Beatles or the Stones? A parliamentary verdict

Searching the Australian Federal Parliament Hansard between 1901 and 1980

#HistoricHansard now comes with its very own search facility. It’s still in beta, but feel free to play: 

Thanks to @wragge it is now possible to search Hansard from 1901 to 1980. This is an invaluable historical resource so what better to do in a shallow age of short term gratification than waste all that computing power on something tremendously trivial.

Let’s do some comparison shopping on one of the great vexed questions of my youth – the Beatles or the Rolling Stones? Admittedly very few MPs prior to 1980 could be expected to be legitimate fans of these bands who came to prominence after 1963, so all we are doing here is poking fun at the old squares. Really, it never goes out of fashion. Just ask my kids.

The Beatles clearly won the name recognition factor in Parliament once we stripped out references to misspelt insects and the proverbial use of the moss-less rolling stone. The self proclaimed bad boy middle class London college students attracted one neutral musical reference and two comments about their drug depravity. To be fair one of these was fended off by Bill Snedden, the Minister for Immigration, who nonetheless got a solid jab in at Mick Jagger’s unsuitability as Ned Kelly.

On the other hand there were seventeen references to the working class louts from Liverpool who Brian Epstein re-invented as lovable moptops. These ranged from the trivial to the borderline deranged. The honour of the first Beatles reference goes to Senator Ormonde on February 27, 1964 who laboured to score a point off the LNP government for having the DLP as a secret weapon in the same way that the British PM had referred to the Beatles as England’s secret weapon in America. This may help to explain why Senator Ormonde has left no trace in my memory.

There were five in context references to the Beatles in discussions around cultural policies such as composer’s royalties, orchestras and book subsidies. Gil Duthie, something of a Tasmanian cultural guru in his day, was quick off the blocks in revealing that Ringo was his favourite Beatle in 1964.

We then had four gratuitous political point scoring references including Senator Ormonde. As well as this there were three very long shot attempts to include the Beatles in such public policy discussions as wool subsidies and airline regulation. By and large they failed in drawing their long bows. Then there were two obligatory bits of LNP ABC bashing, just because … tradition.

The last three references were a bit more out there. Tom Uren bravely, sadly, tried to see shoots of hope in a visit to the USSR after the Czechoslovakian invasion of 1968 when he attended a concert where Beatles songs and folk songs were played. Very nice, but not quite enough to ward off the Brezhnev cultural and economic stasis of the deep Cold War 1970’s.

Another great LNP tradition down the years has been lefty academic bashing, and Mr McLeay from Adelaide managed to drag the Beatles into the story back in 1968.

I regret to say that we all are becoming accustomed to seeing some of these guardians of our intellectual standards busily engaged in demonstrations, protest marches and anti-American and anti-government activities, but very rarely against Communist aggression. You can see them almost any day in the city of Adelaide. At least one of them is a fully fledged professor, complete with Beatle-style long hair and Beatle-style beard, wearing offbeat clothes and bongo beads.

But the grand prize for pop culture studies goes to Bob Katter the first back in 1970 discussing the proposal to set up a Criminology Research Centre. The culture industries were leading the young astray. Bob senior references the Beatles and the Stones with bonus Bob Dylan and American underground magazines. What was Bob’s favourite bit in the Berkeley Barb anyway? Truly, ‘tis a thing of wonder:

The motion picture industry in its present degenerate condition has played its part. Two recent motion pictures entitled The Love Ins’ and ‘The Trip’ have exploited the drug taking theme. In the United States of America there are in addition sleazy underground newspapers devoted to protests, attacks on law enforcement agencies and the promotion of the use of psychedelic drugs, especially marihuana and LSD. Some of these are the Berkeley Barb’, the ‘Los Angeles Free Press’, the ‘East Village Other’ and the Oracle’, to mention just a few of them. We have to add to this the sick condition of modern song writers. It is interesting to note that at one point in 1967 a survey of the top 40 pop records disclosed that 16 of them contained a positive drug message. To any of the hip group the words ‘my senses have been stripped’ in Bob Dylan’s song “The Tambourine Man’ are an obvious drug reference. Another obvious contribution is ‘Smoke Rings of my Mind’. Then, of course, we have the appalling situation where members of such groups as The Rolling Stones and the Beatles frankly admit drug taking. Of course, we all know that the Beatles have been awarded M.B.E.s. It is all very impressive.

It is impossible to determine what influence these people have on our youngsters. So these are the pressures that have to be analysed and the problems that have to be tackled by our criminologists in their research work. Their task will not be assisted by those who, with ever-increasing intensity, will agitate for legalising the so-called soft drugs, such as marihuana. 

The things you pick up with your ear to the ground of those mean streets in country Queensland, eh.

What can I use it for next – how would a Bing and Frankie search in the 40s and 50s go? Was Charlie Chaplin leading the young down a garden path with his funny tramp walk back in the ‘teens and 20’s?


About Greg

Middle aged male, resident at the finest of all latitudes, 37. Reputedly an indoor cricketer.
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