or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Past
Saturday, April 16, 2016
That 70's Show and Tell
As I usually do during my two-week breaks from work, I visited the storage unit to unload some recently purchased nostalgia into the endless trough we call "the past." I go through my old writings....from the late 70's through college....and it amazed me how similarly my writing style was to now....my God...have I evolved? Should I have evolved? My high school entries had the same cynical outsider perspective that clouds the satirical musings I pump up now after fifty. I nearly shocked myself seeing these things.
But I never wrote after college, through the eighties and nineties. After arriving in Austin, I wrote again...but more with an ear toward quirky indie films. But, as I have been spiraling into nostalgia over the past five or so years, my musings have been bookending with my youthful attempts at wit.
Lacking a decent segue, I'll just reference the theme of my blog site and say....hey, the seventies!!! Not sure if it's a complete fear of robot takeovers or a chilling lack of control I feel our lives take in this corporatized world we live in...but I must say I find the utmost comfort in the warm memories I have from the decade of Watergate and Disco, the immediate post-Manson malaise, the Vietnam wind-down and hangover from assassinations and revolutions.
My new pop culture standards revolve around the time period from, say 1968 to the late seventies. And with the resurgence of vinyl culture, the smells and textures of the time are really hitting me hard. I am now searching out used vinyl....not so much for the extremely satisfying crackle of needle on groove, but for those covers. The famous Herb Alpert cover with the "whip cream girl" was Mad Men to a tee...but by the late sixties the martini themes and Jack Davis soundtrack cartoons were overtaken by the cheesiest mashups of polyester and perms that can be imagined in a SDS fever dream.
Speaking of the sixties, there was the newly-old discovery, for this one, of previous decade's comics and toys. Associated with the seventies, was the musty smell of attic attached to ephemera from the sixties..in a strange way, that became part of this discussion. The comic books at the time were fantastic silver-age classics: Marvel, DC, Harvey, Archie...Gold Key for the TV tie-ins and the crassly underachieving Charlton titles. Mad Magazine and Cracked covered the naughty bits (as well as DC's "Plop!"--my personal favorite). And as long as we are on the topic of mags....I will unabashedly proclaim my grand esteem for the seventies Playboys. Not as "hip" as the sixties nor as "cool" as the eighties...the Me Decade's Periodicals of Sin were the perfect blend of hippie ethos and warholian dysfunction.
The television was groundbreaking. Silly escapist fare gave way to a politically incorrect yet groundbreaking topicality that was never duplicated as the eighties churned out escapist fare, Reaganesque family dynamics and later a self-aware ironic unspooling of the medium itself ("Married..with Children"). The seventies provided the final gasp of the three network (plus PBS) paradigm. News was breaking and infrequent. Tabloid TV was in its infancy. Game shows were cocktail parties. Saturday mornings were LSD-inspired magic tempered by Peggy Charron's educational histrionics.
My film going was relegated to Disney fare. But the edited versions of the classics as Movies-of-the Week were shocking and new. Re watching all the gritty, hardcore fare from Altman, Lumet, Raefelson, Pakula, Nichols, Penn and Ashby along with the young bucks such as Speilberg, Lucas, Coppolla, Scorsese, and Depalma--only cemented for me the hazy and daring output at the time. I never saw Corman films...but I knew the posters....and once again, BANG!
No matter how sordid and dis inspiring, news clips from the seventies carry a certain misguided gravitas...film was still much in vogue for sports and news stories. The colors of the time were always "fall-ish": brown and green....with a dash of psychedelic flower power (sort of like those bathtub decals).
Of course, the yacht rock sounds of the Carpenters and countless others add to that melancholic feel of the times. That's the tip of the iceberg when you want to move into the realms of hair metal and disco and the new country and funk....it goes on and on.
Add the already-decaying mid century architecture to the mix and you've got a cornucopia of styles and designs to make the most bohemian of hipsters unashamedly bawl in delight.
I guess my POINT is just that there is a visceral feel, look, odor and sound to the times. Being a kid during these years just enhances my memories as I was using all these media to escape from the oppressive South Texas tropes into the colorful universe of both coasts....the metropolitan, 16 millimeter grime of New York...and the hazy sun-baked sound stage decadence of LA. By way of 45's, 33's, silver age comics, four networks on color TV and thick spined magazines you're not old enough to buy.