV together and he'd brought to my attention this brand-new series called Doctor Who that was debuting this evening. Despite the previous days drama, we were both in the mood for some daft sci-fi show. Well, we were disappointed! This was no daft sci-fi show- this was something GREAT! In fact there was hardly any story! But the promise! The strange girl and her strange Grandfather... and then... where on earth would it go on to from here? We were hooked. In a few weeks, when that Dalek first uttered it's first 'Exterminate', there would be no going back. Again, the future was here! We were In The Sixties!!

So, what a weekend!
Hope this weekend is good, and, hopefully, NOWHERE NEAR as EVENTFUL!!

Friday, 20 September 2013

The News in 1963

  • Wednesday September 4th For the first time, black students register at white schools in the still-segregated state of Alabama in the southern United States.
  • Monday September 9th, US television begins half-hour 'presenter-led' evening news programmes.
  • Friday September 20th At the United Nations, US President Kennedy announces a joint mission to the Moon with the Soviet Union. The future was definitely on the way...

What Colour Is That?

Lawrence Herbert, a young part time employee at a printers near New York, had spent six years refining a new system of coloured inks and by September 30th 1963, had bought the printing company and introduced his standardized colour matching system, which he named: Pantone. The system was soon widely adopted by graphic designers and reproduction and printing houses throughout the world. Posters like this, one of hundreds of different colours, became the fashionable, minimalist wall decoration of choice in the Chelsea pads of photographers, designers, artists and the 'In Crowd'.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Just Another August Bank Holiday...

The first new Tube line in London for 50 years, the Victoria line, had been proposed in 1948 and building started in 1961. But Londoners first got to really know about it on August Bank holiday 1963 when the roads at Oxford Circus was closed so that a big hole could be dug! The ingenious 3-day-only closure and the biggest 'umbrella' ever made meant that disruption to traffic was at a minimum- and so work in earnest began!
A great 1968 BBC documentary about the building of the Victoria Line here:
More fascinating detail and film at this site

Friday, 9 August 2013

Two weeks in August

August 3
Jim Clark
The Beatles play at The Cavern for the 257th time in 18 months. Fears for the safety of fans in such a small confined space means this is their last appearance at the venue they'd made world famous.

Steven Ward, the osteopath implicated as a procurer in the Profumo Affair dies after taking an overdose of barbiturates. In his suicide note, he wrote "It's a wish not to let them get me. I'd rather get myself."

August 4th
The German Grand Prix in Nürburgring is won by John Surtees, Jim Clark finishing second, remaining well in first place in the world auto-driving championship standings, with 42 points, ahead of Surtees with 22.

August 5th
Cathy MacGowan on Ready Steady Go
In Moscow, Britain, The USSR and the US sign a nuclear test ban treaty for the first time. The ceremony took place at the Kremlin with U.S. Secretary of State Rusk, British Foreign Secretary Alec Douglas-Home and Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko.

Craig Breedlove sets the record for fastest driver in the world, reaching 428.37 miles an hour "for a measured mile" in a jet-powered vehicle, Spirit of America, on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.

August 9th
A new kind of Pop music show Ready Steady Go! premieres on the ITV network.

August 16th
Two people walking in Dorking Woods discover a briefcase, a holdall and a camel-skin bag, all containing money. The evidence would lead to the arrest of Brian Field, a member of the gang who had carried out The Great Train Robbery a few days earlier.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

The Great Train Robbery

It was the most notorious and audacious robbery of 1963.
On the evening of Wednesday 7 August a GPO Royal Mail train left Glasgow with an unusually high value shipment because of the Scottish Bank Holiday-£2.6 million (equivalent to about £45 million today).
Around 3 am the train stopped at a red signal light in at a place known as 'Sears Crossing',  in Buckinghamshire. The signal had been tampered with by robbers, who boarded the train and met little resistance from GPO staff- there were no security guards or police on the train.
The gang had cut all the telephone lines in the vicinity, but one of the trainmen caught a slow train to Cheddington, which he reached at 4:30 a.m. to raise the alarm.
On the morning of Thursday 8 August, Britain awake to lurid headlines proclaiming Great Train Robbery. The gang were in the papers, infamous- but who were they?

