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...