Monkey Magic

Monkey Series 2 Wallpaper from www.monkeyheaven.comBorn from an egg on a mountain top, Monkey was an expert martial artist and travelled with Sandy, Pigsy and the delicious young priest Tripitaka on a major quest.

Monkey had a magic wand that was as tiny as a pin but would grow (with some excellent sound effects) into a fighting pole. The series was dubbed with barely a passing attempt at lip-synching, and the actors wore terrible wigs, but that all added to the appeal.

Monkey gave me my first insight into martial arts (and saying ‘hwoar’ very loudly when punching), an enduring love of the quest genre and my first experience of gender-bending outside of panto. Pigsy was my favourite character because he always did what he wanted, whether eating or kissing, he didn’t care! The name Pigsy also became an insult within our family, and everything had ‘zy’ added to the end, e.g. flyzie, catzie, such was the influence of this program.

It was popular in a number of English-speaking countries, and became such a cult classic that it was repeated, reworked as animation, and is now an opera featuring the guy who used to be in Blur (obviously he also grew up in the Seventies). Numerous cult websites are dedicated to the program, for instance Monkey Heaven. I can’t wait to youtube this!

 Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room

The War of the Worlds Musical – Jeff Wayne

Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds album cover Art by Geoff Taylor, 1976My mum bought this album in 1978 and I listened to it loads over the following years. It was my first experience of science fiction and established a lifelong interest in this genre. I read the inside cover and studied the pictures intensely while listening to the music. I was fascinated by the ideas this story conveyed.

The actual book The War of the Worlds was written by HG Wells in 1898 and has had such influence on the modern age that it has been made into numerous films, a radio adaptations and has influenced many other books. See Wikipedia disambiguation for a full list.

Following my obsession with the Jeff Wayne music, I read science fiction voraciously, John Wyndham, Arthur C Clark, Isaac Asimov, and ultimately HG Wells himself. There was something chilling about the concept of an alien invasion and the people of earth being like ants in our ability to defend ourselves. The music was and still is evocative of this chilling sense of despair, and right at the end a tiny point of hope.

The chances of anyone coming from Mars are a million to one, she said. The chances of anyone coming from Mars are a million to one, but still they come.

See, I’ve got goosebumps.

 Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room

Waltons’ Mountain of Film Reel

The Waltons family from an early seriesThe Waltons was a TV show that ran throughout the Seventies and can still be seen in repeats today. It was set in the depression era in Virginia, America, but was very Seventies in style, from the floppy haircuts to the soppy storylines. Presumably at the time it was seen as authentic, but in retrospect you can see the TV show as much as a product of the time it was filmed as the time it was set. It’s a bit like the film Grease in that respect.

The theme tune for The Waltons brings back a whole host of memories for me, but due to the nature of TV repeats they’re all a mish-mash. I’m eight and watching it for the first time, shouting ‘g’night Jimbarb’ to my sister and giggling. Or I’m twenty-five and snuggling up in bed on a Sunday morning with tea and toast after a party, when Alys has insisted on getting her weekly Waltons dose. One thing I find interesting is that it was a nostalgic program in the first place, with the voiceover of an older man who is supposed to be John-boy. But now the nostalgia for the depression has been replaced by a nostalgia for the Seventies.

I’ve been passive-watching a lot of The Waltons lately (it’s a bit like passive-smoking and I do a lot of it as I’m mostly on the laptop and not bothering with what’s on TV). I bought Alys the first four series on DVD last year and she wants the next ones now. They’re becoming available: according to Wikipedia the 6th and 7th have just come out this year, but shh, don’t tell Alys because she’ll have to wait for Christmas. It’s on the TV all the time anyway, but sometimes Alys likes to watch the episodes sequentially rather than all over the place. It’s a very strange feeling to be watching Elizabeth as a stroppy freckled little girl in the morning and by the afternoon she’s a stroppy harridan teen! Probably even more disconcerting if it were the other way around.

 Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room

Stephen King

The Shining, 1980 film directed by Stanley Kubric, based on Stephen King's bookSome might say the Seventies were good to Stephen King, as it was the decade in which he got married, saw Carrie, his first book, published and gained increasing popularity with subsequent books such as Salem’s Lot, The Shining and The Stand. However, it was also the decade in which his mother died and he struggled with alcohol dependency. As with us all, the Seventies held good and bad for Stephen.

According to Wikipedia, Stephen King is the best-selling novelist in the world. He is the icon of the horror genre and his books’ themes are the key themes of horror so that his name is synonymous with the genre.

In the Seventies, the mass market paperback became extremely popular and Stephen King’s books were sold in extreme numbers. It has been suggested that his late-seventies pseudonym of Richard Bachman was due to the author’s insecurity about whether he could really cut it or whether it was pure fluke that he was a success. More likely it’s just that back then publishers didn’t like an author to put out more than one book per year.

