Wednesday, August 10, 2005
nostalgia in the 1970's
The phony frontier type-face (as in Mad magazine's logo), the song "The Night Chicago Died," the movie "Paper Moon." The Hollywood version of the appealing 1960's version of camp. The Polyester Powder-Blue tuxedo with a gargantuan carnation version. This was a dark time. I believe that the Shakey's pizza outlet was at its height during this period. The styrofoam "straw" hats, sleeve-garters, player pianos, and handle-bar moustaches prevalent in that particular emporium prove that it wasn't just the 1920's which provided fodder for the crass nostalgia of the 1970's. For didn't Shakey's derive its whole persona from the Gaslight aura of the 1890's? By 1976, the nostalgia boom had become the Pseudo-Pastoral Boom. Jimmy Carter was president-elect, John Denver was singing about "cakes on the griddle," the TV commercials of hugely powerful oil companies and Missile-Manufacturers-Disguised-as-Toaster-Factories were likely as not to resemble advertisements for pancake syrup. I see that I have omitted the other 1970's nostalgia trend, namely the 1950's fad. Happy Days (The 1974 blue-windbreaker-Fonzie version), the song Crocodile Rock by Elton John, the entire Teddy Boy movement, the 1950s trimmings favored in the arrangements of Glitter-era pop songs, the whole "Jimmy Dean--James Dean" David Essex movement, well, that's an important trend also, but the C.B.-Radio, John Denver mood completely obliterated that mood, which was too much a part of the Early 70's Disneyfied Camp mode to persist into the Post-Watergate era. (Does any other people try to seek oblivion and absolution by embracing cheap, false nostalgia?) While 1920's-inspired hetero camp died out in the mid-seventies, a parallel strain did survive, namely 1930's-sophisticated, as in such tunes as Peter Allen's "Everything Old is New Again" (written, I believe, with Carole Bayer-Sager). Bugsy Malone may have been the last gasp of nostalgia in the 1970's. If you don't recall this film, it consisted of child actors pretending to be ruthless gangsters in front of a motion picture camera. For some reason, 1940's nostalgia has never been as popular. True, Bette Midler's "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" and the Barbra Streisand epic "The Way We Were" did feature WWII-era imagery. But where was the TV situation comedy? Perhaps there was one, but I missed it. By the time of Disco Music, Dr. Buzzard's Savannah band's foray into 1940's style was no match for the Contemporary mood expressed by the Bee Gees. As the country's mood became more anti-social, greedy, stupid, and Hedonistic, the attempt to hide behind the imagery of other eras was no longer even considered a viable option. This was the true "Now Generation." For the entire decade of the 1980's, the only decade anyone wanted to know about was the 1980's. True, Ronald Reagan recalled earlier eras, but there was no allusion to other times in a show like Family Ties, a movie like Ghostbusters, a song like "99 Luft Balloons."