Saturday, December 22, 2007

1969: A Year In Review

1969 - the year I was born - has always held a great fascination for me; since we are shaped by the times we live in (and, in my case, by the media created in those times) it's always been a year I've regarded as special - and not just because it's the year I was born either, although in personal terms that does make 1969 the most special of them all.

The year began, as it ended, with the US embroiled in an unjust foreign war declared on the basis of specious intelligence; thank goodness people today have evolved beyond all that. Not that I was aware of it. I wasn't even aware of Sesame Street, the show that would have the greatest impact on my young psyche, which made its debut 18 days before I made mine.

1969 was the year evil media baron Rupert Murdoch began making his inroads into British media, with his purchase of News of the World, yet also the year the media's saviour was born, namely me; of course, in those days blogs, the Internet, and even the concept of pop culture were all just glimmers in various eyes, awaiting the One who would whip them all into a frenzy affectionately known as the Pop Culture Institute.

The New York Jets defeated the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III, President Lyndon Baines Johnson left office prior to the inauguration of Richard Milhous Nixon, and martial law was declared in Spain as The Beatles gave their final public performance (on the roof of Apple Records) which was included in their film Let It Be; the event later paid homage to in the U2 video Where The Streets Have No Name. And that was just in January!

February saw Yasser Arafat appointed head of the Palestine Liberation Organization, an oil slick fouled the harbour of Santa Barbara, California, and FLQ bombs fouled the Montreal Stock Exchange. In March Concorde made its initial test flight, Sirhan Sirhan confessed to killing Robert F. Kennedy while a week later James Earl Ray pleaded guilty to assassinating Martin Luther King Jr., NASA launched Apollo 9 to test the lunar module (later returning safely to the Earth), Golda Meir became the first female Prime Minister of Israel, and either Nixon or Kissinger hatched the brilliant plan to bomb the shit out of Cambodia.

In April the Harrier jet entered service in the RAF, 300 members of the Students for a Democratic Society seized the administration building at Harvard, and Charles de Gaulle stepped down as President of France; things got really interesting in May, when the Soviets landed Venera 5 on the surface of Venus where NASA's Apollo 10 flew within 15,400 m of the Moon as John Lennon and Yoko Ono were conducting a Bed-In at Montreal's Queen Elizabeth Hotel.

While still in bed in Montreal in June John Lennon recorded Give Peace a Chance (the first solo single by a Beatle), whereas an hour away in Ottawa the finishing touches were being put on Canada's National Arts Centre; at the end of that month, the event that would most profoundly effect the way I live occurred at the Stonewall riots.

In July Charles, Prince of Wales, was invested with his title beneath a vast perspex pavilion at Caernarfon, French was elevated to official language status in Canada, the first American troops were withdrawn from Vietnam, Ted Kennedy drove Mary Jo Kopechne to her doom at Chappaquiddick, Gloria Diaz became the first Filipina Miss Universe, and the Apollo 11 mission went to the moon and back.

In August Sharon Tate and her friends were murdered by Charles Manson and his "family", a suitably ironic prelude to the peace, love, and harmony promoted at the Woodstock Festival.

In September Libya's King Idris was ousted by Muammar al-Gaddafi, information about the My Lai Massacre was suppressed by a co-operative (or, if you prefer, collusive) media, and the Chicago Eight trial began; October saw the opening of the Beijing Subway, Willard S. Boyle and George Smith invented the CCD at Bell Laboratories (precipitating the digital age whose fruits we currently enjoy), Willy Brandt became Chancellor of West Germany, the first message was sent over ARPANET (which would later become the Internet, the greatest invention in the history of mankind), and Wal-Mart (among the worst inventions in human history) was incorporated.

November - as has already been discussed - saw the arrival of both me and Sesame Street; additionally, Seymour Hersh broke the story of My Lai, Apollo 12 went to the moon, the UK's BBC1 and ITV began broadcasting in colour, the US Senate voted against the appointment of Clement Haynsworth to the Supreme Court, and John Lennon returned his MBE in protest of British support for the Vietnam War.

The year ended with the murders of Black Panther Party members Fred Hampton and Mark Clark in their sleep by the Chicago police department, the fiasco at Altamont, and the Piazza Fontana bombing in Italy, all recently discussed on the Pop Culture Institute.

Among those born in this year: Christy Turlington, "Brian Warner", Jason Bateman, Dave Grohl, Jennifer Aniston, Chastity Bono, Paul Rudd, Renée Zellweger, Cate Blanchett, Steffi Graf, Ice Cube, Jennifer Lopez, Elliott Smith, Edward Norton, Christian Slater, Matthew Perry, Jack Black, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Gwen Stefani, Brett Favre, Trey Parker, Sean "Diddy" Combs, Matthew McConaughey, Ken Griffey, Jr., Jay-Z, Martha Byrne, and Jay Kay.

Among those who died include Violet and Daisy Hilton, Jan Palach, Boris Karloff, Thelma Ritter, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Osbert Sitwell, Judy Garland, Brian Jones, Rocky Marciano, and Jack Kerouac.
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Anonymous said...

It's Craig Wilson at USA Today. We're doing a story on a new book called 1969: The Year Everything Changed. Would love to hear from anyone who has thoughts/remembrances about 1969. Thanks!

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