The Easy Listening at the BBC programme included the song Aquarius by Fifth Dimension. The tune evoked memories from fifty years of hearing adults discuss the stage version of the musical Hair and of the outrageous behaviour of the actors. The discussion left a child bemused at the ways of the grown up world but fascinated by people who believed in peace instead of the horrible stories from Vietnam that were told on the television news.
Fascination with the musical was reinforced by the presence of hippies within our own community, people whose ways were as different from the ways of our rural conservative community as could be imagined. Stories became conflated, confused and often just plain misunderstood, but there was an unspoken sense of pride in the idea that people would imagine our small Blackwood of rural England was of significance. There would be tales of the twelve signs of the zodiac being visible in the landscape that surrounded Glastonbury Tor (aerial photographs were not persuasive, unless one squinted and held one’s head to the side).
Much more of exciting than people in flamboyant clothes who drove old vans and played loud music was the idea that something new was beginning. No-one seemed quite sure when Aquarius would begin, a boy at school said it would be 7th July 1977, but, whenever it began, the world would be different, there would be love and peace and there would be no more war or conflict.
Of course, it was daft stuff and the hopes of the hippies for a new world were soon forgotten in times that became dominated by the politics of neo-liberalism, but they were aspirations that were filled with hope. The Vietnam war formed a background to the social upheavals of the times, being counter-cultural meant being opposed to all that the conflict represented.
The briefest perusal of daily news headlines leaves a sense that those who hoped for a new age might be welcome if they made a comeback. Threats of nuclear proliferation, environmental degradation, obscene inequalities in the distribution of wealth, the domination of religions by strident extremists, sometimes it seems that the times when Hair cause outrage were simple and uncomplicated.
Aquarius didn’t dawn, or if it did no-one noticed. Perhaps there is another big alternative idea in the offing, a narrative that can offer a different vision of how the world might be; nude actors wouldn’t even make the news now.