Jo Fox’s 1978 Diary

Joanne Fox, is a short story writer published in women’s magazines, and winner of Frome Festival short story competition 2007. “Looking at your great blog really jogged my memory about the 70s and so I had a root through my filing cabinet to see what mementoes I had tucked away.”

Radio One 1978 diaryI would have been fourteen when I tore the Christmas paper from my Radio One Diary for 1978. At that age I was obsessed with music. Few presents from my mum can ever have prompted as much excitement as this little book. And how glad I am that my diary has survived.

On the front cover, Leo Sayer springs into the air, wearing white trousers with braces and a slightly manic smile. White trousers were clearly the in thing in the late seventies because when I turn the page I find Canadian disc jockey Kid Jensen in huge white flares, white boots and a Radio One sweatshirt. I was more of a John Peel fan, but the biographies of all the Radio One D.J.s at the front of this diary were riveting reading. Ed Stewart, Dave Lee Travis, Alan Freeman, the lovely Anne Nightingale – their names conjure up hours of happy listening.

On the page for personal information, below my name and address, I have written three vital details:

“Rick Wakeman is ACE”
“Status Quo are excellent”
“Bay City Rollers should be boiled in oil”

Yes, at fourteen the evidence is that I wanted to be a rock chick! At the bottom of every diary page is a space headed “This week’s chart topper is…” I have to say I am impressed that I filled in all the number one hits, from Mull of Kintyre in January, to the Commodores Three Times a Lady in mid-September. So, apart from my opinions on the Bay City Rollers, what other gems did I record in my messy ballpoint?

Jo Fox in 1978On Friday the 13th of January I wrote “Today is here!” I quite like the celebratory tone of this observation. On the 24th I noted that the lead singer of the band Chicago had died, and a month later I saw Star Wars. I still remember queuing in the rain to get into the Odeon in Derby for the afternoon screening!

In March Kate Bush reached number one with ‘Wuthering Heights’. She seemed so different from everyone else in the charts, and I found her combination of weirdness and beauty fascinating. I too wanted to wave my arms around and sing in a high voice, “It’s me, Cathy, come home…” In fact, I probably did when no-one was watching.

Also during March I saw Gordon Giltrap at the Derby Assembly Rooms. I was learning guitar and I’d have loved to be as good as he was. The next concert I went to was in June – Gerry Rafferty of Baker Street fame. By now, Boney M were number one with Rivers of Babylon. I hated it! But not as much as I hated the hit that topped the charts after that, You’re the One that I Want by John Travolta and Olivia Newton John.

In August I went on a family holiday to the Welsh resort of Tenby. We always stayed in ‘flatlets’, which was a posh way of describing bedsits-by-the-sea. Sadly my diary entries tail off soon after writing that Keith Moon had died on September 7th. What happened in September to end my devotion to my diary? I can only guess that once I moved up a year at school, filling in the week’s number one seemed a rather nerdy thing to do.

However there are still some surprises in the address section at the end of the diary. I had several penpals, two in Germany, one each in Austria, France, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Australia. A schoolfriend was part of a penpal club and she used to get a booklet, similar to a book of raffle tickets. For (I think) 10p you could buy a ticket with the name and address of someone abroad who wanted a UK penpal. Then you could start writing to a total stanger about your guinea pigs, your latest Abba L.P. or your crush on your physics teacher. Most of my penpals fell by the wayside, not least because postage ate up too much of my pocket money! When I look at their names now I wonder where they are. In their attics or filing cabinets, have they stashed away their old diaries with my name and address inside? I’d love to know.

As I close my diary, I see Elton John on the back cover. He has a gappy smile, sunglasses (despite being indoors) and that ubiquitous Radio One sweatshirt.

1978 was a good year for me. So, well done mum for choosing a present all those years ago that still amuses me today!

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One Response

  1. I’m from Pennsylvania myself, so I’ll keep a lookout for people who may have been your pen pal back in 78. It’s just a service I provide for the joy of it. I heard Rivers Of babylon for the first time about a month ago–apparently Boney M were not a hit here. I loved it! It’s better than what I hear on the radio now, at any rate. Cheers!

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