For all its faults, I enjoyed the first part of Dominic Sandbrook’s series on the 70s. So many memories, even though I was only between 8 and 10 during the time covered in that episode, and I’m really looking forward to the rest.
If anybody else is similarly hooked I can recommend Sanbrook’s book State of Emergency which covers 1970-1974 and also Andy Beckett’s book When the Lights Go Out. There is obviously an overlap in timescales and material but the two books co9mplement each other very well. Both are hefty books: the Beckett one is about 570 pages and the Sandbrook one about 750 pages. Being a bigger book about a shorter period, the Sandbrook one is more detailed and has room to cover a lot more popular culture but the Beckett one gives you a better overview of the whole decade.
So far the TV show has been about 10% politics and 90% popular culture, fashion, sociology and everything else. The book is more balanced with more politics in it. Mind you, the politics of the 70s were depressing as hell – but then that is the same of just about any time.
With YouTube, Spotify, on-demand TV and all the long tails of internet sources we can actually enjoy the bits of the 70s that we want to whenever we want to. Fancy seeing clips of Morecambe & Wise or Bowie on TOTP? Bound to be on YouTube. Want to hear the early Elton John albums? They will be online. What we don’t get is the joy we had the first time round when something great came along, because we can now limit ourselves to only the good stuff if we want to. We no longer have to eat all our vegetables to get our Angel Delight; we can just gorge ourselves on Angel Delight and its not so delightful in that context.
The ongoing BBC experiment of showing complete editions of TOTP has given us a bit of a reminder of what it was like to sit through Our Kid and Pussycat because there was the possibility of seeing Thin Lizzy later on – although the chances are you will be watching it time-shifted on V+ or Sky+ and have the temptation of the fast forward button.
Maybe episode 2 will contain more actual history than cultural history but even if it doesn’t I’m sure it will be a joy. How can it be otherwise with the decade that brought us punk, disco, glam, reggae and prog during the golden age of British TV and American movies?