I Love 1977

Saturday, September 9, 2000 by

1977 was the year of my first dateable memory. Dressed up by my parents as a giant coin, I remember precariously making the short walk from our house to the local village fĂȘte. There – much to the delight of the enraptured parents – my siblings and I joined a procession of infants dressed in fanciful Jubilee related costumes. It might not have been 1976, but it was my long, hot summer. 1977 is also eating berries at playgroup, being frightened by Doctor Who and enjoying toy cars – all for the first time. Consequently it is a year I hold in some affection. However, I Love 1977 confirmed that it is also a year that we have all come to know too well. It is the 1996 (Euro ’96, Britpop, Spice Girls) of its decade. Three S’s sum up that 12 month period: Sex Pistols, Silver Jubilee and Star Wars: everything else is an entry in the margins.

One of the great triumphs of I Love the Seventies has been its reclamation of punk. The first six programmes gradually led us from the radicalism of bedism and Performance, and into the playpen of the Bay City Rollers. By 1976, the emasculation of youth culture seems complete. Then, from out of nowhere – here comes punk. Viewed in this context, punk once again is the explosion of aggression and sound; the alien and opposing force that it should always be remembered for. Truly the Sound and the Fury. Yet, not for the first time tonight, I Love 1977 struggles to find anything fresh to say as it attempts to juxtapose the preparations for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee with footage of the Pistol’s assault on the popular consciousness. Reliving the Jubilee barge trip up the Thames mildly entertains, but one leaves this section with the belief that – for the viewers of I Love the Seventies – punk will have begun and ended with the Sex Pistols.

Juxtaposition, in fact, seems to be the latest narrative gimmick for such nostalgia fests. Vox pops interviews are increasingly cut into actual footage of the subject under discussion (this week it’s Peter Kay humming the theme to The Deer Hunter), and – on some occasions – the pundits are even seen to be intercutting each other with amusing affect. Like footage of the Queen manipulated back and forth to make her look as if she is dancing to an inappropriate soundtrack (see Not The Nine O’clock News in two weeks time – probably) – this technique date stamps I Love the Seventies, revealing how much of a derivation the format has now become.

Still there are some highpoints: the television advertisement for 2000AD does seem – literally – from another world, and the airtime (although undeserved and rather baffling) given over to Take Hart allows a generation of viewers to remind themselves once again of where they first heard that haunting classical guitar – and in what context (Wildtrack would perform a similar feat, forcing a baffling scratch of the memory in those who would come upon Midnight Cowboy latterly). Asides from these moments, the vox populi are allowed to assume significance over their subject matter. Stuart Maconie (truly the Carol Vorderman of the punditry world) is still being filmed vaguely in profile (as he is on Channel 4′s 100 Greatest TV Moments From Hell) and is still spinning out irritatingly accurate summations on the pieces of ephemera under question. He bestrides the vox populi like a nostalgic colossus. As for the rest – Jamie Theakston is becoming more attuned to the format, and Peter Kay more exposed. Carrie Fisher presides over the whole affair and is seemingly still keen to maintain her vaguely anti-Star Wars position.

Yet perhaps tonight’s biggest surprise is the treatment of that film. Constantly alluded to throughout the programme, its final representation is somewhat spartan as the programme makers finally seem to accept the fact that there are some things that – although dearly loved – you don’t need reminded of. Unlike the Sex Pistols and the Silver Jubilee, the ‘Wars is very much still with us. As for the rest of 1977? Well, as I Love 1977 testifies – it all seems a galaxy far, far away.


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