It was the year sex was invented, according to the poet Philip Larkin. The birth control pill had just become available, enabling recreation rather than procreation, and the Profumo Affair and the revels of 19-year-old Christine Keeler with a Cabinet minister were creating the faultlines which would bring down Harold Macmillan’s Tory Government and usher in Labour.

Larkin’s opening to Annus Mirabilis puts it this way:

“Sexual intercourse began

In nineteen sixty-three

(which was rather late for me) -

Between the end of the “Chatterley” ban

And the Beatles’ first LP”.

The Beatles’ first album was out and they were on their way to superstardom, although the term hadn’t been invented yet. The year, 1963, has a strong claim to also being the year youth culture was invented.

The American comedian Bob Hope, who regularly toured US Cold War army bases, and chummed with crooner Bing Crosby in a series of saccharine movies, described the Beatles’ music as like a direct hit on a guitar factory. It certainly atomised the record companies’ control of popular music (albeit until they struggled out of the wreckage) and American hegemony over it.

The film Yesterday posits the “what if?” plot, where all of their music is unknown except to one man, who goes on to become a global phenomenon playing their songs. If the Beatles hadn’t existed there’s no doubt that our culture today would be significantly different.

They were at the forefront of youth-driven changes, from social mobility to commercial influence to sexual freedom. So what if they hadn’t existed? If they hadn’t been turned down by Decca then they wouldn’t have taped a mimed version of “From Me To You” in Teddington for Thank Your Lucky Stars, then gone to Richmond afterwards to hear the Rolling Stones, and George Harrison would never have recommended them to the man at Decca, president Dick Rowe, who had rejected the Beatles.

Would Tamla Motown have burst out of Detroit to the wider world? We might never have heard of Marvin Gaye, or the Temptations, or Martha and the Vandellas and The Supremes.

Rebel rebel

The Beatles were the first movement in the soundtrack of contemporary popular music. If they and the Stones and the other major British bands of the 1960s were a revolt, conscious or not, against the factory-produced music that had gone before (Elvis, an early influence, was making his his fourteenth film, Viva Las Vegas) then inevitably there would be a rebellion against them and theirs, the hair, the dress and the music.

In the 1970s, the second movement, glam rock, appeared, all shiny suits, stacked heels and Pan Stick, led by David Bowie and reaching its pinnacle, or nadir, with his incarnation as Ziggy Stardust. There was T Rex and Queen, Roxy Music and even Abba, shortly to be reincarnated as avatars on a London stage screen.

Although they didn’t have it all to themselves. The Stones were there as they still are, heavy metal was turning the amp up to 11 with bands like Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Aerosmith while the coup against them, punk rock, featured the briefly-notorious Sex Pistols and The Clash, whose epic double album, London Calling, came out two weeks before Christmas in1979.

The third movement in the 1980s opened with synthesisers, the heavily made--up and coiffed new romantics –Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran, Boy George and a man called Marilyn. There was The Smiths, with Morrissey’s penchant for daffodils and, later, crypto-fascism. If this was any kind of revolt against orthodoxy it was pretty insipid.

The biggest-selling UK singles of the decade, number one and number two, were by Frankie Goes To Hollywood. Culture Club’s Karma Chameleon wasn’t far behind, and bands like T’Pau, the Communards and the Human League briefly emerged and departed.

Time for Prayer

IN the States, Bon Jovi, a kind of cultural throwback, had their biggest hit – now their signature tune – Livin’ On A Prayer about a struggling working-class couple but it barely registered here at the time.

The political backdrop was ruthless and cut-throat. Britain’s banking was deregulated by a Conservative government ostensibly to make financial services more competitive to foreign competition, particularly Wall Street. The 1987 movie of the same name encapsulated the time – heartless capitalism bathed in champagne and fuelled by industrial amounts of cocaine. Here, council houses were being sold off and public utilities privatised.

As financial services were being opened up to Wall Street and US hedge funds, and if grunge was a reaction to the ruthless capitalism of the time – Nirvana’s Nevermind cover had a baby swimming after a dollar bill – Britpop was brewing.

In the very council houses that were being sold, Jarvis Cocker, later of Pulp, was growing up as were the fractious Gallagher brothers in Manchester. Arguably the later Britpop movement came from the streets and the very houses being sold off.

The fourth movement of the 1990s was the decade of the ballad in the UK. Wet Wet Wet’s Love Is All Around was the top-selling single, followed by Bryan Adams, Whitney Houston and Celine Dion.

But grunge, working-class and from Seattle was emerging, led by Nirvana, opposed at the other end of the spectrum by Guns ’N’ Roses.

To be Kurt

AXL Rose was a fan of Nirvana but it wasn’t reciprocated by Kurt Cobain. “We’re not your typical Guns ’N’ Roses type of band that has basically nothing to say,” Cobain put it. He was for inclusivity, gay rights and feminism. Rose he saw as emblematic of toxic masculinity. In 1993, Damon Albarn of Blur declared war on grunge and ushered in the fifth movement which would also slide into the new century. Britpop. “If punk was about getting rid of hippies,” he said, “then I’m getting rid of grunge.”

Noel Gallagher of Oasis joined in, writing Live Forever as a reaction to the nihilism of grunge, particularly Nirvana’s I Hate Myself And I Want to Die. Which was true, of course, in Cobain’s case.

Single life

IN August 1995, Oasis and Blur were pitted against each other in what was dubbed the Battle of Britpop, with both bands releasing singles on the same day. It was a brilliant marketing wheeze which Blur eventually won, and it also dominated the airwaves and media.

It was all Cool Britannia – Noel Gallagher having drinks with Tony Blair in Downing Street in 1997 in the wake of the financial meltdown, and at the peak of the then-Prime Minister’s success, before it would plummet and millions would take to the streets in the protest about the war in Iraq, and in which tens of thousands would die.

The sixth movement is the requiem. The death of movements. The status quo does not exist, there is nothing to rebel against, there is no counter-culture. The advent of streaming has made all kinds of music instantly available to anyone and everyone at any time. It’s a musical melting pot.

There’s hip-hop, there’s Bach, there Jussi Björling and Bruce Springsteen. There’s even a song about Keeler, who almost single-handedly brought down the Tory government. It’s by Dusty Springfield, written and produced by the Pet Shop Boys, called Nothing Has Been Proved.

“It may be false, it may be true, but nothing has been proved.”