… the 1970s
Yeah, that’s not going to come as a surprise to anyone! This is the decade where I spent my teenage years and, although I wouldn’t return to being a teenager if you paid me, I am truly grateful that those are ‘my’ years because when I look back on them they were so much fun. Okay, so it was a period of political upheaval in the UK, with the Irish troubles constantly making headlines and trades union actions leading to regular power cuts and the introduction of the 3-day week which, as I recall, didn’t apply to schools so I didn’t benefit!
Yet, set against that, here are five things that I look back on with immense fondness.
Oh, yes. From Glam Rock to Punk: T Rex singing “Ride A White Swan” in 1970 to Blondie’s “Heart Of Glass” in 1979, I was there! Roy Wood of Wizzard was my pop pin-up and I had a big poster of him in the bedroom I shared with my sister. There will never be a Christmas song to top “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day” and I will brook no argument on that. I patiently waited until I was in my 50s to see Roy Wood live and also got to see another 1970s favourite – The Stylistics – around the same time. But the 70s were also the years of Don McLean, Bread, Alvin Stardust, more Don McLean, Neil Diamond, Gladys Knight and the Pips, and a host of others who provided the background music to my adolescence.
We had transistor radios and listened to Radio 1 and Radio Caroline. We had cassette recorders on which we could tape music off the radio (and make mix-tapes for our loved ones) or play our favourite albums bought legitimately on cassette (Andy’s Records was the big Norwich seller at the time). We still had record players and bought on Vinyl too. My oldest sister even had an 8-track player which provided my introduction to Leonard Cohen. Now the big thing is music streaming services and where is the romance in that?
For a long while the 1970s were labelled as the decade that style forgot, and there were some hideous crimes against fashion in that decade – from Glam Rock to Punk! However, for me it was also a very classically fashionable decade and provided the bedrock of my wardrobe for ever more. What I remember best are the a-line skirts hitting between the bottom of the knee and the middle of the calf and the trousers actually reaching to your waist. There were Oxford Bags and a lot of other 1920s influences like Fairisle knitwear, and there was plaid, not to mention the ever-present Laura Ashley mini floral print. Wool coats for winter and cheesecloth for summer. Men in suits – what heaven for a heterosexual lady was the 1970s office full of men in suits and ties.
The photo at the top of this post shows me in one of my favourite outfits of the later 1970s – a soft pink tweedy skirt and lightweight cotton blouse which if I recall correctly had little pintucks and a line of embroidered flowers on the front. Accessorised with a big shoulder bag, heels, and the worst hair cut of all time! Love it.
You can all chant along with me as I go through this list! Alias Smith and Jones, Kojak, Starsky and Hutch, Blake’s 7, Dr. Who (Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker shared the decade). Yet there were also gems like A Horseman Riding By, The Day of the Triffids, Survivors, The Quest (American cowboy series with Kurt Russell and Tim Matheson), The High Chaperral (more cowboys), The Devil’s Crown (historical drama from the height of the BBC’s reign, about the Plantagenets), the start of the BBC’s epic task of televising all of Shakespeare’s plays.
It might well be that you will be sitting in the year 2059 still awstruck by how good Killing Eve was, but I am not entirely sure that will be the case. I think we got the best of the best in the 1970s.
I had one foreign holiday in the 1970s – two weeks on Crete with my sister, brother-in-law, and a friend of theirs. It wouldn’t count as exotic or even, probably, enviable nowadays, but it was a great adventure for me. Other than that, I happily pottered about the UK with my parents and had lovely, simple times that were just plain enjoyable. From the early 1970s in a camper van in Scotland to the later 1970s of the above photograph, visiting Canterbury; via the Isle of Wight where we stayed in an old house with no TV and where I bought a book which really boosted my newly-revived interest in knitting. I loved my holidays every bit as much as the trips to Thailand that are obligatory for teenagers now.
Will anything sum up the loved-and-lost nature of the 1970s as well as the Swisskit? I loved these fruit and chocolate and meusli bars for an intense period in the mid-70s and then they disappeared, never to be seen again.
It isn’t conceivable that they were as good as I remember them, but I often think now how good it would be to sink my teeth into a Swisskit again!
So, yes, this is my ode to the 1970s, decade of my youth, and the years that made me the decidedly odd person I am now (heaven only knows how it fared for the ones who took drugs!). Let’s raise a glass of Blue Nun to the memories.