The Counterculture

February 2017                


Dear Lucy and Isobel,

“Fashions changed, changed again, changed faster and still faster: fashions in politics, in political style, in causes, in music, in popular culture, in myths, in education, in beauty, in heroes and idols, in attitudes and responses, in work, in love and friendship, in food, in newspapers, in entertainment, in fashion. What had once lasted a generation now lasted a year, a month, a week, a day. There was a restlessness in the time that communicated itself everywhere and to everyone…” [Bernard Levin The Pendulum Years, 1970]

Yesterday Mary and I went to an exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. It was called, So you say you want a revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970. It was, in the jargon of that time, mind-blowing. So much happened in that short period, from the dazzling virtuosity of the Beatles to the triumph of the first moon landings, from the synthesis of LSD to the thrill of the Jimi Hendrix, from student sit-ins to Parisian battles, and many more. Four years that transformed society, the counterculture as it is called. I lived through it and like many young people I was for a time carried away by it. I attended the now famous 1968 Grosvenor Square demonstration against the escalating American war in Vietnam. To be truthful I went not so much for political reasons but because it was the thing to do. I certainly thought the Vietnam War was wrong but my thinking was shallow and uninformed. I was driven mainly by rhetoric and emotion as many of us demonstrators were. We can be forgiven. We were young and idealistic. The more we marched and sang, the more we were convinced that we knew all the answers when in fact we scarcely knew the questions. But none of that mattered at the time. I did come away from Grosvenor Square with some doubts. I recoiled from the vitriolic anger of some demonstrators as they harangued the impassive marines guarding the American embassy who were young men of about our age. Stones were thrown at the mounted police who then charged into the heart of the demonstration, scattering us like a predator might a shoal of fish. I worried about the welfare of the horses for they had no choice about being there. I quickly retreated to the edge of the square. Deep down I felt that I could not behave violently.[1]I never went on another demonstration until decades later after your mother and aunt Kate had grown up. The counterculture for me was more about the ‘culture’ than the ‘counter.’

The Beatles effect

John Lennon wrote the Beatles’ song Revolution from which the V & A exhibition took its title. In that song he criticized those who advocate revolution through violence, those who have “minds which hate” as he put it. Lennon espoused world peace no less, but it was to be achieved through peaceful action and freeing one’s mind with the help of hallucinogenic drugs. On the 25 June 1967 the Beatles sang All You Need Is Loveon television. It was the first live global TV link watched by over 400 million people including me.[2]Here was a peaceful philosophy though philosophy, I realize, is too grand a term. It was more a desire for a better world and it struck a chord with my generation. I had grown up under the long shadow of two world wars and their aftermath.  My family was rich and so, unlike most, we escaped the worst effects of rationing and austerity in the 1950s. But we were of Germanic stock and Germany was the enemy. In fact I never thought of myself as German. Because my father had been born in London he could rightly call himself British.[3]We excised everything that was German from our minds and embraced England. It is only now I realize how much we lost in doing that.

The Amsterdam Bed-In

The most striking illustration of Lennon’s beliefs in world peace was the Amsterdam Bed-In in 1969. He and the artist Yoko Ono celebrated their marriage by staying in bed for a week in the Amsterdam Hilton Hotel, inviting the world’s press into their room. There were photos of that famous bed-in at the V & A exhibition. You could see it was a carefully staged event. The photos show them sitting up in their all-white bed in their snazzy white pyjamas, Lennon long-haired and bearded, with the signs ‘Hair Peace’ and ‘Bed Peace’ above their heads. They look like two latter-day gurus, which is what they thought they were. Later Lennon maintained that it was all a bit of a joke. “It’s part of our policy not to be taken seriously. Our opposition, whoever they may be, in all manifest forms, don’t know how to handle humour. And we are humorous.” This was probably a post hoc rationalization but it is interesting that Lennon advocated the use of humour to debunk politicians and others who take themselves too seriously. For that has become the main weapon deployed against the narcissistic boy-man who currently occupies the White House.