I first heard of Stephen King when my Mum was reading one of his books and she told me not to read it. So of course the next book with the name ‘Stephen King’ on it that I saw in the library was snaffled. I didn’t get very far into it, but certain scenes of The Shining are emblazoned in my brain to this day. I would never have watched the 1980 film with Jack Nicholson as I was only 10 at the time, but have seen parts of it since. Parts, not the whole.

I think that his writing probably did influence mine, but in a negative sense of I really must not write like this! rather than any other way. Years later I read On Writing, which I found extremely interesting, insightful and useful, especially the bit about being selfish and shutting yourself away to write. I have always admired Stephen King as an author, not necessarily for his writing as I’ve read so little, but for his commercial savviness and his output.

 Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room

The Strange Case of Alice Cooper

Kim P Moody

Album cover for School's OutAlice Cooper was, and still is, something a bit different. School’s Out, with its dark chords and and heavy rhythm was a contrast to the old hippy, peace and love stuff of the sixties and the glittery campness of glam rock, which was just making an appearance.

Vincent Furnier’s rock career started in 1964 singing with The Earwigs in Phoenix, Arizona. The band changed its name a couple of times and he changed his name to Alice Cooper, taking the name of the group, when it was re-named from Nazz in 1968. They needed a gimmick and the image of a sweet little girl with an evil secret was just what was needed. Stories like Alice being a reincarnated witch and the 1969 ‘chicken incident’ at the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival, set the scene.

After a series of commercially unsuccessful releases they hit the big time in 1971 with I’m Eighteen, and even bigger in 1972, with School’s Out. Alice Cooper’s stage performances, including mock executions, shocked all who saw them; parents, politicians and decency campaigners tried to get the UK performances banned. Although the video of School’s Out was banned by the BBC, Alice Cooper’s popularity soared.

Alice Cooper in 2007, still rockingThey were at their peak in the mid 70s, and Alice Cooper has a strong following today. School’s Out is still a rockers’ favourite and is currently used in a TV advertising campaign for MasterCard.

Alice Cooper’s discography and filmography can be found on Wikipedia, together with details of more than 40 years entertaining his fans. Alice Cooper continues to rock. Yeah! Rock on, Alice!

Lucozade Aids Recovery

advert for Lucozade with a nurse, making it look like a medicineIn the Seventies, Lucozade was a sickness recovery drink. I remember it being sold in chemists with a netting or cellophane covering to make it look like a medicine.

The TV adverts were all about children in bed looking grotty and drinking Lucozade to give them energy and recover from whatever lurgy they had.

According to Wikipedia, the cellophane wrap and medicine-style packaging continued until 1983, when the slogan Lucozade aids recovery was replaced by Lucozade replaces lost energy, and it became a sports drink. Obviously sick people were a niche market.

It is still used for recovery – I have a diabetic friend who never goes out without a bottle of original Lucozade in his backpack. But the Lucozade range has grown significantly since entering the sports drink market.

As far as I’m concerned it still tastes disgusting. For those of us who grew up with it being foisted on us when we were feeling sick, the Pavlovian implications are obvious.

 Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room

Rod Hull and Emu

Rod Hull and Emu in the SeventiesRod Hull was this nutty bloke who had an emu as a hand puppet. He wasn’t exactly a ventriloquist because the emu didn’t speak but it had a huge personality – much bigger than Rod’s. It used to curl its beak and attack people. A few times Rod got into trouble because the emu (which was called Emu) got too rough with the people Rod was talking to. He obviously couldn’t tame it.

Emu attacking Michael ParkinsonThere were also the times that Rod would wear tights and pretend his legs were the emu’s and run around on it. That was funny as well. The humour was the slapstick variety that only children would laugh at. But it was also quite discomforting for anyone watching as Rod seemed to be very angry, and so did Emu. He used to shout at it a lot from what I can remember, and then the emu would attack him.

Apparently Emu is now making a comeback on CITV, though without Rod who died in 1999. 

 Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room

Grunwick Dispute

Kim P Moody

Cover of Socialist WorkerDescribed as ‘One of the greatest Labour struggles in the UK’, Grunwick was a landmark dispute for the trade union movement. At this time many companies were ‘closed shops’, places of work where you had to belong to a trade union. The Grunwick photo processing laboratories, on the other hand, would not recognise trade unions and consequently the working conditions and the pay, especially for the Asian women who worked there, were appalling.

In the hot summer of 1976 about a third of the staff went on strike over the conditions in the factory. The union APEX (Association of Professional, Executive, Clerical and Computer Staff, since 1989 part of the GMB union) was contacted and the strikers signed up. They were sacked. The struggle began.

Grunwick struggle on BBC websiteThe Advisory, Conciliation, and Arbitration Service, ACAS, tried to resolve the dispute, but without success, and in October that year the Trades Union Congress (TUC) called for sympathetic strike action by other unions. As a consequence the Post Office workers refused to deliver Grunwick’s mail, a vital part of their business process. In reply they were sued under the Post Office Act 1953, for wilfully delaying mail.

