"The 70s: Those were the real days, my friend"
by Paul Kennedy
Gannett News Service
People try to put us down -- talking 'bout my generation -- just because
we... listened to disco.
Yeah, sure, it's easy to poke fun at the '70s. Pet rocks. Mood rings. Custom
vans. Eight-track stereo. Saturday Night Fever. Three-piece suits made
entirely from petroleum-based fabrics. Tricky Dicky. How do you explain that
for a period of time truckers were idolized and people actually knew what
10-4 meant? The Me-Decade? More like the Dweeb Decade.
So have your fun. But best beware -- parts of the '70s are making a comeback.
"It takes a buffer zone of about 15 years before you can wax nostalgia," says
pop-culture author Andy Edelstein, who with Kevin McDonough wrote the
just-released The Seventies: From Hot Pants to Hot Tubs. "That's why you're
seeing the interest in the '70s."
Don't believe it? What about the return of George Foreman knocking his ring
opponents cold, Mark Spitz threatening to compete in the '92 Olympics, John
Travolta ready to star in Look Who's Talking, Too, and Peggy Lipton
prettier than her Mod Squad days in Twin Peaks. And don't forget the
return of Richard Nixon, Nadia Comaneci, David Cassidy, The Jetsons, The
Brady Bunch, the Oakland Athletics. And Vietnam.
What gives? "A whole generation is now in their 30s and they want to relive
their youth," Edelstein says. "That's why you have people who were in their
teens during the Depression who will reminisce about the good old days."
Of course, AIDS pretty much killed off the "free love" scene, and once we
discovered that cocaine can be addictive it sort of took the fun out of those
Studio 54 days. Still, nostalgia is a potent narcotic.
Things were simple in the '70s, even politicians (note Gerald Ford). Cars
were made in the U.S.A. The homeless were still bums. Drugs? Take 'em or
leave 'em. You had a choice. You weren't required to "just say no." And --
for all you closet hippies who still think the '70s were some kind of big
sleep after the frenetic '60s -- get some counseling.
"The '60s really blurred into the '70s," Edelstein says. "The ideas and
philosophy of the '60s became mainstream in the '70s -- sexual freedoms, the
end of the draft, legalization of abortion, gay liberation, breakthroughs in
Nothing ties us to a time period like music -- even bad music. It's possible
to see Baby Boomers pine nostalgically for long-defunct bands of the '60s --
the Beatles and Buffalo Springfield, perhaps -- and turn misty-eyed over
But what about the Bay City Rollers, the De Franco Family and polyester-
filled nights at the hottest disco in town? You'd be surprised.
"There's a tremendous amount of interest in '70s music," says Bonnie Miller,
managing editor of Goldmine, a trade publication for music collectors. "It's
Three record labels have released reissue series devoted to music of the
'70s. Rhino calls its series Super Hits of the '70s: The Have A Nice Day
Series. It focuses on the AM radio pop hits of the first half of the decade.
Time-Life's Sounds Of The Seventies presents the FM sound of Santana, the
Doobie Brothers and Manfred Mann's Earth Band. Priority's "Mega-Hits Dance
Classics" series presents the cream of the disco crop with scattered funk and
pop-soul dance tunes thrown in.
Disco throbbed in the mid-'70s. Who can forget The Village People ("Macho
Man" and "Y.M.C.A."), or KC and the Sunshine Band ("I'm Your Boogie Man"), or
even Rick Dees ("Disco Duck")? After Kent State, Vietnam, Watergate and long
afternoons in a gas line, kids didn't want to deal with issues any more. They
just wanted to dance. "Disco was perfect for the Me Decade," Edelstein says.
"It was the great release valve, the un-music."
But before you dismiss the '70s as a pulsating musical wasteland populated by
one-hit wonders, remember this: It did produce Bruce Springsteen, the Talking
Heads, the Ramones, the Clash, the Sex Pistols, the Eagles, the Allman
Brothers, the Pretenders and David Bowie.
There was substance to the '70s. You might have to sift through several
layers of CB radios, cowl-neck sweaters and shag carpeting -- not to mention
shag haircuts -- but it was there.
"You know, it's true what they say," Edelstein says, "everything looks better
from a distance."
And that goes for the '70s.
- The Sunday TENNESSEAN, September 2, 1990.
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