May 18: By now, two Britain's were living uncomfortably
alongside each other. The first was the staid, traditional Britain
of bowler hats, umbrellas, floral frocks and tea. The second was
the phenomenon known as the Swinging Sixties.
a tidal wave of new music and fashion, one of the most conservative
capitals in the world suddenly became Swinging London with Carnaby
Street as its focus. But the emergence of youth culture had a
darker side. Respectable Britain looked on in horror as Mods and
Rockers fought running battles at Whitsun on the beaches at Margate,
Brighton and other resorts.
Mods were fashionable city kids identified by cropped hair and
motor scooters, often weighed down by a maze of bump bars, mirrors
and lights. Rockers were long-haired, leather-jacketed motorbike
gangs modelled on the American Hell's Angels.
When Mod and Rockers met, trouble followed and the British bobby,
still respected and adored by the public, was piggy-in-the-middle.
It was mindless, motiveless violence and the Mods v Rockers battles
faded into history. But for a while, to an older Britain raised
on war, discipline and National Service, it looked like the breakdown
of everything they held dear.
August 7: The world began to focus with greater clarity
on events happening in the Far East. America was getting deeper
and deeper into the long-running Vietnam War. On this day President
Lyndon Johnson asked for, and received, approval from Congress
to take "all necessary action" against the communist regime in
North Vietnam. The latest crisis arose following an attack by
North Vietnamese torpedo boats on the US destroyer Maddox in the
Gulf of Tonkin. President Johnson's retaliatory strike sent shock
waves around the world and brought the war right into the forefront
of public consciousness.
January 17: Steptoe and Son was voted Britain's most
popular TV show. No-one was too surprised. For a generation of
telly-watchers raised on Auntie Beeb's staid post-war offerings,
the rag-and-bone men Harold and Albert (Harry H Corbett and Wilfred
Brambell) were a taste of something altogether earthier.
And as with all the best humour, there was an underlying pathos.
Albert was of the strict old generation who had fought in the
First World War and been taught that sons respected their fathers.
Harold wanted all the good things that the Swinging Sixties promised:
money, travel and as much sex as possible. Yet time after time
his hopes were sunk either by his father's demands or his own
sense of guilt.
October 16: Labour was back in power for the first time
in 13 years when Harold Wilson's populist image won him the 1964
General Election - but with an overall majority of only three.
"Nice place we've got here," he quipped on the doorstep of Number
10 where he had been prophetically photographed as a schoolboy
many years before.
If not the best loved Prime Minister, Wilson was certainly to
go down in history as the most imitated with his nasal Yorkshire
vowels and pipe sucking gestures. Labour was elected on a manifesto
of "purposive planning" with steel, water and building land all
scheduled for varying forms of public control.
August 12: The man with the golden pen, James Bond creator
Ian Fleming, died just as his books were being made into films
and gaining huge popularity. Old Etonian Fleming, the brother
of explorer Peter Fleming, was just 56 and had suffered a heart
attack, possibly linked to heavy smoking.
As well as Eton he had been to two European universities and
had been a Reuters foreign correspondent in Moscow and an assistant
to the head of Naval Intelligence. His literary blend of sex,
violence, action and high living was once described as "snobbery
June 12: Pirate radio stations London and Caroline -
broadcasting from ships somewhere off the East coast of England
- provided a boon for the country's hungry pop fans who complained
that the BBC was starving them of real music. Many of those rebel
DJs were to come ashore, swim into the mainstream and join the
Beeb themselves. But for the time being the pirate radio phenomenon
was exciting because of its illegality.