So this is the book that reminds us what the 1970s were really like.

I have to declare an interest here; I was born in January 1962 (I know, I know, who would have thought it), which of course means that I was 8 when the 70s began, and 17 in 1979. My views of the decade are obviously coloured by my own personal experiences, and recently, when people have been a bit sniffy about the era, I’ve rushed to defend it as I remember as a kid having a lot of fun.

And falling in love with Donny Osmond, but let’s leave that for another day…

So I was really looking forward to this, both because of the subject matter (duh) but also because I really, really like Francis Wheen – don’t always agree with him, but he is thoughtful and measured and also incredibly funny. I pestered the Book God to get this for me and devoured it as soon as I could. And it did make me look at my childhood in a very different light.

His theory about the seventies is that it was a time of mass paranoia. The politics of the time were affected by it (thinking of the whole Nixon/Watergate thing as well as what was happening politically here in the UK); there was economic crisis all over the place – and I do remember having to do my homework by paraffin lamp and being in school only every second day for a while because of problems with heating (and actually I’m sure I remember often not being in our school building at all but in a local church hall because it didn’t have oil-fired heating.)

And then there’s what was happening in some African countries (Amin in Uganda in particular, the number of military coups across the continent).

And Wheen’s own bête noire, Uri Geller.

So it did make me revisit my childhood and teenage years, and realise how much effort my parents had put in to make sure my younger brothers and I weren’t affected by what was going on, though looking back from my current position I can see how worried they must have been.


I still think that, for all that went on, the 1970s in western Europe was a pretty good place to grow up and I look back on the fashions with fondness (so much better than the 80s IMHO) and still listen to the music.

But this book sheds light on what was going on in the background, and for that alone can be recommended.