The '60s at 50


Monday, May 16, 1966: 'Pet Sounds'

Departing from the Beach Boys' surf-music roots, "Pet Sounds" was an emotive and carefully planned recording that attempted to present an album as a unified work and not merely a collection of singles. The album is notable for Brian Wilson's lead vocals* and the harmonizing support from the other band members. Equally compelling are the melodies and the arrangements, the latter featuring, among other instruments, horns, strings, theremin, accordion and a glockenspiel. The album has proven to be the most complete statement of Wilson's musical and lyrical aesthetic.
-- From National Recording Registry, Library of Congress
-- * Other group members also sang lead vocals, most notably Carl Wilson on "God Only Knows"

* Listen to the album ( @
* Album review (AllMusic): @
* Album reviews (Rolling Stone): @ and @
* "Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll: 'Pet Sounds' " (Rock and Roll Hall of Fame): @
* "The Making (and Remaking) of the Beach Boys' 'Pet Sounds,' Arguably the Greatest Rock Album of All Time" (Open Culture): @
* "The Beach Boys: The Definitive Diary of America's Greatest Band, On Stage and in the Studio" (Keith Badman, 2004): @
* "The Beach Boys' 'Pet Sounds' " (Jim Fusilli, 2005): @ 


1966: Cultural Revolution in China

The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution was a decade-long period of political and social chaos caused by Mao Zedong's bid to use the Chinese masses to reassert his control over the country's Communist Party. (From "The Cultural Revolution: all you need to know about China's political convulsion," linked below.)
     Daily summaries are from "Historical Dictionary of the Chinese Cultural Revolution" and "The New Cambridge History of Contemporary China" (linked below) unless otherwise noted.
     Texts from and unless otherwise noted.

February 12
The Chinese Communist Party Central Committee (CCPCC) issues the Outline Report within the party nationwide as a guiding document.

April 18: "Hold High the Great Red Banner of Mao Tse-Tung's Thought and Actively Participate in the Great Socialist Cultural Revolution"
* Text: @
* Image: "Hold high the great red banner of Mao Zedong to wage the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution to the end -- Revolution is no crime, to rebel is justified" (Image from

May 7 directive
* Summary (from @
* Text (from "Turbulent Decade," linked below): @

May 16: "Circular of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, May 16, 1966: A Great Historic Document"
The Politburo announces its decision to set up the Cultural Revolution Group, and calls for attacks on "all representatives of the bourgeoisie who have infiltrated the Party, government, army and cultural world."
* Text: @

May 25: Dazibao
Dazibao, big character posters, were an object of political struggle that proliferated during the Cultural Revolution. They usually contained quotations of Mao, the name of the person being discussed in the poster, tangential evidence of him or her being counter-revolutionary, a call for action against the person, and more praises of Mao. ... The posters were usually pasted on walls or boards for the public to see and to discuss. ... On May 25, 1966, a big character poster written by Nie Yuanzi targeting the chancellor and officials of Peking University rekindled the flame of poster. Nie's was lauded by Mao as "China's first Marxist-Leninist big character poster." ... Big character posters soon spread beyond the campus. (from "The Cultural Revolution and Overacting: Dynamics between Politics and Performance," Tuo Wang, 2014: @)
* @
* "Chinese Posters: Art from the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution" (Lincoln Cushing and Ann Tompkins, 2007): @

May 29: Red Guards

A group of students at Tsinghua University Middle School -- mostly children of ranking officials -- forms in secrecy a paramilitary organization named “Red Guards” to help carry out Mao's campaign against the bourgeoisie.

