The Beatnicks

The Beatniks.jpg WP

Click onto picture for Youtube video of ‘Sultana

It’s almost impossible to explain the overwhelming changes, which took place over the 1960s to students of today. Britain had finally emerged from almost two decades of post-war, monochrome austerity. Shaking off the shackles of history and war, while the upper classses truggled to come to terms with losing an Empire, the middle and working classes were starting to enjoy new economic freedoms.

Further education was not only free, but governments actively encouraged it by dispensing grants, rather than loans. Overall, there was a sense of wellbeing and self-confidence almost unknown previously. People wanted to forget the past, especially the young who, apart from not having so much of it to forget, looked towards a future, which they believed held no bounds.

Television had come to almost every home. Many more families were able to afford cars and trips abroad. Men escaped the gravity of Earth to walk on the Moon for the first time ever. There was a sense of real freedom. That sensation was reflected in the arts, film, fashion and music, bringing about the phenomenon that came to be known as the ‘Swinging Sixties’. It produced the Mersey sound, the mini car, the mini skirt, the repeal of the laws against homosexuality, student revolt, and sexual freedom, among many other things. And Britain, in particular, became its hub for a short while. It was one of the most exhilarating times in modern history to live as an emancipated teenager.

Though rock ‘n roll music had been around since the early 1950s in the US, and had lapped at the shores of Europe, it wasn’t until The Beatles emerged from the shadows of The Cavern in Liverpool that technicolor life really came to the British Isles. But that didn’t mean the UK was the only place where every young lad with a moptop wanted to be in a rock ’n roll band.

The summer of 1966 took me for my first student holiday in Oslo accompanied by my college friend, George Blynd. We spent part of the time camping at Ekeberg, just above the city. Back then large crowds of teenagers used to gather on the pavement outside the open air bar known  as Spikkasuppe in Stortingsgata near parliament. It was there we met Esther Ny. Esther introduced us to The Beatniks, one of Norway’s top bands at the time. They used to get kitted out for gigs at the small Frank Varner boutique across the road. We quickly became good friends and they drove George and I around to most of their gigs in a classic American 50s car.

The band’s popularity grew so fast over those summer weeks that they virtually became the Norwegian equivalent of The Beatles the short time we were there. And like The Beatles, and their entourage, George and I found ourselves being chased by screaming young girls, after the boys in the band, on occasion.

A couple of years later, they changed their name to Titanic and under that name they became the first Norwegian rock band to achieve real success outside of Scandinavia with hits in Germany and Britain. The single Sultana, reached number 5 the Top Ten in Britain, leading to an appearance on British TV in Top of the Pops.