1955! The Impact of a Single Revolutionary Year Upon the Evolution of a Culture(2)
1955! The Impact of a Single Revolutionary Year Upon the Evolution of a Culture(2) counterculture stories

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1955! Part Two

1955! The Impact of a Single Revolutionary Year Upon the Evolution of a Culture(2)

Yet far from being some kind of crime highpoint, 1955, or 1955-’60, marks the point crime started to exponentially rise in both the US and Western Europe.

At the same time, standards of sexual morality were being slowly subtly undermined in America and the West, thereby anticipating the full-blown sexual revolution of the succedent decade,

as Kenneth Cmiel has affirmed:

‘[…] sexual mores were becoming less rigid inside mainstream society in the 1950s, a prelude for the next decade.

The counterculture of the mid 1960s was only picking up on debates already under way in mainstream society.’

However, the 1960s would not truly burst into life until the onset of Beatlemania,

and specifically the Beatles’ invasion of America in February 1964 which occasioned what David Kapp has called ‘a cataclysmic cultural shift’ within the U.S.

More or less concurrently, yet far from the Pop mainstream,

Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are A-Changin’ from the January 1964 album of the same name seemed to herald the Counterculture like some kind of a clarion call ,

although Dylan himself refused the label of generational spokesman , while some nine months later, the era of student protest began via the Free Speech Movement,

when students at the University of California, Berkeley, elected to protest against a ban on on-campus political activity.

Then on June the 14th, Colorado-born and Stanford-educated Ken Kesey, author of the best-selling One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, set off on a road trip from his home in La Honda,

California in the company of an ever-mutating band known as the Merry Pranksters.

Destined for the 1964 New York World’s Fair, they did so on a luridly painted former school bus (‘yellows, oranges, blues, reds’ ) named Furthur, and it is significant that Neal Cassady,

known by the Pranksters as Speed Limit , did most of the driving, given that the entire trip had been inspired by Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.

Yet, when Kesey finally met Kerouac in New York, the one-time king of the Beats had little to say to the new king of the nascent ‘60s Counterculture.

The first of the notorious Acid Tests is believed to have occurred in Soquel, California, on the 27th of November 1965 at the rented house of Prankster Ken Babbs,

known as Intrepid Traveller ; with the second arising on the 4th of December in San Jose, at which the Warlocks,

formed from the remnants of a jug blues outfit named Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions, played for the first time as the Grateful Dead.

These LSD-fuelled events, variously enhanced by such phenomena as day-glo décor and psychedelic light shows, as well as the outlandish costumes of Acid Test revellers ,

could be said to have demarcated the point at which the Beat Generation mutated into the Hippie Movement.

While Allen Ginsberg became a kind of father figure for the Hippies, his friend Jack Kerouac wanted no part of them ,

and in the year the Counterculture attained what many believe to have been its apogee in the shape of the Woodstock Music and Art Fair of August 15-18, 1969 ,

Kerouac died following a massive abdominal haemorrhage related to years of chronic alcoholism, his dear friend Neal Cassady having predeceased him by only a matter of months.

Cowboy Neal had died in hospital early the previous year after having been found unconscious on rail tracks just outside of San Miguel de Allende in Mexico’s central highlands.

Some half a century after the first Acid Test, and six decades following the Six Gallery reading,

and any relevant internet search will produce article after article proclaiming the moral decline of America and the West at large,

consequent on other forms of decline such as the traditional family, and traditional notions of right and wrong centred on the West’s ancient Judeo-Christian foundations.

Moreover, there are those Christians, who are of the belief that these are the last days prior to the return of Christ , as depicted in Matthew 24:

‘But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.’

Yet, in the preceding verse, Christ makes it clear that apart from God the Father, no one knows the precise day and hour of his return:

‘But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.’

While there is divergence of opinion among them with respect to the prophetic timeline,

these believers unanimously maintain that the millennium to come - hence their status as premillennialists - will constitute the literal reign of Jesus Christ during which,

to quote from a recent podcast by Chris Fluitt of Redemption Church of Plano, Texas, ‘There won’t be sickness, disease or anyone born with deformity […] There will be no oppression.

No more racism. Social, political, economic or religious oppression.’

The revolutionary changes that distinguished the 1960s,

which had themselves been significantly incubated in the preceding decade notably via the Beat Generation despite the latter’s general conformity,

were ultimately co-opted by the mainstream of Western society , where they set about significantly impacting not just the end of the century world, but that of the early 21st , a world,

as previously mentioned, many see as being in a state of terminal moral decline, with the situation liable to only worsen as the millennium gathers momentum; while others,

quoting from Scripture, offer hope that this same world might be returned to life and health by a revival of the moral values rooted in the West’s traditional Christian heritage.

