Peter York On Ads: Schhhh...! The sound of the Seventies is back

SCHWEPPES
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The Independent Online

Retro. God how we loved it in the 1970s. While Slade were on Top of the Pops in BacoFoil and Prince Valiant hair, the art school PLU's own crusader, Bryan Ferry, was somewhere else doing his perfectly observed ironic crooner pastiche, that poolside white dinner jacket thing. Or he'd be on stage in 1940s American fatigues. Or reworking "These Foolish Things" on a collection of period pieces. Or being photographed in the George V in Paris.

Whatever Bryan did back then, art directed by that wayward genius Antony Price was absolutely soaked in retro, especially Deco Retro, a key theme for the visual classes until 1975. While everyone liked the camp, old nonsense - the Gospel Oak Deco - what that inner circle really aspired to and collected then were the greats of the Art Décoratif exhibition of 1925. Furniture by Leleu or Ruhlmann or Eileen Gray. The decade that taste forgot actually harboured quite fanatically visual people who collected, curated and documented practically everything about 1920s and 1930s architecture, interiors and popular culture. Those first key books on Deco - Bevis Hillier and Martin Battersby - are 1970s. The film retrospectives too.

And the 1970s meant Zanzibar, the first "new bar" in fast-smartening Covent Garden. Zanzibar was a distinctly deco-ish-looking bar, designed by Tchaik Chassay, and it was crucial. It had cocktails, for a start. And it set the pattern for new London clubland for 30 years.

The cocktail thing, deliberately lurid and sticky, was self-consciously period, like Zanzibar's cream walls and the long curved black lacquer bar. They'd been looking at old photographs. Zanzibar introduced media twenty-somethings on the make to the whole cocktail ritual, the icing and slicing and shaking. The early 1970s had a Deco sound track too. Bryan apart, there was Bette Midler and Manhattan Transfer. There'd been Liza Minnelli in Cabaret and Twiggy in The Boyfriend.

Punk completely killed all that Divine Decadence in 1977. All those Zanzibar people - Bryan especially - were the targets for denunciation in the punk manifestos of late 1976, written by another art school contingent. But the decorative impulse, the dressing-up box and the old movie themes reappeared in the early 1990s at Blitz - just down the road from the Zanzibar in Covent Garden - and in the new 1980s art of the promo video. Promosexuals loved Bryan and David Bowie - they saw them as the founding fathers - and loved the cocktail habit. It all went with pretending to be rich. If you kept on posing it just might happen.

Schweppes is forever trying to push the third Great Cocktail Revival. It's got a lot of relevant brand properties - like Bitter Lemon, American Ginger and, above all, Tonic Water. And it's got that "sonic", the schushing rush of carbonated water when you open a bottle of tonic.

The new Schweppes commercial pulls it all together rather smartly. In a room with a terrace beyond, 21st-century young people with a distinctly Shoreditch flavour - one man has a Sparks pencil moustache, a girl has a big Afro - are remaking the cocktail habit for now. A boy in a turquoise polo shirt is barmanning away, throwing and catching, pouring four of those little Schweppes mixer bottles into four glasses at a go, cutting limes and hacking ice in a syncopated way to the warbling and yodelling and clinking of a 1930s soundtrack.

It all looks oddly seductive with its green light bulbs and bright ochre sky, even though I'm terribly resistant to the Nathan Barley world it comes from. It's a clever inter-working of a 1970s theme with those Schweppes collective memories, driven by a novelty song as irritating and unforgettable as "On the Trail of the Lonesome Pine" or "Mule Train".

Meanwhile Bryan Ferry, the household god of the cocktail hour (himself so much more Heavy Kensington than Shoreditch), has worked on through it all - the divorce, the dark years, the boy Otis and his House of Commons invasion. He's been through one revival - in the 1980s - and he's constantly being reassessed. Michael Bracewell's big book on Roxyism supports the lobby group that says he's important, more than a flâneur. In the meantime he's made National Treasure status anyway: he's joining Twiggy as the mature face of M&S.

Peter@sru.co.uk

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