During their getaway, the gang listened for police radio transmissions on a VHF radio, arriving at a farm they'd bought two months earlier for use as their hideout. There they counted the proceeds of the robbery and divided it into 17 full shares and several 'drinks' (smaller sums of money for associates). The gang learned that the police calculated they had gone to ground within a 30-mile radius of the attack scene so the plan to disperse was brought forward to Friday instead of Sunday.

It had been arranged to set fire to the farm but the associate tasked with it ran off with £10,000 and never did set the fire. Soon after, the gang learned that police had found the hide-out.
Now it was only a matter of time before they all were caught... surely...

A 2013 radio documentary about it here

and click on the arrow to the right for a 1999 Channel 4 TV documentary about it

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Beatles for Your Pocket

The first edition of The Beatles own A5 sized monthly magazine was published this day August 1st, 1963, by Beat Publications, whose magazine Beat Instrumental had been launched the year before and started to feature The Beatles prominently. Geared (get it?) towards the groups many young female fans, Beatles Monthly printed full page photos of each of the Beatles in a strict four way split. In 1963, this sort of magazine was the easiest way for fans to follow their favourite stars, and many titles appeared, ran for a few months or a couple of years, and then vanished when the stars allure waned. The Beatles monthly ran on till the very end of the 60s and then came back in 1976 until finally ceasing publication for good in 2003. This first issue (pictured here) included brief introductions to each of the four, news of forthcoming stage, radio and TV events, the words to a Beatles song, a letter from the Fan Club secretary, and many photos. When the editor, Johnny Dean met with the Beatles in June to discuss the new venture, Paul McCartney asked: "What on earth are you going to find to write about us each month?" In October 2013, Mark Lewisohn publishes the first of three 800 page volumes of the Beatles Biography, which promises astonishing new information on nearly every page.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!

It began when Paul McCartney was listening to a Bobby Rydell song "Forget Him". It was planned as an 'answering song' where McCartney would sing 'she loves you' and John Lennon and George Harrison would answer 'yeah yeah'. "We decided that was a crummy idea but at least we then had the idea of a song called 'She Loves You'. So we sat in the hotel bedroom for a few hours and wrote it — John and I, sitting on twin beds with guitars."
It was John Lennon who wanted the track to be 'stirring: " I remember when Elvis did 'All Shook Up' it was the first time in my life that I had heard 'uh huh', 'oh yeah', and 'yeah yeah' all sung in the same song. We added some"wooooo"'s, which we got from The Isley Brothers' 'Twist and Shout'.  We stuck it in everything we could think of".
John and Paul proudly played the finished song on acoustic guitars to McCartney's dad at home after the song was completed: "We went into the living room, 'Dad, listen to this. What do you think? And he listened and thoughtfully said 'That's very nice son, but there's enough of these Americanisms around. Couldn't you sing 'She loves you, yes, yes, yes instead!'. At which point we collapsed in a heap and said 'No, Dad, you don't quite get it!'".

EMI recording engineer Norman Smith had a somewhat similar reaction, later recounting, "I was setting up the microphone when I first saw the lyrics on the music stand, 'She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah, She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah, She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah, Yeah!' I thought, Oh my God, what a lyric! This is going to be one that I do not like. But when they started to sing it — bang, wow, terrific, I was up at the mixer jogging around."
One final touch was added at the recording studio where George Harrison suggested the three of them should end the song with an unusual chord. George Martin, the Record producer, was intrigued: "The final chord was an odd sort of major sixth, with George doing the sixth and John and Paul the third and fifths, like a old-fashioned Glenn Miller arrangement. They were saying, 'It's a great chord! Nobody's ever heard it before!' Of course I knew that wasn't quite true! But nobody had done it for 20 years, and certainly not in a Rock and Roll record!"

The Beatles recorded 'She Loves You' (and B side 'I'll get You') on 1st July, beginning at 5pm at Abbey Road's studio two, and finishing at 10pm, although the session had been booked for 2.30-5.30pm. For the first time, the studio came under siege from young female Beatles fans who rushed the commissionaire and actually got into the studio. Although they were eventually ushered out, they continued to pound on doors, try to break in and chant and squeal all evening, and the drama and panic of the day made it's mark on the song recorded- She Loves You has a dynamic, near hysterical quality that owes a little to being taped under such conditions.
Towards the end of the song, there's an edit piece where the line "pride can hurt you too, apologise to her" is added from a different take, purely because of the way the three singing Beatles phrased the one word 'apologise'. They never managed to sing it so uniquely again, so it had to be in the record. Technology being what it was 50 years ago (ie twin-track mono), the edit is not seamless, and the sound of the drums changes dramatically at that point before another edit takes us back to the original take.

