From The Beatles to Pink Floyd: Revisiting a 1967 documentary exploring London counterculture
In the 1960s, something extraordinary was occurring as The Beatles and Pink Floyd were both creating a brave new world as they both forged their unique brand of cool which would send ripples around the country.
The rock and alternative music movement was documented in a special episode of the Granada television series 6:30 which was titled It’s So Far Out, It’s Straight Down which takes a look at the growing London underground music scene. By 1967, Paul McCartney was a full-fledged card-carrying member of the capital’s burgeoning circuit along with the likes of Pink Floyd who both feature in the documentary.
The aim of It’s So Far Out, It’s Straight Down was to explain to a mainstream audience the cultural changes taking place in London and how the country’s cultural hotbed was expanding into new areas due to the growing influence of psychedelia. Pink Floyd’s performance in the documentary was one of the group’s first television appearances and introduced a wealth of people to the band for the very first time.
The London scene of 1967 was arguably the most exciting in the world at that time. With the likes of Pink Floyd as well as the emergence of young American guitarist Jimi Hendrix—who was fastly making a name for himself on the London club circuit—the city was a buzz. NPR’s Tim Riley said the events that took place in the capital during that year would “punctuate an era as psychedelic pop culture took shape”.
Paul McCartney was interviewed for the programme and he had a fascinating outlook on how the scene around him, how it was viewed upon as ‘weirdos’ by the masses: “I really wish that people that look sort of with anger at the weirdos, at the happenings, at the psychedelic freak-outs…would be unbiased about it,” he said. “Because they really don’t realise that what these people are talking about is something that they really want themselves. It’s something that everyone wants, you know, it’s personal freedoms… it’s a real basic pleasure for everyone, but it looks weird from the outside.”
He then went on to speak about his views on society in general: “It’s a bit too controlling… A lot of people have twigged…they’ve got all the rules for everything: rules of how to live, of how to paint, how to make music, and it’s just not true anymore. They just don’t work, all these rules. All this scene is trying to do is see where we are now and see what we’ve got around us and see what mistakes we’ve made and straighten them out. What we’ve done before is not necessarily the answer. They’re talking about things that are a bit new, so people tend to put them down a bit.”
The interview with Macca was recorded on 18th January 1967, the following day The Beatles would go on to record ‘A Day In The Life’ which flirts with the societal topics that he discusses in this very interview and is seen by many as The Fab Four’s magnum opus.
Transport yourself to 1967 and watch the documentary below.