From the archive
The high 60s cut deep: that is what all concerned meant to do. The attraction of those dark scenes in Blow-Up (1966) and Performance is underlined by the man who designed the climactic environments in both films, Christopher Gibbs, who now characterises the high 60s as an ‘alchemical experiment’. It was this millenarian fission – across aesthetics, fashion, class, sexuality, gender – that caused the period to flame so bright. This flare was soon extinguished, as is often pointed out, but that was only the surface reaction. 1966-68 sowed the seeds of several movements which continue to sprout even when you think they are dead: mass wandering; eco-awareness; exploration of inner space; unofficial spiritual paths, whether alternative therapies, astrology, or non-Western religions.
‘The 60s’ (which in this context means 1965-69) have had a consistently bad press over the last 20 years, first from Punks, who had to live with the fall-out, then from leading establishment figures: MPs, police chiefs, even a Prime Minister. ‘Unrealistic’ is one common epithet, but that is exactly the point: not only is it the business of pop to be fantastic, to break the bounds of the everyday, but, as any student of that time knows, reality itself is a concept up for grabs. Now that the New Right’s construction of (a pre-50s) reality is breaking up, the reappearance of the high 60s is a harbinger of rapid change. At the same time, the renewed currency of millenarian rumours marks the first, halting lurch of the roller-coaster as it plunges towards the upcoming, thousand year deadline.