Released on August 23rd 1963, 'She Loves You' quickly became The record of the Week, Of 1963, probably of the 60s, maybe of the 20th century, possibly of all-time, and remains the one song that instantly brings to mind four skinny cheerful young men in suits with 'long hair' shaking their heads and having the time of their lives.

Monday, 24 June 2013

When in Berlin...

 50 years ago today, June 26th 1963, came President Kennedy's most famous speech, at the height of the Cold War, in the heart of the city that symbolised the tensions and conflicts of the world in 1963. He said:
"Two thousand years ago, the proudest boast was "civis Romanus sum" ["I am a Roman citizen"]. Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is "Ich bin ein Berliner!"... All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words "Ich bin ein Berliner!"

Left: Kennedy's aide-memoir to pronunciation
(See newsreel of the speech, hear audio of it in full and read more about it here)

Monday, 10 June 2013

One Medium Step For a Woman

It was a different time, and only fifty years ago. The Americans had put chimpanzees into orbit, the Soviets a dog, and both had put men into space. But what next? Horses? Wildebeest? Wait! why not...a woman?

Left, USSR reports a brave hero, centre, the USA salutes a 'Space Cuite'
and right Britain snickers at the very idea of a lady in orbit. Bad show Old Bean.
In 1963, when that was a preposterous idea, it actually came true- the Soviet Union put a woman into space. Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova [Валенти́на Влади́мировна Терешко́ва] then 26, and a textile factory assembly worker, was selected from more than four hundred applicants to pilot Vostok 6 on 16 June 1963, as the first civilian to fly in space. Her three day flight was to determine if females reacted differently than males (or animals) while weightless. It was a triumph for the Soviet space programme- It would be twenty years before another woman went into space.
Read more about Valentina Tereshkova here
Hear about her on a new BBC programme for 5 more days here

A Summer Tradition Starts Here!

This day in 1963 a holiday custom began with the Dandy-Beano Summer Special. At one shilling and sixpence, at a time when the weekly comics were threepence each, this first edition had to be something special, and it was! Larger than the regular comic, on glossy paper, and with several pages of full colour painted artwork, it was a treat for the senses! The cover was drawn by Dudley D Watkins, famous for Desperate Dan, Biffo The Bear and Lord Snooty, among many others. This inaugural edition was mostly reprint, but subsequent years, when The Beano and The Dandy had their own individual editions, would be all-new material, and that tradition carried on delighting kids at the seaside until 2006. It wasn't the first ever special issue of a weekly designed for the beach, but it was the first regular annual one, and the longest lasting. Eventually, publishers DC Thomson would go on to publish many other titles in this special once-a-year form, but this was the first, and the only time that The Beano and The Dandy shared a title until the nostalgia boom of the 1980s.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

In a Big Country

Tuesday June 11th 1963
In the USA, two significant events at either end of the moral spectrum on this same day.

At Alabama University, right wing anti-segregation state Governor George C. Wallace defiantly stood in the doorway, blocking the entry of it's prospective first black students.
Back in Washington, Defence Secretary Robert McNamara ordered the Alabama National Guard to support Assistant Attorney General Katzenbach who faced Wallace to demand the
students be allowed to register. Wallace proclaimed he was forbidding what he called "this illegal and unwarranted action by the central government" in instigating this desegregation.
The National Guard told Wallace they would enforce the President's order and the
Governor stepped aside at 3:40 that afternoon. The students, James Hood and Vivian Malone, walked unhindered into the university and into the history books. Read more about it here
Back in Washington, President Kennedy delivered an historic Speech promising a Civil Rights Bill, asking for "the kind of equality of treatment that we would want for ourselves." Read the full text of Kennedy's speech here

Meanwhile, at the University of Mississippi, the first human lung transplant was performed by Dr. James Hardy. The patient turned out to be John Richard Russell, a convicted murderer serving a life sentence for a 1957 killing, who was given a full pardon for volunteering for the operation. He survived for 18 days but skills learned that day would revolutionize surgery worldwide. The history of lung transplantation here