Another tactic employed by the unions was the mass picket. In order to pressurise those continuing to work, and others attending the factory, as many pickets as possible were gathered. These were from other factories, students, political activists and other trade unions. No doubt hangers on from elsewhere took the opportunity to join in, too.

After a year the scene outside the gates turned to violence. Bus loads of miners were brought in from Yorkshire, South Wales and Kent to join the protest. I was working in the paint shop at Ford Motor Company in Southampton; it was a closed shop so we were all union members. I remember bus loads of workers from the factory went to London for a day out at Grunwick, paid by their union for taking a day off to go. One day in November 1977 around 8000 people picketed the gates at Grunwick, nearly 250 were injured and over 100 were arrested in the ensuing disturbances.

The government held an inquiry and APEX said they would honour any recommendation. The manager of Grunwick said only a court would make him change his mind. The ensuing enquiry and report by Lord Scarman was of no help to the striking workers, they were not reinstated and Grunwick continued not to recognise the union. On 14 July 1978 the strike was called off.

Mass picketing was one effective trade union tactic of the time, another was the ‘flying picket’. This was a group of pickets that were highly mobile and, if a factory had works at many locations they would arrive at any of them without warning. Pickets did not necessarily have to be part of the striking union, or indeed of any union, they were gathered from sympathetic groups who were happy to join in. These consisted of students, members of other trade unions and often the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). Sometimes the flying pickets were described as ‘rent-a-mob’.

The power of the trade unions would be severely curtailed by the Conservative government in the 1980s, but not before more large scale industrial disputes rocked the country.

Seventies Special Food

Prawn CocktailDidn’t we all think we were in the Haute Cuisine, with our three course meal of prawn cocktail, duck a l’orange and black forest gateaux? Pull out the hostess trolley and deliver your pre-dinner martinis, people, because we’re on a roll! Apparently celebrity chefs are bringing back the ‘good old British’ seventies menu (fnar, since when was any of that British?)

Black Forest Gateau - hint, it's GermanThe prawn cocktail sauce was mayonnaise and ketchup mixed together, the duck was cooked in orange squash and the gateaux was still frozen. But we loved it because we were ultra hip and modern! No more the meat and two veg, we were exotic with our devilled eggs and packet cheesecake mix.

The arrival of the kiwi fruit proved much consternation in our village, until someone hit upon the idea of using it as a garnish for their quiches. We had only just got used to seeing sliced tomato on top of a bacon and egg flan and calling it ‘quiche’, and as we had no idea what a kiwi fruit was for, no-one questioned it appearing in a savoury dish. But as far as I’m aware this must have been a Midlands-only phase as no-one in South Wales has heard of kiwi fruit on quiche.

We still like to watch Fanny Craddock at Christmas, for a laugh rather than for hot tips. The single most repeated Fanny clip is when she ‘lubricates the dry bird’. I’m sure I remember her as wearing marigold gloves at the time. It’s got to be on YouTube.

Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room

Sweet Memories

Guest Blog from Judith Gray

Tin of Cremola FoamI think you need to be under 10 and living in the 1970’s to fully enjoy brightly coloured food.  Every decade since the 70’s has been imbued with an acute awareness of the detrimental effects of additives and colorants in food.

The 1970’s, for me, were summer holidays spent cross-legged on my gran’s brown and orange swirled carpet watching Why Don’t You?, drinking Creamola Foam and wishing I was called George like my favourite Famous Five character.

Creamola Foam was a bizarre concoction from Nestle; it consisted of crystals that you added cold water to and got a fizzy, ‘fruity’ drink.  I loved every cup full of it when I was a kid, but now I can’t think about it without wondering what on earth it was made of.  What conspiracy of chemicals combined to create the foam?

I suspect that the 70’s were the last decade I ate without giving a thought to the nutritional or calorific value of the food.  I am not sure if this was because I was child and didn’t have a concept of nutrition or if it was because it was the 1970’s and we were generally less obsessed about what was in our food.  My parents certainly fed me food that I wouldn’t give to my kids, no matter how nostalgic it made me feel.  And thanks to TV programmes like Lazy Town, most four year olds nowadays have a good sense of what food is bad for them and what is good (i.e. ‘sports candy’).

In the 70’s, we seemed to positively revel in the plasticity of our snacks.  Remember flying saucers?  They tasted like fizzy paper and, once wet, stuck relentlessly to anything they touched, coating teeth and tongues alike.  And yet we still bought them because of their shape and the suggestion of outer space.  The novelty value of food was celebrated.

Sweets at regularly indulge in nostalgic reminiscing about the sweeties of my childhood.  The Texan bars, Caramac, Black Jacks, Spangles, Flumps and raspberry flavoured crisps (OK, maybe not the latter … even at the age of 10 I knew they tasted foul but something still tempted me to part with the princely sum of 5 pence to try them!).  But I could never really enjoy these things now in the care-free way of my youth.  I know too much now!

Judith Gray