The 60s Official Site

 

1966 and All That

by David Soulsby, author of the novel, "Somewhere in the Distance"

 

With a dramatic goal in the final moments of what was a nail-biting match, England finally became soccer World Cup champions, securing a 4-2 win over West Germany at London’s Wembley Stadium. It was just one of the many highlights of 1966 that are etched on my memory from a year that had its fair share of controversy and tragedy as well as producing some outstanding music.

 Controversy come in the wake of John Lennon’s quip in a newspaper interview that The Beatles were ‘more popular than Jesus now’. It caused a furor and led to thousands of the group’s records being burned on bonfires in protest in some parts of America. I recall seeing the news coverage on TV showing angry groups of people tossing piles of vinyl in to the flames. It was far cry from the outpourings of adoration and admiration that the Liverpool lads usually enjoyed. And for a while threatened to damage their reputation.

The anti-Beatles outcry did however subside following an apology from Lennon and things eventually got back to normal on the Fab Four front. The catchy Paperback Writer topped the charts and their imaginative album Revolver reinstated their popularity. I have to admit that, perhaps not surprisingly,  Paperback Writer is my favorite Beatles ditty.

One of the most tragic events that year In Britain was the Aberfan coal tip disaster in Wales that claimed 144 lives, including 116 children. I was at work on a weekly newspaper on the October morning it happened. My colleagues and I had a radio on and listened to updates on and off throughout the day as rescuers dug through the tons of slurry that had roared down the hillside, desperately trying to find survivors in the mangled remains of the school building. I’ll always remember that it was a very dark period, particularly as so many young lives had been lost in what was later shown to have been an avoidable tragedy.

On the music front, 1966 threw up several gems, not least some groundbreaking offerings from The Beach Boys. It was, of course, the year that the magical singles Good Vibrations and God Only Knows and the grandiose album Pet Sounds set new standards in rock recording. Indeed, such was the excellence of the band at that time that it spurred The Beatles on to experiment and push their own musical boundaries still further.

Motown was in its glory too, and The Four Tops epitomized all that was great about the sounds made under the guidance of Berry Gordy in the bustling, vibrant city that was Detroit. Reach Out I’ll Be There is as good as it gets. It’s a song that has it all, an unforgettable tune, catchy lyrics and vibrant vocals, all wrapped up in sheer professionalism and style.

Other memorable songs, for me, were Dusty Springfield’s You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me, the Spencer Davis Group’s Somebody Help Me, the Rolling Stones Paint It Black, The Walker Brothers’ operatic The Sun Ain’t `Gonna Shine Anymore, and Chris Farlowe’s cover version of the Stones’ Out Of Time. All of them are classics of rock.

1966 was also the year that the term Swinging London was coined by Time magazine, and as they say the rest is history.

David SoulsbyDavid Soulsby lives in Romford, Essex, England, and is now Somewhere in the Distanceretired after 46 years as a journalist. During his career, he worked on local and national newspapers and magazines, and in the Sixties met many of his musical heroes, including Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Sonny Boy Williamson, James Brown and Mel Torme. He’s now freelancing as a writer and proof-reader, working from home. He’s the author of Somewhere In The Distance, a novel about four friends growing up in the Sixties.