Gay and Lesbian Humanist

Summer 2002

Come off it! Of course you remember 1977 (OK, perhaps not all of you). Anyway, just to put the time of the Gay News trial in context, Stephen Blake uses his “Airings” column to scour the archives (he claims he doesn’t remember much of this, either) and brings us a snapshot of 1977, while making some whimsical connections with 1952, 2002 and 2027.

Sssilver! Sssexy! Ssstarry! Ssseventy-ssseven!

by Stephen Blake

I love 1977, the year that was full of S’s: all the sevens, seventy-seven; silver, sex, stars (Silver Jubilee, Sex Pistols, Star Wars).

Still very much with us today, the good-versus-evil phenomenon that is Star Wars began in that fateful year. One of the most popular films ever, this original in the ongoing “spiritual” saga was shot on a shoestring budget (yes, it’s hard to believe). Nineteen seventy-seven gave us some other memorable films, too. Everyone wished they could disco like John Travolta after seeing Saturday Night Fever, while the mega Hollywood movie director Steven Spielberg was visiting upon us Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

For my money, though, the greatest movie offering from that year is David Lynch’s Eraserhead, with its nightmarish dreamscape and surreal imagery. And who could forget the ridiculously popular sex musical starring Mary Millington and Irene Handl, Come Play With Me? This movie went on to become the longest-running flick in British box-office history!

In 1977, there were more radio stations than TV channels. Far from the multichannel TV experience we enjoy (?!) today, viewers had only three. (And did you know that a copy of the Radio Times set you back all of 12p, while a full-colour TV licence cost a staggering £21?) On the small screen, Tom Baker put the universe to rights – helped by his robot-dog companion, K9 – Citizen Smith gave “Power to the People” in Tooting Bec, The Krypton Factor did your head in and Denis Norden’s It’ll Be Alright on the Night made its debut.

Musically, 1977 was the year that punk rock really took off with the Sex Pistols storming the pop charts. Nineteen seventy-seven saw the release of the band’s first album, Never Mind The Bollocks, Heres The Sex Pistols, and their commemorative Silver Jubilee single “God Save The Queen”, which immediately won itself a ban from the airwaves. Alas, Paul McCartney and Wings gave us “Mull of Kintyre”, but, a-ha, the Swedish pop superstars Abba were “Knowing Me, Knowing You” and, on 9 July, two days before the Gay News trial verdict, Donna Summer reached Number One with the gay anthem “I Feel Love”. On a sadder note for music fans, 1977 saw the deaths of Bing Crosby, the gorgeous Marc Bolan and the King himself, Elvis Presley.

Long before all the safety gear of today, those “scooters without handles” – skateboards – took off in a big way, while the less energetic were playing Othello – the board game, that is – and others were discovering Slime, a “toy” that was some sort of green synthetic goo and clammy to the touch! Also, the first keypad telephone – the ultramodern-looking Trimphone – was introduced (although there were dial versions).

Much of this, I profess, I’m aware of only through programmes such as the BBC’s excellent I Love the Seventies. I can’t remember when it was that I first heard of Denis Lemon, James Kirkup’s poem, Mary Whitehouse or the Gay News trial. I don’t actually remember Gay News at all – my primary-school library didn’t stock it! And, I didn’t know that there was a whole community of people out there who were just like me. In fact, although I knew I fancied boys, I didn’t know that meant I was gay.

Some of the things I do remember are the Silver Jubilee (obviously), Doctor Who, watching men’s tennis at Wimbledon (more accurately, their legs), Bet Lynch in Coronation Street, having the hots for the Pistols’ Johnny Rotten (though at the time, truth be told, I was more “Brown Girl in the Ring” than “Never Mind the Bollocks”), hating football and sucking Spangles.

Politics, what was that? The royal family? As far as I knew, the royals stood for street parties and decorating up your house with hideously naff red, white and blue. I couldn’t quite grasp the idea of this funny little woman sitting on the throne for 25 years and my parents’ telling me that it had all begun with the death of her father in 1952 just added to my confusion.

In Britain, in 1952, when HM Queen Elizabeth II first sat down, Labour were already out of office, Coronation Street wasn’t yet built, Wimbledon came in black and white, the TARDIS hadn’t yet materialised, a Mohican was a Native American, “God Save The Queen” was the National Anthem, homosexual newspapers and Mary Whitehouse were unheard of, footballers were “real men” and Spangles were the “sweet way to go gay!” (See our eye-frazzling front cover.)

By 1977, the Queen was doing the Silver, Labour was back at Number 10, but Thatcher was the Lady in Waiting; Bet Lynch was Corrie’s leopard-skin-clad barmaid; Virginia Wade was wowing Wimbledon; Tom Baker was roaming the universe; a mohican (without the capital “M”) was a punk hairdo; the editor of Gay News, Denis Lemon, was being prosecuted for blasphemous libel by Mary Whitehouse; David Joseph Beckham was two years old; and Spangles were hip.

And now, in 2002, HM is having a ball with her Golden, Goldenballs is scoring for England, Blair is president, Bet’s returned to the Rovers, Doctor Who is approaching his fortieth, a Mohican is a footballer hair-do, Mary Whitehouse is dead but far from forgotten, G&LH has published a Gay News commemorative special and remembering what Spangles were is showing one’s age!

How weird and wonderful it’s been! Who knows what things will have materialised by 2027 – a footballing Spangle queen with a mohican could be King at the Rovers Return?

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Created : Sunday, 2002-09-01 / Last updated : Thursday, 2008-05-29
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