Eleven Sweaty Men in a 4-Seat Hillman Husky

disco lightsCan you remember what you did on Saturday nights in 1970? My friends and I were, like a lot of other testosterone and beer fuelled males, heading for the disco. We had a choice of venues; the Top Rank Suite, with its circular dance floor downstairs and the illuminated, multi-coloured glass one upstairs; and the Mecca, Royal Pier Ballroom, famous for its plastic palm trees. There were other, seedier establishments which decent chaps avoided. One week in May it was our turn at the Pier.

Picture of the sort of Hillman Husky – a 1954-1957 model – unfortunately not a '70s modelThere were four of us in the old Hillman Husky and the plan was to meet in the car park at the end of the evening, for the return journey. Colin, the car’s owner, was not renowned for his powers of logical thought, especially after a couple of beers, and he was so proud of his new wheels that he invited everyone he met, to a lift home.

Later that night a crowd gathered outside the disco to see the famed car. When he was satisfied with the packing of the passengers he started the journey home. He had travelled less than a mile along the High Street, just reaching the Bargate when he was flagged down – by the local constabulary. He had forgotten to turn on the lights. It would have helped had he been able to see the dashboard, but with eleven people occupying the four seats it proved impossible.

The astounded policeman did his duty, seven passengers walked home and Colin pleaded guilty at court. It cost him a £13 fine and he got his ‘fifteen minutes of fame’ in the local paper.

The 70s were under way …

Kim P Moody

Tyrell P34 F1 Racing Car

Kim P Moody with more Formula One Racing

JTyrell P34 at Monaco

While Niki Lauda was busy trying to win his second F1 World Championship, Tyrell Racing was producing a rather special F1 racing car. Derek Gardner, their chief designer had produced a car with tiny, 10-inch diameter wheels at the front. The idea was to reduce the frontal area, thus reducing aerodynamic drag.

The problem with the small diameter wheels was the reduced area of contact with the road giving poorer grip when cornering. Gardner’s answer – to give the Tyrell P34 four wheels at the front instead of two!

The Tyrell P34’s first race was the Spanish Grand Prix in 1976, with two cars driven by Jody Scheckter and Patrick Depailler. Its best ever result was the Swedish Grand Prix with a 1 – 2 finish. Jody Scheckter is still the only driver ever to win a Grand Prix in a six wheeled car.

Schekter left Elf Team Tyrell at the end of 76, and was replaced by Ronnie Peterson for the 1977 season. The car was not as good as in 76, largely due to the lack of tyre development by Goodyear, and did not reappear in 1978. It was a short lived chapter in F1 history. The P34 was one of the two most radical designs to have succeeded in F1. The other was the Brabham BT46B Fancar.

Niki Lauda the Real F1 Hero

Kim P Moody watches Formula One Racing

Well done to Lewis Hamilton for winning the 2008 F1 World Championship, with McLaren, and his ensuing MBE. We won’t mention his friends in the Toyota team …

Niki Lauda leading the 1976 Formula One title raceBut back in the 70s we had real F1 heroes, like Niki Lauda. Lauda’s first F1 race was the Austrian Grand Prix in 1971, driving for the STP March Racing Team. He didn’t get his first race win until the 1974 Spanish Grand Prix when he was driving for Ferrari.

He won his first World Championship in 1975, but his most spectacular year was 1976, again with Ferrari. By the end of the ninth round of the 76 season, the British Grand Prix, Lauda had twice as many points as his nearest rival. His run of success came to a sudden halt on the second lap of round ten, the German Grand Prix, at the long Nurburgring circuit.

Lauda’s car spun off the circuit with a suspected mechanical failure. It hit an embankment, rolled back onto the track and was struck by the Surtees-Ford driven by Brett Lunger. The Ferrari burst into flames and Lauda was trapped. Other drivers ran to his aid and pulled him from the burning wreck. He suffered severe burns to his head, and his lungs were damaged by hot, toxic gases. Although he could stand after the crash, he later fell into a coma. His condition was so bad that the worst was feared and a priest administered the last rites.

