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Super70s Crazes!

Last post 05-14-2009, 12:33 AM by Justin Sheedy. 0 replies.
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  •  05-14-2009, 12:33 AM 2897

    Super70s Crazes!

    THE Super70s!

    This was the time of crazes. My first notion of such things had been manic footage of a man wearing only white sneakers running away from the spotlight of a news camera chasing him down the street in the dark. The seventies was the era of the Streaker. There was even a pop song dedicated to them and deservedly so; streaking embodied the very spirit of the permissive seventies, the decade that asked the question, ‘Why not?’

    There were, however, crazes of the Super70s that begged the question, ‘Why?’

    ‘String art’: In the long history of Man, he has come up with many wonderful inventions, useful innovations and social improvements for the purpose of bettering his quality of life. So, exactly what Man was thinking of the day he came up with string art buggers me. Moses comes down from Mount Sinai: ‘Hey, gang, I just saw this burning bush and I brought you these Ten Commandments stone thingies. Oh, and also this. I call it “string art”.’

    Objets de string art were wall ornaments constructed of fluoro cord intricately wound between nails on black velvet boards, usually in the shape of something tasteful – glow-in-the-dark Spanish galleons abounded. It was from string art that I gained my first notion of kitsch and suspect its glorious reign, however brief, as the reason why the alien life forms so crowding the skies of the Super70s never actually bothered to get in touch with us.

    The skies of my childhood seemed traffic-jammed with UFOs. Everyone was seeing them. No one you actually knew, of course, but someone you knew was related to someone who had. My best friend's second cousins’ ex-neighbours in Beirut, for example. In the seventies, aliens seemed to have hit upon Earth as a tourist destination just as attractive as Australia currently is to the Japanese. Maybe it was the exchange rate? Steven Spielberg’s alien contact epic Close Encounters of the Third Kind from 1977 bears witness to our obsession, the film remaining one of the most successful of all time.

    Perhaps all the extraterrestrial activity was stimulated by the high level of radio traffic between earthlings at the time; CB radios were all the rage. This stood for ‘citizen band radio’, a craze that veritably swept the planet with everybody and his dog wanting to blab over the ether. ‘Breaker, breaker, C-Q, C-Q, this is the Rubber Duck seeking any Good Buddies out there, ten-four, ten-four…’

    Alien spacecraft listening in at a hover: ‘Nope. No intelligent life down there.’

    Pet Rocks’: Yet another reason why UFOs never bothered to land. If only they had. They’d have discovered the joys of beanbags!

    These were overgrown vinyl cushions that, strewn around the floor, people could ‘bliss out’ on. So called for being stuffed with polystyrene pellets, or ‘beans’, they came in many lurid colours and were ‘a gas, man’. I learnt this term from Penny La Salle, eldest daughter of my parents’ nudist friends, a girl for whom things were often also ‘far out’, or at least ‘unreal’, pronounced ‘un-rool’.

    This teenager truly held court with all the younger kids around her, the reason for this being her hippy status. She smoked cigarettes (coool!) and taught me how to make the ‘peace sign’. I was in genuine awe of her and inquired as to whether ‘far out’ was actually code for ‘f###’ or something. Through a haze of strawberry incense, she considered me sagely and said, ‘It just means “far out”, man.’

    On the subject of groovy seventies home decor, I think most young people considered the work of Mike Brady, father of the Brady Bunch, as the aesthetic zenith. Ah, Mike Brady, not only the ultimate architect but interior designer extraordinaire! Take his fabulous use of brown for a start! Was Mike ever an influence. In the seventies, brown was nothing short of omnipresent. Just as in the Brady Bunch home, any really stylish Australian kitchen was usually orange and brown, presumably to balance the bathroom being in avocado and lilac. But brown was king. You may recall that on the excellent seventies TV show, Welcome Back Kotter, Mr Kotter had no less that a great big, fat, brown ‘feature stripe’ running right down the middle of his apartment! Oh, and did I mention the hip shade for Valiants was lime green?

    ‘Kinetic furniture’: Think vinyl lounge-chairs with handbrakes. The ‘Jason Recliner’ expanded and contracted into an infinite number of super comfortable positions, meaning now you could watch TV flat on your back. And if lounge chairs didn’t recline, they at least swivelled through 360 degrees. I’m not sure what actual benefit this provided for adults, but us kids put them to brilliant use by being madly spun around on them. Though this made watching TV almost impossible.

    ‘Copper art’: The less said the better. Except to say that my parents had a huge copper-embossed Spanish-Italo-Etruscan knight on horseback up on the wall. Everyone did.

    ‘Mobiles’: Not mobile phones; these were hip works of hanging sculpture, a common sight in seventies homes though now extinct. The lady from next door went on The Great Temptation as a contestant and brought one home as a consolation prize! How I marvelled as its silver and pink fish shifted majestically in the breeze. But better than that, this sacred object had been touched by the very hand of the beautiful Barbie Rogers!

    Another recurrent craze of the seventies was yoyos. I say ‘recurrent’ as there seemed to be a brand new yoyo craze every year. Being a total un-co, I could never get mine to work though I bought a Coca-Cola one every year anyway, just to be cool. Hell, I knew how to make the peace sign, didn’t I?

    This brings us to ‘the Pepsi Challenge’, one of the key dichotomies and guiding principles of my childhood. The TV ad for the campaign featured a bunch of bleached Aussie teens goofing around a table set up at the beach. Before them on the table were two unmarked plastic cups, one containing Pepsi, one Coke. ‘Take the Pepsi Challenge, man, it’s un-rool!’ I wonder why there was never a ‘Tang Challenge’ versus Fanta. Presumably as the ad would have to have concluded: ‘So, there you have it. One hundred per cent of Australian kids not only prefer Fanta to Tang but vote to leave the jar of Tang unfinished and at the back of the pantry to be discarded at such time as the house is pulled down.’

    Possibly the most influential ‘craze’ of the seventies was Disco, the whole phenomenon perhaps best exemplified by that classic ‘arm in the air’ pose struck by John Travolta in the movie Saturday Night Fever. It seemed a culture in itself, its philosophy: ‘No matter your age, you will always be young if you live for tonight.’ And people could; this was narrowly pre-AIDS. The bands were excellent, their music bold, brassy, and irrepressibly funky. There was Bony M, The Silver Convention, KC and the Sunshine Band, Donna Summer, Isaac Hayes, Gloria Gaynor and of course Abba to name but a few. In my street, the girls next door had put on Abba concerts in the garage, miming to Abba songs with hairbrushes for microphones. One was blonde, one was brunette – it was perfect. Compiling a comprehensive list of the great disco bands could take all day, there were so many, though I think the Bee Gees may just rise to the top of the brilliant bunch.

    Justin Sheedy


    Justin Sheedy
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