As a person who was born in 1989, any view I have of any era before that is dictated by pictures, films, stories and songs. In my mind, the sixties were a vibrant and colourful time — slides of flowers, bright dresses and sunshine fill my brain’s powerpoint presentation. However, I was listening to Paint It, Black by The Rolling Stones and I got a rather different impression. Nicholas Rombes in his Cultural Dictionary of Punk says that the song was ‘was released in May 1966, the same month that tens of thousands of anti-Vietnam War protestors picketed the White House.’ He goes on to quote a poem from that era, At a March against the Vietnam War by Robert Bly:
We have carried around this cup of darkness.
We hesitate to anoint ourselves.
Now we pour it over our heads.
He makes a case for saying that this ‘blackness’ that Mick Jagger sung about was in reference to the mood of the time — brutality, injustice and cruelty. The song went to number one, so it definitely resonated with many. Film director Stanley Kubrick was one who twenty years later closed his über-dark Vietnam War film “Full Metal Jacket” with the song. I appreciated Mick’s help in giving me an alternative P.O.V.