And lo.. a new year was born and we called it 1978.
The year started promisingly with me loosing my job. It appeared that my employers had overestimated the public’s desire for paper based goods. Business had not been good and I had been decidedly underemployed in my warehouse duties. This being the 70’s I was paid off a couple of weeks pay in lieu of notice, no one had thought of zero hours contracts yet. I spent the rest of the winter and all of the spring as a gentleman of leisure. I would rise late and would walk round Norwich or sometimes go to the college that my girlfriend attended. I found it was pretty easy to pass myself off as a student and could spend hours in the library reading whatever I fancied. This would inevitably be followed by a trip to the pub or the student snack bar. It sounds dull but I was very happy with endless time and little pressure.
Things were changing out in the real world however, in many respects this was the end of the 70’s. In the words of Writer Nick Kent the spivs had trounced the fops and were in turn about to be ousted by the yuppies. Punk had given the old guard a good kicking but it was all superficial, strip away the attitude and punk didn’t have a great deal going for it as a long term movement.
Although I had gone to a grammar school I cant remember anything being particularly aspirational in my schooling. The good teachers tried to be interesting and even the bad teachers tried to keep discipline but I cant remember any ‘reach for the stars’ hyperbole. Most of my contemporaries would go on to get a job, marry someone local and continue to have Sunday dinner with their mums. There was relatively little pressure to get on the property ladder, or get an en-suite bathroom or travel the world. It sounds dull but the flip side of that is we didn’t start self harming or develop anorexia or take Prosac because we didn’t get A* in all our exams.
Up to now our musical heroes had been fairly useless individuals who had lucked out in the world of the popular song, its pretty hard to imagine Ozzy Osbourne or even Iggy Pop having a career plan. Just about all the original punks got by with a small amount of talent, a dollop of charisma and a hefty dose of luck no one expected it to last.
It didn’t last of course, not initially at least. The Sex Pistols were falling apart on their American Tour, organised in a traditionally stupidly/ brilliantly manner by manager Malcolm Mclaren. The band were touring the least punk friendly states with a bassist who couldn’t play and was strung out on heroin. It wasn’t going to end well and it didn’t. The Dammed were getting sick of each other, drummer Rat Scabies was going to leave and the rest of the band had started to realise that making music was harder than it looked. Buzzcocks had had lost singer Howard Devoto and were now a different band to the one that started the Manchester punk scene. By the end of the year there was only the Clash left.
Musically things would just keep on getting better, the new bands had energy and tunes, this was partly because quite a lot of the musicians had been around for a while and could play properly but now music was to become more calculated. Record companies now realised there was money to be made from this new wave thingy and serious money was beginning to appear.
The first time I noticed the change was when bands started wearing red trousers. It was almost as if technicolour had arrived in a musical form. Skinny ties, skinny trousers,sneakers (we would have called them plimsolls) all in bright blues and reds and yellows. Music was becoming aspirational.
And, as if by design we were about to elect a conservative government different to all that had gone before and before we knew it it would be the 80’s and we would know the price of everything and the value of nothing.
But before the fall there was some great pop music, Squeeze, XTC, the Rezillos, Elvis Costello, Blondie, Talking Heads, the Jam and a whole lot more would make some of the best singles ever.