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The 1960's: Music and fashion


The Beatles 

Music and fashion defined the 1960s. The decade is the vibrant setting for "Flora's Choice.

Beatlemania swept Britain and the US. The Rolling Stones were more enduring and shocking. Other epic bands included Manfred Mann and the Kinks, while the women musicians were mostly solo singers, including Dusty Springfield, Cilla Black and Sandie Shaw.

Mary Quant’s name became synonymous with the mini-skirt. Teenage model Twiggy challenged stereotypes of beauty for women. And Michael Caine gave voice to male hedonism in his starring role in the film Alfie. 

London was the centre of a youth-driven culture that overturned conventions, revived the national spirit after post-war austerity and ushered in modern Britain.  

John, Paul, George and Ringo (The Beatles) return home to England after their first tour in the U.S. to a barrage of fans and questions from reporters at London Airport.

Sexual liberation took a leap forward when the pill was introduced on the NHS in 1961. But it was only provided to married women until 1967. Abortion was legalised, as was homosexuality, and capital punishment and theatre censorship were scrapped.

Technology transformed lives and cultures. By the end of the decade, 91% of households had televisions, and the number of households with colour sets soared from 275,000 to 12 million. Pirate radio stations challenged the BBC stranglehold on music broadcasting.

England famously won the football world cup in 1966.

For the establishment it was a difficult time as public deference crumbled. The Conservative government was undermined by the Profumo scandal, church membership nosedived, and the Royal Family was undermined by the disintegration of Princess Margaret’s marriage to Anthony Armstrong-Jones. When Harold Wilson became Prime Minister in 1964, he was the youngest person to hold that office for 70 years.

Yet for all its reputation for revolution, many of the freedoms associated with the 1960s only arrived in the next decade. It was during the 1970s that women got the right to open bank accounts or take out loans in their own names. And before the ‘70s it was still legal to discriminate against women, pay them less, and sack them when they became pregnant.

Internationally the 1960s culminated with the first moon landing by US astronauts: an achievement yet to be repeated.


Further information


White Heat by Dominic Sandbrook – An encyclopedic and influential book on ‘60s Britain.

Feminist literature burgeoned in the 1960s, with Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem and Maya Angelou writing in the USA and Germaine Greer emerging on the public stage in the UK. Her book The Female Eunuch was published in 1971.

Cultural milestones:

A Clockwork Orange spanned the decade. The book written by Anthony Burgess was published in 1962. The film by Stanley Kubrick was released in 1972.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover by DH Lawrence was finally published in Britain in 1960 after an infamous obscenity trial.

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