David BowieLike the sixties before it, the new decade opened with a wind of change blowing across the face of Great Britain. However, this wind carried with it from the outset the bitter chill of industrial discontent and the lingering sense of golden opportunities somehow lost.

With new Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath installed within 10 Downing Street, the near schizophrenic disparities between the bright ideal and the stark realities of life in the nation were embodied during 1970 by the technological triumph of the landing of the first Jumbo jet at Heathrow airport on January 23, with the economically crippling effects of the dock workers strike. By the end of that first year the definitive nail was hammered into the coffin of the remaining feel good factor of the lost "Age of Aquarius", with the irrevocable split of The Beatles.

Despite John Lennon and Yoko Ono having taken to their bed in a valiant but doomed effort to persuade a troubled world to 'give peace a chance', the decade staggered to its middle years. Not even the ever increasingly flamboyant antics of its new young idols of entertainment such as the glittering Marc Bolan, the otherworldly David Bowie, the tartan clad Bay City Rollers or the wholesome appeal of US wonders David Cassidy, The Osmonds and The Jackson Five were enough to paper over the cracks caused by enforced three day working weeks, uncontrolled economic decline and the ravages of rampant inflation.

As all of this unwelcome new austerity continued to grip the neck of the nation, the population rose to combat the graveness of the world around them by adopting the questionably outlandish protection of wide flairs, wider collars, outrageously platformed shoes and the finest sartorial elegance afforded by polyester, denim, cheesecloth and the dubious aesthetic sensibilities of designers obsessed with excess over taste and practicality.

As if arising to act as a discontented counterpoint to the hollow spandex and lycra clad escapism of mainstream pop music, the raw and aggressive voice of Punk Rock, exemplified by such bands as The Sex Pistols, gave a powerful new form to the directionless disaffection of youth. Ironically, even as the birth of Punk gained ground, casting its vitriolic scorn on the music which had originally given youth its own distinctive voice, the figure worshipped as the living incarnation of Rock-N'-Roll, Elvis Arron Presley, came to a premature and undignified end at his Memphis home, Graceland, on August 16, 1977. The King was dead: and the young disciples of an even more rebellious, profoundly more bitter and cynical musical god were baying for blood beyond the walls of his once mighty musical empire.

And as the era lurched onwards towards its inevitably downbeat conclusion, the fads that were also welcomed with open arms to offset the harshness of strikes, shortages, privations and senseless random violence came -then passed, seemingly as fleeting as a rainbow between storms. Stylophones, Space Hoppers, Hot Pants, Loon Pants and tinted contact Lens, Wombles, smiley faces and a near endless list of other ephemeral and fleeting amusements designed to please and distract from the reigning grimness of a country in mortal danger of scraping rock bottom.

The population smiled at the Two Ronnies, howled uncontrollable laughter at the wondrous magic of Morecambe and Wise. Men dreamed of being as tough as Regan and Carter in The Sweeney, women sighed over the Hollywood heartthrob good looks of Starsky and Hutch. Right across the board, fantasy battled reality with the hopes and aspirations of a battered and beleaguered nation as the ultimate prize. And so it was that the 1970's ended much as they had begun. A nation shivering against a chill wind of bitter discontent and disaffection. A population fighting against seemingly hopeless odds to raise itself from its collective knees with a potent mixture of anger, sardonic good humour and a steadfast determination to survive and somehow improve a sad and sorry situation...

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70s Icons

Popular Icons of the 1970s