Girls and Boys: Sex and British Pop, BBC2

by | Oct 23, 2005 | All, Reviews

What to say if you liked it

An undeniably fascinating exploration of the country’s musical, sexual and political history. With a dash of Cilla.

What to say if you disliked it

Yet another nostalgic trip down memory lane, praising a mythical and bogus ‘golden age’ of society. With Cilla to boot.

What was good about it?

• The fantastic opening sequence, detailing rock and pop over the past 45 years. From The Beatles to Bowie, Morrissey to Madonna, it was a suitably vibrant and enjoyably wistful start to the programme.

• Quite rightly, this first episode exploring the 1960s equated sexuality with the appeal and importance of music in British society. As the country became more liberal in sexual attitudes (and hypocritical in the case of the Profumo affair), so music reflected this and influenced it. Whether it was Elvis’s hip movements exciting teenage girls or Mick Jagger wearing a dress which confounded expectations of masculinity, music was proven to drive social change and behaviour.

• Fanta Pants and 60s songstress Cilla Black talking about Bill “Rock Around The Clock” Hailey. Reminiscing with fondness, Cilla brilliantly changed tone with the grim realisation that “God, he was ugly”.

• The fact that Mick Jagger’s style of dancing in the Stones was a result of watching Tina Turner live.

• The programme’s insight into the world of Joe Meeks and Larry Palms – respected, yet troubled, managers of some of the biggest British rock & roll bands. It was interesting to see the parallels between these svengalis and the Simon Cowells of this world: their treatment of male singers, groomed into being aspirational sex objects, is no different to today’s Backstreet Boys or Westlife? Similarly, it is illustrative of the cyclical nature of our music industry that Brian Epstein virtually created the world’s first ever global, mass produced boy band in The Beatles.

• David Bowie creating The Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty To Long Haired Men in the early 60s. His displeasure at being called “Darling” is highly amusing when one considers his transformation into Ziggy Stardust ten years later.

What was bad about it?

• The truly diabolical and ear-splitting footage of Cilla singing You’re My World – makes her Surprise Surprise theme tune now sound like Edith Piaf.

• Although the programme mentioned her lesbianism, Dusty Springfield was hardly given any exposure which is unfair considering her significant contribution to British music.

• Phillip Larkin’s poem Anus Mirabilis was used to set the episode’s tone: “Sexual intercourse began / In nineteen sixty-three / Between the end of the Chatterley ban / And the Beatles’ first LP”. The assumption that sex was not a word for public use until rock & roll arrived in the 60s is a faulty one, not least when one considers the publication of Kinsey’s sex research more than 10 years earlier.

• Overall, one couldn’t help agree with the show’s pervading nostalgia in the end as the state of British pop now pales in comparison – any overt sexuality on Top Of The Pops these days is bland and unsurprising, certainly not capable of undermining any authority (hello Britney).

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles


Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!


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