Bad Colour

Alex Abramovich

'The music came across the airwaves and suddenly it felt as if the world was actually changing,' Keith Richards said in 2003:

Things went from black and white or grey to full Technicolor: no army, there's rock'n'roll music and as long as you've got a bit of bread you can buy anything, you don't need to queue. All of these things combined created a very strong thing in England for our generation. It was a breath of fresh air and a promise of real possibilities, instead of the prospect of simply following in our fathers' footsteps, which was pretty gloomy.

The following year Paul McCartney was asked about Philip Larkin's 'Annus Mirabilis'. 'I know the poem,' McCartney said:

For the Beatles and for anyone who was around at that time, life had been very much in black and white. For myself, I’d been to a particularly Dickensian school. When I look back on that school, I do see it all in monochrome. I remember winter in short trousers with the harsh wind whipping around my poor young frazzled knees. Looking back now, especially sitting here in the cool warmth of LA, it feels so deprived, like it was 6000 years ago. I just remember it being dark all the time back then. It was a postwar thing. Our parents had all had to join the army, as National Service had been compulsory. Growing up, we were all looking at that as a grim possibility. To say the least, it wasn’t the cheeriest of prospects unless you were an army type of guy. Which I wasn’t. Nor were the rest of the Beatles … Along with so many other things, that made life very black and white. But that was about to radically change.

The New Statesman recently interviewed Ray Davies, who's still an iconoclast: 'I think of the Sixties as black and white but the Fifties as colour,' he said. 'The country had a team spirit. It wasn’t all down. And the Technicolor imposed a colour sense. The Seventies were black and white, too. The Eighties were definitely bad colour.'


  • 25 April 2017 at 11:58pm
    Amateur Emigrant says:
    My own personal recollection is that the Seventies were distinctly purple, orange and bottle green.

  • 26 April 2017 at 3:08am
    Bob Beck says:
    One of many great things about the BBC series "Life on Mars", I thought, was the cinematography. In the 1970s sequences, the colours were distinctly muted and brownish: very reminiscent of a faded colour photo of that vintage. (Or so I recall it, ten years on or so: this impression could have been strengthened, if not created, simply by the shooting locations, which featured a lot of brick).

  • 26 April 2017 at 1:09pm
    IPFreely says:
    Take a look at that very overrated movie "Blow up" and you get an idea about the artificiality of the 'swinging sixties' legend. Antonioni had whole streets sprayed red to give some colour to the movie. But at least we had the welfare state .