The 1960s: pushing onward to the end of a long and winding road

The Beatles

Of all the international influences on 1960s American counterculture, none created pandemonium like the four lads from Liverpool.

John, Paul, George and Ringo embodied youth, a rejection of social norms, ingenuity, and in short, the social revolution of the 1960s. The Beatles exuded a contagious energy. Their relationship with their fans, their devotion to their music, and their humility projected a sense of approachability. These were young men whom you wanted to invite into your home. Their stylistic transitions, their musical and spiritual influences and social attitudes fully reflected the sentiments of the 1960s. The creation and breakup of The Beatles spanned the entire decade.

Lennon’s response to an interviewer’s inquiry to what Lennon expected of find while in Australia: “”Australians, I should suppose.”” This ability to interject humor into their superstar careers helped The Beatles prove that there existed a way out of tough masculinity, a feeling associated with male musical acts of previous decades.

By 1965, the phrase “”rock ‘n roll”” connected directly to The Beatles. By the end of the 1960s, the group had 29 top-ten hits. In less than a decade, they sold over 125 million singles and 85 million LPs. Their hit songs like, “”Can’t Buy Me Love,”” “”Eight Days a Week”” and “”Penny Lane,”” can still be heard on the radio today. Just recently a CD was released of The Beatles’ top singles. The fact that the album spent multiple weeks at the top of the charts is a testament to how The Beatles have come to represent the youthful joy of the 1960s.

Television

By the 1960s, televisions was more prevalent in homes than indoor plumbing. While television was significant in the 1950s, a decade later it became a symbol of the growing economic trends of the decade. Networks also began broadcasting in color.

Youth, independence and wealth all became important aspects of the American culture. As people turned increasingly to their televisions, the world got smaller. The television brought them President John F. Kennedy’s speeches and his assassination. It brought the first human steps on the moon into the homes of millions. The television also became a way to justify what occurred in the social context of peoples’ lives. A plethora of shows helped to indirectly educate parents on the rebellious nature of their children and also helped individuals understand their new lifestyles.

With shows like “”I Dream of Jeannie,”” where a scantily clad single woman lived with a single man who acted as her master, subtle sexual references emerged in the previously “”Andy Griffith””-only living rooms. Subtler still were the ideas of “”Gilligan’s Island.”” How did three single men survive on an island for all those years without good-girl Mary Anne and glamorous Ginger winding up pregnant? It was the original “”Temptation Island.””

While many critics were embarrassed by the crude jokes and mannerisms of the characters in “”The Beverly Hillbillies,”” audiences could relate to the on-screen antics. Confronted by newfound wealth and different social conditions, Americans found Jethro’s front-yard cornfield endearing. After all: Dirt is dirt.

Just as we can say that today’s producers prefer police dramas, the 1960s also had television trends. Common were alien adventures such as “”Star Trek”” and “”The Twilight Zone””, which garnered many viewers. However, independent crime fighters (holding true to the Bond formula) such as “”Batman and Robin,”” with its “”wam, bam”” special effects, and “”Mission: Impossible,”” also heralded great viewer attention.

With color television, an opportunity to entertain younger generations also emerged. Fred Flintstone’s “”yaba-daba-doo”” rattled the set right behind Astro’s moans in “”The Jetsons.”” And who can forget the fuzzy crime fighters “”Rocky and Bullwinkle?””

These and many other shows helped turn the television into an acceptable way for Americans to withdraw from the complex social context of their lives and enjoy another little invention of the 1960s: Swanson’s “”TV Dinner.””

The social revolution

The fundamental question regarding the social revolution of the 1960s and the creation of an American counter culture is: Why did such drastic social upheaval occur in the first place?

Improvements in material life lead to a youthful power, especially in consumerism. The Beatles became a symbol of the 1960s mostly because of their talent, but primarily because an economically powerful fan base elevated them to super stardom. The pop culture of the 1960s did not come about entirely because of the artists but because ordinary people chose their cultural products.

Today we associate the Vietnam War, space walks, rock ‘n’ roll and tie-dyed T-shirts with the 1960s. It was a time when people were compelled to protest racism, hypocrisy and inequality. But ultimately these social tendencies did not disappear. The 1960s reflected the power of the individual more than any other time in American history. The symbols that today’s generations associate with the 1960s were part of a bigger picture that helped bring about a tumultuous time in American history.

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