One fact is surely indisputable, however, and that is that the world, and specifically the Western World,

has been subject to an extraordinary degree of societal change in an extraordinarily brief space of time, with 1955 as a possible contender, among other years,

for the point of departure; although the extent to which that change might be reversed, if at all, is of course impossible to predict with any chance of certainty.


Charles Ealey, Seeds of Change Sown in 1955 (Dallas: The Dallas Morning News, 2005).

Larry Birnbaum, Before Elvis: The Prehistory of Rock ‘n’ Roll (Lanham, Toronto and Plymouth: The Scarecrow Press, 2013), p. 11.

John Covach, What’s That Sound: An Introduction to Rock and its History: 2: The Birth and First Flourishing of Rock and Roll (New York City: WW. Norton and Company, Inc.).

Klaus P. Fischer, America in White, Black, and Gray: A History of the Stormy 1960s (New York and London: Continuum, 2006), p. 66.

Alex Frazer-Harrison, Blackboard Jungle: The little movie that rocked the world (Calgary: The Calgary Herald, 2015).

Max Décharné, A Rocket in My Pocket: The Hipster’s Guide to Rockabilly (), p. 36.

Scott Schinder and Andy Schwartz, Icons of Rock: An Encyclopedia of the Legends Who Changed Music Forever (Westport and London: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2008), p. 2.

Fischer, pps. 66-68

Paul Varner, Historical Dictionary of the Beat Movement (Lanham, Toronto and Plymouth: The Scarecrow Press, 2012), p. 265.

William Hjortsberg, Jubilee Hitchhiker: The Life and Times of Richard Brautigan (Berkeley: Counterpoint Press, 2012).

James Terence Fisher, The Catholic Counterculture in America, 1933-1962 (Chapel Hill and London: The University of North Carolina Press, 1989), p. 220.

Joyce Cowley, Youth in a Delinquent Society (Fourth International, 1955), pps. 115-119.

Eli Lehrer, Crime and Economy: What Connection? (Washington D.C.: The Heritage Foundation, 2005).

The Routledge Handbook of European Criminality, ed. by Sophie Body-Gendrot, Mike Hough, Klára Kiresy, René Lévy and Sonja Snacken (Abingdon and New York: Routledge, 2014), p. 111.

The Sixties: From Memory to History, edit. by David Farber (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1994), p. 275.

David Kamp, The British Invasion (New York: Vanity Fair, 2002).

James E. Perone, Music of the Counterculture Era (Westport and London: Greenwood Press, 2004), p. 98.

American Countercultures: An Encyclopedia of Noncomformists, Alternative Lifestyles, and Radical Ideas in U.S. History: Volume One-Three, edit.

by Gina Misiroglu (London and New York: Routledge, 2009), p. 811.

The Free Speech Movement (Oakland: Calisphere: University of California, 2005).

Tom Wolfe, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (London: Black Sawn, 1989), p. 66.

Wolfe, p. 74

Wolfe, p. 94.

W.J. Rorabaugh, American Hippies (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), p. 55.

Ed McLanahan, Famous People I Have Known (Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 2003), p. 166.

Barry Miles, Jack Kerouac: King of the Beats (London: Virgin Books, 2010), pps. ix-x.

James E. Perone, Music of the Counterculture Era (Westport and London: Greenwood Press, 2004), p. 183.

Peter Ferry, Searching for Neal Cassady in San Miguel de Allende (Chevy Chase: World Hum, 2010).

Dennis Prager, America’s Accelerating Decay (New York: National Review, 2015).

Hunt, Dave McMahon, T.A., Revival or Apostasy? (Bend: The Berean Call, 2015).

Matthew 24: 37 (King James Bible Online).

Matthew 24: 36 (King James Bible Online).

Chris Fluitt, Afterlife 2- Millennial Kingdom Reign and Rapture Reward (Plano: Redemption Church).

Jerry Carrier, Tapestry: The History and Consequences of America’s Complex Culture (New York: Algora Publsihing, 2014), p. 134.

Sarah E.H. Moore, Ribbon Culture: Charity, Compassion and Public Awareness (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), p. 101.

Zoë Corbyn, The Long Summer of Love (Washington, D.C.: The Chronicle of Higher Education, 2017).

Alex Parker, America Needs a Christian Revival (RedState, 2018).

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