June 1: "Sweeping away all the monsters and demons"
* Summary (from "Rhetoric of the Chinese Revolution," linked below): @

July 16: Yangtze River
Mao swims in the Yangzi River, demonstrating his good health and determination to carry out the Cultural Revolution. 
* "The Great Helmsman Goes Swimming" ( @
* From "100 Days in Photographs: Pivotal Events That Changed the World" (Nick Yapp, 2007): @

August 8: "Decision of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party Concerning the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution" (aka the Sixteen Points)
The Eleventh Plenum of the Eighth CCPCC adopts its Sixteen Points, a decision in favor of the Cultural Revolution.
* Text: @

August 18: Tiananmen Square
In army uniform and wearing a Red Guard armband, Mao receives a million students (many of them Red Guards and teachers) at Tiananmen Square.
* "Song Binbin's Cultural Revolution apology sparks national remorse call" (South China Morning Post, 2016): @

1981: "Resolution on CPC History"
* Text: @

Other resources
* "The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China" ( @
* "Chinese Communism" ( @
* Timeline ( @
* Photos: @
* Photos: @
* "The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution" (; archived): @
* "Morning Sun: A film and website about Cultural Revolution": @
* Coverage from South China Morning Post: @
* "The Cultural Revolution: all you need to know about China's political convulsion" (The Guardian, 2016): @
* "China's Cultural Revolution, Explained" (New York Times, 2016): @
* "Readings in the Chinese Communist Cultural Revolution: A Manual for Students of the Chinese Language" (Wen Shun-Chi, 1971): @
* "Historic Lessons of China's Cultural Revolution" (Cynthia Lai, 1981-82): @
* "China's Cultural Revolution, 1966-1969: Not a Dinner Party" (Michael Schoenhauls, 1996): @
* "Turbulent Decade: A History of the Cultural Revolution" (Jiaqi Yan and Gao Gao, 1996): @
* "China: A Historical and Cultural Dictionary" (Michael Dillon, 1998): @
* "China During the Cultural Revolution: A Selected Bibliography of English Language Works" (Tony H. Chang, 1999): @
* "The New Cambridge Handbook of Contemporary China" (Colin McKerras, 2001): @
* "China's Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution: Master Narratives and Post-Mao Narratives" (Woei Lien Chong, 2002): @
* "Rhetoric of the Chinese Cultural Revolution: The Impact on Chinese Thought, Culture, and Communication" (Xing Lu, 2004): @
* "Mao's Last Revolution" (Roderick MacFarquhar and Michael Schoenhals, 2009): @
* "The Cultural Revolution: A Very Short Introduction" (Richard Curt Kraus, 2012): @
* "Historical Dictionary of the Chinese Cultural Revolution" (Guo Jian, Yongyi Song and Yuan Zhou, 2015): @


Monday, April 25, 1966: 'Pop!'

    Peter Benchley's cover story on pop culture begins: "It's a fad, it's a trend, it's a way of life. It's pop." and goes on to say that "In short, pop is what's happening ... it's anything that is imaginative, nonserious, rebellious, new, or nostalgic: anything, basically, fun." (Full story, from Lichtenstein Foundation via Internet Archive: @)

     Roy Lichtenstein's cover illustration was similar to the comic-book-style words that appeared on screen during fight scenes in TV's "Batman." 

*"The Continuing Influence of Popular Culture on Contemporary Art" (Queensland Art Gallery, Queensland, Australia, 2003): @
* "American Pop Frankenstein? Andy Warhol, Iconic Experience and the Advent of the Pop Society" (Steve Sherwood, UCLA): @
* Entry from @
* Peter Benchley website: @
* Roy Lichtenstein website: @

Related posts
* "Batman" (January 12, 1966): @
* "Notes on 'Camp' " (September 1964): @
* Pop art at the Guggenheim (March 14, 1963): @
* "Pop Goes the Easel" (March 25, 1962): @
* Andy Warhol's soup cans (July 9, 1962): @
* Roy Lichtenstein (1961): @ 


Monday, April 18, 1966: AstroTurf

The Los Angeles Dodgers shelled veteran Robin Roberts with a barrage of singles Monday night and defeated the Houston Astros, 6-3, in the first official game played on the Astrodome's infield of synthetic grass. ... Neither club gave indication of concern about the pool table green infield made of tough nylon strips zippered together. There were three errors, but none could be blamed on the carpet-like material that Astro officials plan to extend into the outfield by mid-June.
     -- Story by Associated Press: @
     -- Image by Associated Press from July 1966, showing the installation of Astroturf in the Astrodome outfield.

