The Seventies

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How come the joke decade of the century has been doing

serious business in the Nineties (next up: glam-flick `Velvet

Goldmine')? Because they were more than just bad flare days

The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Richard O'Brien's camp musical farce was an immediate hit with Seventies audiences who loved its arch, glittering send-up of Fifties horror B-movies. The movie version spawned a subculture of devotees who dressed in "fetish horror" gear to attend late-night screenings, where they sang along with show tunes, and recited aloud the deliberately corny dialogue.


Before the days of blanket-people and Big Issue vendors, there was a revolutionary attitude to homelessness - find an empty dwelling, break in, change the locks and live there. When the GLC held an amnesty at the end of the Seventies, they gave squatters the option of a grant to refurbish the properties. Imagine that today. No, you can't, can you?

Exile on Main Street

Possibly their best, and certainly the last decent album the Rolling Stones recorded. Unbelievably obscene harmonica and guitar sounds, rock- steady rhythms, and cultivated lyrics that manage to avoid the risible platitudes of recent years; that they once made music like this is the only reason people still bother to go and watch these dreary old bores.

Art schools

British art schools in the Seventies were inspirational, their doors always open to visionary misfits and would-be rock stars. Unsurprisingly, it was among art students that punk first reared its nightmarish head. Nowadays, after Thatcherite "reforms", genuinely radical students are vastly outnumbered by fee-paying time-servers.

Enter the dragon

In the days before SFX and stunt doubles, it took a special kind of guy to kick ass on screen. That guy was Bruce Lee, the kung fu master who launched an entire genre with this, his last-ever complete film role. Plot: Lee infiltrates martial arts tournament to thwart opium smugglers and... oh, who cares? Watch the action, but don't blink or you'll miss it.

Muhammad Ali

After three years of enforced inactivity because of his refusal to fight in Vietnam, Ali regained his world heavyweight title in Zaire. He allowed George Foreman to punch himself out before stepping forward and KO-ing the ex-marine. The following year, he walloped Joe Frazier in Manila, too, just to prove beyond all doubt that he was the greatest.


In October 1972, a plane crash in the Andes left 16 survivors trapped for 10 weeks at high altitude with no food - except for the bodies of the 29 who had died.. The survivors, mainly members of a rugby team called the Old Christians, didn't have too much of a problem chowing down on the snow-preserved corpses. After all, they told their rescuers, wasn't it Jesus who said, "This is my body, eat of me"? The rest of us just lapped up the spectacle of the Roman Catholic church trying to justify this understandable but barbaric act.

Nixon's resignation

You think Clinton's slime? Nixon carpet-bombed Vietnam and Cambodia and still lost the war. He prompted a CIA-backed coup against Allende. He refused to hand over Watergate tapes, destroyed incriminating evidence, resigned to avoid impeachment, and was pardoned by his flunky successor, Gerald Ford. Unsurprisingly, after his departure, America developed a taste for disco, Quaaludes and cocaine.

New York goes broke

How we laughed! The town so good that they named it twice having to take out a second mortgage! New York City: boracic lint, dead skint! We loved it. What's more, a rerun looks just around the corner! See you on Skid Row, guys...

Brazil 70

Do you dread football bores? Want to shut them up, but feel intimidated? Well, here's how to put an end to footie banter instantly, irrefutably, and for ever more. Just memorise this mantra, and repeat confidently when needed: "Brazil 70 - Pele, Jairzhino, Rivelino, Tostac, Gerson and Carlos Alberto - best team ever to kick a ball, end of story. Your round, innit?"

Ted Heath's French accent

May Shares A Me. News Somme Oh Day Par Dun Mome On Tex Straw Din Air Don List Wah. Laze Om Polly Teak... Poor Old Ted, he couldn't even speak English properly. .


This was the definitive Seventies soft-core cheese. Swinging husband thinks slinky housewife should get out of the house, and her underpants, more often, so she embarks on sexual adventures. If straight men were as loyal as gay men, Sylvia Kristel would still be a big star today, like camp pin-up...


"Ah, she's so doll [or dull?] come on, rip her to shreds..." Debbie Harry could have been predicting her own future at the hands of critics who have panned her most recent recordings. Back in the Seventies, though, she was the sexiest and most glamorous of punkettes, and broke much ground for Madonna.

Hot pants

"A woman's gotta use what she got, to get just what she wants," sang James Brown in tribute to the Seventies' only true sartorial innovation. Why else would women have worn such impractical clothing, if not to influence the behaviour of men, themselves increasingly "feminised" with the long, permed hair and satiny fashions of the time? Discuss...