The Beatles are rightly lauded for their extraordinary musical talent. Yet just as important was their joie de vivre and their refusal to take the establishment seriously. Lennon was the band’s leader in all but name; he was the one who most pushed the boundaries. “We’re more popular than Jesus now,” he said in an interview in 1966. The remark caused huge controversy and he eventually and rather reluctantly apologized for it. It sounds smug and narcissistic but Lennon was thinking out loud. “I don’t know which will go first – rock ‘n’ roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me.” Philip Pullman would have applauded the sentiment although he would have put it better. Lennon’s cheeky chappy side could be endearing. “People in the cheapest seats just clap your hands. The rest of you just rattle your jewellery” was how he introduced Twist and Shout, the final number in their Royal Variety Performance concert in front of the Queen Mother in 1963. Watch the clip on You Tube and you will see the smiling, fresh-faced Liverpudlian lad who, like a music hall comedian, gently tweaks the toe of the establishment. But Lennon was a complex man full of contradictions: an anarchic anti-capitalist, he was chauffeured around in his beloved Rolls Royce that he had painted yellow with psychedelic decorations. In 1969 he was driven in it to Buckingham Palace so that he could return his MBE.[4]According to the journalist, Julie Burchill, “at the height of their swinishness, the Ono-Lennons kept a whole apartment in the Dakota building, just below the one they lived in, for the exclusive occupation of their fur coats – just to keep them at the right temperature.” Ms Burchill is not the most reliable of commentators and she hated Lennon with a vengeance. But it doesn’t ring false. Lennon was not a committed anarchist, probably not even a socialist; he was his own man. Until his shocking murder in December 1980, his musical career, once the Beatles had split up, was a tortuous one with as many lows as highs. Like many celebrities who succumb to an early death, he became deified simply for that reason. Age does not wither him nor custom stale his infinite variety, to adapt Enobarbus’ line from Antony and Cleopatra. The song that people most remember Lennon for is Imagineand it remains a totemic song with its invitation for the listener to imagine a state of peace in the world without possessions and without warring religions. We are just as far away from that today as we were in Lennon’s time. The simplicity of the song – its unadorned naivety – is what makes it work. Some have claimed it is the international anthem that Lennon bequeathed to the world. Others think it the most dreadful cant. I leave you to decide on that!

My personal experiences of the counterculture

The thoughts that led to this letter came into my mind after Mary and I visited the V & A’s exhibition. I had lived through those four years, 1966 – 1970, as a student at Oxford and then, after I graduated in 1967, spending a meandering year in London and Heidelberg as I sought to work out what I wanted to do next. I trained and worked for a while as an English Language teacher in London. But I soon realized that English language teaching was not for me. Instead I returned to psychology. In 1969 I was accepted on the training course in clinical psychology at the Institute of Psychiatry in southeast London. That set me on the path that I followed for the just short of the next 40 years.[5]In 1968, when I was fancy free, I went to Heidelberg to join my brother Leon who was studying at the University there. I went there ostensibly to learn German but, surrounded by so many good English speakers, including most of the German students, I learned little. Instead I had fun. I swept Gabrielle, my first wife, off her feet, brutally shoving aside her then boyfriend, Roger, another English student and up to then a friend. I acted in plays. I took up smoking, graduating from marijuana to tobacco. I almost killed myself when I drove my MGB sports car on the wrong side of the road forcing an oncoming VW to swerve angrily out of my way. I was giving a lift to an attractive German girl called Barbara and I was distracted. Strangely, I already knew that her former fiancé had been killed as a result of making the exact same error. It was a lucky escape for both of us. In Heidelberg I was living out a delayed adolescence, making bad decisions and caring not for anyone but myself. Growing up was, maybe I should say is, a painful process.