* @
* "Astroturf Applauded by Dodger" (Associated Press, April 19, 1966; from, subscription only): @
* "The Cool Bubble" (Roger Angell, 1966): @
* "The Rise and Fall of Artificial Turf" (Mark Armour, Baseball Analysts, 2006): @
* "MLB's turf wars are just about over" (Associated Press, September 2009): @
* "Materiality and Meaning: Synthetic Grass, Sport, and the Limits of Modern Progress" (Benjamin D. Lisle, 2012): @
* "Turf Wars" (Jennifer Weeks, Chemical Heritage Foundation, 2013): @
* "Movies, Bullfights, and Baseball, Too: Astrodome Built for Spectacle First and Sports Second" (Eric Robinson, Society for American Baseball Research, 2014): @
* "Monofilament Ribbon Pile Product" (Patent, 1967): @
* Earlier post on the Astrodome (April 1965): @


Monday, April 11, 1966: LSD in the United States

Sandoz Pharmaceuticals, the nation's only licensed distributor of LSD, has ceased distribution of the hallucinatory drug in this country. LSD, or lysergic acid diethylamide, is produced by the company's parent concern, Sandoz Ltd., in Switzerland. ... The company had informed the federal food and drug administration in Washington that it was withdrawing its investigational drug application because of "unforeseen public reaction." Authorities said the drug produced extreme sensations of color, sight and taste, breaking down the sense of reality.
     -- From Associated Press: @
     -- Image from Life magazine, March 25, 1966: @

* LSD information (National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health): @
* LSD information ( @
* "How LSD was popularized" (Schaeffer Library of Drug Policy): @
* "Legend of a Mind: Timothy Leary & LSD" (The Pop History Dig): @
* @
* The Albert Hofmann Foundation: @
* "History of Sandoz Pharmaceuticals" (The Herb Museum): @
* "Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA, The Sixties, and Beyond" (Martin A. Lee and Bruce Shlain, 1985): @
* "Storming Heaven: LSD and the American Dream" (Jay Stevens, 1987): @ 
* "Drugged: The Science and Culture Behind Psychotropic Drugs" (Richard J. Miller, 2014): @ 
* "Acid Hype: America News Media and the LSD Experience" (Steven Siff, 2015): @


Friday, April 8, 1966: End of poll tax

Mississippi's $2-a-year poll tax was ruled unconstitutional by a special three-judge federal court which forbade the state to apply it as a requirement to vote.
     The judges ruled in favor of a Justice Department suit, brought under the 1965 Voting Rights Act, that contended Mississippi had used the 76-year-old tax to keep Negroes from voting.
     The suit also charged the tax discriminated economically against the poor of any color, and made a negligible contribution to public education revenues -- for which it was earmarked -- of only 0.43 percent.
     The decision forbids application of poll tax payment as a voting requirement in any "municipal, county or state or national election hereafter held within the state of Mississippi."
     The panel, Judge Walter P. Gewin of Tuscaloosa, Ala., of the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and District Judges Harold Cox of Southern Mississippi and Claude F. Clayton of Northern Mississippi, noted the decision followed the Supreme Court's March 24 decision against the Virginia state board of elections in a poll tax case.
     Similar federal panels earlier ruled the poll tax unconstitutional in Alabama and Texas.

     -- Story by Associated Press: @
     -- Image taken from nameplate of The Delta Democrat Times (Greenville, Mississippi), January 15, 1964

Harper v. Virginia State Board of Elections (March 24, 1966)
* "Supreme Court Strikes Down Virginia Poll Tax" (United Press International, March 24): @
* "Mississippi Last State of Poll Tax" (UPI, March 25): @
* "Supreme Court Says Poll Tax Violates Economic Equality" (AP, March 28): @
* Decision and opinions (from FindLaw): @
* Oral arguments (from @
* Biography of Evelyn Thomas Butts (Encyclopedia of Virginia): @

Other resources
* "A Review of the Activities of the Department of Justice in Civil Rights, 1966" (Department of Justice, January 1967): @
* "Recalling an Era When the Color of Your Skin Meant You Paid to Vote" (Smithsonian magazine, March 2016): @
* Earlier post on 24th Amendment (January 23, 1964): @ 


Friday, April 8, 1966: 'Is God Dead?'

