Living in the Seventies

Living in the Seventies

1 January 1970 – 12:01

 The laundry sink is full of Resch’s Dinner Ale. We've had the traditional countdown to midnight, a quick verse of Auld Lang Syne and we're toasting the New Year, and the 1970s, with a few bottles of Barossa Pearl or Cold Duck. We'll put the Beatles’ Abbey Road on the record player and we'll breathe in a new decade – along with the carbon monoxide and the hydrogen cyanide from the fifty or so smokers in the room.

What we listened to

By April 1970, the Beatles had called it quits. It was a major blow. Many of us believed they were the greatest group in the entire history of the world. But there was plenty of new music to fill the gap.

The Skyhooks 1974 hit – I'm Livin' in the Seventies – seemed like just the right kind of reminder. Maybe more than in any other decade it was music that provided the commentary for our lives.

If you were a teenager in the 70s, you were in pop star heaven.

Do you remember:

  • Buying Go-Set magazine every week. One of the regular contributors was Ian Meldrum – before the 'Molly' days, and before the hat.
  • Rushing into your local record store after school, to pick up the Top 40 chart before they ran out.
  • Watching Happening '70 (and '71 and '72) hosted by Ross D Wylie, and later Jeff Phillips, every Saturday. And, if you weren't home, setting up a microphone to record it on tape.
  • Plastering posters all over your bedroom wall, and joining fan clubs to get signed pictures of your favourites.

Later, there was disco, the music that eventually defined the decade. For a while, it dominated the airwaves, everyone's parties and, well, the discos!

Here are the 'top of the pops' in the 70s – the best sellers in Australia for the year.

How many can you sing the words to (no judgement)?

1970 - Let It Be                                                                          The Beatles             

1971 - Eagle Rock                                                                      Daddy Cool             

1972 - Puppy Love                                                                     Donny Osmond            

1973 - Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree          Tony Orlando & Dawn

1974 - My Coo Ca Choo                                                            Alvin Stardust                            

1975 - Fox on the Run                                                               Sweet                               

1976 - Fernando                                                                        ABBA                                

1977 - Don't Cry for Me Argentina                                         Julie Covington                        

1978 - You're the One that I Want                                         ONJ & John Travolta             

1979 - Lay Your Love on Me                                                   Racey                                              

What was in

In the 70s, there were plenty of trends. Can you add to these?

  • 8-Track Tape Players. All the rage, even in cars, but largely gone by mid-decade, as cassettes took over
  • These mini models became popular because of the mid-seventies fuel crisis
  • Cars were smaller for the same reason.
  • Pet Rocks. They didn’t need to be fed, groomed or walked. They didn't bark or destroy the furniture. They. Did. Nothing. They hit their peak popularity mid-decade but then crumbled. But not before wily entrepreneurs even made money by opening Pet Rock Cemeteries.

What we called our kids

These were the most popular names of the decade.

  1. David            Michelle
  2. Michael         Nicole
  3. Andrew         Lisa
  4. Jason           Melissa
  5. Matthew       Kylie
  6. Paul              Rebecca
  7. Mark             Sarah
  8. Christopher  Amanda
  9. Daniel          Joanne
  10. Adam           Belinda

What we wore

The 70s were the years of fashion and funk.

The local barber went broke as men and women favoured longer, and very similar, hairstyles:

My hair like Jesus wore it. Hallelujah, I adore it....

              Bangled, tangled, spangled, and spaghettied!

The hemlines on women’s skirts rose higher than ever, with micro-minis, but Newton’s Third Law of opposite and equal reaction set in and the ankle length maxi-skirt became all the rage from about 1974.

The tribal look was popular. We wore headbands, suede belts, peasant tops, and vests with embroidery and fringes. Jewellery was big, and there was lots of it. Bangles, beads, and bells and rings on fingers and toes. There were bell-bottoms, flares, high-waisted jeans (remember Staggers and Axiom?) and platform shoes. Even everyone's summer favourite, the rubber thong, was marketed with an 8-centimetre multi-coloured sole.

We loved 'natural' and we looked fabulous.

How we saw the world

Changes to Australian society in the 1970s were perhaps more marked than in any decade before or since – and we watched a lot of them happening on our screens. And sometimes, as Shirl (again) reminded us, the news was a 'Horror movie right there on my TV, shocking me right out of my brain'.

Before 'instant' news coverage, though, we had to wait for the paper or the evening news and current affairs programs.

Governments loosened their belt buckles and started to spend. 'Equal pay for equal work' had been made law in 1969. The unemployment rate was only 2% and rose gradually to a little under 6% by decade's end. Women entered the workforce in record numbers and were able to stay after they married. Thousands of refugees settled in Australia after the Vietnam War, signalling the first modern wave of Asian immigration.

Like every other decade, the 70s had its share of high (and low) points.

Here are some 'Where were you when...' moments:

1970:    The Tullamarine Airport opened in July. The Westgate Bridge collapsed in October

1971:    We saw Evonne Goolagong's first Wimbledon win. And loved it.

1972:    The first-ever terrorist incidents on our shores. A Yugoslav Travel Agency in Sydney's Haymarket was bombed, and 16 people were injured. The Sydney Hilton bombing in 1978 killed three. We didn’t know much about terrorism then. That came later.

The horrific images from the Vietnam war were still on TV, but there was growing opposition to Australian involvement, and conscription ended at the end of 1972.

Some good news was Shane Gould's big wins at the Munich Olympics

1973:    The year of openings: first legal casino at West Point; Adelaide's Festival Centre; the Sydney Opera House

1974:    Cyclone Tracy devastated Darwin, and 65 people died.

              University education became fee-free.

1975:    First colour TV broadcast.

             The government introduced Medibank.

             November 1975 saw Sir John Kerr's dismissal of the Whitlam government.

1976:    Pastor Douglas Nicholls became the first indigenous State Governor (SA) - sadly, for only a few months.

              A ban on cigarette and tobacco advertising on TV.

1977:    83 people died in the Granville train disaster.

1978:    The establishment of SBS

1979:    Maternity leave extended to all working women.

31 December 1979 – 11:59

Another New Year's Eve. The Beatles are nowhere to be heard. It's the summer of Summer – Donna Summer, who has owned the music charts throughout the year. In other homes in the street, there's punk music on offer, but at the moment it doesn't hold much appeal.

We drink more bottled wine these days, especially from our local regions. Someone brought a cask, though. Where did you hide your Coolibah?  And we're still partial to Mateus Rosé, Blue Nun, and Cinzano and dry.

There's a push button phone on the pine dresser, and the wood veneer wall panelling is gone, in favour of a subtle floral wallpaper. We're about to watch the NYE fireworks on the larger screen TV we bought in July. We'll videotape it so we can show it to Gran later.

Life's about as good as it can be. We're all for progress, and looking forward to a new decade, but there's no way the 80s will match this.

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