I was at Heidelberg when I heard of Robert Kennedy’s assassination. An American friend told me, ashen-faced and totally distraught at the news. The murder was almost certainly orchestrated by the dark forces of the right in America, determined to crush a popular politician who seemed destined to become the next President. His death paved the way for the election of Richard Nixon, and that in turn to the escalation of the Vietnam war, America’s eventual defeat, and to the criminality of the Watergate scandal that brought Nixon down. This is what the exhibition provoked in me, a cascade of memories and thoughts, taking me back in time 50 years. It was the totemic music that played the loudest in my head, literally for we wore headphones at the exhibition through which were channeled songs and speeches of the time. Amanda, in Noel Coward’s scintillating play Private Lives, hearing the music wafting up to her hotel balcony where she and her ex-husband Elyot are sparring, says, “Extraordinary how potent cheap music is.” These were the pop songs I grew up with. They were the singles that formed the top 20 and each week I and millions of others waited for the countdown by the DJ Alan Freeman on the radio. The No 1 spot was eagerly sought after for singles were the main money-spinners then. But as songs got longer and moved beyond a simple 2-3 minute catchy tune, LPs came into their own. At the V & A exhibition the LP covers of the time were arrayed in all their glory with their striking psychedelic designs created by the avant-garde artists and the photographers of the time. I recognised many of them. Some I still had. Others are long gone, borrowed or sold when vinyl gave way in the digital era. Then there were the first light shows and extravagant stage acts that have become de rigeurfor any music star these days. And there were the outrageous psychedelic outfits and of course the sex, the drugs and, above all, the music. If there is one word that epitomized this period of the late 1960s, it is psychedelic.

The meaning of psychedelic

The word psychedelicis derived from the Ancient Greek words psychē(ψυχή, “soul”) and dēloun(δηλοῦν, “to make visible, to reveal”). Drugs like LSD, mescaline and magic mushrooms [peyote] gave rise to vivid perceptual distortions. In the 60s this state of altered consciousness was seen as providing insight into an alternative and better world. The term has come to define the late 1960s subculture on both sides of the Atlantic. Psychedelic art used highly distorted and surreal visuals, bright colours and animation. Psychedelic music used distorted guitar work and electronic effects such as reverberation and incorporated elements of Indian sitar music. Both ostensibly resulted from experiences when using drugs. The apogee of psychedelia can be found in two milestone events, the 1967 Summer of Love, in which about 100,000 young people dressed in hippie style converged on the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, and the 1969 Woodstock Festival. The 4-day festival culminated in Jimi Hendrix’s extraordinary rendition of America’s National Anthem, the Star Spangled Banner, which was captured in the award winning 1970 documentary, Woodstock. Hendrix’s image performing this number wearing a blue-beaded white leather jacket with fringe and a red head scarf has since been regarded as a defining moment of the 1960s.

The establishment reacted against all this outrageous behaviour, thinking, wrongly, that it threatened the bastions of power. One event stands out. On 12 February 1967 – my 21stbirthday! – the police busted Keith Richards’ Surrey mansion and arrested him, Mick Jagger and Robert Fraser, a gallery owner, for drugs offences. All were later convicted. Jagger was sentenced to three months in jail for possessing amphetamines and Richards to one year in jail for allowing cannabis to be smoked in his home. There was outrage at the harshness of the sentences. The new editor of the Times, William Rees-Mogg, wrote a leader in defence of Jagger and Richards under the headline,Who breaks a butterfly on a wheel?The sentences were quashed on appeal. The Stones went from strength to strength as a result, their reputation as successful bad boys cemented by the action and its outcome.

Earlier in the decade another sensational trial had paved the way for the counterculture. In 1960 Penguin Books were prosecuted for the publication of D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, which had been banned because of its erotic content. The trial showed how out of touch the establishment was. The chief prosecutor, Mervyn Griffith Jones, addressed the jury with the rhetorical question, Is it a book you would even wish your wife or your servants to read? He was blissfully unaware of why this might be a strange question.[6]Under the 1959 Obscenity Act a book could contain explicit sexual material provided it had literary merit. The defence lined up one major literary figure after another to testify to its merit while the prosecution had difficulty finding anyone to testify to the converse. The judge hated everything about the book. But fortunately there was a jury and they dismissed the prosecution’s case. In an article by Steve Hare in the Daily Telegraph on November 1st2010, celebrating the 50thanniversary of the case, he concluded:

“Penguin had demonstrated that it could count on the support of authors and academics, but more importantly it commanded the respect and trust of its readers, its book buyers. And during that particular week in October 1960, the nation was represented by the jury.”[7]

So customs change reflecting the changing times. What was the counterculture in the 1960s has become the culture of the second decade of 21stcentury. It was ever thus.

