I’ve just come across a reference in a 1962 ‘Jazz Monthly’ to a CBS compilation LP, ‘Who’s Who In The Swinging Sixties’ – with ‘swinging’ in this case clearly a play on the idea of ‘swing’ as a jazz term and ‘swinging’ as an adjective denoting ebullience. I wondered if this may have been, in fact, the debut appearance of the phrase, albeit in a slightly different context to the one we’re all familiar with (Carnaby Street, London, 1965, etc.). Certainly, the first appearance of the term ‘Swinging London’ in print – from which I think the wider notion of the ‘swinging sixties’ derived – was in a famous ‘Time’ magazine cover story of April 1966.
In the book ‘Days In The Life: Voices From The English Underground 1961-1971’ (Heinemann, 1988), by Jonathon Green, Time magazine’s cultural commentator of the time, Andrea Adam, recalled the origin of that phrase:
‘As I remember it, the expression ‘Swinging London’ just came out of the blue. One of the editors on Time used it jokingly. Somebody said, ‘Oh hey… what about that?’ We never tried to push it as a concept, but it became the working title for the cover. And it caught on… We were all totally riveted by London. London was special, it had a kind of mystique. But what prompted the bloody cover story was not a fascination with a socio-cultural phenomenon, it was the fascination among the senior editors for mini-skirts. There was no more depth of emotion than that… [But] we knew that there was actually a phenomenon going on in London which kind of differed from what was going on in the States. I don’t think we understood it. We felt that the way in which England had adopted these mores was based on some kind of cultural maturity, England after all being an older culture, whereas in the States it was yet another crazy fling.’
The implication there is that ‘swinging sixties’ was not a phrase then in use – that ‘swinging London’ was a totally new word pairing/concept to describe the cultural cauldron of the time/place.
Can anybody point to a use of the phrase ‘Swinging Sixties’ that predates the CBS 1962 LP? Also, aside from that, can anyone recall (yes, I’m looking at you Johnny C) if the phrase was used within the decade itself or was it – like the phrase ‘progressive rock’, used to describe a certain sound/milieu associated with the early 70s – largely a retrospectively applied term?