Brian Masters




book review


Brian Masters

THE '60s are responsible for AIDS, unemployment, inner city riots, illiteracy, the lowering of moral standards and the decline of the family. This is the view of some. It is not the view of Brian Masters. This book was written to allay the allocation of blame for current social ills on the decade which, thinks the author, finally dragged Britain into the 20th Century.

He describes the Britain that began the 1960s as a bastion of snobbery and hypocrisy which had become the laughing stock of the world. A place where the 'ordinary man' was merely a loathsome concept to those who oversaw his destiny and who sought to uphold double standards of morality.

For example, less stringent censorship was applied to expensive hardback books, heading for upper crust reading, than to identical paperback editions within the price range of the general public and liable, therefore, to lead the masses into depravity and corruption.

Masters clearly details the wranglings in Parliament and the courts in sections dealing with censorship, homosexuality and the Profumo affair. All of which, set against a backdrop of hedonistic Young Meteors being determinedly trendy, reveal the 'old values' to be hideously anachronistic and well out of synch with the mood of society.

In the theatre section he lets rip with a lively and compelling account of the changes that swept over the boards. In 1968 the requirement for every play to be vetted by the Lord Chamberlain ceased and was the cue for an explosion of both the wildly innovative and the downright trashy.

The gusto in this chapter perfectly captures the feeling of the time. There was a stretching of possibility which the stage had never seen. Masters was an avid theatre-goer and suddenly fresh experiences were everywhere. Some were bad, some good but all were new.

He particularly remembers the Liquid Theatre which operated under London's Charing Cross arches and would lead the participating audience into advanced states of relaxation which, Masters for one, had never before sampled. The worth of all this was open to debate but at least it existed and added to life's variety.

Sixties pop music is a barren topic for fresh information. Perhaps because of this Masters performs a rather perfunctory description of the way the young usurped the old as arbiters of what was 'in'.

Generally, Masters is informative, lucid and highly readable. He compounds his view that the '60s restored a national pride, a pride brought about by the young in a country "sustained as well as atrophied by old age".


mick sinclair

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