Time magazine publishes a provocative article (with a controversial cover) by religion editor John T. Elson. It begins:

     Is God dead? It is a question that tantalizes both believers, who perhaps secretly fear that he is, and atheists, who possibly suspect that the answer is no. 
     Is God dead? The three words represent a summons to reflect on the meaning of existence. No longer is the question the taunting jest of skeptics for whom unbelief is the test of wisdom and for whom Nietzsche is the prophet who gave the right answer a century ago. Even within Christianity, now confidently renewing itself in spirit as well as form, a small band of radical theologians has seriously argued that the churches must accept the fact of God's death, and get along without him. How does the issue differ from the age-old assertion that God does not and never did exist? Nietzsche's thesis was that striving, self-centered man had killed God, and that settled that. The current death-of-God group believes that God is indeed absolutely dead, but proposes to carry on and write an theology without theos, without God. Less radical Christian thinkers hold that at the very least God in the image of man, God sitting in heaven, is dead, and -- in the central task of religion today -- they seek to imagine and define a God who can touch men's emotions and engage men's minds. 
     If nothing else, the Christian atheists are waking the churches to the brutal reality that the basic premise of faith -- the existence of a personal God, who created the world and sustains it with his love -- is now subject to profound attack.

* Complete text: @
* "Is God Dead?" (the Rev. G.H. Ashworth, for The Bryan, Ohio, Democrat, May 25, 1905): @
* "The God Is Dead Movement" (Time, October 22, 1965; subscription only): @
* John T. Elson obituary (New York Times, 2009): @
* "Is God Just a Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists" (Sean McDowell and Jonathan Morrow, editors, 2010): @
* "Methodist Heretic: Thomas Altizer and the Death of God at Emory University" (Christopher Demuth Rodkey, 2010): @
* "American Nietzsche: A History of an Icon and His Ideas" (Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen, 2012): @
* " 'God Is Dead' Controversy" (New Georgia Encyclopedia, 2013): @
* "Thomas J.J. Alitzer: On the Death of God Theology" (Jose L. Gutierrez, 2014): @

Time, December 26, 1969
The magazine publishes a three-year-later look at the subject with "The New Ministry: Bringing God Back to Life."
* Complete text: @

motive magazine, February 1966
The official magazine of the Methodist Student Movement publishes a satirical obituary, written in the style of The New York Times, titled "God is Dead in Georgia."
* Complete text: @
* Note: Anthony Towne, who wrote the obituary, followed it up in 1968 with the book "Excerpts from the Diaries of the Late God." Short summary (from "Religion in America Since 1945: A History," Patrick Allitt, 2003): @
* motive magazine archives (Boston University School of Theology): @ and @

Sojourner Truth, 1852
During an anti-slavery meeting in Salem, Ohio, the abolitionist and social reformer replies to Frederick Douglass' speech on how to rid the country of slavery with the plaintive question (by some accounts), "Is God gone?" The phrase is more remembered as "Is God dead?", which is also inscribed -- without the question mark -- on her tombstone in Battle Creek, Michigan.
* Excerpt from "Sojourner Truth: Slave, Prophet, Legend" (Carleton Mabee and Susan Mabee Newhouse, 1995): @
* Exceprt from "Sojourner Truth as Orator: Wit, Story and Song" (Suzanne Pullon Fitch and Roseann M. Mandzuik, 1997): @
* Excerpt from "Sojourner Truth's America" (Margaret Washington, 2009): @ 


April 1966: 'Frank Sinatra Has A Cold'

Gay Talese's profile of Frank Sinatra is published in the April 1966 issue of Esquire magazine. It stands as one of the high achievements of "New Journalism," in which writers use all manner of literary techniques to tell a nonfiction story. The profile is also noteworthy in that Talese did not interview Sinatra, talking instead to the people in the entertainer's circle.

