1977. A Mere 33 Years And An Eon Of Differences Ago.

EvergreenJust because many (most?) of us reading this post were alive and can remember 1977 far too well, it’s tempting to think that 1977 really wasn’t all that different from 2010.  Yeah the clothes were really groovy, and the music was downright embarrassing when you listen to it now (except for those folk who insist on the seventies and eighties being the only decades when music was actually made, my husband being one of them).

Remember these chart toppers?

  • “Tonight’s the Night” – Rod Stewart
  • “You Don’t Have to Be a Star (To Be in My Show)”- Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis, Jr.
  • “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing” – Leo Sayer
  • “I Wish” – Stevie Wonder
  • “Car Wash” – Rose Royce
  • “Torn Between Two Lovers” – Mary MacGregor
  • “Blinded by the Light” – Manfred Mann’s Earth Band
  • “New Kid in Town” – The Eagles
  •  “Love theme from A Star Is Born (Evergreen)” – Barbra Streisand
  • “Rich Girl” – Hall & Oates
  • “Dancing Queen” – ABBA
  • “Don’t Give Up On Us” – David Soul
  • “Don’t Leave Me This Way” – Thelma Houston
  • “Southern Nights” – Glen Campbell
  • “Hotel California” – Eagles
  • “When I Need You” – Leo Sayer
  • “Sir Duke” – Stevie Wonder
  • “I’m Your Boogie Man” – KC and the Sunshine Band
  • “Dreams” – Fleetwood Mac
  • “Got to Give It Up” – Marvin Gaye
  • “Gonna Fly Now (Theme From Rocky) – Bill Conti
  • “Undercover Angel” – Alan O’Day
  • “Da Do Ron Ron” – Shaun Cassidy
  • “Looks Like We Made It” – Barry Manilow
  • “I Just Want To Be Your Everything” – Andy Gibb
  • “Best Of My Love” – The Emotions
  • “Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band” – Meco
  • “You Light Up My Life” – Debby Boone, best selling single of the year
  • “How Deep Is Your Love” – Bee Gees

Han SoloThe soundtrack to the film Saturday Night Fever was an enormous hit that established the Bee Gees (who had composed most of the tracks) as the most popular artists in the world, and the best-selling artist since the Beatles. Saturday Night Fever also moved disco music into the mainstream, and it dominated the charts for the next few years.

Jimmy Buffett’s Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes is also especially notable in its inclusion of “Margaritaville”, the biggest single of his career.

Billy Joel’s The Stranger was enormously popular, and includes his beloved medley, “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant”.

Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours was the most popular and critically acclaimed LP of the band’s career; it is one of the best-selling albums of all time.

August 16 – Elvis Presley was found dead at his home Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee.

And of course, the biggest thing we were all doing back that August (well, I was!) was being stunned, awed and amazed by Star Wars.  I was personally drooling over Han Solo and secretly writing the unofficial sequel, where Han Solo did, too, fall in love with Leia and kick Luke to the curbside.

1970s flaresThen there was the really freaky clothes.  Flared jeans with waistlines that  actually sat at the (ohmigod!) waist.  Rayon dresses – remember those?

But it wasn’t just the clothes, movies and music.  And 1977 wasn’t just 2010, but different.

There were major differences back then.  There wasn’t a single personal computer around then, not even a Commodore 64.  Therefore, no cellphones, or Internet.  Being personally hooked up wasn’t even an idea back then.  I was having fantasies about how cool it would be to be able to play Star Wars at home for myself whenever I wanted to.  I never dreamed how close to reality I was.

If you wanted to check out what was on TV that night, you had to look it up in today’s newspaper.  Finding someone’s phone number involved looking it up in the local phonebook, or calling directory assistance for long distance numbers.

Any information you didn’t have in a book on your own shelf, you had to go to the library to look up in a book on their shelf, or calling a company’s help desk.  There was no instant gratification for endless questions by consulting Google, back then.

rayon dresAnd socially, 1977 looked a lot different.  A woman could still finish high school, marry, and stay home and have babies, and even though it was becoming unusual because most people just didn’t have the money to do it anymore, it wasn’t that unusual.  It was a choice women could make.

Gender issues were still strong – the US Women Marines corp was only disbanded and women Marines absorbed into the general Marine Corp in 1977.  Women were still not seen as equal to men in all things except physical strength, even though by law they were given equality in many countries.  Lip service was paid to that law, but real acceptance was another matter…

Communism was still a force to be feared and political paranoia was rampant.  Europe was divided by the Wall into East and West, and the middle east was just a place on the map.

A woman in her very early twenties who slept with too many men (and more than one or two was too many, when I was in high school) got a “reputation.”  Acquiring a reputation became a difficult thing to off-load.  And people talked, back then.  Via phones, to each other, and via letter.  Despite the lack of the Internet, word spread anyway, and once you had a reputation, it was a bad thing.  You became a tramp, slut, or sleaze, pick your synonym.  And every guy would pant after you for sex, but no one would ever want a serious relationship with you.  Such was the power of a bad reputation.  A woman lived in fear of acquiring a bad reputation back then, and her girl friends could keep her in line just by threatening to spread rumours about her promiscuity.

A women in her later twenties had more freedom, but still had be circumspect about partners if older generations were not going to hold her sexual activities against her in the workplace.  It was entirely possible that job promotions and raises could mysteriously be withheld and disappear if it became known that she “slept around” or, far worse, had a live-in boyfriend.

Women who were still single in their mid- and later twenties were often questioned closely about their plans for marriage and motherhood by employers who wanted to know why they hadn’t started families yet, and when they were going to.

You tend to forget all that when you remember back to 1977, or look at photos from 1977 and laugh at the funky clothes or the painfully simple music.  But there have been some genuine and far-reaching changes to the way we live since 1977.

It was a real trip back in time I had to make when I wrote Carson’s Night, that’s for sure.

If you were compus mentis back then, what you do remember fondly about 1977?

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