When I hear people talk about ‘The Sixties’, it reminds me of when I was young and I used to listen to people talk about ‘The War’. It has the same affection, rose tinted glasses effect. I agree I would rather have had my formative years in the sixties than the forties for obvious reasons, nevertheless it is important to remember that there was a lot of bad stuff happening in the sixties, both politically and historically and also there were a lot of rubbish records released.
We mustn't forget that seminal rock legends like Lou Reed, Otis Redding, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix etc were all operating at the underground level of musical culture with only occasional TV slots which even then were looked upon by the masses as a bit of a novelty.
As I grew up I can can constantly hear the ‘grown ups’ saying “They are five minute wonders”, “You will have forgotten about them in a few months” etc. etc.
Not only that, but there were plenty of people of my age who couldn't care less about pop music and the phenomenal cultural shift that was taking place.
Growing up in the UK during the sixties it was all about being ‘British’. ‘Buy British’ was a huge slogan of the time. We were still making stuff, there were factories producing all kinds of things and American music was not that high on the list of things that were interesting the vast population.
When the Beatles made a record it was news, but people were more interested in them getting arrested for drugs or other anti social behaviour rather than discussing producer George Martin’s revolutionary recording techniques on the Sgt. Peppers album.
So it is the legacy of the sixties that is far bigger than the sixties themselves in terms of music that we drool over when we discuss the merits of early Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Tamla Motown etc.
I agree there were significant cultural changes in which the music of the day provided the soundtrack. The ‘permissive society’ the ‘counterculture’ - the advent of the pill were all huge events, but they were bigger than the music. It was much later that everyone began waxing lyrical about the wonderful sixties in terms of pop music.
I hear it now sometimes when I hear people much younger than me declaring the ‘greatest decade for music was the eighties’ - Excuse me? What did I miss? But I get it, its people hanging on to their youth and looking at it through those rose tinted spectacles just as I remember my History teacher who once bizarrely told the class that ‘he enjoyed the war’.
Of course I can list some extraordinary albums that were produced in that decade. Records that still sound fresh, bright and sometimes dangerous. The legacy of the sixties doesn't cease to diminish, and as those rock heroes are sadly leaving us one by one the affection we have for them grows and grows, when at the time they were viewed as long haired layabouts and a bad influence on young people. Ed Sheeran would not have endeared himself to the 1960’s parents as he has with the mums and dads of today.
So while we fawn over the wonder of the Beach Boys, Pet Sounds Album or celebrate the sheer volume of great records that were released in those ten brief years. For most people at the time, the best thing about the sixties in the UK was England winning the world cup.