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

End of the Line- Queen Square Fruit & Veg Wholesale Market

This is Queen Square in the very heart of Liverpool, where my dad's family, who ran Fruit and Veg shops (Parkinson's on Broadgreen Road and at nearby Broadgreen station, to those of you who might remember), used to arrive early in the morning to select the best items. I was taken there by my dad several times in 1962 and 1963, and remember the shouting, bustling, joking, the clatter of the carts and the roaring of the wagons and the smell- the stench of old cabbage, the sweet heady aroma of ripe fruit- and the tramlines in the cobbles. But it was all to change. My dad took a new job in June 1963 and so we never went there again. In 1966, a new Fruit and Veg depot was opened out on the road to the motorway, and in 1967, the last of the merchants at Queen Square moved out, and a vital, unique part of city life vanished for good. In 1969 the square, boarded up and abandoned, was bulldozed to make way for... well, it was never made clear what was meant to go there. Eventually, it became a car park, and, finally, in 1999, a hotel and restaurant area. This short home movie is of Queen square in the late 1950s, and it looked pretty much the same when I was there five years later.


On this day, 5 June 1963, British political life was jolted when Profumo resigned.

The whole complicated business had begun in 1961,when Conservative MP and war Minister John Profumo met Christine Keeler, good-time girl or, according to the newspapers, a call girl, at a house party at Cliveden, a mansion owned by Lord Astor. Rumours about an affair became public in 1962, as did the allegation that Keeler had a relationship with Yevgeny Ivanov, senior naval attaché at the Soviet embassy in London at the same time. Given Profumo's position in the government and the Cold war at its height, the ramifications in terms of national security and the adulterous nature of Profumo's relationship with Keeler,  the affair became a public scandal.
Profumo assured Prime Minister Harold Macmillan the rumours were untrue, and stated to the House of Commons in March that there was "no impropriety whatsoever" in his
relationship with Keeler and that he would issue writs for libel and slander.
However, on this day on 5 June, Profumo confessed that he had misled the House (ie lied) and resigned his cabinet position, as well as his Privy Council and parliamentary membership.
Profumo Affair wiki here

The real-life drama continued with court cases, further allegations and even suicide. The scandal that rocked Britain was in full flow.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

The Sixties Start Swinging!

May 13th
Modesty Blaise, the comic strip by Peter O'Donnell  and Jim Holdaway made it's debut in the London Evening Standard on Monday, May 13th 1963. O'Donnell got the idea after a wartime meeting with a girl in the Middle East and wondered how she would grow up.
 Modesty Blaise turned out to be one of the two or three most successful British newspaper strips of the 1960s- it was even made as a (mostly forgettable) movie in 1966.
Here is the first time Modesty is seen, the second strip, printed the following day, May 14th.
Illustrator Jim Holdaway gave the strip it's distinctive and luxurious look- sadly he died suddenly age only 43 in 1970, whilst still drawing Modesty Blaise. He hadn't been first choice- Frank Hampson had tried out but O'Donnell was unhappy with Hampson's treatment. Holdaway was just right, and his style personifies the 1960s like few others.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Calm before the storm

The Cannes film festival in the sunny South of France has always been the place to spot the celebrity de jour - but on May 8th 1963, it was really only the gentlemen of the press knew who this 'model' was; most of the general public didn't know yet that the young lady here walking calmly and unremarked (if not entirely unnoticed!) was Christine Keeler, who's name would fairly soon be known across Britain and the world as a byword for sleaze, impropriety, scandal and political intrigue, and whose face would become one of the most famous faces of the Century.
In 1961, A government minister was sharing his extra-marital bed with Christine, who, unfortunately, was also keeping very close company with a Soviet Naval attache. 1961 was the very height of the 'Cold War', but it was the ministers denial of the affair in March 1963 that would lead to this story unravelling slowly until, with a sudden rush in early June, the saga hit the headlines in a big way. More then. 
Meanwhile, at the Film Festival itself, 'To Kill a Mockingbird' and 'This Sporting Life' were amongst the big winners, but there was upset as Hitchcock's 'The Birds' was deemed too late to compete.

