We have all heard that London, UK was swinging in the 1960s, but just what was it like during the decade that fashion forgot? Here's one Researcher's point of view:
What can one say about the '70s in London... everything really... it was all there. Fabulous fashions, magic music, foreign foods and new horizons. I don't know when the phrase sex, drugs and rock and roll was first coined, but I doubt if it was ever more appropriate than in the '70s.
It started of course on the back of the '60s, permissiveness, the man on the moon, the birth of disco, skinheads, greasers and hippies. Foreign travel was just becoming accessible to all, the first Chinese restaurants were appearing, it was a shrinking world, and for a teenager like myself it was a time of raw excitement. The feeling was, the '60s opened the door and now we were refining it all and really showing them how to party. At the same time, somewhere deep down the little voice was asking 'What the heck is it all about'? I didn't know so I didn't worry too much; I just got on with making the absolute most of it.
The fashions were increasingly varied, from the hippy type Afghan coats, over bell bottoms and flowery shirts with long rounded collars. These were more often than not accompanied by long hair and straggly beards (or bum fluff), Ben Sherman shirts with stay pressed suede heads, braces, Doc Martins or monkey boots, harringtons or crombies, the leather jacket, faded light blue jeans of the greaser, chrome-plated comb in the back pocket and beetle crushers.
As the decade wore on there were of course many changes - glam rock to punk, skinheads to bobheads. At one stage, I think around 1977, everyone was walking around in clothing from the second world war army and navy stores and dancing to big band music - that didn't last for too long though. It was a decade of change and experiment.
Personally, I went from 15 to 25 years old, and the truth is I was out of home when I was about 16, so it was a particularly wild time throughout for me with little or no restriction whatsoever. I have to admit that it would be easy for me to cringe if I took it all too seriously but that was the '70s; nothing was serious or forever, nothing really mattered but everything was happening and changing.
By 1976 I was an old hand already. I spent that entire summer partying, I will never forget it. Drugs played a large part, Thursday night it would be a couple of 'blues' (speed... which in those days was from the chemist), down the pub and out till about 2am clubbing. I had to go to work on a Friday because it was payday. Friday night it would be a 'black bomber', the pub, a club and then up town. Saturday it would be two 'black bombers', pub, party or big bash somewhere. Sunday night was always my favourite because there were only party people around by now, it would be a couple of 'blues' to get up for the night and probably home before 2am as I had to go to work. A couple of 'blues' got me through Monday, down the pub to discuss the weekend and a fairly early night... midnight perhaps after a Chinese take away. Tuesday and Wednesday would normally be fairly quiet nights and then it would be back boogieing again on Thursday and repeating the procedures. All the time drinking like fish and getting laid as often as possible - madness is a word that comes to mind. I am not suggesting that everyone was doing it - but a lot were.
On one hand it all seems a bit mindless but the fact is that all the time doors inside the mind were being opened and explored or remembered with a view to explore later.
Butlins holiday camps were the places to go to at the beginning of the '70s but they were dying out and package holidays were taking over. My first in 1973 to Majorca was a defining moment in my life. I ended up working there for a couple of summers which really gave me the travel bug and by the end of the '70s, travelling was a major part of my life.
Concerts were a big part of life, too, with regular visits to the Hammersmith Odeon and the Rainbow Theatre. I saw most of the big names but I would say that the most memorable were War and Bob Marley.
During the '70s, the troubles in Northern Ireland were at their height and the resulting change to lives was widespread.
Town and city centres were often sealed off to traffic only allowing delivery vehicles through with prior notification and clearance. Major shops had security checks on the door running scanners over handbags and people to check for explosives. Many plots were vacant either because of sustaining bomb damage or fear of gangs demanding protection money.
The Europa hotel in Belfast city centre earned a dubious place in the Guinness Book of Records as being the most bombed hotel in the world.
The 1970s had a profound effect the world over, here one Researcher recounts their experience from Germany.
I came to work in Germany. I got a job in industry and earned considerably more. We drunk a lot during work, never missing any excuse for a party, until someone killed themselves in an accident. Then it wasn't allowed. So we went off elsewhere - restaurants, organised barbecues etc, after work. Quite a lot of hanky panky went on.
It was much more easy going there. I find people are the same everywhere. The biggest difference is between working for commercial enterprises, where you can type a letter three or four times and waste the paper, and a solicitor or architect or doctor who has to watch the pennies or even for a council office, where they are just odd.
In the '70s in Germany, people didn't necessarily wear ties to work (I mean the men). It was far more informal. I left to have children in 1981 and there was just the first talk of word processors then. I mean, we were still using Telex. For the whole firm of approximately 500 people we had a fax somewhere - probably by the switchboard - but I never saw the machine or a fax then. I could actually almost read the holes in the tickertape and decipher telexes.
When the '70s began I was two months old, my view of the decade is therefore a child's view. It has also a lot to do with growing up in Sweden. In the '70s, the welfare state of Sweden seemed indestructible. There were no homeless people, no neo-nazis, practically no unemployment, the weather was always good (as far as I can recall anyway). We had Abba and Bjorn Borg. The Abbas were still married and Bjorn didn't do coke, at least he didn't get busted for it. Everybody had long hair, and quite a few of the men grew beards. In fact all grown-ups looked like Agnetha and Frida or Benny and Bjorn.
When the people of Sweden disagreed on the use of nuclear power we immediately voted on the subject, and the people collectively decided to use alternative power sources, but that the transition would be allowed to take up to 20 years. That way almost everybody was happy, the pro-nuclear people because we would still use it for a long time, the anti-nuclear people because we would eventually get rid of it. Making everybody happy was the prime priority in Sweden in the '70s. Also, the outcome of the vote meant that it wasn't until the '90s that we realised that those in charge had no intention of fulfilling the people's wish.
But what I remember most fondly is the high quality of children's TV programmes in the '70s. The warmth and originality of animated shows like 'Barbapapa', 'Balthazar' and 'Bamse' is still unrivaled today. I can't really go any deeper into the subject because tears of nostalgia are filling up my eyes as I think about it.
Oh, and the colours of the '70s! I was quite unaware of LSD then, so I can safely say that the colours really were beautiful. Bright orange, yellow, green, red... When I take a quick look around the office where I'm currently pretending to work, I see various nuances of grey and beige and a lot of white. Things may not actually have been that much better in the '70s, what do I know, I was just a kid, but at least they were represented in better colour schematics.