Looking back on it October 5, 1962
was an exceptionally good day for our cousins across the Pond.
And they really needed it. Things had been going downhill there for a long
time. Two World Wars had killed off huge swaths of two generations. London, and to a lesser extent, other
cities were still trying to rise from the rubble of
bombs dropped more than two decades before.
British industrial infrastructure was largely ageing and obsolete. The supremacy
it once enjoyed was being challenged,
largely by modern facilities and high levels of engineering from a Europe
rebuilt on the American Marshall Plan
dime—aid the prideful Brits had turned down. Unemployment
was high and seemingly permanent. Intellectuals fretted over the effects
of generational dependency on the dole.
resentments ran high in both directions. British theater
and cinema, once symbolized by the sophisticated drawing room comedies by
the likes of Noel Coward, were now
the province of the Angry Young Men and their, bitter,
hopeless working class perspectives.
The Empire upon which once “the
sun never set” was crumbling,
its jewels—India and Pakistan—long gone
and remaining possessions in Africa, Asia, and around the Caribbean either in open rebellion
But two events that by delightful happenstance occurred on the same day changed a lot of that. Or at least they energized British culture and opened the way for a decade
of cultural flowering when swinging, Mod London once again seemed the center of the universe and the world was spending money on British music, fashion, design, and cinema.
Both events, somewhat ironically, owed a lot to the very Americans who had replaced them as the undisputed
power of the world. Now, if they could not regain past glory entirely, they could, in a phrase much used later in
the decade, at least be the new Greeks to
the new Roman Empire.
Ian Fleming's spy adventures with their lurid pulp covers were a popular sensation in Britain. They and books like them would be the later inspiration for the song Paperback Writer. In this printing of the book issued when tabloid gossip about casting James Bond for the movie, a bottom banner was added to the original illustration. Note the more than casual resemblance of the spy to David Niven, then mentioned as one of the candidates for the role.
Dr. No, the first of what would go on to be a fabulously successful film
franchise, opened in London on October 5, 1962 at the Pavilion Theater. The film
was based on a spy novel by Ian Fleming, himself a former World War II secret agent. James
Bond was a popular paperback hero
in the UK and in Europe but was relatively unknown in the U.S.
While nominally a British production
of Eon Productions, it was essentially brought to the screen by a partnership of Canadian Harry Saltzman and hustling American entrepreneur
Albert R. Broccoli, better
known as Cubby. Saltzman had
obtained the rights to Dr. No, the second
book in the Bond series, while
Broccoli had obtained rights to the series from Fleming. When Saltzman refused to
sell out to Broccoli, a production
partnership was formed that included Eon Productions and a holding company,
Danjaq, LLC, which owned the copyrights, trademarks, and marketing
licensing for the series. The partnership endured through
several films and ended
amid acrimony and complicated lawsuits
when a bitter Saltzman was forced to sell his half of Dajaq to United
Artists, the film’s
distributor. That left Broccoli, and
later his family heirs, in complete control of the
Dr. No was shot on a relatively
low $1 million budget
mostly at England’s Pinewood Studios with extensive location shooting
in the Bahamas and elsewhere. The
script largely by Richard Maibaum
took extensive liberties with
Fleming’s novel and injected
considerable wry humor,
mostly as a way of softening the violence and hyper-sexuality that the producers feared would make it a target of the still active American film censors.
lead was a problem. Everyone thought that the obvious choice for Bond was the suave Cary Grant. And Grant was interested in doing the part. But he would only commit to one film
and Broccoli already envisioned a long
running series. David Niven was considered but thought to be too old. Niven ended up playing one of several Bonds in the spoof
film Casino Royal—Fleming had earlier sold the rights to his first
Bond book separately. Fleming was said
to be pushing Richard Todd. Patrick McGoohan, who had already had
success as a spy in the British television
series Danger Man, was also in the running.
In the end Broccoli settled on Sean Connery, a scruffy, working class Scott personally totally
unfamiliar with the high rolling,
tuxedo clad world of the Bond novels
but who exuded masculine energy and charismatic charm. Connery’s only major film role had been as a cheerful Irish peasant in Disney’s fantasy, Darby O’Gill and the Little
People. Director Terrance Young put Connery
through a quick introduction to
Bond’s world and made sure he was well tailored and coiffed.
The film introduced all of the elements that would become hallmarks of the film franchise—the stylized opening sequence to a pop power ballad, Bond as the suave ruler of the casino and irresistible seducer of
women, the technical gadgets,
and maybe above all the Bond Girls. Ursula Andress was the first, emerging from the sea in a Bikini with a knife at her belt.
