Childhood heroes are usually pop stars and footballers, but growing up in the late 60s and early 70s we also had the Apollo astronauts to idolize, actual heroes who performed amazing, courageous feats that really mattered — unlike Marc Bolan and Peter Osgood. To us they were real-life versions of Captain Kirk, Scott Tracy, and our Major Matt toys. They looked so cool in those white spacesuits, blasting into space (space! outer space!) aboard the gigantic, beautiful Saturn V rocket (which I had an Airfix model of). When I lived in Florida I visited Kennedy Space Centre and seeing things like the Lunar Module made me feel like a thrilled little kid again. Great though it was, seeing the Space Shuttle never excited me like that.
The death of Neil Armstrong has brought a lot of those memories back and reminded me what a big deal it all was at the time. I watched all the Apollo missions on TV from lift-off to splashdown (with James Burke and Patrick Moore on the BBC), seeing the first moon landing in my pajamas as Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface at four in the morning our time. I think I went to bed for a few hours and my mum set her alarm to wake us up for the big moment.
To us kids the Apollo missions seemed to promise that the future might be like the one we saw in Gerry Anderson TV shows, and that by the time we were adults we’d be living on the moon. Little did we know that when Apollo 17 left the moon in 1972 we wouldn’t go back again, so the moonbase we dreamt about never happened — not to mention the jetpacks and flying cars.
All the obituaries will use the word “immortal” to describe Armstrong’s place in history and I think some part of me thought he literally was, because even though he was getting on a bit his death still shocked me, as if I was surprised that such a legend would just kick the bucket like the rest of us boringly do and not ascend to Valhalla on the back of a giant, flaming bird or something. Seven-year-old me would have expected nothing less.
I saw this young kid wearing a Dark Side of The Moon t-shirt the other day, he was probably only about 15 or 16 years old which made me sort of sad for him. Not for his poor taste in music (well, some) but that he was proclaiming his love for an album that came out 20 years before he was even born. I wanted to grab him, give him a slap, and yell “It’s 2012! You’re a teenager! Wake up!”
I know it’s stupid to be bothered by what some spotty youth listens to but I see a lot of kids wearing t-shirts that celebrate dinosaur bands like Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin (and sometimes Joy Division and The Clash), and it upsets my silly romantic notion that being young should be all about living for the now and having a riot of your own. I feel like they’re breaking some long-standing pact between the generations: they’re supposed to think our music is rubbish and vice versa. What’s worse is I often read comments on vintage YouTube clips from youngsters lamenting the fact that they hadn’t grown up in the 60s and 70s “when music was good” which I find just incredibly depressing. What a dreadful waste of your youth to go through it wishing it had happened 40 years before.
Obviously this isn’t an entirely new phenomenon, I had a mate at school who was madly into Jimi Hendrix and there were nostalgic cults like Teddy Boys and Mods, but these were just niche obsessions, the past seems to cast a bigger and more influential shadow now. When I was a teenager in the 70s (you know, when music was good!) rock and roll had only been around for 20 years, but now it’s nearly 60 and has it’s own museum and an established canon of classic works that are as imposing in reputation as War and Peace and Moby Dick. The very term “Classic Rock” implies that there was some point in the past when music reached a peak of perfection, a Platonic ideal of what great rock/pop music should be like and everything since pales into comparison.
So come on kids, don’t buy in to that propaganda from the oldsters, the Golden Age of music should always be when you are 16, not when your parents were 16.
I imagine there must be a huge sense of deflation going back to work in London this post-Olympics Monday. I wasn’t even there and think it’s been an extraordinary couple of weeks. We actually won things!* Lots of things! There weren’t any major cock-ups! It didn’t rain every day! That really wasn’t very British was it? We put on a massive global event and it goes off spectacularly? I could feel the happiness and pride from over here. Call it simple-minded, flag-waving sentimentality if you want but I’d rather be on the side of joy than gloom.
Maybe it will all be forgotten a week from now and we’ll go back to being the miserable buggers we usually are, but let’s enjoy the glow for a while.
*Is it just me or did no one really care when the GB football team got knocked out? Maybe it was because we’re so used to football letting us down on the international stage that we just shrugged our shoulders and moved on. It was nice not to need football when there was Mo and Jess and Wiggo to cheer for instead.
Not had anything by Dame David here for a while and this is a corker. This clip from TOTP was thought to have been lost for years, one of the many tapes that the BBC wiped, and hadn’t been seen since it was first broadcast in 1973. Then last year the cameraman came forward with a copy he’d had made at the time, not realizing that it was the only one in existence — “I just couldn’t believe that I was the only one with it. I just thought you wouldn’t be mad enough to wipe a tape like that” he said. Makes you wonder what else has been lost.