What makes a counterculture?

“It has been repeated again and again, in art, music, politics, literature, fashion: as identity asserts itself and evolves in the hands of youth, change is born.” [8]

There is always a degree of conflict between generations as there is between child and parent as the child grows into an adult. That is not enough on its own to make a counterculture. We also know that children tend to take on the values of their parents however much they may have railed against them. There has to be something else too. There has to be a spur to change and, as we are talking about culture, it must extend beyond the individual. The counterculture of the late 1960s emerged with the baby boomer generation, that term being used to describe the surge in the population after the Second World War. It was at heart a culture of the young and in the UK that culture arose out of the changes produced in the aftermath of the World War 2.

The seeds of the counterculture

From the late 1930s until the early 1960s life was difficult in the UK as a result of economic depression in the 1930s, a terrible war from 1939-1945 and a long recovery from the disruption and devastation the war caused. A war shakes everything up and when the war was over and the dust subsided, it was to a different Britain. The Allies won the war but it came at a cost. The UK’s economy was exhausted: more than a quarter of the national wealth had been spent. There was a need to rebuild the country. Yet in 1945 America withdrew the Lend Lease programme that provided much needed finance to the Allies for the war effort. Although another loan was negotiated this was primarily to support overseas expenditure. At home resources were severely limited. Rationing continued and included bread for the first time. It lasted nine long years, ending in 1954. The war had also exposed men and women to cultures other than their own and to new roles that they had to take on for the sake of the war. Hard as these roles were they were also liberating. Women took on jobs previously done by men and found they could do them. Men and women risked their lives, men in combat and women in vital auxiliary roles of nurse and warden as the German air force blitzed England in the early 1940s. In post-war Britain most women returned to the traditional role of wife and housekeeper or to doing secretarial jobs, ones where it seemed their main raison d’etrewas to look after men. Men went to work in the factories, the mills and the mines again. Yet society may have looked as though it was the same as before the war but in reality it was very different. Once you experience an alternative way of life, it becomes part of you: it shapes your identity. Nowhere is this clearer than in the July 1945 general election.

The July 1945 election and its aftermath

Churchill had been the rock of the war effort. He was loved and revered. He had been the nation’s wartime leader, its saviour. But once the wartime coalition ended, he was the leader of a Conservative Party that many voters saw as the party of appeasement and unemployment. The status quo ante bellumwas not what people wanted; they wanted change.

“The 1945 election marked a watershed in British history. The successful Conservative wartime leader, Sir Winston Churchill, was defeated by Clement Attlee’s Labour Party. Attlee’s landslide victory ushered in the welfare state and the National Health Service. The commanding heights of the British economy were nationalised. India was granted independence. Attlee’s government changed the face of British society, creating a new social consensus that was to remain largely unchanged until 1979.”[9]

The scale of Labour’s victory was astonishing. With 48 per cent of the vote, Labour gained a Parliamentary majority of 146 seats, the largest in post-war British history. The Conservative Party was reduced to 197 seats and the Liberals to a mere 12. The Conservative Party, Churchill in particular, was astounded at their defeat. But people understood that a great wartime leader does not necessarily make a great or even a good peacetime leader. During the election many voters came to hear Churchill speak and warmly applauded him. To say he had a way with words is a fatuous understatement. But verbal cleverness is not always endearing. In his first election radio broadcast he compared the Labour Party to the Gestapo, saying that the party would need “Gestapo like tactics” to implement its policies. It was a disastrous comment.[10]

The Labour Party was in power for just six years during which time it laid down the foundations of the Welfare State. But in the 1950 election its majority was slashed to 5 and, when in 1951 Attlee called another election, it led to the return of the Conservative Party, which stayed in power for the next 13 years. I was five years old in 1951 and have no memory of the election or the result. My parents almost certainly voted Labour. But it meant that I, like so many other baby boomers, grew up in a traditional, conservative society while at the same time benefiting from the social and political changes that the Labour Party had brought about.