Niki Lauda in signature red capLauda returned to the track just six weeks later, having missed only two races, and finished forth in the Italian Grand Prix. James Hunt had reduced Lauda’s lead and won the championship by one point. Because of his determination and courage, Lauda is regarded as one of the bravest people in Formula 1.

Lauda won the championship again in 1977, and retired in 1979 to operate his charter airline. In 1982 he returned to F1 and won his third world title in 1984. Lauda has only ever had sufficient reconstructive surgery to get his eyelids to close, and now he is always seen in public wearing a red cap to cover the scars on his head. At the end of 1985 he retired again and returned to running Lauda Air. In 2001/2002 he managed the ill fated Jaguar F1 team.

A box of chocolates in a bag

Kim P Moody shares his memories of sweet endeavours

Revels packaging hasn't changed much!Picture an old fashioned corner shop, you know, the one where you were served by the shopkeeper – it’s called service! A small boy goes up to the counter and asks if he could get a box of chocolates, I think it was for his mum, for 6d (that’s 2.5 new pence). The old shopkeeper, with grey moustache and horn rimmed glasses leans forward and says, in a soft Yorkshire accent, “Y’can’t buy a box of chocolates for sixpence, lad.” then after a suitable pause for the boy’s disappointment, “… but y’can buy a bag o’ Revels!”

The shopkeeper was played by the late Derek Guyler (1914-1999), famous for his performance as Norman Potter, the caretaker, in the kids school sitcom, Please Sir! (1968-1972). I suppose the boy must a famous actor by now but I never knew who he was.

Y’can still buy a bag o’ Revels, but not for 6d. They are a variety of chocolate covered sweets, but instead of the identifiable shapes found in the posh boxes, they are all ‘balls’ of roughly the same size – so it’s pot luck as to which flavour you get – bummer if you get the chewy toffee ones, my favourite were the coffee!

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!

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.

Isle of Wight Festival 1970

Festival banner

Kim P Moody

I must be the only person never to have been to an Isle of Wight Festival, and the one I should’ve gone to was the 1970 festival held at Afton Down, near Freshwater Bay on the western end of the Island. I was 17 and single.

The Festival ran for three consecutive years, the last from 26 to 31 August 1970, and was at the time, the largest musical event ever staged. The Guinness Book of Records reckoned that 600,000 people attended. This was not beaten until the Summer Jam at Watkins Glen, USA in 1973.

The organisers were determined to create a legendary event and once they had secured Jimi Hendrix, the other major artists signed up to be there, too. The Who, The Doors, Free, Jethro Tull, Ten Years After and Joan Baez were just a few of the famous artists that turned up.

The promoters had no real problems hiring a site for the first two festivals, but in 1970, the locals had organised their objections, and Afton Down was the only site available. Let’s face it, the Islanders were outnumbered by more than 6:1, it’s no wonder they were miffed.

Due to the poor location many festival goers got a free show. The fenced off area that was controlled and you needed a ticket to get into, was overlooked by an area that became known as Desolation Hill. Many said that the view was better from there than in some parts of the arena. A secondary performance area, called Canvas City, gave paying guests a choice of music.

Festival Panorama at www.ukrockfestivals.com

Although the biggest festival, it was not regarded as the best. Some who went say that Hendrix was not at his best, and other groups were mediocre. The Who were well received, as ever, and surprisingly, Tiny Tim was a hit with the crowds. Tiny Tim was an American ukelele player who sang in a high, falsetto voice, songs like, ‘There’ll always be an England’ and ‘Tiptoe through the tulips’.

Financially the festival failed; it was poorly organised and was infiltrated by underground elements that tried to make it a free festival. Ron Foulk, a promoter is reported to have said, “This is the last festival, enough is enough, it began as a beautiful dream but has got out of control and become a monster.”

It was 32 years before another festival was held on the Island, by that time … well it didn’t appeal, much.