Monday, 14 January 2008

Cambridge Fashion Through The Decades - The 1970s, Part 1...


From the Cambridge Evening News, January 1970:

Soon spring clothes will be flooding the shops and filling the spaces left after the sales.

Thankfully, there appears to be little drastic change in design to out-date last year's wardrobe. The emphasis is again on the waist, with a general feeling towards flattering, pretty clothes and soft fabrics.

For many years fashion has been so diverse it has offered unlimited ways of dressing, and this holds good for the spring of 1970.

Jackets either to go with the conventional skirt or trousers are now at all lengths. Coats frequently favour the A-line with a gentle flare towards the hem and have collected belts.

Insets of contrasting materials continue to be a popular feature on dresses and this spring will see a continuation of the dress and coat and dress and jacket partnership.

While there are enough attractive clothes to make spring shopping a pleasure, there still isn't a dramatic swing in the fashion pendulum to make anyone seriously consider re-planning their wardrobe.

The 1970s were a time of recession, and the decade played host to many revivals. The 1950s were huge, 1940s boutiques flourished, platform shoes were dragged out of the 1930s and the 1960s look - flared trousers and all - stuck around and stagnated.

Here is a newspaper article from the Cambridge Evening News, 1971, detailing the blossoming 1950s revival ('70s music leant heavily on the '50s - from Roy Wood and Abba to the Sex Pistols).

Later in the '70s, the '60s began to shine again (and we were only just beginning to shake off the '60s flares!) with a revival of interest in the Mods/Rockers and Ska scenes.

Being a child in the 70s has given me a lasting love of 1950s and '60s music!

Barneys, Mill Road, Cambridge, was a popular fashion outlet for many years and is still missed to this day. In this newspaper ad from March 1973, we discover that 1960s flared trousers are being joined by 1920s Oxford Bags and that puffed sleeves are back in style! A Grandad sweater would set you back 99p!

I find the way that the 1970s have been rewritten during the last ten-to-fifteen years very interesting. Many of the things we attributed to the '60s in the '70s and beyond are now wrongly celebrated as "'70s innovations" and the 1980s are also raided for pop culture and fashion to call "'70s". However, material from the 1970s fortunately reveals the true facts.

Reliving the '70s through the newspapers of the decade brings back many memories of just how grim and stagnant the decade really was style-wise. Flared trousers, the hippie uniform of the late 1960s, had begun to enter the mainstream before that decade ended, but in the '70s, in the absence of new ideas, flares got rather stuck. Still, it's nice to note from the clipping above, taken from the Sunday People, 1975, that efforts were being made to move away from the 1960s.

My older cousin went to see The Jam when they appeared at the Cambridge Corn Exchange in June 1977.

The Cambridge Evening News reviewer got very excited about the event - mainly, it seemed, because of the band's '60s retro influences.

Jammy Treat In Store

Cambridge pop fans are getting a rare treat this Friday with the opportunity to see one of the best “new wave” groups yet spawned by the black generation - The Jam. They are appearing at the Corn Exchange, which is guaranteed to be jam-packed for the occasion.

The concert coincides with the release of their first album, “In The City”, and comes at a time when the single of the same name is making rapid chart progress.

The Jam are, to say the least, an unusual group. While they are very definitely “new wave”, they are not, never have been, and say they never will be “punk” rockers. No safety pins for these lads, they can actually play good music.

They sound so much like The Who of 1965 - and dress in a similar fashion with Mod black mohair suits and spiky hair-dos - they may well achieve the same impact as Pete Townshend’s gang have.

The Jam are: 18-year-old Paul Weller, lead guitarist, vocalist and song writer; 21-year-old Rick Buckler, drummer, and 21-year-old Bruce Foxton, bass guitar.

That first album, incidentally, is excellent. If The Jam go along the same path as The Who, purchasing a copy now would be an exceedingly good investment.

The main difference between The Jam and The Who is that The Jam don’t have a front man to belt out the songs in the way Roger Daltrey leads The Who. But The Jam put their music over with such ferocious energy that it doesn’t seem to matter…

So what did I make of the Mods and Rockers revival thingy? I liked The Jam a lot, but I was not terribly impressed with the retro scene. Said my mate Pete at school one day:

"'Ere, Andy, wot are you - a Mod or a Rocker?"

"Neither!" I snapped. "This is supposed to be the 1970s, not the 1960s!"

Throughout the '70s, we'd had the '50s Teddy Boy thing, which I'd liked. And the decade had been rather overshadowed by the '60s in many ways. And there had been other revivals, too. But surely a '60s revival wasn't due yet?!

But sadly the '70s was so short on ideas that soon Mods and Rockers were all the rage.


This is a snippet from the Cambridge Evening News, dated 10/12/1977.

Do you mourn for the days when the pop charts were full of mind-blowingly innovative, totally new, totally THRILLING stuff?

Er... just when exactly was that?

Crawford Gillian, the CEN's TV reviewer back in 1977, appeared to have something of a hate/hate relationship with TOTP. I've copied the review below, as the original is a little on the faint side in parts.

Ten-year toppers

About 10 years ago, "Top of the Pops" was a Thursday night "must" for me.

It was an easy way to keep an eye on the pop end of the music scene. And for good measure, if you will excuse such a tasteless pun, there were always Pan's People - suitably undressed.

In those days, you could expect to see such giants of the pop world as Paul McCartney, Manfred Mann or the Bee Gees.

On Thursday last week I tuned into "Top of the Pops" for the first time in ages and on the show were... Paul McCartney, Manfred Mann and the Bee Gees! Pan's People were still there, or at least their younger sisters. But now they're called Legs and Co.

Even the camera angles looked the same. There is still the lingering close-up of the pianist's fingers, the shots in negative, melting into others aimed directly into coloured spotlights. Of course, in 1967, we didn't know they were coloured.

The performers respond with the same mock-petulant postures and still don't bother to maintain the pretence of playing their instruments.

Women's Lib doesn't seem to have penetrated the pop world. There was the statutory girl draped round each of Tony Blackburn's shoulders as he introduced the groups, purely decorative.

One exception was a gravel-throated girl singer who looked and sounded like Rod Stewart - another reminder of the sixties influence.

Even the Number One spot looked decidedly dated with Paul McCartney and his jingoistic tribute to the Mull of Kintrye.

It featured a Scottish pipe band marching up and down a beach. Being of the appropriate nationality, I suppose the blood should have been leaping in my veins at such a sight. All it reminded me of was the "Monty Python" sketch with the kamikazee Highlanders throwing themselves one after the other from castle battlements.

If Messrs Cleese and Chapman had got hold of this one, the sequence would have ended with the pipe band marching out to sea.

But that's one of the troubles with "Top of the Pops". It never has had any sense of humour.

Next week Elton John takes on the job of handling the introductions. Another sixties superstar. Need I say more?

The "gravel-throated" singer was none other than Bonnie Tyler with It's A Heartache.

The top ten for the week ending 10/12/1977 was:

1) Mull of Kintyre/Girls' School - Wings

2) Floral Dance - Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band

3) How Deep Is Your Love - Bee Gees

4) Dancin' Party - Showaddywaddy

5) I Will - Ruby Winters

6) Daddy Cool - Darts

7) We Are The Champions - Queen

8) Rockin' All Over The World - Status Quo

9) Egyptian Raggae - Jonathan Richmond and the Modern Lovers

10) Belfast - Boney M

1 comment:

  1. This post is so much more accurate than the article on Cambridge and '1970s fashions in "Our Time" magazine!