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.
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.
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.
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
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….