At the end of this month, Polydor Records are rereleasing on seven-inch vinyl the Jam's debut single, "In the City", in celebration of the band's 25th anniversary. It was first released on 7 May 1977, and Polydor have a cute marketing gimmick in mind. They are suggesting that retailers sell the record at its 1977 price of 75p.
All of which is bound to fill with nostalgia those of us who come from the Seventies, as we think wistfully about the first records we bought – in my case "Telegram Sam" by T Rex, which is relatively unembarrassing, at least compared to my friend Pete's debut purchase, "Knock Three Times", by Dawn. Or my brother-in-law's, the theme to Van der Valk.
My wife, however, can trump me with the impressively discerning "Guilty", by the Pearls, and she has remained pretty cool in her musical predilections, while I have gone backwards. I like what I like, is my spirited but inadequate defence against those who interrogate me about my taste in music. Early Cilla Black and middle-period Abba are beyond the pale, apparently. And a few weeks ago I made the mistake of saying that I quite fancied seeing Liza Minnelli at the Royal Albert Hall. Another friend, Derek (first record purchase "Walk in the Night" by Junior Walker and the All Stars), turned to me with the sort of expression you get from sniffing sour milk. "It'll just be show tunes!" he said. I felt as if I'd confessed to having a thing for Ann Widdecombe.
Now, Derek comes from a seaside town in the north of England, as I do. But whereas I have unwittingly embraced the parochial, conservative values of my home town, at least as far as music and fashion are concerned, Derek has kicked against the conservatism of his home town, where his mum still lives. Occasionally this leads to classic misunderstandings. A year ago, Derek opened a shop in Islington, selling fantastic contemporary rugs. It's still there, doing extremely well. But before the opening he told his mum he was going to call it Tribe. She went a bit silent at the other end of the phone, and it's no great wonder, because it transpired later that she thought he had said Tripe. What impresses me is that she did not object, just put it down to her Derek doing his trendy metropolitan thing.
But I'm straying a long way from the Seventies, as indeed the world at large has done, which is why Polydor's 75p gimmick is likely to induce widespread nostalgia... for our lost youth, our lost waistlines, and in some cases, although not mine, our lost hair. Oddly enough, age seems to be rendering me more rather than less hirsute, especially in the eyebrow department. Tony Warren, the gloriously camp creator of Coronation Street – "there was never a closet big enough to hide me, dear" – was struck recently by what he gleefully referred to as my "Tory" eyebrows.
Anyway, the press release from Polydor had me looking back, from under my Tory eyebrows, at 1977. So much so that on Saturday, propelled by a whim beyond the call of duty to this column, I shlepped over to the newspaper library in Colindale, north London. There I poured over a copy of The Times from Saturday 7 May 1977, to remind myself what the world was like back then.
So here goes. The Times reported an initiative by the Foreign Secretary, Dr David Owen, to secure settlement in Rhodesia. And in the West Bank, Israeli police foiled an attempt to blow up a bus when a bundle tied with a blue ribbon was found to contain a bomb.
Elsewhere, an acclaimed production of A Midsummer Night's Dream opened in the West End, with particular praise paid to Richard Griffiths's Bottom. Which was not as vast then, I imagine, as it is now, but still it is striking how the same names, and the same trouble spots, loom large now as did then. The Mousetrap, in its 25th year, was enjoying "the world's longest ever run".
The paper also revealed Don Revie's England football squad for the forthcoming home internationals. "Bed settees" were advertised, from £67.95. Katie Stewart's rather avant-garde recipe that day was for spinach and cheese pancakes. And an erudite article by Fred Emery was headlined "Why the world-weary West needs President Carter's optimistic touch."
Carter was on a visit to Britain and had visited Newcastle Civic Centre, where he was persuaded, probably against his better judgment, to cry "hawaay the lads!" This, The Times felt obliged to explain in parentheses, was "a rallying call for all Geordies in times of crisis". So it was doubtless how they responded to news that the price of a pint of milk was to rise to 12½p.
Meanwhile, I remember baulking at forking out a hard-earned 75p for a single. But if my record collection had included the Jam's debut single, just think what it would have done for my music cred, then but more especially now.Reuse content