Fashion Special: How To Dress Like A Seventies Rock Star. 

The always well-dressed Slade.
The always well-dressed Slade.

As we have seen recently, a lot of bad things happened in the seventies, and all too often people say “it’s just how it was then”. They try to excuse some appalling behaviour. “Don’t judge people by today’s standards” they say.

I am of course talking about the fashion sense of the world’s rock stars.

It was a difficult time, of course. Strikes, a discontented population, high unemployment and huge financial problems. (For the avoidance of doubt I haven’t just switched to talking about the IMF’s report on Greece. Still talking about Britain in the seventies. Bear with me).

But not only were our bins not being collected, some of our rock stars – some would say deliberately – chose that difficult decade to compound the unpleasant smell of rotting uncollected bins by stinking up the place with bad clothes.

Whilst some of this might be explained away by *ahem* some over-enthusiastic experimenting with what can only be described as “recreational” substances, there is something of a chicken and egg situation at play. Did people wear these clothes because they were out of their heads, or did they get out of their heads because the clothes were so ridiculous, it was the only way to mask the pain and embarrassment?

All of this was brought to my attention when watching an old episode of The Old Grey Whistle Test on TV the other day.

In some ways it is remarkable that it was noticeable. In the same way we have become acclimatised to violence on TV by watching Rambo, Predator or old episodes of The A-Team (“it’s okay, no-one actually died despite the several hundred-weight of bullets fired by Mr T”), having seen Lady Gaga dress up like a local butcher’s shop appears to have inured us to the sheer unpleasantness of some rock stars’ general fashion sense. It has reached the point that even the most eccentric golfer-in-the-seventies pair of trousers elicits barely the slightest mention.

Yet there were murmurings even in the seventies about this problem. Charles Shaar Murray, that excellent and distinguished writer, asked the question in The NME’s 1974 annual, “So What Are Rock Stars Doing Dressed Up Like This?” The lead picture was Peter Gabriel dressed like a flower. It’s a fair question.

Charles Shaar Murray's excellent point illustrated by Genesis. I think...
Charles Shaar Murray’s excellent point illustrated by Genesis.

It’s time to get this out in the open, and hold an enquiry. What were they thinking? Let’s take a look – from a fashion perspective – at the rock stars of the seventies…

Argent on The Old Grey Whistle Test.


This season, waistcoats tied in the middle, with low scoop neck effect achieved through tying the bottom ends together are de rigeur. Ensure the full effect is maintained by pretending it is entirely normal not to wear a shirt underneath the waistcoat.

Johnny Winter

Johnny Winters Old Grey Whistle Test

Need to be taken seriously as a white bluesman? Why not try attaching a red silk cape to each elbow? Practical too. Also, cropped tops are a great way to show off your pecs. Placing gaffer tape on your jeans at the knee is a classy touch to round off this superb fashion statement.

Black Sabbath. Sabotage.

black sabbath sabotage

This season, white shapeless trousers are on trend. See how Geezer’s stark white trouser is offset by a low necked red tee and a patterned blue jacket. The outfit is completed by a natty walking cane, crucifix accessory and a jaunty hand-in-side-pocket. Tony meanwhile has gone for the classic Brut Aftershave manly look of open necked shirt with a blue jean.

As for Bill, well, this is bold. No shirt. Biker jacket to reveal slightly protruding (hairy) belly and below that, red tights. Like a nightmare James Dean mime artist.

Ozzy meanwhile has chosen a classic occult kimono outfit with – what else? – tan platform heeled boots. Certainly what the well dressed man was wearing in the high street in 1975. In Diagon Alley, perhaps…

Status Quo – On The Level

Status Quo On The Level Back Cover

Here, Rick is dressing his faded double-denim look with a lovely white scarf, but it is perhaps John’s bold outfit that really will have heads turning on the catwalk (and stomachs too, no doubt). A bare-chested effete pose, with simple leather waistcoat is enhanced by knee high leather boots and simple black jeans. It would look great on Kate Moss.

Francis has gone for the six-form-student-gets-a-two-week-internship-at-his-dad’s-accountancy-firm-and-thinks-this-is-how-you-should-dress-look. Alan meanwhile is rocking his Biker jacket with no shirt look. No wonder he looks cold. Nothing like a sweat stained leather jacket to get the ladies all over you….





13 responses to “Fashion Special: How To Dress Like A Seventies Rock Star. ”

  1. Phillip Helbig Avatar
    Phillip Helbig

    Johnny Winter, not Winters. (Yes, there were two Winters, Johnny and Edgar, both bluesmen, brothers, not only white bluesmen but albino bluesmen—if you’re going to be unorthodox, be serious about it!)


    1. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

      Thank you. Noted. I think I was confusing him with Bernie Winters, and his pet dog Schnorbitz.


  2. Phillip Helbig Avatar
    Phillip Helbig

    One word: ABBA.

    I recently visited the ABBA museum in Stockholm, where many of the original clothes are on display.

    I do note that Agnetha’s tights create a different impression than Bill Ward’s. 🙂


    1. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

      I imagine Bill’s are far more stylish…


      1. Phillip Helbig Avatar
        Phillip Helbig

        Agnetha “Rear of the Year” didn’t have to worry about being stylish, since what was inside was more important. I don’t think that that was the case for Bill.

        One just can’t beat ABBA for fashion:


    2. cassetteman Avatar

      It might just be my failing memory but I seem to remember that ABBA dressed like that as part of some Swedish Tax dodge. I think the “custumes” were tax deductable because they couldnt be worn as everyday clothing. Well that’s their excuse!


      1. Phillip Helbig Avatar
        Phillip Helbig

        I think it is true that they could be deducted as expenses and hence not taxed (since income is taxed, not turnover). I don’t think that that was the sole motivation, though.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. tangerinetrees99 Avatar

    I will have to paraphrase Charles Shaar Murray; what were rock stars doing dressed up like this? Johnny Winter’s red-cape-attached-to-each-elbow + gaffer-tape-on-the-knees and Ozzy Osbourne’s kimono-and-platform-shoes ensemble are especially…um…interesting to say the least…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. john darcy Avatar
    john darcy

    Great stuff! I was about to gloat that in Australia we never dropped to such depths, but then i remembered this:

    and this:

    Sooo guilty your honour…


  5. Phillip Helbig Avatar
    Phillip Helbig

    No wonder that Sabbath weren’t worried about their clothes since they couldn’t see themselves in the mirror, at least from the front. (Presumably, if they faced the mirror, they would see their backsides.)


  6. Simon Avatar

    What were rock stars doing dressed up like this? Why a ton of psychedelic drugs I can only imagine!


  7. Dave Reynolds Avatar

    No mention of Kiss or Angel????


    1. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

      I can’t help thinking that Kiss and Angel get a pass as it’d be like shooting fish in a barrel. And if we have a go at Kiss we have to knock Alice Cooper and Bowie…


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