In the introduction to All Dressed Up
, Jonathon Green calls the 60s the pivotal decade of the 20th century. This is a bold statement--the First World War, the 20s, 30s and Second World War have had a far greater global impact. But there is no doubt that the 60s do hold a special place in Western culture--not least for those who lived through them. The main claim to the 60s is that they saw the birth of the youth culture that thrives today. Before then society deferred exclusively to age and experience; teenagers were just youngsters going through an awkward phase on their way to becoming adults rather than people in their own right. This was largely due to war--or absence of it. Previous generations of young people had grown up expecting to fight a war. While the Cold War hovered over the late 50s and early 60s, it was generally seen as a potential one- off armageddon rather than a protracted ground affair, so this generation was encouraged to envision a life without war. Moreover, some of the affluence of this period had filtered down to them and for the first time they became a potent economic force. The Second World War produced another, more subtle, effect. Those who fought in it had few doubts they were fighting for a good cause and that victory would improve the world. This idealism remained with the younger generation and was reflected in much of the efforts to create a better, alternative society. With hindsight, most of the "tune in, turn on, dropout" messages of the 60s appear naive and faintly ridiculous, but in some ways this utopianism has more to recommend it than the jaded cynicism that followed.
Jonathon Green worked on several underground magazines, including the infamous Oz, during the 60s and he is both a fine advocate and historian of the period. He takes us faithfully and, at times, lovingly through the political counterculture of sex and drugs and rock'n'roll. Surviving hippies invariably reckon they have the definitive take on the60s and no doubt many will come crawling out of the woodwork to take issue with All Dressed Up. But if you weren't there--or you were just too tuned in and turned on to remember--then stick with Green. --John Crace
The definitive account of the sixties in Britain by a writer who has become an authority on the subject - or, to put it in another way, sex, drugs and rock`n`roll.