The Seventies Saga (tf)

I was 13 years old when the 70s came to an end, so my memories of the decade are a mixture of cultural landmarks and mundane details. The 80s are much clearer, probably as a result of raging hormones. Hormones improve the memory.

But still, I do remember enough to make me wonder what the hell we were all thinking.

Nixon was the first President I was truly aware of….and he gets thrown out of office in disgrace. I can remember polls at the time saying he was the most hated person in history. I wasn’t sure what “Watergate” was, but it seemed to  bother people a lot more than the Vietnam war. Looking back, Nixon was a paradigm of virtue in comparison to some of his successors. Of course I had no idea at the time that years later my own generation would largely be responsible for giving George W. Bush 2 terms in the White House. Had I known this I may have become a coke-head in the 1980s and turned out more more well adjusted.

In the 70s I was not immune to the allure of the Leisure Suit. I recall a spectacular orange corduroy number that I couldn’t wait to prance around in. I had a haircut like Moe Howard and had myself a paid of blue Pro-Keds that I convinced myself went with everything. Nobody paid any attention to my garish attire because everybody else looked even more ridiculous than me, for which I’m forever grateful.

Music was a worry at the time because unlike Stevens disco music did not appeal to me. Watching “Saturday Night Fever” was like watching a movie about Martians. I didn’t know anybody who could dance like that, or anybody who really wanted to. Dancing was for girls until a slow song came on and you were out of sight of the nuns. But at the time people actually listened to the radio, so you couldn’t escape these insipid sounds and the big hair of the people who made them. The tide was so overwhelming that even meat and potatoes rock and roll bands like the Rolling Stones made “disco” records to stay relevant. Records they’ve been trying to live down ever since I might add, but still. I think one of the reasons that Keith Richards refuses to die is because he doesn’t want somebody to scrawl “co-writer of ‘Hot Stuff'” on his tombstone.

In 1979 the Chicago White Sox held “disco demolition night” in which a popular local DJ invited folks to bring their records to the ballpark so they could be blown up between games of a double-header. The expected 12,00 fans turned into 90,000, or about 40,000 more than the ballpark held. The explosion tore a hole in the outfield, sparked small fires all over the stadium, and turned into a full-scale riot. Fans rushed the field, tore down the batting cage, and stole all the bases, chanting “disco sucks” the entire time. Six people were injured and 39 arrested. I remember so well because it all happened on July 12th. My birthday. It took me about 20 years to listen to “Play That Funky Music White Boy” again (It was always one of my hidden favorites…..the one time in history a white guy tried to sound black and didn’t make a jackass out of himself).

But at the time the nation probably needed to blow off some steam (no pun intended). A few months earlier the state of Pennsylvania was nearly made uninhabitable by the “event” at Three Mile Island….which seems particularly relevant today with what has happened in Japan. I remember being really scared….mostly because I knew my father was scared. My father was the smartest man I knew and if he was scared there was a good reason to be scared. Massive doses of radiation can surely ruin your day. Then as well as now.

Came close to ruining the decade actually. But a catastrophe was averted and we all lived to usher in the 1980s, which I guess was a good thing.

Wasn’t it?

–Tom Flannery

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~ by admin on April 3, 2011.

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