Today’s Times is suggesting that getting your Joan Collins on is ‘the ultimate Brexit antidote’. Hah! Not likely. I remember 1973; and as the sort of child who spent a lot of time just watching, who was a precocious reader, devouring newsprint as well as books (and who would read the back of the cornflake packet in the absence of anything better), I remember a lot of things about 1973, some of which could be on their way round again, and the memories and prospects of which just add to the post-referendum gloom.
Things like the three-day week and the power cuts that left us reliant on an oil lamp with a glass chimney for light and the sitting-room coal fire for heat. Cigarette smoke hanging thick in every public venue. Loon pants and men in platform shoes. Crowded, grubby and ancient public transport vehicles: steamy and fuggily redolent of damp wool in the winter; baking hot and dusty-smelling in the summer. The rattling wooden escalators and dim, yellowish light-bulbs of the Tube. IRA bombs at King’s Cross and Euston stations.
And, menacingly resurgent in the last few days, the thing that I had thought would never dare to show its face in public again: racism. The kid whose Dad had been a policeman in Rhodesia and who refused to sit next to a black kid in school, calling him a ‘son of Ham’. The man in the drapery shop who took down rolls of butterscotch- and chocolate-coloured corduroy and asked how much yardage my mother wanted of the ‘n*gger-brown’. Having it carefully explained to me, with reference to ‘Naught for Your Comfort’, why our family didn’t buy Cape fruit, marked out by its blue-and-white logo with the leaf-shapes above the stalk of the ‘p’. A hand-written sign on a yellowing and dog-eared postcard, displayed behind the glass of a pub door, proclaiming in wonky capitals, “NO DOGS, NO BLACKS, NO IRISH”.
Still, in spite of cringeworthy performances like Cliff singing ‘Power to All Our Friends’, there was good music. This song, an old favourite written in 1973 or early 1974, and sung here by the man who wrote it, may not exactly get the joint jumping, but I’d rather have this drop of authentic feeling from the time, than gallons of newly-distilled, synthetic party spirit.