Stones begin Rolling

It was a well-known story by May 1963- the Beatles, currently at Number One in the singles and Album charts, had actually been turned down by one of the countries most famous record labels in early 1962- Decca, run by Dick Rowe (left). But Dick redeemed his reputation in a very canny move on May 4th 1963 when, as Decca's head Artists and Repertoire man, he took up an invitation from a music magazine to be on the panel of judges at a 'Battle of the Bands' talent scouting competition held at the Philharmonic hall in Liverpool. Other judges included Alan A Freeman (not the DJ) of Pye records, and George Harrison, of The Beatles. George and Dick got chatting and Dick asked, unashamedly, "which of these local bands do you think I should sign?" George said " I dunno about these, but there's a group we saw in Richmond the other day called The Rolling Stones- I'd sign them if I were you." So, the very next day, May 5th 1963, Dick found himself watching The Rolling
Stones in Richmond; within a week, they were signed, and their long career had begun.  Mick Jagger remembered meeting The Beatles that first time; "We suddenly saw these four guys in identical long black coats- I thought, 'I don't care what it takes, I want one of those coats'! Then John and Paul went off into a corner and wrote us a song- I was nearly sick! I thought 'even if it means having to learn how to write songs, I've got to get one of those coats!'"

Thursday, 18 April 2013

On the Other Hand

This classic 60s Reginald Mount ad for the Ministry of Health, promoting cutting down on cigarettes, first appeared on buses (and on the Tube in London) this week in April 1963.
Meanwhile, in the magazines and newspapers, and even on TV, there were other messages...

Toppermost of The Poppermost

Written 'to order' as a Beatles single, John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote 'From Me To You' after deciding they needed to get the words 'me' and 'you' into their song titles to appeal directly to fans. But when this song, initially destined to be the B side, turned out so well, it HAD to be put on the A side of their third single. Released on 11th April 1963, it stormed the UK 's Top 20s, including, this time around, the obscure Record Retailer Chart which had placed their previous 45 only at number 2. This time, there would be no doubt- The Beatles had arrived- but would they be here to stay?
and read all about it here
and see them sing it on Mike and Bernie Winters' 'Big Night Out'  by clicking the arrow:

Never Have You Known His Like!

Fresh from success with Spiderman, Steve Ditko came up with the idea of "Dr Strange- The Master of Black Magic!" in this months Strange Tales comic (cover date July1963). Stan Lee put the dialogue to it, and Stan Goldberg did the iconic colour scheme. Although there had been mysterious magicians in comics, on radio and in movies before, none of them were quite like this. Steve Ditko's unique, unsettling art and Lee's hyperbolic dialoguing (Ditko generally plotted the stories while drawing) took this series into world's weirder and more wonderous than any comic book before. 

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

On the News-stand

A sampling of the abundance of reading matter available this week in 1963. The movies still dominate, with  Burton and Taylor's onscreen and offscreen romance  and Sophia Loren prominent, and Alfred Hitchcock's "own" Mystery magazine. But there are titles 'exclusively for gentlemen' and titles 'exclusively for ladies' too.


 Interestingly, although some names of 1963 are still familiar- Sophia Loren still makes the news from time to time, and science fiction magazine Analog  flourishes, and has done since 1930- others are long forgotten. Who remembers the flame-haired model, actress and dancer Suzy Parker today?

C'est Ci Bon?

What to make of this? Sultry and slightly barking American cabaret star Eartha Kitt certainly knew how to advertise!
Her latest record was this EP (Extended Play record- a 7inch with 4 tracks in a glossy card cover, usually with a sumptuous photo like this adorning it), enticingly titled 'Bad But Beautiful' and it was nestling in the EP charts during her season at the Persian Room in 1963.

The Funniest Man in the World

In 1963, there was no bigger TV star than Arthur Haynes, whose latest ATV series finished
on April 17th. Best known for his 'tramp' character, Arthur specialized in the bolshie underdog, and his TV show  was written by Johnny Speight, later to become famous for writing Till Death Us Do Part. Haynes' TV show was filmed 'as live' and left bits of 'corpsing' and ad-libs in, adding to the charm of his two-handed scenes with a young Nicholas Parsons. In our house, we all loved the Arthur Haynes Show, the image of him in his battered hat and tatty coat is one of the enduring early memories I have of watching TV with my dad. Cary Grant once dubbed Arthur "the funniest man in the world".