Satin jackets and Oxford bags

If you've never had the thrill of getting ready for a night out at the youth club by pulling on an ice-blue, three-buttoned, single-breasted satin jacket with aircraft-carrier lapels, and brown, herringbone tweed Oxford bags with 24-in bottoms, without even the slightest trace of irony, then honey, you have not lived - well, not as long as some of us have.

George Best

A sublime footballer with a taste for champagne, beauty queens and E- type Jags whose talent and pop-star status led to his getting kicked to bits, his retaliatory outbursts earning him regular sendings-off. Predictably, it all ended in beers, but the legend remains. George Best: The Movie starts shooting this November with Jack Lynch in the title role, Patsy Kensit as first wife, Angie, and Tim Roth as Denis Law.

A Clockwork Orange

"Yarblockas to thee and thine," cried Stanley Kubrick, launching his ultra-violent fantasy film based on Anthony Burgess's moralistic novel. Droog Alex and his psycho pals go on an urban rampage in black bowler hats, white dungarees, 18-hole steel-toed commando boots and make-up and false eyelashes on one eye. Within weeks, the look was on the terraces. When Evening Standard hacks blamed him for football hooliganism, Kubrick withdrew the film.

T Rex

"Well you're built like a car, you got a hub-cap diamond star halo, you're dirty sweet and you're my girl/Get it on, bang a gong, get it on." Marc Feld, an obsessive little north London mod, grew his hair, kohled his eyes, threw on a feather boa and became Marc Bolan, pouting, preening pasha of all that was poetic and preposterous about post-hippy pop. His finest moment was 1975's underrated Zip Gun Boogie album, which should have been added to the national curriculum years ago.


In the days before e-mail and online interest groups, the way to make friends with other sad, socially challenged weirdos was to wear your pensees on your lapel, in the form of little tin badges. (While hitch-hiking to Aylesbury in 1977, I got a lift from Ian Dury's tour bus because he spotted my David Bowie badge. "The Guv'nor," he said, as I climbed on board.)

Sex without condoms

Bareback was the only way to ride back in the sexy Seventies. How we scoffed at the "rubbers" and "johnnies" used by previous generations. Why, they seemed as out of date as Brylcreem. No wonder venereal disease became common. Still, most maladies were readily treatable in draughty Victorian basements. Now, of course, not only are condoms essential, but England footballers are advertising Brylcreem.

Perms on footballers

You know things are getting weird when tediously straight footballers such as Kevin Keegan and Graeme Souness get their hair permed, which is what happened in the mid-Seventies. Added to this was a trend towards tighter-fitting football shirts and shorts. And all that kissing? Who says there was no gender-shift during the Seventies?

The Female Eunuch

People thought "Australian intellectual" was an oxymoron like "Military Intelligence" or "Jumbo Shrimp", until free-loving, pot-smoking, slogan- shouting wild woman Germaine Greer hit Britain like a bolt of lightning.

The Beatles' break-up

God, could you imagine if The Beatles had stayed together, and were still touring every three or four years, going "Whooooow!" and grinning and shaking their balding heads? No, it would have been too horrible for words.

Freddie Laker and Skytrain

Before Freddie Laker, jet travel to New York was beyond the means of all but the rich, at pounds 186 return. Laker's no-booking Skytrain service cost only pounds 59 for the same trip, and he still made pounds 2,176 clear profit on the maiden journey. Of course, thanks to the major airlines, he was soon put out of business. Sounds familiar? Plus ca change...

New Musical Express

The period between Punk and the New Romantics was a golden age for the NME, whose regulars included the then newly-weds Tony Parsons and Julie Burchill, Danny Baker, Paul Rombali, Charles Saar Murray and Nick Kent, all under the guidance of Nick Logan, founder of The Face and Arena.

The Naked Civil Servant

Philip Mackie's TV play, based on Quentin Crisp's autobiography, made an overnight star of John Hurt and did much to combat homophobia by representing homosexuality as a bold, defiant act. Crisp's laconic wit made him a star on both sides of the Atlantic. Asked by a US customs official if he were a practising homosexual, he replied: "No, I am perfect."

Mark Spitz

He came out of nowhere and staggered the world by blitzing all competition to win seven gold medals for swimming at the 1972 Munich Olympics, the best total ever, before retiring immediately and disappearing once again into obscurity.


Whatever happened to us? We were such a fun-loving people in the Seventies. In fact, streaking started in the US, but caught on quickly in Blighty. The idea was simple: you ran through a public space wearing nothing but a grin, exposing yourself to all and sundry. At football and cricket matches all over the country, policemen soon found a new use for their helmets. Eventually, a scrum bunny called Erica even flashed her pink bits at Twickenham. Life was simple back then...

`Velvet Goldmine' opens on Friday