It will be difficult for you to grasp how different British society was in the 1950s from the society you are being brought up in. This was a time before the internet, before computers, before the mobile phone, before cars became ubiquitous on our roads, a time when most people took just two weeks holiday a year at a British seaside town like Morecambe or Southend. This was a time of a rigid class structure and a time when women were treated as secondary to men. In all social classes the expectation for a woman was to find a husband and have children. Girls were much less likely to go to university; at best they might go to secretarial college.[11]Of course there were exceptions; the grammar school system enabled your grandmother Mary and your great aunt Evelyn to go to university.This was also a time when a married woman was not allowed to have a mortgage or to sign a hire purchase agreement in her own name, and virtually no woman had her own bank account. Men were the breadwinners and ‘the head of the household.’ When Leon and I made our daily journey to the City of London School we joined the throng of commuters crossing Blackfriars Bridge, almost all of them men in dark suits and bowler hats carrying briefcases and furled black umbrellas. Traditional family-owned shops – butchers, greengrocers, grocers, hardware shops – could be found in the centre of all towns and cities. These shops were open from 9 to 5 on weekdays and Saturday mornings with half-day closing on Wednesday or Thursday.[12]Sunday was a long, empty, dreary day. England in the 1950s and early 1960s was to a large extent an unexciting place for a young person to grow up in. But there were glimpses of other possibilities. The Teddy boys with their drainpipe trousers and leather jackets. The first café bars with jukeboxes. Traditional jazz bands, whose music belied that description, and from the States, there came the extraordinary sound of modern jazz led by Miles Davis and John Coltrane.[13]The 1960s saw the youth culture beginning to express itself. In Brighton and other seaside towns, gangs of long-haired, leather-clad rockers on their Harley Davison motorbikes clashed with gangs of sharp-suited, short-haired mods driving Vespas. Continental films appeared portraying a different sensibility and way of life. Existentialist philosophy was born out of the discussions between Sartre and De Beauvoir in the Cafe Les Deux Magots on the Left Bank in Paris. Television gave an outlet to a rich creative talent. Radical plays challenged orthodoxy: Ken Loach’s searing drama Cathy Come Homestunned the watching public and was the catalyst for social change. Above all, there was a new cohort of bright and confident young people who saw no reason to accept the orthodoxies of their parents and grandparents. I recall having ferocious political arguments with my father that sometimes led to him storming out of the room or even, on a memorable occasion, the house. I had the unshakeable conviction of someone who has little knowledge of the real world and when my father argued that he had the benefit of experience, I dismissed that out of hand. I wouldn’t do that now!

In 1964 I went to Oxford University at a time when less than 5% of young people went to university. I recall smugly praising myself for my superiority to the masses, ignoring the fact that I went to a public school and won a closed scholarship because I happen to have been born in Cumbria. Such is the narcissism of youth. Your grandmother, Mary, also went to university. In her case, and for many other bright, talented sons and daughters of working class parents, she succeeded because she passed the 11+ exam and went to a grammar school. The grammar school system was started after the war and was designed to encourage social mobility: an objective examination replaced the middle class bias of teacher assessment in determining who had the intelligence to benefit from further education. This is not quite the rosy picture that some like to paint for more than 80% of youngsters did not pass the 11+ often because their teachers didn’t think they were capable of doing so and didn’t put them forward for it. In that way teacher assessment still played a significant part. I recall being one of three pupils in my class in my primary school being singled out by the teacher to take the 11+ early. One of the boys in the class asked me why I had been chosen and not him. I had no acceptable answer. Although it didn’t happen in my case, middle class parents could train their sons and daughters for the 11+ and that led to a further middle class bias. Those who didn’t take it or took it and didn’t pass it were sent to secondary moderns or, less commonly, technology schools where the expectations and the teaching were very different. That was the downside of the 11+ exam: it labelled so many children as failures. In the 1970s, grammar schools were replaced by the comprehensive system we have today although a few counties opted to keep them. Divisive as the grammar school system was, it was also a pathway to a university education for families who had never had anyone go to university before. This was true of both Mary’s family and mine. It meant there were bright young people being educated to a high level who had different backgrounds and values from the establishment. These students played a significant part in the counterculture.

