Sunday 20 September 2015

I'm glad I was born in 1960 because...

I'm glad I was born in 1960 because I grew up in a world where all knowledge was not instantly available. The internet offers every truth and untruth, so today’s generation still have to sort the wheat from the chaff, but if I wanted to gain knowledge as a child, I had to go and find the most pertinent book, or talk to someone older and wiser.

By the age of seven, I decided that the best way to garner knowledge was through actually doing stuff: harvesting the barley, cycling up a steep hill just to swoop down again, getting sweaty in a good way.

These days it’d be called something like Direct Experiential Planetary and Social Interaction. To that little boy in 1967 it simply felt like wringing a good life from the world, in a way that PS4 can never offer.

I’m not knocking the gaming. A huge part of me is envious of today’s teenagers sitting in front of huge flat screen TVs showing their games of FIFA 16.

I’m glad I was born in 1960 because I’ve experienced the whole technological journey. I can marvel at what is new while reflecting how life was also good without it. Our first TV was a huge wooden box with a tiny sheet of glass that offered two channels, after the valves had warmed up.

This ain’t nostalgia. I’m not hankering for the days of disappearing white dots or clunky channel controls. I do not miss fiddling with the horizontal and vertical controls, nor twiddling with a rabbit ears aerial. 

I love digital TV and remote controls, but having lived through the transformation of innovative machines of old into the sophisticated devices of today, I can enjoy modern technology with true relish. I’m glad that I grew up without computers so that I can now embrace their use with a broader perspective.

I’m glad I was born in 1960 because I was a 13 year-old boiling bag of hormones when David Bowie released Aladdin Sane. 

Desperate to be rescued from twee pop music, I leapt and bounced around my room as Ronson and Bowie ripped through songs that still prove perfectly modern in 2015.

I’m glad that I was born in 1960 because by the time 1976 came around I was bored stiff of Progressive Rock Supergroups playing on stages half a mile away, offering little beyond 20 minute drum solos and drug bust stories in the papers. 16 was the perfect age to encounter Punk, which I did, 3, 4, 5 nights a week at the Marquee on Wardour Street, with  with my late and much missed friend Jon Lewin. The searing heat and anger of three chord thrash lit up those miserable streets of 70s London like a streak of bat pee on a moonless night.

I’m glad that I experienced the thrill of hiding under my bedcovers every Tuesday night, listening to Radio Luxembourg on a tiny transistor radio, so that I’d know who was number one, top of the charts, before school the next morning.

I’m glad that I don’t particularly like the pop music of today. There’s something dodgy about hip adults digging their kids’ tunes. Boy Bands and X-factor winners offend me because they are so inoffensive.

Born in 1960, I expect the youth of today to rise up and fight the older generation, to challenge our ideals and strive for a better life. 

Instead the rebellion of this young generation is to offer anodyne music as a background to the latest trainers, the hottest new app or game. Each understandable, but I wish there were more obnoxious and challenging ideas in their hearts.

Music offered my generation a chance to challenge the status quo. 

One Thursday, as my family sat together watching Fay Fife dancing and singing to the Rezillos latest hit on Top of the Pops, my mum rather brilliantly observed:

“Somebody is that girl’s mother.”

I’m glad I was born in 1960 because I survived the Cold War. My home was in the same suburb as the RAF’s Bomber Strike Command and I went to school in the same suburb as the Royal Navy’s Military Command Headquarters and NATO’s Allied Maritime Command.

Back then we Londoners lived in mild fear of the constant IRA bombs and utter terror of the nuclear ICBMs pointed directly at us from all over the Soviet Union. I used to lie in bed at night waiting for the flash. Sitting on top of a massive underground military command centre, my house would be right at the epicentre: dead on target; dead in an instant.

Cold comfort for an insecure adolescent scribbler that it might all be over quickly.

Yet it didn’t happen. Of course it still might, but enduring the dread and fear of those years now allows me to put other scenarios into perspective. I’m not recommending you raise your children to be terrified of impending nuclear devastation. Just observing that having done it myself, it has helped me see more clearly and fear less.

I’m glad I was born in 1960 because that was a mere 15 years after the end of the Second World War. My Primary School atlas showed a third of the world’s countries in red, denoting that they belonged to the British Empire, recently transformed into the Commonwealth. I was very young and blindly patriotic, so for a few simple years as a boy I believed Britain was brilliant.

I’m glad I was born in 1960 because as a teenager, when I first stuck out my thumb to hitch on foreign soil, I completely understood why so many people in such a lot of different countries had good reason to appear antagonistic to me as an Englishman.

I’m glad I was born in 1960 because over the last 55 years I’ve seen the world become an amazing place where all knowledge is available at any time.

Thankfully though, you still have to go out and do stuff to feel truly alive.

©Charlie Adley

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