-- Subhed reads: "And some of the most important people in some of the most important places in New York, New Jersey, Southern California and Las Vegas are suddenly developing postnasal drop"
-- Cover illustration by Edward Sorel

* Full story ( @

* Annotated version, 2013 ( @
* 50th-anniversary edition (Taschen-Boeken): @
* Oral interview with Talese, 2015 ( @
* "The Birth of 'The New Journalism' " (Tom Wolfe, New York magazine, February 14, 1972): @
* Complete issue of New York magazine (February 14, 1972): @
* Short summary of "New Journalism" (from "Culture Wars: An Encyclopedia of Issues, Viewpoints, and Voices," edited by Roger Chapman, 2010): @
* "The Gang That Wouldn't Write Straight: Wolfe, Thompson, Didion, Capote and the New Journalism Revolution" (Marc Weingarten, 2010): @
* "Literary Journalism in the Twentieth Century" (edited by Norman Sims, 2008): @
* "The Esquire Decade" (Frank Digiacoma, Vanity Fair magazine, January 2007): @
* "It Wasn't Pretty, Folks, But Didn't We Have Fun? Surviving the '60s with Esquire's Harold Hayes" (Carol Posgrove, 2001): @
* Talese biography ( @
* Talese's website (via Random House): @


Saturday, March 19, 1966: Texas Western 72, Kentucky 65

With a starting lineup of five black players, Texas Western College beats the University of Kentucky (which did not have a single black player on its roster) for the NCAA men's basketball championship. Many accounts of the game -- including those from the Associated Press, United Press International, The New York Times and Sports Illustrated, all linked below -- did not mention the game's social significance. Shown here are two exceptions -- a column by sportswriter Harvey Yavener of The Trentonian (N.J.) newspaper, published March 21; and a story by Time magazine, published March 25). Texas Western is now known as the University of Texas at El Paso.

* Associated Press game story: @
* United Press International: @
* New York Times (from @
* Sports Illustrated (from @
* The Road to Glory (UTEP website): @
* "Significance of Texas Western's 1966 NCAA title not realized at first" (Jon Solomon, CBS Sports, 2016): @
* "Basketball's Game-Changer" (John Feinstein, Washington Post, 2008): @
* "A Win for Texas Western, A Triumph for Equality" (Michael Wilbon, Washington Post, 2006): @
* "Texas Western's 1966 title left lasting legacy" (Frank Fitzpatrick, ESPN Classic, 2003): @
* "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" (Curry Kirkpatrick, Sports Illustrated, 1991): @
* "The Game: A Study in Black & White, 1966" (Bryan Woolley, Nova magazine, 1991): @
* "In An Alien World" (Jack Olsen, Sports Illustrated, 1968): @
* "All-America First: All-Negro 1st Team Topped by Alcindor" (Associated Press, 1967): @
* "And The Wheels Turned" (UTEP student-produced documentary): @
* "And The Walls Came Tumbling Down: The Basketball Game That Changed American Sports" (Frank Fitzpatrick, 2000): @
* "Basketball's Biggest Upset: Texas Western Changed The Sport With A Win Over Kentucky in 1966" (Ray Sanchez, 2005): @
* "Benching Jim Crow: The Rise and Fall of the Color Line in Southern College Sports, 1890-1980" (Charles H. Martin, 2010): @ 


Friday, March 11, 1966: Ronald Reagan's tree quote

SAN FRANCISCO (UPI) -- Ronald Reagan called upon private industry Friday to battle the "infinite danger" of growing federal government. "The might of the government is awesome," said the Republican gubernatorial candidate. "We have got to act fast. We're running out of time." Reagan made the remarks in a speech to about 500 persons attending the annual meeting of the Western Wood Productions Association. He urged the group to join with other private industries, such as privately operated utility firms, in combating federal power. "The time has come," he said, "for more control of the government by the people instead of more control of the people by the government."
     ... Regarding proposed federal plans for a Redwood National Park in Northern California, Reagan said he hadn't fully studied new bills now before Congress, but that he favored a "common sense limit" on the program. He explained that both the natural beauty of the area and the economic needs of the lumber industry should be considered. He added, "a tree's a tree -- how many more do you need to look at?"

