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post WW2 pop culture - a question

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Old 01-18-2009, 09:00 PM
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Default post WW2 pop culture - a question

In another thread where I discussed my problem deciding on a topic for a non-fiction book, I made a controversial statement about pop culture in the post-WW2 period. Contrary to what is commonly accepted, I stated that the 1950s were actually the era of exciting advancements; the sixties simply brought them to a mass market audience, while the seventies turned even the most remarkable cultural discovery into just another sad joke.

From my other post:

1950 to 1959 was the great era for the blues (Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter), jazz (bebop, hard bop, west coast ‘cool’) and the glorious beginnings of rock and roll (Chuck Berry, Elvis, Little Richard, Buddy Holly). By the sixties, the blues was over except for white suburban copycats, jazz had gotten seriously lost (‘free jazz’, fusion) and rock had gone from something hip to something used in car commercials.

This timeline follows through in almost every aspect of our culture. What was brilliant and hip in 1955 was mass marketed in the sixties and became a bad joke by the 70s. (Elvis as the ultimate example). But from art to architecture, from cinema to sitcoms, the ‘big ideas’ occurred prior to the arrival of the Beatles; what ‘the sixties’ succeeded at were taking the breakthroughs of the East Village and North Beach and selling them to the suburbs. Using drugs as the next example – in the 50s, dope was used by jazz musicians, in the sixties, college students’ by the 70s, my NINE YEAR OLD neighbor would threaten to ‘tell’ on his 14 year old brother unless he could smoke pot with the older brother and his friends. Progress, or the ‘death of cool’?

Looking back at the earlier post, I began to think that I was on to something. But the more I think it through, this seems more like the topic for a smug, ironic article, not worthy of a book. Any comments?

Old 01-18-2009, 09:36 PM
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I would say, in terms of inventions... 1930-1940's. The Nazis.
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Old 02-15-2009, 08:39 AM
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World War II in general. The American army developed some amazing stuff during that period.

My brother used to say, "I wish the GI's had smoked dope during the War. We'd have cheap, unbreakable, ingenious, folding bongs and hashpipes that would work in the most unfavorable conditions."
Old 12-06-2009, 09:44 AM
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Originally Posted by SW View Post
I would say, in terms of inventions... 1930-1940's. The Nazis.

Antibiotics- specifically, Penicillin- were not developed until the late 30s/ early 40s, and not widely available to the general public until the late 40s, at least.
I'd say this was the greatest invention of the era, if not the century: antibiotics, followed rapidly by various immunizations.
These things changed society and human existence immeasurably.
Children no longer died of common childhood illnesses, as a general rule.
It became no longer necessary to have a dozen children, in hopes that some of them would survive to adulthood.
Women, also, no longer died in childbirth, as antibiotics could be used to treat Puerperal fever (aka "childbed fever"), a systematic infection which, before the 20th century, caused one in four women to die in (or immediately after) childbirth.

By the 1950s, hormonal contraceptives were developed; then we had the means- as well as the motivation- not to have so many children (condoms and other barrier devices were available long before this, but they were not necessarily very effective).

All of this revolutionized society a lot by causing us all to be a lot less fatalistic, and a lot more entitled: we now expect any children we have to survive to adulthood. We all expect, in fact, to live to a ripe old age. We feel we deserve it. When someone dies young, it's a shock and a tragedy.
Before this century, not too many people lived to be old. Dying young was sad, but it was not necessarily unexpected. It was sort of par for the course.
Before antibiotics, Tuberculosis took many young lives, especially in the American South. It took them slowly; these people knew they were dying for a long time before they actually gave up the ghost.
Many more, both young and old, died of pneumonia each winter.
There were many orphans, because, unlike now, it could not be taken for granted that people would live long enough to raise their children.
Society was more morbid then, more accepting of death (and, as a consequence, more religious). Death was a familiar face, not some shocking intruder.

So, I think this is the biggest change we've seen in this century.
We've seen death become taboo.
We don't have to think about it now, until it's actually upon us (probably when we're in our 70s or 80s).
We take lives and health for granted.
We all get to live long enough to die of cancer.
That was not a privilege people had a hundred years ago. They knew that no one was immune to death, and that it could reach out and take them or their loved ones any time.
It colored the way they lived their lives, the way they thought about everything.

Before these recent medical advances, there really wasn't much difference between a developed nation and a third-world nation.
No one was safe, in either one. No one, anywhere, at any time, could take their health for granted. Unlike now.

Last edited by Glass_Pinata; 12-06-2009 at 09:48 AM..
Old 12-07-2009, 07:26 AM
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It's a question of where you're loofing from, I suspect. the '50's saw the birth of rampant consumerism in the US, the people had comparative spending power never before seen which could be charted pretty accurately by the length of your cars and the size of their tail-fins. In the UK at the same time we were financially fucked (rationing, introduced during WW2, didn't end until 1954) as could be observed by the relative sizes of our cars - as good an indicator as anything.

Conversely in the 60's Britain was characterised by new found wealth and hope, while the US was becoming tainted in the wake of McCarthyism, the Cold War and the growing unpopularity of Vietnam and distrust of politicians.
Old 12-08-2009, 06:56 AM
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On February, 9, 1964, Western culture was remade.


what ‘the sixties’ succeeded at were taking the breakthroughs of the East Village

The East Village was our old stomping grounds. Have you ever heard of the "Electric Circus" and the "Fillmore East"?
Old 12-14-2009, 04:10 AM
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Electric Circus is a collaboration between inventor Fred Abels &
puppeteer Mirjam Langemeijer.
Electric Circus creates memorable and unconventional robots and uses these in their street performances.
The robots look truly lifelike and are moved by remote control: a technique borrowed from the film-industry known as "animatronics", now mostly replaced by computer-animation.
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Old 12-14-2009, 10:33 AM
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I stated that the 1950s were actually the era of exciting advancements; the sixties simply brought them to a mass market audience,*
You're going to have a REAL hard time selling that proposition. *For extremely good reasons.