No and subsequent Bond films made England sexy and chic all over again. Meanwhile four
other scruffy young men made
their recording debut the same day.
Me Do, the first single from a quartet
that had been setting the dingy clubs of Liverpool afire, was released by EMI
on October 5, 1962. The B side
was P.S. I Love You.
The Beatles' first U.K release in its original sleeve. Parlophone was a less prestigious label for recording giant EMI.
as it seems now, the first release by the Beatles did
not attract quite so much attention as the premier of Dr. No. But it was successful, reaching #17 on the British charts and launching the
recording career of the band with a
solid hit. The same recording was
re-released in England two years later when the Lads were
top stars and went to #4. Its 1964 release in the United States became
one of the bands many #1 hits.
The A side
was written mostly by Paul McCartney when he was about 16 years
old. By that time, he already had an agreement
with John Lennon to share credit on all songs. Typically, one or another of them would work
something up and they would try it out. The
other one would often add elements, work on lyrics, or arrange
it for the band. Only occasionally would
they, at this point sit down together to write. But
the process worked well and sometimes if the original pages
scrawled in school notebooks were lost, even the boys had a hard time
remembering who contributed what.
case John contributed the middle eight bars when the key and tempo shift. He also worked out a bluesy
mouth harp part. American rock
and roll was their inspiration.
In this case they drew on the Everly Brothers for the tight
two part harmonies that were
becoming a trademark of the developing band. John frankly credited the harmonica riffs
to folk bluesmen Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee—the same
performers who were influencing young
Bobby Zimmermann about the same time.
On the flip
side, P.S. I Love You was penned
exclusively by Paul a few years later while the band was playing in Hamburg. Neither Lennon nor McCartney could recall any
contribution by John. And Paul later
denied rumors that it was written for a German girlfriend. Instead, he wanted to use a letter as a hook and
do a song about separated love similar to The Shirelles’ big hit earlier
in 1962 Solider Boy.
wanted P.S. I Love You to be saved
for later release as an A side, but was told that there were other songs that had
used the same title and that the label would only consider it
for a B side and later inclusion in an album.
were cut at EMI London Abby Road studios in September sessions
with George Martin producing.
sessions came as the band was in turmoil. Martin did not think long time Beatles
drummer Pete Best was good enough for
recording. He suggested bringing in a studio drummer
as replacement. But Lennon and McCartney
had already fired Best and were bringing on journeyman band drummer
Ringo Starr. Love Me Do was actually recorded three times. The first with Best in his last session with
the band in a demo made in June, then with Ringo behind the
drum kit, and finally with studio
musician Andy White. Martin was also unimpressed with Ringo’s
performance. In the final session Ringo
was reduced to playing tambourine to
In the end Martin must have decided
that Ringo was good enough after all
because that was the take put on the final
release. White’s version turned up
later in albums released in both Britain and the US.
That final recording session with
White was used for P.S. I Love You, this time with Ringo playing the maracas.
Over the next year, however, the
Beatles appeared on several BBC programs
both live and taped at BBC studios. In each case Ring did the drumming on both
numbers, as he did at the band’s live
shows. He was quickly working his way into the heart of the band with unflashy,
but rock solid drumming.
Within a year the Beatles scored
multiple hits on the British charts, seemingly climbing higher with each new 45
issued. They were playing to sellout crowds of screaming female fans. The
records did just as well in Europe. The
band was well on its way to international
stardom. The lads bowl cut hairdos, collarless suit coats, and pointed
ankle boots set fashion trends. Beatlmania well on its way by the time
the boys arrived in New York to
introduce themselves to American audiences in late 1963.
By the middle of the decade tax revenue from Beatles recordings,
films and associated merchandise and memorabilia
was pouring into the Exchequer. And the Beatles were just the tip of the spear. It turned out that there were more young
bands inspired by American blues and rock and roll ready to break out as well.
In the States the British Invasion nearly blew America rockers out of the water.
The Carnaby Street look set fashion around the world and helped fuel a British cultural and economic comeback.
The youth culture represented by the Beatles would inspire the Mods, as the Rolling Stones would their motorcycle
riding rivals the Rockers. Both would contribute a new British sense
of style. Britain, famous for tweeds and shapeless woolens, and a long mocked symbol of frumpiness was
soon the center of the fashion world as the Carnaby
Street look swept the world.
And the big come back owes a lot to
what happened on October 5, 1962.