-- "Reagan Flays Federal Grip on Private Industry," Long Beach Independent, March 12, 1966
-- Editorial cartoon from Fresno Bee, March 15
-- NOTE: Many online resources (and books, for that matter) state that Reagan spoke on March 12. However, newspaper accounts of the time -- both before and after the event -- show that it actually took place on Friday, March 11.

* "If You've Seen One Tree ..." ( @
* "The Wrong Side of History" (Center for Western Priorities): @
* Excerpt from "Governor Reagan: His Rise to Power" (Lou Cannon, 2003): @ 


Friday, March 4, 1966: 'We're more popular than Jesus now'

In a story written by Maureen Cleave and published in the London Evening Standard, John Lennon of The Beatles says:

Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue about that; I'm right and I will be proved right. We're more popular than Jesus now; I don't know which will go first -- rock 'n' roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it ruins it for me.

Lennon's comments attracted little attention until they were reprinted in the September edition of Datebook magazine. (The cover and inside headline used the phrase "I don't know which will go first -- rocknroll or Christianity.") 

The backlash in the United States was swift, beginning with radio station WAQY in Birmingham, Alabama, which in August encouraged listeners to throw away or burn the band's records. Other stations followed suit and stopped playing Beatles songs, while the group was condemned by politicians and religious figures.

-- Jackson, Mississippi, August 1966; photo by Corbis Images

* Summary from The Beatles Bible: @
* Summary from The Beatles Ultimate Experience: @
* "John Lennon and Jesus, 4 March 1966" (Gordon Thompson, author of "Please Please Me: Sixties British Pop, Inside Out"): @
* " 'Christianity will go' comment stirs up fans" (Ottawa Citizen, August 3, 1966): @
* "John's Gospel" (David Frost, The Spectator, August 12): @
* "Beatle Lennon Apologizes" (The Nashua, N.H., Telegraph, August 12): @
* "Stations No, No Beatles Disks" (Billboard, August 13): @
* "Beatles Running Strong -- With Powerhouse Stations' Blessings" (Billboard, August 20): @
* "Warm Welcome for Beatles in 'Bible Belt' " (Sydney Morning Herald, August 21): @
* "Vatican 'forgives' John Lennon" (Reuters, November 22, 2008): @
* Film clips of controversy: @ 


February 1966: 'Valley of the Dolls' published

A swinging first novel about fast spending, free loving and despair among the jet-set celebrities of Broadway and Hollywood. Miss Susann spans 20 postwar years in the lives of three women who can be loosely categorized as Anne, the Face; Jennifer, the Body, and Neely, the Talent.
     Each of the three achieved fame in her own way -- Anne doing high-priced commercials on television; Jennifer making nude movies in France, and Neely singing in nightclubs and films -- but none of them was able to attain happiness.
     All three ultimately become devotees of the "dolls" of Miss Susann's title. The pills which a Broadway attorney who functions as a deus ex machina in the story describes as "standard equipment for this business."
     Miss Susann's thesis is the not unfamiliar one that the pinnacle of stardom is a cold and lonely place, likely to destroy anyone who ascends to it. The point is not clearly made. Certainly stardom is self-destroying the one of her characters, but another is plagued by cancer and the third by an unfaithful husband -- afflictions not peculiar to show business.
     -- United Press International

* @
* Book: @
* "Actress-Writer's Best Seller Creates Furor in Hollywood" (UPI, August 1966): @
* "Happiness is Being Number 1" (Life magazine, August 19, 1966): @
* " 'Valley of the Dolls' at 50" (Simon Doonan, Slate, February 2016): @
* "How 'Valley of the Dolls' went from a reject to a 30-million best-seller" (Martin Chilton, The Telegraph, February 2016): @
* "What Was It about 'Valley of the Dolls'? It Was Jacqueline Susann" (Kate Dries, Jezebel, February 2016): @
* "Lovely Me: The Life of Jacqueline Susann" (Barbara Seaman, 1996): @ 

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