WRIGHT THINKING: Good times, bad times

President John F. Kennedy slumps down in the back seat of a car after being fatally shot in Dallas in this Nov. 22, 1963
President John F. Kennedy slumps down in the back seat of a car after being fatally shot in Dallas in this Nov. 22, 1963
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COMMEMORATIONS of two major events of half a century ago really turned back the clock mighty effectively for people of my generation this month.

 The fact that it was times remembered with sadness and joy made it particularly bittersweet.

 The first date of note from 1963 was, of course, the assassination of President John F Kennedy in Dallas on November 22.

 The rotation of the calendar meant that the 50th anniversary a few days ago was also a Friday, as was the day of the shooting in Texas.

 As you will have seen, the media has been full of articles and programmes looking back to the death of JFK and the inevitable debate about who was really responsible.

 Another piece of TV programming recently looked back on a much happier day that year.

 February 11 in 1963 boasted a much nicer slice of history when the Beatles recorded their Please Please Me album at the Abbey Road studios in London’s St John’s Wood.

 BBC telly did a cracking programme recently when a range of modern artists performed their own interpretations of songs from that superb LP.

 They had to do it to a strict time limit and many of them were amazed that the Liverpool group had recorded the album in one working day.

 In modern music, bands can sometimes take months to turn out something of far weaker quality, says me with expected Sixties bias.

 Both Abbey Road and Dealey Plaza where the President was killed have tourists most days and I’ve always thought that the two events did have a kind of link to what made the atmosphere of that decade special.

Even though they’d been going for a few years by then, 1963 was perhaps the year when the Beatles really became wedged into British, and then the world’s, culture.

 Their music and the idealistic young President across the Atlantic ignited a wave of optimism, especially among young people, which was real and energising.

 Before Kennedy and the Beatles, most politicians and musicians seemed more in tune with our granddads than us 16 year olds.

 These big changes seemed to promise an upward curve into the future and the gunshots which killed the President seemed to obliterate our hopes too.

 It’s a common question to ask if you remember where you were when you first heard the news, and I certainly do.

 It all happened at lunchtime in Dallas so it was early evening here when the shocking news came in.

 Even that night had a Beatles and Kennedy link for me.

 A friend and I had hoped to go and see the Beatles on stage at the Globe Theatre in Stockton High Street, but we couldn’t get tickets – they sold out in 24 hours.

 And it would have cost us six shillings each – 30p in modern money. Instead, I’d called round at his house in Hart Station.

 When his mum answered the door she was in tears and shaking her head.

 I presumed that a member of the family had died and, in a way, he had.

 This President had, among other things, steered the world away from the verge of nuclear war over the Cuban missile crisis, and there was a real fear in the days that followed that, without Jack Kennedy, war could come.

 I know that time has not been fully kind to the memories of both the late President and the two departed Beatles, but their impact on my generation was colossal.