Well, 1966 there was a new bubble gum available with collectable cards celebrating the centenary of the end of slavery in the USA. The packs also included Dollar Bills from the CSA, and my friends and I used to buy them and swap cards we had more than 1 of for ones we were missing. I learned this year that although the Civil War had ended slavery the Blacks had not won their freedom. That would take more than another 100 years and several Presidents would strive to end segregation, racism and bring a feeling of one nation to the USA regardless of the skin colour.
I started to champion for a change in attitude and refused to be drawn into racist circles. I may have only been 12 but I think I was, possibly, more aware of what was happening in the world and tried to make my own mind up about everything. I also started to notice the wars that seemed to be everywhere at this time, I also started watching boxing with my dad (of course we spent more time watching Mohammad Ali). I knew he had beaten Sonny Liston in 1964 but wasn’t sure what to make of that as Heavyweight wasn’t something I had previously watched. He claimed to be the Greatest because that’s what he was, the greatest athlete and boxer of all time.
I also learned that a few of my friends were “different” and spent more time with me than I did with girls, which I’d started doing at the end of 1965. I didn’t know that this was wrong, to be attracted to someone of the same sex. To me it was all normal, spending time with boys and doing things with boys as well as spending time with girls, talking to girls, kissing them and wanting to hold them and be held. This was an exciting time for me, there was war in Vietnam, I didn’t have a clue where that was but felt that our Government was right to stay out of it. There were lots of groups starting up in the wake of The Beatles and The Stones and rumours were starting to feed in of the Anti-War movement coming from the USA.
How was all this affecting me at the time? I really don’t know whether I would be the same person today without all these outside influences coming to play in my life. I think I may have been a child of my time but how far that influence took me is still a mystery 5 decades later.
In 1966, The Beatles started, what would really come to be their last, a tour in the USA. I was 12 and thought when they announce dates for the UK I might get Ann to take me to see them live. Then at the end of their North American they announced the touring had come to a full stop. This came as a blow to all of their UK, European and Asian fans. I again discovered a “new” group of musicians (The Band) who had been backing Bob Dylan on his electric albums thanks to Ian and Jeanette from next door. Jeanette also told me about her next door neighbour in London, Julie Driscoll and said she was in a group called The Trinity with Brian Auger. I listened to some taped recordings that Jeanette had of The Trinity and they sounded amazing to my young ears. What would I make of them today? I still think they sound raw and have an amazing depth, but then other groups from the USA started to amaze me, most notably Country Joe and The Fish. I listened to their first album when visiting Ian and also listened to the next chapter in Eric Clapton’s career. I knew of him through The Yardbirds and John Mayall, but Cream were something else completely. The drummer (like The Stones Charlie) had a jazz background, as did the bass player (Jack Bruce from Scotland), but they played Blues like my heroes from the USA (I was introduced to this music by another Ian who loved Canned Heat).
Again, influences which have stayed with me over the years. I still enjoy listening to Blues music, Rock ‘N’ Roll, Soul and Pop music today. I discovered that as much as things change they do tend to stay the same. This should not surprise anyone who lived through the turbulence and student revolts of the late sixties. This was the year that formed a catalyst for what was yet to come and also when youth started to find a voice against war, corporations which made millions from war and governments too eager to go to war.
There was also a tv serial which came over to the UK from the USA which showed a futuristic vision of the world (yes it was Star Trek). This showed a future without racism and sexism, where East and West worked together for the common good and where the only demand placed on each and every one of us was to be the best we could be. This was the beginning of diversity although we didn’t realise that at the time. The only sexual stereotypes which were still taboo were trans and homosexuals. (George Takei didn’t play a homosexual even though that was how he lived).
I knew that there were men who were attracted to other men and women who were attracted to women, although I didn’t realise at the time that this was “homosexuality”. I felt as though we needed to address these one at a time and racism and sexism should be addressed first. I never based my feelings on any other human being on their sex or skin colour. I also never chose my friends by their sexual persuasion or whether or not I fancied them.
I knew some of my friends were “different” but they were still friends of mine. Yes some of my female friends I wanted to get to know intimately but not all of them. It was also about this time I started to experiment with my feelings. I had a girl-friend who wanted to wear trousers rather than skirts so we would find quiet spots near our homes and swap clothes for a while. Something which has stayed with me over the years, although not being an important area of my life it is still something I enjoy from time to time.
Also this year of 1966, I learned the art of masturbation and also the facts of life (how babies are made, how to bring a girl to orgasm, all the tricks which make life and sex worth it). Although I didn’t have full sexual intercourse with anyone I did learn the art of mutual masturbation with another person this year. More to come in Chapter 4.