Top of the Pops in the ‘70s was the British youth’s chance to see what recording artists of the current tunes looked like. At my house on a Thursday night my older siblings were allowed to leave the dinner table early to watch the show. This sharpened my appetite for the songs which I was hearing blasting from their bedrooms – music more raw and exciting than what my mum played on her Roberts radio.
My eldest sibling had an attic bedroom, the sloping walls were crowded with posters pulled out of Melody Maker (a publication about bands and music). On the rare occasion I was invited in I sat quietly, almost overwhelmed by the volume at which the music was played. Giddy and excited I’d gaze round at images of their favourite glam rock artists, Bowie, Roxy Music, Marc Bolan and Alice Cooper. When Life on Mars played, the snatches of lyrics I could grasp were both bewildering and exciting, School’s Out spoke directly to me that summer.
I was given a transistor radio for my birthday and I spent the summer listening to current tunes. It was a scorcher, so heat and bright sunlight are forever intertwined with my memories of the tracks I heard that year. I remember feeling excited when Sugar Baby Love by the Rubettes hit the number 1 spot. I was now allowed to hurry my meal on Thursday nights to watch Top of the Pops and I was fascinated by Donny Osmond and the Rubettes’ lead singer, both wore a cap and had a dreamy look in their eyes. Feeling a kinship to this style of music, my love of glam rock began to wane.
At my boarding school radios were not allowed but we could use the record player in the gym in the evenings, resulting in my taste being moulded by what my peers liked. I discovered a love of the Beatles when one girl shared her older sister’s records, but some of my more current favourites were Howzat by Sherbet, Substitute by Clout and Ma Baker by Boney M, which I loved for it’s ‘dangerous’ Bonnie and Clyde theme and the guy’s deep voice, contrasting with the female harmonies.
Roll on a couple of years – I was bold enough to sneak a radio to school. It was necessary to hide it in case of a dormitory inspection (these could happen without warning, you might be in lessons). I was a teenager, music seemed as necessary as food and water to my survival!
On Tuesday nights after lights out, several of us pressed radios to our ears, listening to the waxing and waning signal as Radio Luxembourg played the charts – thrilling to new releases and trying hard to stay awake to find who’d reached number 1. Hong Kong Garden by Siouxsie and the Banshees, You make me Feel (Mighty Real) by Sylvester, Boogie Oogie Oogie by Taste of Honey.
I only had a basic record player, but I treated myself to a few singles Wow by Kate Bush, Making Plans for Nigel by XTC and my first boyfriend bought me Dance Away by Roxy Music. As hormones took hold, I began to notice that some groups sang lyrics about frustrated love and lust. These grabbed my attention and struck a chord with what was happening inside me: Kiss you All Over by Exile, 7Teen by The Regents, Different for Girls by Joe Jackson and (still a favourite) My Sharona by the Knack.
It felt freeing to sing along to their lyrics and at night, when I got the urge to sneak my hand under the covers for furtive pleasure, rather than thinking “my parents would be so ashamed” my mindset was “everybody’s doing it”.
I’ve written before about music in my teens, I also chose a Blondie track as the song which seemed to sum up my youth. I was keen to join in with Musically Ranting for the prompt of the 70s because that decade provided many influencers and much to discover. Linking this also to the Saturday Night Fever, My Favourite Things and mmmMondays memes because music brightens my day – whether I’m listening as I drive, streaming it at work or enjoying Spotify playlists.