Blood Relatives starts in 1975 in Leeds, which for me was the nadir of the decade. The country was all but broke. The fashion was for clunky square cars, wide shirt collars and trousers with flares that always got sodden in the rain. Girls in tent dresses with fluted collars and knee length boots.
By ‘75 glam had descended into the nursery rhyme farce of Gary Glitter and Mud, prog rock was coked out and washed up; disco and punk hadn’t yet made inroads. So it was Abba or Status Quo. But it was also the era of dub reggae and U.S. funk and real R & B. Older siblings would tell you smugly that nothing would be as good as the sixties ever again and you felt miserably that you’d been born too late.
The summers of ‘75 and ‘76 were bakingly hot – there were endless days of droughts and water shortages. Kojak and Morecambe & Wise on enormous TVs encased in cabinets with double doors. Laura Ashley décor or woodchip wallpaper. Orange and magnolia walls, avocado bath suites. Lager and lime and snowballs. Uppers and downers. Package holidays in Spain. Dads obsessed with DIY. Everyone smoked and office workers drank during lunch hours.
It was also the era when Leeds Utd reigned and even if you hated football, as I did, you couldn’t fail to be aware of it.
Even back then I could sense the changes happening in the second half of the decade. The swirl of social and political discontentment that led up to the winter strikes of 1979. There were various movements all pulling in different directions, sometimes in strange alliance and often in direct confrontation. Feminism, gay liberation, Rastafarianism, The National Front, skinheads, the unions, Rock Against Racism; the second half of the decade was a highly charged and polarised time. Before this, life seemed to be happening elsewhere. Suddenly we could all take part. I went on marches and protests. Took part in or listened to debates, had raging arguments at kitchen tables. Got into fisticuffs on the streets. And when the reality became too visceral I ducked out of it for a while and sought refuge in, say, Starsky & Hutch on the TV or getting plastered and dancing at The Mecca or Tiffany’s or wherever to Sister Sledge or Blondie or whoever.
At the tail end of the seventies I left Leeds for Berlin. But hey, that’s another story.
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