Two things were important in the sixties to make me into what I am today. Well, of course there were many more but these were the major influences: The new music from Britain and the opposition to the war in Vietnam. It radicalized me and gave me the courage to break with the traditional way I was supposed to look and behave.
I was 13, and because of too much skipping of school I was on “leave” for a year. I was working in a posh store in central Göteborg, Sweden. They sold curtains, carpets, furniture textiles and oriental carpets. I was a kind of helper in the oriental rug department. It was there, in the storeroom/lunch room in late 1962 that I first heard the Beatles and Love me do on the radio. From that moment everything changed.
It came in the best possible moment in time for me. Before I was a nerdy, shy boy with ugly glasses. In the fall of 1964 I was a full-fledged mod. The hair long(ish) and, because my mother liked the fashion and is very good at sewing, dressed in clothes that were only seen in the papers. I still have the jacket that she made after having seen the Beatles single cover, and it still (almost)fits. We followed everything in the Swedish journal Bildjournalen. and when we could afford we took the tram in the centre of Göteborg and a shop that sold New Musical Express and Melody Maker.
I also started school again, eight grade at another school. After being one of the nearly invisible and ignored in my old school I was soon one of the more popular in the class, togeher with my brother and one more guy. This was really brought home to me in the ninth grade when we had a “klassdans”. An after school event were we brought records to play and dance to. I had been in town at Götaplatsen, were the mods hung out. I was late to the dance and several of the prettiest girls were about to leave. But when I arrived they changed their mind. I wasn’t told this until a few years later. Had I known it then I probably would have fainted. From an ugly duckling to a soaring swan in about a year.
As so many mods we were threatened with beatings because of our hair and clothes. But it never came to anything but words. Then I read in NME that the mods in London had started wearing make up. The girls I knew were more than happy to help out. As I understand it now the English mods just used eye liner and mascara. But I went the whole hog, lipstick, eye shadow and nail polish. Onto the tram and into town we went. US Army jackets, boots, flared pinstripe trousers and tons of make up. Teenage girls in the early sixties were not famous for subtle make ups. The reaction among our fellow mods were mixed. Some laughed but some, mostly girls, liked it and thought I was brave. Needless to say I revelled in the attention. We then ventured down “Avenyn” away from our usual hunting grounds.
That’s when things changed. The looks I got were hostile. And a bit up Östra Hamngatan we were surrounded by a gang of “raggare” (Best described as a sort of red necks.) One of them took a swing at me. It would probably have been a KO. But a friend yanked me out of the way and my antagonist hit one of his friends. We ran up towards Götaplatsen but before we got there two older guys (17 – 18?) who usually hung out with the mods pulled us into a shop entrance and tried to force me to rub of the make up. I don’t know were I got the courage but I refused. They didn’t beat me up but threatened to do it if they ever saw me with make up again. A few weeks later they did but I was in a big crowd so was safe.
In hindsight I can see that it wasn’t just a desire to be like the mods in London or to show my independence. The joy I felt when made up and having long hair (sometimes with a cute bow) should have made me realise that I really was a teenage girl. But I’ve always been good at repressing what I’m afraid of. If I had had the courage to face it I don’t know what I could have done then, back in the dark ages. If I could have fathomed the possibility of a sex change and still being attracted to girls I think I’d been on a wholly different course in life – a tall thin baby dyke.
But this was supposed to be about the music. I soon left Beatles behind for Stones, the Who, Kinks, Pretty Thing and local bands like the talented but unknown Beachers.
When the tickets for the Stones first concert in Sweden were released the crowd were behind a simple rope barrier. Needless to say the rope didn’t hold us back. That resulted in a historic event in Swedish police history. As we were milling around out of a side street came a company of police on horses with drawn sabres, the last time that happened in Sweden. We were very naive in those days and couldn’t imagine that the police would hurt us so we just laughed and leered. Some girls who were riding in the same stable were the police horses were quartered went up to them an patted them.
The concert in Svenska Mässan was great the first ever big concert I went to. I’ve since seen the Stones several times, but that first time was marvelous!
So it wasn’t just the music that made it revolutionary. It was the attitude that went with it. We no longer wanted to grow up and be like our parents. We questioned everything and every authority. Most of my generation “grew up” and became a part of the establishment. But none of us were unaffected. Though very few became like me: A lesbian transwoman anarchist.
So, ladies and lassies, let’s continue the history lesson about why us Golden Ladies are so knowledgeable about music.
I left you hanging in the mid 60s. Today’s story begins in the spring of 65. I had begun my journey leftwards and had older friends that were active anarchists, writers, artists and situationists . My musical taste at this time was leaning towards Billie Holliday and songs from the Spanish civil war. Rather limited I know, but then that’s the way it is when your 16.
With my brother and parents we went to Copenhagen for the first of May holidays. I knew a Danish guy from a meeting of the situationist international so we hooked up with him. Who wants to spend a weekend in Copenhagen with your parents when you’re 16? He was also active in the anarchistic movement Provos. We in Gothenburg were also much influenced by this Dutch movement. But we called ourself “Vulgär Anarkister” – Vulgar Anarchists.
Chairman Mao’s little red book had just been released in the west and we had copies of it. Armed with that and our youthful spirits we sat out to “preach” to the citizenry of Copenhagen. Waving our little red books we rushed along “Ströget”, THE street in Copenhagen, shouting: Provo, Anarki, Mao. Now and then we would stop, my brother and I in a worshipping position on our knees while our Danish friend read out loud. Then up, running and shouting. We repeated this on “Rådhuspladsen” and on the courtyard of the royal castle “Amalienborg”.
Well this haven’t been much about music so far. But maybe it gives a feeling of how the mood was among us on the far left in the mid to late 60s. Anything was possible and the old, rotten society would crumble any moment.
As the decade progressed the political climate all over the West became more and more radical, leftist and revolutionary. Not that we ever were a majority. (Except for a short period 68 in France.) To a large extent the music and the “youth culture” paved the way for this. As did the growing opposition all over the world against USA’s criminal war in Vietnam. In Sweden the left was dominated by the different brands of communists, we anarchists called them all stalinists.
The domestic music scene changed drastically in Sweden in the second part of the sixties. A lot of groups rejected the big labels and started their own independent labels. The music varied from folk to very experimental. The texts became very important, sometimes poetic, sometimes political. And some of the artists became popular even among “the common man”.
At the end of the decade the popular music all over the world had changed. Gone were Perry Como, and only old folks were listening to Frank Sinatra. Even Elvis tried a shot at being socially concious with In the Ghetto. We got great artists like Jimie Hendrix (I heard him at Gröna Lund and my oldest daughter played with his child at Eriksdalsbadet) Janis Joplin, the Fugs, Mothers of Invention and many more. In Sweden we got Nationalteatern, Nynningen, Träd, gräs och stenar, Hola Bandola Band, Philemon Arthur and the Dung…………………