The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold: Why I could get no satisfaction in the Sixties

Saturday 06 August 1994 23:02

I NOTE with an interest not untinged by sheer horror that the Rolling Stones are 'on the rod again', as the showbusiness correspondents are wont to put it. Once again, the spectre of the 1960s (dread decade]) raises its unkempt and ill-shorn head.

My own memories of the Sixties will be of singular interest to those of the younger generation who might imagine that every last one of us under the age of 40 was engaged solely in hectic bouts of 'sleeping around', punctuated only by occasional bursts of 'shooting up' and 'letting it all hang out'. Letting all what hang out, may one ask? And the only proper response to whatever reply was vouchsafed would be, 'Well, put it back in again then, this minute.'

The Sixties started quietly enough. I remember first hearing Mr Russ Conway tinkle the ivories in his inimitable fashion in the first week of January 1960, and thinking to myself that perhaps the forthcoming decade would not be so very ghastly after all. But then so many of us were full of high hopes in those early days. In the February of the same year, a select group of us youngsters - John Gummer, Alfred Sherman, John Julius Norwich, Norman Fowler and myself - were invited by the Duke of Edinburgh to a round-table 'think tank', there to thrash out the likely shifts and trends of the coming decade. Our predictions were indeed varied - Norman was sure that the bowler hat was in for a major revival. Sherman thought that there was a definite move among the young towards Ludo and Charades. I myself predicted that the popularity of television would prove just another fad, and Gummer foresaw a sharp rise in personal cleanliness - but few of them, alas, completely hit the mark. 'D'you agree with me that in the Sixties, the most go-ahead young men and women will all wish to serve time in the Armed Forces?' asked The Duke, and, of course, we all agreed wholeheartedly. But, alas, as the decade rolled on, such dreams were to prove quite unfounded, one thing was to lead inexorably to another, and everything, as is so often the case, was to end in tears.

Perhaps Mr Jagger could 'get no satisfaction', as he so often wailed, but nor could the rest of us, with his interminable din going on in the background (]]]). When we first heard the jungle rhythms of the Rolling Stones, a select group of us set out to counteract their evil influence, forming a conservative skiffle group with Sherman on banjo, Lillian Peter (later to become Peter Lilley) on washboard, myself on kazoo and Janet Daley on lead vocals. 'The answer my friend,' we used to sing to a tune by Mr Bob Dylan, 'is by no stretch of the imagination blowing in the wind/The answer lies in hard work, respect for authority, and the maintenance of family values.' Alas, numbers at our concerts never stretched into double figures, even when we premiered our 30-second version of 'Tambourine Man':

'Hey, Mr Tambourine man/

Do you realise it is a serious offence to perform on the streets without a licence?'

By now the tide was against us. The Vietnam War was proving unpopular, spats were out of fashion, the satire movement was poking fun at any institution worth its salt and free love had become the norm, a deliberate provocation to those of us in society who were accustomed to paying for it.

Incidentally, I trust no reader of mine has allowed his eyes to be sullied by the serialisation by the Daily Mail of Miss (Msss]) Marianne Faithfull's autobiography, titled, somewhat inappropriately (]) Faithfull. Perusing it for purely professional reasons, I was relieved to note that, among her many amours, the name of Sir Norman Fowler was wholly absent, and hats off to him for that, but precious few of his contemporaries seem to have remained similarly untarnished by this promiscuous little minx, with her all-too-female legs clad only in wicked fish-net tights, the smooth curves of her pert buttocks so very evident beneath the very briefest of leather mini-skirts, her bountiful embonpoint protruding without apology from her skin-tight top, her shameless disinclination to wear a brassiere of any shape or description becoming all too clear when one holds her photograph on page 28 up close to the light. Now where was I? Yes, indeed. Was there ever a more despicable decade than the Sixties, particularly for those of us who who were denied our share of its disgraceful pleasures? It simply wasn't fair.

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