Even for those too young to have actually lived through the decade, the 1960s seem ever-present. These years of economic affluence, loosening morals, flower power, the summer of love, Beatlemania and the bad-boy antics of the Rolling Stones still continue to inform our present.
Of course, this retrospective sense of the momentous decade tends to centre on 'swinging London' and 'Hippy California', with Northern Ireland seeming remote from the broader story.
However, Belfast was not just on the margins. It was a player in the bigger counter-cultural revolution, both contributing to and absorbing the seismic changes happening across the globe as the post-war generation came of age.
Decades later, many younger people now feel they know the Sixties, while those who lived through them remember the time as the halcyon days of their youth. Local people of a certain age still vividly recall dancing in glamorous city centre establishments such as Sammy Houston's, The Plaza Ballroom and Betty Staff's. These long-lost venues are where lifelong friendships and marriages were formed through a shared love of music and youthful exuberance.
This version of Belfast's past is best described as the 'soft Sixties'. It is remembered fondly as the 'dancehall days', a romantic time before the optimism was unexpectedly swept away in the tsunami of violence. Its abrupt and unwelcome end marked the death of the dream for many young people at the time.
In the collective local imagination, the story of politics and music in Belfast in the 1950s and 1960s follows a familiar timeline. Not much happened until the Maritime Hotel launched Them (and their more famous singer, Van Morrison) onto the international stage. Everything was fun for a while. Then the Troubles suddenly started, the party ended, the city shut down and potential was thwarted.
However, there is a more complex and interesting narrative behind the simple headlines and soft-focus memories. There is a darker story of societal upheaval which, on the surface at least, seems remote and disconnected from the more comforting version. Perhaps the 'hard Sixties' is not so easily repackaged in the name of nostalgia.
For example, from 1962, there was growing agitation for the extension of fundamental civil rights to all in both the United States and Northern Ireland. After 13 years of Tory rule, a Labour government came to power in the 1964 general election, heralding the very real prospect that the Irish border question could be back on the agenda at Westminster. Traditional industries, such as shipbuilding, were in terminal decline, ripping up the old certainties around employment prospects.
In the name of modernisation, there were brutal changes to Belfast's built environment. Slum clearances decimated long-established communities, scattering traditional working-class neighbourhoods into unfamiliar and poorly built tower blocks and new housing estates.
Increasing social and political tensions saw the charismatic Rev Ian Paisley coming to prominence, his message in stark contrast to the peace and love more customarily associated with the decade's ideals.
Three sectarian murders took place on the streets of Belfast during the summer of 1966 as Northern Ireland's unionist Prime Minister, Terence O'Neill, struggled to balance competing, even oppositional, political desires.
Yet, in local remembrance, pop is central to the 'swinging Belfast' of the decade. It is a time associated primarily with the novelty of the international successes of Van Morrison and Rory Gallagher. Indeed, in popular memory, both at home and beyond, Them at the Maritime is the foundation stone of the pop music story of the decade.
The group's launch is often, if erroneously, marked as the moment the reign of showbands ended and when Belfast, Northern Ireland and the whole island entered the great rock narrative of the era, when Belfast achieved 'cool' credibility and moved from being a pop music 'nowhere' to a 'somewhere'.
And this is the point where we begin our exploration of what actually happened. We asked ourselves when we started the book if there was more to the story than this? We were interested in how the two artificially separated versions of the decade, the "soft" and the "hard", actually interconnected? The simple answer is that music is the connecting glue. A great deal can be learnt about a society through its (popular) music.
Initially, we started the book with a more modest idea. We wanted to provide a rounded, sociological survey of the local music scene and its key players. And while some of that is in its pages, that idea was quickly displaced after we discovered just how central Belfast had been to both popular music and its relationship to national and international politics in this most mythologised of decades.
For instance, in July 1964, well in advance of Them having a hit and appearing on British television, the Rolling Stones played for the first time in Belfast.
Their explosive performance lasted just 11 minutes before the stage was invaded by hysterical fans, resulting in international headlines reporting a different kind of riot than those that Belfast would soon be associated with.
The Stones would go on to play in the city twice more in the next 18 months, but, rather curiously, never returned. On their third and final visit, they brought cameras to make their debut film, Charlie Is My Darling, a documentary that effectively disappeared for half-a-century.
It's evident that the Stones and their controversial director, Peter Whitehead, deliberately decided to set their first feature in Belfast for reasons that were ultimately political and this would directly contribute to the film's disappearance.
For Jagger and co, Northern Ireland's capital represented the failures of the old guard, of concealed injustices and other unfinished business born of the days of Empire and it was right on their doorstep.
Such controversies are woven into the film and it is unsurprising that it had to "disappear" before the censors banned it (which would have unintentionally given it certain notoriety).
The Stones had already taken a firm stand against racism and segregation in the US, so there was genuine fear they might do the same in the UK. Naturally, both Westminster and Stormont wished to avoid any high-profile embarrassments on the global stage.
But stirring up the complexities of the "Irish question" would haunt the group for years thereafter. As the book reveals, Northern Ireland played a central, if overlooked, role in explaining why this most notorious of groups became Public Enemy No 1 for the British state.
But even before the Stones' arrival in Belfast, Stormont was keeping a close eye on the surge of interest in popular music among young voters. The normally conservative Terence O'Neill discovered a new-found love of the Beatles, whom he referenced in numerous speeches.
Despite obvious political differences, O'Neill was an admirer of John F Kennedy and had clearly noted the US president's popular-musical support from the likes of Frank Sinatra.
In mid-1964, a similar pop/politics alliance emerged in Britain. Opposition leader Harold Wilson was openly endorsed by The Beatles, who happened to be residents of his Liverpool constituency. Their positive PR may even have helped secure Labour the General Election later that year.
The world was changing. Pop music had an increasing role in winning hearts and minds, especially among the young. Needless to say, Stormont was frantically taking notes.
But Belfast is important to the broader story of "getting the blues" in other ways. Through extensive research, we discovered that the first credible white blues singer was from Northern Ireland. She learned her craft as an art student in Belfast playing the city's flourishing jazz clubs in the 1950s.
Despite being largely forgotten today, Comber-born Ottilie Patterson was a respected international star, who played a central role in popularising the blues in the UK and actively creating the conditions for bands like the Stones to become global sensations.
This didn't happen by magic. Belfast had a well-established jazz and blues culture. It also had a sophisticated and internationally connected management infrastructure, one well in advance of other regional UK cities.
The key players were the Solomon family, chiefly Phil Solomon. They were majority shareholders in Decca Records, arming them a degree of power and influence that not even Beatles' manager Brian Epstein could match.
This Belfast-based family business operated as Decca's all-Ireland distributor, furnishing their organisation with enormous influence when it came to which local acts were promoted for broader territories.
Yet, even for many who think they know Belfast's popular music story of the 1960s, the Solomons are not a familiar name.
The family, especially Phil, not only connect with the story of Van Morrison and Them, but with the rise of pirate radio and the increasingly powerful role that popular music was now playing in shaping public opinion.
How Belfast Got the Blues deliberately deploys the meaning of "blues" in a dual sense - the musical style and of feeling blue.
If you want to understand how popular music and politics intertwined in 1960s Northern Ireland, of music's role in promoting "brand Northern Ireland" and in pushing for progressive change, this is the book for you.
Dr Noel McLaughlin is senior lecturer in the Department of Arts, Northumbria University. Joanna Braniff is an independent scholar based in Belfast. How Belfast Got the Blues: A Cultural History of Popular Music in the 1960s (Intellect Books/University of Chicago Press) is available now, priced £25. For more information, visit www.howbelfastgottheblues.com