Friday, June 25, 2004

The Age of Anglophilia Part One

I have been an Anglophile nearly all of my life. Much of this is because I have known that I was English in descent on my mother's side almost from birth. Being aware of my heritage, I suppose I just naturally gravitate towards things English. Beyond knowledge of my ancestry, I think much of the reason for my Anglophilia is simply the era into which I was born. I was born in 1963. It was only be a little under a year that English pop culture would come to dominate American pop culture.

By the time I was old enough to remember much of anything, British groups dominated the American pop charts. Indeed, The Beatles had a virtual stranglehold on the upper reaches of the charts. British movies were fairly large at the box office. The American televisoin networks imported British TV series. Even fashions from London's Carnaby Street and King's Road could be found on the streets in American towns and cities.

Today I suppose it would seem curious that for a time the United Kingdom dominated American pop culture. Indeed, I would suppose that there were a number of factors which led to the situation. Perhaps the primary factor was Britain's economy in the mid-Sixties. World War II had destroyed large parts of London and Britain's other cities. For much of the Fifties and into the Sixties, then, England found itself in the process of rebuilding. With new construction taking place, the British economy naturaly grew.

I suppose another factor actually has its roots in America. In the United States of the Fifties, youth culture emerged, fueled largely by the music genre known as rock 'n' roll. This American youth culture found its way to Britain through rock 'n' roll records and movies. As a result, homegrown rock groups such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Who emerged in the United Kingdom. At the same time, the British youth had more spending money than ever before. As a result, industries ranging from the fashion industry to the record industry began to market to the youth of Britain. Eventually, the British youth culture would make its way to America, led by The Beatles and other groups of the British Invasion.

Another factor that was probably a byproduct of the British economy was the growth in the British film industry. Beginning in the Fifties, British films began making inroads into American theatres as they never had before. Movies as diverse as Bridge on the River Kwai and The Mouse That Roared did well at the Americn box office. Naturally, once the British Invasion was under way, even more British movies performed well as the box office. Of course, this exposed American to even more British pop culture.

Another factor may or may not be related to the British economic boom. In 1960 two spy series debuted on British television, The Avengers and Danger Man. As a result the United Kingdom found itself in the midst of a spy craze. Perhaps due to the success of these and other spy series in the United Kingdom, and perhaps due to the novels' increased popularity in American (From Russia With Love numbered among JFK's favourite books), James Bond finally made it to the big screen in Dr. No . Dr. No was not only a success in Britain, but in America as well. Released only two years before The Beatles arrived in the United States, it could be argued that Bond actually led the way for other products of English pop culture in America.

Finally, another factor that may have led to America's love affair with things British in the mid-Sixties may have been a tragedy that shook the whole nation. In November of 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. For a time the entire nation entered a period of mourning. As a result, many Americans may have been seeking something for which they could be happy again, something new and different. That something new and different may have been The Beatles and the other British groups that followed in their wake.

Whatever the reasons, in the mid-Sixties, England came to dominate American pop culture. Indeed, for a time London seemed to be the centre of the world. Music, movies, TV shows, fashion all emerged from London to conquer other parts of the world in a way nothing English had before or since.

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