Tuesday, 21 February 2017

I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony)

An Australian four piece group called ‘The Seekers’ was very famous in the UK during the 1960s. Their lead singer, Judith Durham, had a bright sparkling voice, and she was accompanied by three young men, one on double base and two on acoustic guitars. They provided a more sedate form of entertainment than the Rolling Stones and other electric guitar bands of the time, and their gentle humorous approach provided a good contrast to those who smashed up their instruments on stage. In 2013 they embarked on a 50th anniversary tour, still remembered and still loved.

The Seekers officially disbanded in 1969, however Guitarist Keith Potger cleverly put together a British-based group called ‘The New Seekers’ designed to appeal to the same market, though with a little more rock and pop influence. The concept worked. In 1971 they had a hit with ‘I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony)’, which was used by the Coca Cola Corporation in a successful advertisement, where a large crowd of young people stood on one of the hills surrounding Rome singing ‘I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke’ to the same tune.

In the 1970s harmony would also break out in the UK, with the Equal Pay Act 1970 designed to equalise pay and conditions between men and women, though in 2017 there are still outstanding issues on such equality. In 1975 the Sex Discrimination Act sought to protect men and women from discrimination on the grounds of gender or marital status. However during the winter or 1978-79 there was much industrial dispute and strife, in what is now referred to as ‘The Winter of Discontent’ , borrowing from Shakespeare. We might have aspired to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony, but certainly we didn’t manage it back then.

Let’s come forward to 2017 and the London Fashion Week. A BBC headline reads ‘These are the London Fashion Week designers shaping the way we see gender’. The report goes on to tell us that men have been modelling women's wear, unisex clothing brands and androgynous designs that anyone could wear. British fashion is said to be going through a ‘gender revolution’ at the moment. Irish-born designer Jonathan Anderson is working to the concept that men and women can share each other’s clothes. Nicola Formichetti - artistic director of Diesel – says, "Fashion has always been about mixing gender, but now it's becoming such an issue".

I think we should not forget that in the 1970s we wore long hair and flamboyant clothes. This was the era of ‘Glam Rock‘ and bands like ‘The Sweet’, where the male performers had hair and make-up that any woman might have been proud of. This flamboyance continued in to the 1980s with the ‘New Romantics’ such as bands Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet. I can see that the present day fashion world is able to take their ideas and concepts to another level, in a world more accepting of such creativity, but we should still give credit to those from the 1970s and 1980s who paved the way to a more open fashion sense.

London is truly a city that embraces change and diversity, bringing together disparate elements and pumping them out with imaginative, creative added value. This is a vibrant city for dynamic people. Be it in fashion, music, literature, or any other cultural area of activity, London is definitely the place to be. In 1971 The New Seekers sang ‘I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony)’, and although there are still discordant voices I think we can safely say that in London harmony is clearly improving.

Graham Harman-Baker

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