Facebook over the past week or so. In particular I have busied myself by designing memes, essentially through the simple expedient of adding thoughtful slogans to photographs which have either been lifted from the web or borrowed from my own hard drive.
As I’ve said many times before I have a real weakness for the 1970s, in particular for the period around 1976. But as well as giving pleasure to many my recent activities have aroused hostile emotions amongst some, who seem to look back to that decade with an extraordinary sense of bitterness.
POWER OF ROMANCE
Nostalgia’s beauty and its weakness both lie in the fact that we tend to see the past through rose-tinted spectacles. The power of romance is so immense that for many of us it trumps any amount of adversity. Although like any other teenager I spent much of the 1970s in a state of fear, in anxiety, in conflict and in sorrow the simple fact is that I remember nothing about that period that was not steeped in pure joy. At least, that was, until the last few years of the decade, when I completely went off the rails and lost touch entirely with the spirit of the ‘70s while others were enjoying its final throes to the sound of the Bee Gees or post-Pistols New Wave, according to their fancy.
The telephone was fixed to the wall and to speak to another person involved a multi-part operation in which the dial was turned several times (assuming the neighbours who shared the party line were not on the ‘phone) and the person on the other end, if at home, would then answer. No mobile telephones, no texting, no voicemail, no saved address book, and certainly no e-mail. If you didn’t know the other person’s telephone number though help was close at hand, with a telephone directory the size of an encyclopedia containing the names, addresses and telephone numbers of more or less everybody in the hemisphere.
Then of course there was the telephone box, at least one of which was always only a short walk away, and the (also bright red) post box for sending letters, a far more important medium then than today in the absence of home computer technology.
But it was in film and music that the 1970s stood out for me, and much of it was pretty simple stuff. There was some hugely creative material around too – Mike Oldfield had unleashed Tubular Bells upon an unsuspecting but unexpectedly grateful public and Bowie was setting every trend for the decade and beyond. But the glam era was innocent, lots of fun, flamboyant and competitive. I recall the unspoken contest that seemed to be taking place between Gary Glitter and Elton John, when each would appear on Top of the Pops in a more highly-stacked pair of platform boots than the other had done on the last occasion. In any other era they would have seemed ridiculous, as indeed would we in our multi-coloured loon pants and tank tops, luminous socks and wide-awake butterfly collars, but it was a flippant dress code for a flippant age. Nobody could parody us or our musical heroes, for we parodied ourselves.
When the music I loved and from which I drew comfort did take its bow as the decade ploughed relentlessly on towards its dotage, young people began to turn to wild extremes, marching and counter-marching. Politics seemed to define everything in the later seventies once the musical and cultural pack had been shuffled and the new bands had stepped up to take their turn in the limelight. There was an ugliness about the whole thing, and a sense that the magic spell was soon to unravel forever.
The 1970s had a cast and a playlist that reads like a veritable Role of Honour. Long hair, Pan’s People, Mivvi lollies, Stewpot, Concorde, glam rock, Look-In, Steve Harley, Georgie Best, Green Shield stamps, platform shoes and loon pants, the Capri Ghia, Rollermania, Morecambe and Wise, CB radio, Chopper bicycles, Dial-a-disc, lollipops and candy cheroots, Angel Delight, Ziggy Stardust, Oxford Bags, milk machines, The Hustle, Starsky and Hutch, pinball, Cadbury’s Crème Eggs, The Goodies, Pomagne at the fairground, tank tops, Top of the Pops, Radio Luxembourg, Evel Knievel, watch out there’s a Humphrey about, Candid Camera, the glorious summer of ’76. The streets were dark but we strutted them without fear, the youth clubs were church halls with table-tennis tables and paint that crumbled. It didn’t have to be smart, practical or politically correct. It didn’t even have to make any sense. It was raw, it was barren, at times it was bleak. But it was our time.
Those who truly feel the spirit of the seventies will understand me when I say it never leaves you. Periodically something is said in conversation or posted on the web that invokes that inner sense which cannot be put into words. For those who look back to the 1970s with sadness I feel pity. For good or for bad, there will never be its like again.