Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Cliff Richard and the real spirit of '68

History isn’t always written by the winners. There’s an exhibition at the National Theatre at the moment that consists of photographs and newspaper front pages from 1968. While the photographs, in the main, tell the familiar story of a world in revolt, the newspaper cuttings serve as a reminder that for all that it has been the politics of the left in ’68 that have dominated the 40th anniversary media coverage (give or take the occasional nod towards Enoch Powell and his ‘river Tiber foaming with much blood’), you could paint a very different picture of what really happened in Paris, London, Rome, Berlin, where the right fought back and the left didn’t win.

One of the front pages on display at the National features the huge demonstration in Paris on 30 May 1968 in support of the French president, Charles de Gaulle. It was quite likely the biggest demonstration of the year, not only in France but anywhere in the world. And of course it was De Gaulle who won a landslide victory in the election he called for the end of June. So there's at least a case to be made that '68 should be remembered not as the annus mirabilis of revolt but as the apogee of reaction.

I was set to thinking about this by the news that Cliff Richard is demanding that he be awarded the 1968 Eurovision Song Contest trophy retrospectively for his song ‘Congratulations’, which came second at the time. This follows a Spanish television documentary, which suggested that only a vote-rigging plot by the dictator Franco prevented Richard from winning.

The idea of Cliff Richard, of all people, being conspired against by a fascist dictator in the midst of all the turmoil of the time is just the sort of surreal snippet that would have appealed to the ‘Marxist, Groucho Tendency’ of ’68. So maybe it’s time to revisit a few other cultural phenomena from the year of ‘les évènements’ and see what else we ought to be marking in the anniversary commemorations. A couple of multiple-choice questions as starters for ten, then, to see how you shape up on your cultural studies.

What was Britain’s best-selling album of ’68?
a) The Sound of Music
b) The Beatles’ White Album
c) Bob Dylan’s John Wesley Harding

Which of these singles sold the most copies in 1968?
a) Those Were The Days by Mary Hopkin
b) I Pretend by Des O’Connor
c) Lady Madonna by the Beatles

The answer, in both cases, is that their sales match the order in which they appear above.


Anonymous said...

My cultural memories of 1968 are Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons and Danger Island on TV. And Delilah and Simon Says on the radio.

Steve Platt said...

Yummy, yummy, yummy, I've got love in my tummy. I'll say no more.

Fred said...

We'd live the life we'd choose
We'd fight and never lose
Those were the days, oh yes, those were the days

La la la la la la etc...

when I think of 1968 I think of all the things I didn't do! (well it was my final year at university!)

1969 was a great year!

Steve Platt said...

Hi Fred. Specially for you: the best selling single of 1969 was Frank Sinatra, My Way, and the best selling album was the Best of the New Seekers. Nobody's Child sold more than any Beatles record. And Sugar Sugar by the Archies set Jonathan King on the road to prison ...

Anonymous said...

1968 man city won the league but man utd won the european cup-as they will do this year as well