The past is a foreign country and I’m from the nineteen-seventies. We did things differently there. If you don’t believe me; watch a vintage helping of Top of the Pops and soak up all of its life affirming exuberance. Look at the audience, how do they seem to you? Happy? Yes, that thing they’re doing with their mouths, it’s called smiling.
Now, I was very poor in the seventies and I was being raised by a violent psychopath, but I still hold out, that it was better than now. Why? Because we were free. We could say what we liked, we could do what we liked, we could think what we liked.
I was only a child, but I was free to roam. I could take my bike over the waste ground, I could build camps out of rubbish, I could set fire to things, I could climb trees (and fall out of them), I could drink beer straight from the barrel behind the working mens’ club, I could get into fights with big boys and go home with a fat lip and no one was bothered. I could fall over and scrape the skin off my knees and the adults would just say, “you’ll live”, stick a plaster on them and send me off on my merry way again.
Yes, there was neglect, but there was also something much more precious to me – freedom.
We were free, but weren’t out of control. We were raised to respect adults, because they warned us what they would do to us, if we didn’t. If you swore once, your mum would threaten to “wash your mouth out with soap” and if you did it again, then you would be held over the sink while a toothbrush full of Lifebuoy was rammed into your gob. Or Lux, Palmolive or Camay… I never swore at my Nan’s, but she had Pear’s soap, which I always imagine has cinnamon in it. I’m sure it still tastes disgusting though.
Now, back to Top of the Pops, which was the highlight of my week. Thursdays after tea, I’d be ready on the sofa with my thumbs primed for judgement of the top forty count down – thumbs up and a big hurray for Blondie, thumbs down and loud boos for boring Leo Sayer.
If you watch the back catalogue, say from 1973 to 1982, you’ll notice that there are lots of semi-clad women prancing around like poodles; these are called Pan’s People (later Legs & Co.). Aren’t they pretty?
It was ok to be pretty in the seventies if you were a lady and men were allowed to show their appreciation of it too – they could even say something a bit ‘saucy’ to make women giggle and flutter their eyelashes at them. I had extremely attractive aunties, who looked like Charlie’s Angels, and they would have been disappointed, I think, if their beauty had gone unnoticed. It wasn’t thought of as ‘hate speech’ in the seventies to tell a woman she was ‘sexy’ or ‘gorgeous’. Even in public. I think it was called ‘flirting’ or something old fashioned. Nowadays, you just DM a photo of your dick to someone whose selfie you like the look of and ask if they enjoy it up the arse. This is obviously much less sexist, because the woman can swipe left or right – she’s in control of the situation. It’s far less complicated and time consuming and allows her to elucidate her ‘sexual boundaries’ right from the start.
That’s what I’m led to believe, anyway.
Now, look at the men. The Top of the Pops presenters look like pervy old men, don’t they? That’s because they are. We weren’t stupid in the seventies, you know – they look like the sort of teachers you would avoid being alone in a classroom with at school. We had one of those – he would put the classroom key down the girls’ t-shirts, just so he could fish it out again. He had a comb-over, which is always a good indicator. Learn to read the signs!
Depending on which year you’re watching, the men on the stage – the pop stars – may have long hair or short. Some of them may even look a bit like girls. If it’s 1973, then they could look like they’ve covered themselves with glue and jumped in a vat of glitter. That’s fine. It was called ‘glam rock’. We didn’t think they were women. We had a very simple way of working things out in the seventies – if you had a cock, you were a bloke. It’s always held me in good stead since then, when choosing a sexual partner.
I have never asked what someone’s pronouns are. And do you know what? I’m never going to. Because I couldn’t give a fuck. Wear what you like, do what you like. I don’t hate anyone, I’m not scared of them, I’m just very old fashioned.
Welcome to the Seventies. Join me. Be free.