The Whig interpretation of history

When I told my friend Bahram that I was writing about the counterculture of the late 1960s, he queried the word. Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to call it the culture for that how it seemed to him to be? His question points to something important. When we look back on a time in our lives, we cannot avoid interpreting the past from our own perspective. A book I read at school, The Whig Interpretation of Historyby Herbert Butterfield, made me realise how historians, commentators and essayists see past events through the filter of their beliefs and values. The book was published in 1931 and Butterfield was challenging the grand 19thcentury historians like Macaulay and Trevelyan who saw history as progress towards a liberal Parliamentarian democracy. He decried “the tendency in many historians to write on the side of Protestants and Whigs, to praise revolutions provided they have been successful, to emphasise certain principles of progress in the past and to produce a story which is the ratification if not the glorification of the present.” To a psychologist this makes sense. No person can escape from his or her own way of seeing the world: allour relationships with others are inevitably coloured by our history and beliefs. Why should it be any different for a professional historian? Butterfield thought that history was better served by careful, detailed analysis of past events in a way that lent it open to possible refutation. Today we might say that historical claims need to be evidence-based. This is especially pertinent now when we are living through a ‘post-truth rhetoric’ that is singularly unconstrained by facts or evidence. It is imperative to counter that tendency.  Only by determining the truth can we unmask lies and distortion. But it is no contradiction to say that truths are always part of a larger narrative such as the one Butterfield attacked and indeed the one he proposed. Narratives determine which facts are deemed important and how the varied mosaic tiles of history are arranged into a larger picture.

For the curators of the V & A exhibition the years 1966 to 1970 were the years of a counterculture, a time of opposition to established authority as seen in the student sit-ins, the marches and demos against the Vietnam War, the spread of new popular music, the idea of that through taking psychedelic drugs a more peaceful world was possible, the beginnings of Gay Liberation, the start of the second wave of feminism, and the battles in America for civil rights of the black population. There is plenty of evidence for this take on the late 1960s. But it is also largely an Anglo-American perspective. There were other events in other countries happening around the world at this time. Further, if you begin with the idea of a narrative of a counterculture you will find the evidence that supports it. Again I first understood this at school. I was studying for the History A level and the syllabus included the English Civil War that took place in the first half of the 17thcentury. The dominant historical analysis focused on the rise of Parliament at the expense of the monarchy. Charles l lost his head after all. Although the monarchy was restored, its power was significantly curtailed and Parliament’s increased. Parallel to this was another strand: the decline of Catholicism in England and the rise of Protestantism. It was James ll’s Catholic leanings that led to his being forced off the throne to be replaced by the Protestant William of Orange. These two strands are part of the Whig interpretation of history that Butterfield was exercised by. There is nothing wrong with these narratives per se. Yet when I read Christopher Hill’s book on the English Civil War, I found a different story, one that described the getting together of ordinary working men and women seeking a more equal and fairer way of life. These were various small groups that emerged at the time of the Civil War such as the Diggers and Levellers. Although they were short-lived and ultimately gained no power, it was the beginning of a socio-political movement that was to lead to Marx and Engels and to communism two centuries later. It was no surprise to learn that Christopher Hill was a communist.


