What would you have been doing in the summer of 1969?
The summer of 1969 was one of the most iconic summers in modern history.
Now, 50 years on, Quentin Tarantino’s new film, Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood, captures the mood of the time. Set in the summer of 1969 it follows a fading star (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double (Brad Pitt) as he tries to resurrect both their careers during the last months of Hollywood’s Second Golden Age.
The film is jam-packed with references to the period, from the music and movies to the fads and fashions of the tail-end of the Swinging '60s.
So, how does what young people might be doing this summer compare with what they could have been up to in the summer of ’69? Let's look at 2019 first.
2019: Recovering from Glastonbury
This year saw around 135,000 people make their way to Worthy Farm for the 36th Glastonbury Festival. After taking a year off last year to let the ground recover, festival-goers saw performances from the likes of The Killers, Stormzy and The Cure. It tried to go greener, banning the sale of single-use plastic bottles on site. This year a ticket would have set you back £248 for the weekend.
1969: Recovering from Woodstock
There probably wouldn’t be a Glastonbury Festival without Woodstock. The granddaddy of all music festivals took place 50 years ago in August 1969 at a dairy farm in Bethel, New York. Tickets were $18 in advance and $24 (roughly $200 today) at the gate. A hundred thousand were sold, but over the three days of the festival over a million people descended on Bethel, turning the site into mud-drenched free for all. Acts included Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and The Who. Sadly two people died, one from a drug overdose and one was run over by a tractor.
2019: Playing Fortnite on your games console
2019 has been the year of Fortnite. The online battle royale game was launched in 2017, but now boasts 250 million players worldwide, and over half of those started playing this year. Many parents have voiced concerns about the supposed addictive nature of the game, with Prince Harry among those calling for it to be banned. It can be lucrative though. British teenager Jaden Ashman came second in the world finals this July and won a staggering £1 million.
1969: Playing KerPlunk on the kitchen table
It might not be quite as err, shooty, as Fortnite but KerPlunk was the game of choice in households in 1969. The marble dropping toy – it’s named after the sounds the marbles make as they fall through the tube – had been launched in 1967 by the then mighty Ideal Toy Company, but two years later it was one of the most popular family games in the world. Given it requires great reflexes and hand-eye coordination maybe it would be good alternative training for Jaden when his trigger finger gets sore?
2019: Reading the news on social media
This summer the UK news has been dominated by Brexit. Whatever your views, the chances are that you’re getting more and more of your news about Brexit and other world events via social media than television or newspapers. A study conducted by Ofcom this year revealed that those of us using sites like Whatsapp and Facebook to follow the news rose from 44% to 49%. And while television continues to be a major source of news, it continues to decline, particularly among young people, dropping from 79% to 75% this year. (And just one in a hundred of us only read newspapers to find out what’s going on.)
1969: Reading the news in the papers
Fifty years ago, newspapers and television were still the way most people got their news about world events. In the summer of 1969 the war in Vietnam was still the dominant global news story. American troops had arrived in the country in 1965. But in the summer of 1969, newly elected President Nixon announced the first US troop withdrawals. It would be a slow process though, with the final American soldiers not departing until 1973.
2019: Watching The Lion King at the cinema
This year’s biggest success at the box office is widely, and unsurprisingly, predicted to be Avengers Endgame which has made nearly $3 billion at the box office so far, becoming the highest grossing film of all time. But this summer’s biggest hit has been Jon Favreau’s remake of the Disney classic The Lion King, which has a global box-office of $1 billion.
1969: Watching Easy Rider at the cinema
If any film summed up the 1960s it was Dennis Hopper’s generation-defining Easy Rider. Released in July of 1969 and starring Peter Fonda as well as Hopper and Jack Nicholson in the role that made him a star, it was a crazy road movie that embodied the free-wheeling spirit of the times. It's easy to see Nicholson’s final line in the film, “we blew it”, as a comment on the end of the era, as much as the film.
2019: Watching India send a spacecraft to the moon
On 22 July the India’s Space Research Organization launched Chandrayaan 2, the spacecraft that is intended to make India the fourth country to visit the Moon, after the US, the then Soviet Union and China. If all goes well, the lander will touch down near the Moon’s South Pole on 7 September, and deploy its rover, which will have 14 days’ worth of battery life to explore the surface.
1969: Watching America land a man on the Moon
The grainy TV image of astronaut Neil Armstrong stepping off the lunar lander and onto the surface of the Moon that were beamed back to Earth on 20 July 1969 was the most watched live television broadcast at the time. Five hundred million people worldwide were glued to their sets as he uttered the famous line “One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” The last manned voyage to the Moon was in 1972, but NASA plans to return in 2024 as part of its ultimate aim, to land a man on Mars.
Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood is a film suitable for over 18s