06 Jun What did the 70s do for you?
The 70s, what an era. Androgynous, glamorous, and dark. The 1970s was the decade of the blockbuster, the serial killer, riots, strikes, protests, feminism, chess wars, glam rock, punk, overdose, and festivals.
What most people remember are the clothes and hair: tie-dye, headbands, chokers, ponchos, bell-bottoms, maxis, clogs, jumpsuits, sideburns, chest hair, the shag, the wedge, and the pageboy.
In his autobiography, Ted Barratt remembers watching his father pass by in an anti-Vietnam War march down King William Street in Adelaide in the early 70s. ‘I thought he was so cool with his hipster beard. I remember exactly what he was wearing; a Che Guevara beret with a blue denim shirt and Jesus creepers.’ Ted’s mother watched from the sidelines with her twelve-year-old son, ‘She didn’t believe in feminism, bra-burning and all that stuff, I think it terrified her.’
The 1970s are rich pickings for a memoir because things were happening. Agitation was everywhere against things like apartheid and Vietnam, and for things like jobs, rights, and separatism. Protective laws were brought in by forward-thinking governments and included compulsory seat-belt wearing, tobacco advertising and death penalty abolishment. Tennis players became the poster children for anti-racism and anti-sexism.
Breaker-One-Nine this here’s Rubber Duck.
‘My rigs were a Midland 4001 and a Harvard Good Buddy and they both served me very well. They don’t make them like that anymore.’ That’s PussyCat 29 talking about CB radio, the communications craze that hit USA, UK and elsewhere when a fuel crisis hit in 1973 and speed limits were lowered. American truck drivers used them to tell each other about speed traps and fuel stops. It had a culture all its own and spawned a raft of movies and the hit song, Convoy.
From space stations to Space Invaders technology was on the rise and fashion and music morphed from glam rock and glitter to punk and black plastic. Home furnishings and appliances were earth-toned orange and brown or avocado green and harvest gold.
Bricks and mortar.
The neighbourhoods we lived in the 1970s have changed, some have been gentrified, some have gone downhill, and some have just changed flavour. Take the North Side of Chicago for instance where in the 1970s a predominantly Jewish neighbourhood morphed into Boystown the first gay village, and the area around Wrigley Field then edgy is now preppy.
Commercial buildings constructed in the 1970s were iconic or decadent or both, they included in the Sydney Opera House, the CN Tower in Toronto, Sun City and Pont City in South Africa, and the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Some things change and some things don’t.
The first Earth Day happened in the US in 1970. On that day a CBS news special featured a clip of ecologist, biologist and Professor Barry Commoner speaking about the state of the planet. ‘This planet is threatened with destruction and we who live in it with death. The heavens reek, the waters below are foul, children die in infancy, and we and the world which is our home, live on brink of nuclear annihilation.’
Ted says, ‘You don’t know a decade is ‘happening’ until it’s over, you can’t define an era whilst you’re living it, it’s something you can only do in retrospect and I couldn’t say how much I’ve been influenced by what’s been written before about the 70s. For me, it was fantastic because I was a kid and I was having fun.’
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