We are drawn like lovers to the unreachable past, to imagined memories, to nostalgia.”[14]

I look back to the 1960s, re-imagining it as a time of pleasure, political awakening and the heady promise of an unknown and exciting future. My selective memory of the past is coloured by nostalgia especially as I am now reaching the end of my life. The times we are living through now are trying times, with the rise of xenophobia and petty nationalism, the spewing of unchecked hatred in the media, the rise of far right parties, and two worrying and almost incredible events – the UK referendum vote to leave the EU, and the election of President Trump in America. Is this another counterculture? If so, it is of a very different form. As the future looks more uncertain, the past may look more rosy. By the time you read this if you do, these few years at the end of the 2010 decade will be part of the past. How will they have turned out I cannot know. One thing is clear though is that there are always events that take everyone by surprise. There is no steady progress to a glorious or a terrible future. What we learn from looking back is that history is a notoriously deceptive teacher.


[1]Or, as I look back now, perhaps I was afraid I mightbehave violently and what would that mean about me as a person?

[2]It tells you much about the unreliability of memory for I would have sworn that the song was first played on New Year’s Eve not June 1967 and that I watched it at home with my brother and my parents.

[3]Your great grandfather joked that he was a cockney because he had been born within the sound of the Bow Bells. I never thought of him as anything but British. Unlike my mother he spoke accent-less English and had little truck with nationalities of any sort except Israel. He was an atheist but his mother was a Jew, the daughter of a rabbi, and so technically he was Jewish. If he had stayed in Germany, he would have been rounded up and sent to his death in the camps. Like many Jews he saw Israel as a buttress against anti-Semitism and all the horrors that had been unleashed against Jews for centuries.

[4]A copy of his letter to the Queen came to light in October 2016. It had been found in the sleeve of a 45 record bought in a car boot sale 20 years before. It reads: “Your Majesty/I am returning this MBE in protest against Britain’s involvement in the Nigeria-Biafra thing, against our support of America in Vietnam and against Cold Turkey slipping down the charts./With love, John Lennon of Bag.” The flippancy was typical of both Lennon and the times.

[5]See my memoir, The Gossamer Thread. My Life as a Psychotherapist.

[6]The full statement is as follows: ‘Would you approve of your young sons, young daughters – because girls can read as well as boys – reading this book? Is it a book that you would have lying around in your own house? Is it a book that you would even wish your wife or your servants to read?’



[8]Howard Kramer’s essay, The Fillmore, the Grande and the Sunset Strip. The Evolution of a Musical Revolution, in the book of the V & A’s exhibition.

[9]From BBC Politics website,

[10]Churchill’s wit led him to cruel remarks about Attlee. “He is a modest man who has much to be modest about” and “A sheep in sheep’s clothing.” The most celebrated one, “An empty taxi drove up to 10 Downing Street and out of it stepped Clement Attlee,” is probably apocryphal.

[11]My friend Paddy Coulter met his future wife, Angela, at Oxford. She was attending the Oxford and County Secretarial College, the ‘Ox and Cow’ as it was rather familiarly known. She was the daughter of upper middle-class parents. They did not send her or her sister to university. If they had been boys, that would have been a different matter. When her children were very young Angela embarked on what was to become an illustrious academic career, studying at the North London Poly, getting a 1stclass degree and going on become a health policy analyst and health services researcher specialising in patient and public involvement in healthcare. She became a university Professor with an international reputation and has published innumerable articles and books.

[12]Supermarkets were in their infancy; the cooperative society set up the first UK self-service outlet in 1947, too small to be deigned a ‘supermarket.’ Food rationing meant consumption was limited and it was only after 1954 when rationing ended, that Sainsbury’s and Tesco’s expanded their self-service outlets and supermarkets began to appear. Even so they were not the large, brightly lit spaces with wide aisles that we now have. Nor were they open all hours.In 1966 when my friend James Pitt and I went to America we were astounded to find huge stores with masses of products that were open 24 hours a day.

[13]In 1963 a friend played the title track of the Miles Davis/John Coltrane album, Some Day My Prince Will Come. I was transfixed by the opening bars, the ticking cymbals, the throbbing bass, the strong piano chords leading up the entry of Miles’s muted trumpet squeezing the well-known, hackneyed tune into something eerie and exotic. I had never heard anything like it. I was immediately captivated.

[14]From Moshin Hamid’s article in the Guardian on Saturday 25thFebruary, Back to the Future.