Some more of the notable events this week in 1963:

Monday April 8th 1963
At the Oscars, Lawrence of Arabia wins Best picture, and Gregory Peck wins Best Actor for his role as Atticus inTo Kill a Mockingbird.

Wednesday April 10th 1963
An unknown gunman narrowly missed killing former U.S. Army General Edwin Walker at his home in Dallas, Texas. Six months later, in November, it turned out that the rifle used in this attack was the same one used by Lee Harvey Oswald to kill President Kennedy.

Friday April 12th 1963
Martin Luther King arrested in a Birmingham, Alabama civil rights protest for "parading without a permit". This was the start of his national status as a symbol for freedom. A few days later, in the margins of a newspaper he wrote his famous Letter from Birmingham Jail.

Saturday April 13th 1963
Kosmos 14 was launched by the USSR. It was important in furthering the understanding of controlling satellites and spacecraft in orbit.

Monday April 15th 1963
70,000 anti-nuclear weapons marchers arrived in Trafalgar Square London from Aldermaston. The fear of nuclear war hung over the world in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. In October 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis had brought us closer to it than ever, so this march (the fifth) was particularly well-attended, but also had divisions which led to scuffles.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Fireball XL5- 1875

This week in 1963 ITV regions treated the nation's kids to another brand new episode of Gerry Anderson's latest series, Fireball XL5. This week, the crew of the giant space ship somehow found themselves back in the past- thanks to footage from Gerry's earlier series. Four Feather Falls!

Bondski is Back

Ian Fleming's ultra cool spy James Bond, 007- licensed to kill- had made a big splash with his debut movie in 1962 and made an overnight star of Sean Connery. Now, on 8th April 1963, came his second big screen adventure- From Russia With Love.  Bond is searching for a Russian decoding machine before the evil SPECTRE organization finds it. Naturally, being Bond, there's romance afoot with a Russian, Tatiana Romanova, travelogue backdrops of Istanbul, all the while being shot at and hunted down by SPECTRE agents- one of whom even possesses an incredible poison tipped shoe. Could happen to anyone, but see what you think in this typically breathless 1963 vintage trailer:


When this comic hit the stands in April 1963 (the cover date was always three months after the onsale date in those days), few could have known how significant it would be. Written by Stan Lee and drawn (and co-plotted) by Steve Ditko, the most idiosyncratic of all 1960s comics artists, the story involves a mad scientist, and a hero who eventually triumphs. Nothing unusual there- but the treatment given that most overused of cliched storylines, even then, is nothing short of revolutionary! The mad scientist doesn't burst upon the scene a ready-formed villain, he's a good guy, a respected pioneer who suffers an appalling injury which affects his mind. The hero (Spiderman) struggles with his inability to quickly defeat his opponent, and wonders whether to give up, until a casual incognito meeting with another costumed hero gives him the determination to press on and prevail. Phew! Quite a development, and a sign that this funny little comic company with the garish colours and dark artwork was going places- but who knew where?

So Great They Wanted Him To Be American, Too!

On April 9th, 1963, President John F Kennedy conferred the then-unique honour of American Citizenship on a foreigner- former British prime Minister Winston Churchill, of course, who else? Officially in recognition of his role as War leader, the honour may have been a little more palatable for those in American politics who favoured insularity as Churchill's mother was American, making him only half-British anyway. Then frail after a stroke while Prime Minister in the 1950s, and approaching 90, Churchill watched the ceremony at home in Britain as the latest wonder of the age, Telstar, provided live TV pictures from the White House lawn.

Welcome back to 1963

Fift years seems like a long time- until you see a retrospective of something that took place fifty years ago today, and you remember it happening! Then it seems like something very recent indeed.
Well, to help me keep track of things, I'm going to post a weekly (sometimes more often) retropsective blog all about- 1963, in chronological order. If things go well, I may be tempted to carry on into 1964, even 1965... who can say!
So, what will the blog be about? In essence, it'll be about 1963- the good, the bad, the indifferent. We'll do politics, social interest (music, sport, lifestyle) and major news events, TV, films, newspapers, comics, magazines, books, and so much more. I'll even throw in the odd item about what I was doing in 1963- drawing, mainly- if it was something good.
Feel extremely free to suggest, ask, beg or demand I do a post about a particular subject- but get it in before the due date.
Nostalgia may not be what it used to be, but 1963 was a fascinating and important year- as we'll see...