Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 April 2014

Sandie didn't want to pay the high price of free love

The 'swinging 1960s'? Sandie Shaw, the first British chanteuse to win Eurovision with Puppet On A String now says the decade was a terrible time to be a young woman. "I found it quite difficult to cope," she has said in an interview. "I get quite angry about it. I still feel quite hurt by it."

She is talking about the sexual licence she witnessed in the TV and music world and the exploitation of girls and young women.

"The guys in bands were all sh***ing everything that moved."

Sandie, now 66 and a grandmother of four, says she would never have dated a musician because "I didn't want to line up with a load of other women."

She knew she didn't want to join the throng of "groupies" hanging around musicians. Instead, she married a fashion designer, Jeff Banks, though they divorced much to her parents' dismay – they were hard-working Essex folks who had "never known anyone who was divorced".

Shaw's view that the 1960s were a terrible time to be a young woman is gaining currency, along with the notion that the 1960s left a legacy of the wrong "values".

In France, revolutionary philosopher Regis Debray (72), has written Le Bel Age disparaging the fruits of 1960s culture.

He claims the adulation of youth culture is an outgrowth of the 1960s: significant that Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita was a cult book of the decade, heralding a new age of "paedolatry".

He indicts the pursuit of everything "instant"; the decline of education as something which should make us mature and responsible, rather than just stuffed with information; the "crisis of values" which Debray believes has arisen from a shallow culture.

Youth is pretty, says Debray, but "jeunisme" – the worship of youth – is destructive. We need stable institutions which carry the deposit of the past. In their different ways, Sandie Shaw and Regis Debray are drawing on their experience of life, and their reflections merit consideration.

The 1960s was a decade of unique liberation: the contraceptive pill, the ubiquity of TV, and a new and more permissive attitude to money and borrowing overturned former precepts.

What was subject to control – sex, money, information – was liberated from constraints.

As Shaw recalls, the sexual liberation of the 1960s was not always fun for women, or, at least, not for all women, and certainly not for young teenagers.

Some women embraced the new freedoms but some women felt much less protected by social norms when it was assumed that "free love" was a free-for-all.

She especially blames the BBC for allowing "all this stuff" to go on. She is not displeased that men like Stuart Hall and Jimmy Savile were branded sex abusers or that others are also in the frame.

Some events are reminiscent of the spirit of the 1960s – the "people power" globalised mass demonstrations, now aided by social networks and enhanced means of communication or the culture wars over sexuality.

Some of the 1960s issues have taken an unexpected turn: homosexual law reform campaigns began in the 1960s, but no one would have predicted that the movement would lead to demands for gay marriage, as it was spurned for "aping" heterosexuality.

Maybe the money problems of today are rooted in 1960s culture.

Before the 1960s, bankers were associated with prudence, careful husbandry, and strict accounting.

After the 1960s, easy attitudes to debt, over-spending and instant dealing in big bucks replaced the older banking ethos, sweeping away previous beliefs that unless money is accompanied by honour, it will be a source of cheating and corruption.

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