I only started this post back in February this year so I don’t want any accusations of being slow! The problem was that part 1 – political and social – turned into a bigger episode than I thought and I ran out of steam for this one, even though I’d already found most of the images.
So, to remind you of the point. As I am now into the second half of my allotted ‘sto lat’ (100 years) I thought I’d take a look at how things were when I was born in 1959. That’s shortly after the dinosaurs were wiped out by the asteroid although the dust was still settling.
Music & the arts
I was prodded into doing this second part by reflecting today on what was the number one hit when I was the same age as Zosia is now, well here it is – The Rolling Stones, 1965, “Get Off Of My Cloud”:
Holds up pretty well I think against the 2009 equivalent, which seems to be about a 12yr old kid called Chipmunk having an affair with his mother?!
Fair to say though that the Stones were a bit of a glorious exception to the rule. When I was born most pop stars had a very wholesome look about them (and quite large spectacles in some cases):
Not wishing to leave the wrong impression, by the time I was choosing my own music things had moved on a bit, although Elton John did take the large spectacle tradition to unforeseen heights:
Many things have changed out of all recognition since I was born but music is perhaps the thing to stand up the best to the ravages of time. As a baby, I lay in my pram and listened to The Beatles and as a small kid I listened to The Rolling Stones. The latter are still giving concerts and the former are still the best band ever to walk the earth. Even the “run of the mill” bands I listened to when in my teens are still going strong, played on the radio, many are still influential and those that aren’t are at least selling-out comeback concerts. I wonder if Chipmunk will still be remembered when he reaches the age of 50+, in about 2049?
Perhaps it is unfair to single out music as other arts will have held up well also. Painting and sculpture are relatively timeless. Jackson Pollock was dead by the time I arrived but the likes of Picasso and Magritte were still going strong, as were Edward Hopper, Escher and Lucien Freud (the next great artist to die?), with Warhol, Hockney and Lichtenstein just getting warmed up. Nobody can say that their works look terribly dated today.
With writing it is harder to maintain a modern feel as language changes so much, as do attitudes and behaviour but despite being obviously written in a different age they none the less retain their value. One of my favourite writers is Graham Greene who coincidentally was writing around the time of my birth. One favourite of mine is “Our Man in Havana”, written in 1958 and filmed in 1959:
I won’t get too much into sports for fear of it becoming an almighty rant about the state of sportsmanship these days and how money is ruining everything. Just a few examples:
Football. In 1959, Geoff Hurst joined West Ham United, the greatest football team in England! In 1966, at the age of 24, he scored a perfect hat-trick (one goal with each of head, left foot & right foot) to help England beat West Germany 4-2 in the World Cup final. The last time England came anywhere near winning the cup and the last time anyone scored a hat-trick in the World Cup final. I imagine Geoff was paid 3 shillings and sixpence a fortnight and drove a Mini Cooper. If there’s an equivalent today, would it be David Beckham? Paid a zillion quid a second and has a stable of Ferraris, Astons & Hummers. Even a nobody, crap player in a nothing team gets more money than Geoff could have ever dreamed of. So much money these days, so little delivery, so bad an attitude. I dare not go further. My favourite football period was from the early 70’s to the mid 80’s.
In tennis in 1959 we had the delightful Rod Laver making his breakthrough on the world stage, by reaching all three finals at Wimbledon, winning the mixed doubles title with Darlene Hard. Laver is the only tennis player to have twice won all four Grand Slam singles titles in the same year — first as an amateur in 1962 and second as a professional in 1969. In 1962, the Grand Slam events were open only to amateur players, who were given (under the table) little more than cost-of-living money for their appearances in tournaments. Laver has been rated as the greatest male player of all time by several experts and polls. Those that didn’t vote for Laver must have voted for Roger Federer. In 2007, Federer became the tennis player to win the most prize money in a single year, over $10 million. Not to mention the cash from endorsing – Wilson, Rolex, Nike, Mercedes, Gillette and others. Today’s tennis players don’t seem to be quite as removed from their predecessors as the footballers do, except for the finances of course. For myself, I enjoyed the days of Connors, McEnroe & Borg the best.
A favourite sport of mine, until it got too boring, is motor racing. In 1959, Jack Brabham drove the new Cooper Type 51 to claim the Formula One World Championship. He did so with victories at Monaco, the Dutch Grand Prix, the French Grand Prix, and the British Grand Prix. This was the first ever World Championship for a rear-engined car. Every World Champion since has done so with the engine mounted behind the driver. The Cooper had an engine made by Coventry Climax, better known for fork lift trucks and fire pumps. The engine Brabham used was in fact derived from a fire pump and had almost exactly the same power as my Passat does today, 179KW. Modern day F1 uses engines that regularly produce over 500KW and in the high-power days of 1995-2005, in excess of 700KW!
In 1959 the British Grand Prix was held at Aintree, a course 4.82 km long. The fastest lap was driven by Stirling Moss in 1 minute 57 seconds. The winner drove a total of 2 hrs 30 mins and 11 sec to cover 362 km (75 laps).
In 2009, the British Grand Prix was held at Silverstone, which is longer at 5.14 km. Sebastian Vettel had the fastest lap of 1 minute 20 seconds. The winner drove a total of 1 hrs 22 mins and 49 sec to cover 308 km (60 laps).
My best F1 days were between about 1985 and 1995 watching Senna, Prost, Mansell, Piquet and an emerging Schumacher.
The sport has changed completely.
Coming soon in part 3 – technology & mechanical things