Rob Atkinson: Don’t knock the golden age of the 70s

The presenters of children's television programme 'Blue Peter' in 1972 (from left) Peter Purves, Lesley Judd, Valerie Singleton and John Noakes with his dog 'Shep'. PA Wire
The presenters of children's television programme 'Blue Peter' in 1972 (from left) Peter Purves, Lesley Judd, Valerie Singleton and John Noakes with his dog 'Shep'. PA Wire
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How many times, in the heat of some political argument about the best way forward, have you heard some bright spark bellow “You’ll take us back to the Seventies!” – only to be countered by ponderous repartee to the effect that the first lot will take us back to the 1930s. As high-level debate goes, it’s not very productive and, normally, it just vexes me.

However, given that the motif is a sort of time-travel one, this particular theme makes me think.

I’m a bit of a nostalgia buff and, if it were up to me where I’d like to spend a relaxing fortnight, there’s no doubt at all that I’d plump for a trip back to my childhood days when things were simpler, basic necessities like sweets and comics were cheaper, and my biggest worry was whether I’d be allowed to stay up late enough to watch UFO.

Of course, all of that is probably my middle-aged desire to escape back to a time of perfect health, 20-20 vision and music that had more going for it than just a repetitive thump, thump, thump beat. When I look back to the 70s, it’s not the industrial disputes I remember – it’s how much more accessible my favourite entertainments were. There was no pay-per-view, so if I wanted to watch the sport on the telly, it was free (I let my dad worry about TV licences and such). If I wanted to go to Elland Road and watch United, I had to count my pennies from one week to the next, but it was doable. Now, the need for a small mortgage per match ticket makes you wonder whether you really want to pay the price of a decent meal out for two, and risk seeing your overpaid heroes stroll to defeat against some other dreadfully average outfit – before having to suffer the social media ribbing for a week afterwards.

I’m being picky here, but even Coronation Street was better in the 70s. It was a kitchen sink drama in those days, with the action revolving around domestic hoo-hahs and the gossip of old ladies in the Rovers snug. They were real characters, portrayed by believable actors who looked as though they’d lived a bit. Now, it’s all kidnaps and folk assaulting each other, and the people look like refugees from Hollyoaks, all easy on the eye and not over-blessed with acting ability. On a holiday back to the 70s, I’d be able to laugh at Stan and Hilda again, or imagine what it’d be like to have Ena Sharples as a gran.

It’s all receding with uncomfortable speed into the past now. I can still remember the astonishing novelty of my first new decade, as 1969 clicked over into what we thought would be a brave new world. Now it’s the olden days – every week, another little chunk of my childhood and teenage years seems to be taken from me.

Change appears to be embraced all too often for its own sake. But it’s rarely change for the better. Blue Peter with Val, John and Pete, together with their assorted pets, was required viewing for any school-age kid in the 70s. Who presents it now? Don’t ask me. I know they’ve messed about with that familiar signature tune though.

That annoys me as well. Why replace something that works so well? Many of the iconic theme tunes I can remember from 40 years back have been needlessly “updated” – or, to use a more appropriate word, ruined.

They didn’t consult us about changing the tune to News at Ten, or Tomorrow’s World, or Top of the Pops. Nor, indeed, about ditching these fine institutions.

So, next time someone says to me that we’re being taken back to the 70s, I might just put my hand up and volunteer to jump aboard.

Take it from one who grew up there, it really was not that bad.

Victoria Gate in Leeds.

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