When we first heard this kind of music, we little thought that we’d still be listening to it half a century later.
50 years ago, old people in Britain sang sentimental music-hall songs like ‘Nellie Dean’ and cherished wartime performers like Vera Lynn and Gracie Fields. Old men wore their de-mob suits on the beach and old ladies ate bread and dripping and wore whalebone corsets. This was the world of charabanc outings that the Beatles satirised in their underrated film Magical Mystery Tour. They – along with most of their musical contemporaries – believed that pop culture was ephemeral, something you did before you got a proper job. And when you retired with your gold watch, you’d be sipping warm Mackeson in a smoke-filled pub singing along to ‘We’ll Meet Again‘ …
But something had shifted. A fault line opened up. Pete Townsend and Roger Daltrey still perform ‘My Generation’ with its now ironic line Hope I die before I get old. The Stones continue to defy gravity and strut their stuff to thousands of new young fans. Even the warring Davies brothers have buried the hatchet in a Kinks reunion. And tomorrow night I’m off to see the Pretty Things perform their still exciting 60s-style blend of rhythm’n’blues and psych-rock, with a new album described by Mojo magazine as ‘almost unfeasibly vital’.
As the great Bill Hicks used to say, ‘Who woulda thunk it?’