Conversely in the 60's Britain was characterised by new found wealth and hope, while the US was becoming tainted in the wake of McCarthyism, the Cold War
Actually, the sixties was an unprecedented boom time. *The spending on The Great Society and the Vietnam war lavished money around. *The recession and recoil came later. *1968 was the height of the Vietnam war. *Johnson declined re-election in that year. *The war wasn't over until 1975. *
And I would say that "The Sixties" youthquake was fuled as much or more by the military draft than the more common attributions. *When they stopped the draft, students went back to their books. * There was almost no protest against the much more destructive Iraq war--whcih had no draft.

(Actually, I personally consider that "The Sixties" ran from about 1965 to 1975, not the actual calendar numbers, and it's pretty hard to argue against that if you start checking dates and events. *"American Graffiti" was basically a Fifties life, though set in 1962. *

McCarthyism and Cold War had little impact financially. *Or really, I would say, on the popular mood. *The McCarthy thing was like a TV show in the fifties to most people. *Intellectuals ranted about it forever, but most people--if they cared at all--would have seen it as proof that the system worked. *Pretty much my view. * (Bush was my signal that the system had stopped working)

And famously, the youth movement of the sixties rejected material wealth. *Again, there was a reaction later.

My feeling is, you should give up on this because you don't really have much of a grasp of the situtation.

By the way, your "ultimate example" of Elvis doesn't fit your shaky hypothesis very well. *You might want to get a handle on his image at the time of his death.
Kind of like John Lennon, actually: * young international idol gets into drugs, drivels off into irrelevance, then suddenly makes a comeback as a lean, black-clad rocker...only to die in the early forties.

There's your article for you.
Old 12-23-2009, 12:16 PM
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i don't understand how the question started out about pop-culture and turned into a discussion of technological proliferation.

pop-culture 1900-pre-1960's: spontaneous and real expression coming from genuine popular cultural roots.

pop-culture 1960's+: fake, manipulating, conditioning, mind-f-----g propaganda Weapon of Mass-consciousness Destruction completely in the hands and under the direction of the Hidden Hand.

true, spontaneous and genuine popular-culture was killed for good when rock 'n roll finally came along and scared the f--k out of Mr. Big. So Mr. Big had Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper and Richie Valenz killed to signal that Mr. Big is now in control ... and has been ever since.
Old 12-23-2009, 08:45 PM
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I think they mean pop culture on THIS planet.
Old 12-23-2009, 08:50 PM
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Cause see, a lot of people just might think that Cream and the Dead and Fever Tree and Sgt. Peppers and the Stones and the Doors were just a little bit more creative and spontaneous than Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper and those other AM hit parade types. *

I've been trying to figure out how people got on this totally wrong-headed, messed-up kick and finally figured out it's people rejecting their parents, or influenced by reading people trying to reject parents who came out of the sixties. *

Or possibly mass hypnosis and swamp gas.
Old 12-24-2009, 05:50 AM
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Yes, leave it to the government to ice over the wings of a plane carrying rock and rollers. They secretly control the weather, as we all know. Holy cow.

Once we figured out the hidden messages in records, when played backwards, the jig was up. The evil genius of the record companies was exsposed and a full on frontal assault to regain the minds of the American people was implemented by the seemingly benign programming of the Lawrence Welk Show and Andy Griffith. That's the brilliance of controlling the airwaves.

Of course they had to kill off Hendrix, Morrison, and Joplin. Cass was never really in the mix. She was just the unfortunate by product of more sandwich than brains. This is why your mother as always said to chew your food.

Things were righted when the hair bands of the eighties became vogue. Another subversive attempt was made by the grunge movement, but Kobain was singled out and summarily dispatched, putting a slow death to that movement. Courtney was never a threat. Too self medicated to be believeable.

This now leaves us with hip hop, rap, Molly Cyrus, Taylor Swift and the Vegas comeback of Garth Brooks. Beyonce and the girls, and a smattering of boy bands desperately trying to revive pop music are hanging on by a thread.

So here we are in the vast wasteland of todays music scene. A halftime titty shot during the superbowl was as close to mass hypnosis as I have seen in a long time. It works, but the question is, do you think they offed Michael as a warning to Janet, and anyone else, with too much revealing flesh that clandestine operations could be carried out against family members?

If that's the case, I'd be worried as hell if I were Lady Ga Ga.

"There's something happening here.
What it is ain't exactly clear.
There's a man with a gun over there,
tellin' me I got to beware.

It's time to stop,
hey, what's that sound?
Everybody look,
what's goin' down?"
Do what you love. All the rest is just shit.

Last edited by Gaines; 12-24-2009 at 09:58 AM..
Old 12-24-2009, 07:54 AM
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If Cass had shared that sandwich with Karen Carpenter, they might both be alive.
Old 12-26-2009, 01:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Lin View Post
And famously, the youth movement of the sixties rejected material wealth.
I never figured out why all the 60's stoners hippies and deadheads ended up being lawyers and accountants.
Old 12-26-2009, 07:28 AM
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Not all, by any means. *Mexico is full of sixties fugitives who got to stoned to find their way back. *The post-sixties infrastructure was built with longhair carpenters.

The one that pisses me off is everybody was saying, "Just wait til we all turn 21 and vote out all these drug laws."

But by then they all had kids, so they kept the drug laws.

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