In the early 1970s, Britain seemed to be tottering on the brink of the abyss. Under Edward Heath, the optimism of the Sixties had become a distant memory. Now the headlines were dominated by strikes and blackouts, unemployment and inflation. As the world looked on in horrified fascination, Britain seemed to be tearing itself apart. And yet, amid the gloom, glittered a creativity and cultural dynamism that would influence our lives long after the nightmarish Seventies had been forgotten. Dominic Sandbrook has recreated the gaudy, schizophrenic atmosphere of the early Seventies: the world of Enoch Powell and Tony Benn, David Bowie and Brian Clough, Germaine Greer and Mary Whitehouse.
An age when the unions were on the march and the socialist revolution seemed at hand, but also when feminism, permissiveness, pornography and environmentalism were transforming the lives of millions. It was an age of miners’ strikes, tower blocks and IRA atrocities, but it also gave us celebrity footballers and high-street curry houses, organic foods and package holidays, gay rights and glam rock. For those who remember the days when you could buy a new colour television but power cuts stopped you from watching it, this book could hardly be more vivid. It is the perfect guide to a luridly colourful Seventies landscape that shaped our present from the financial boardroom to the suburban bedroom.
Dominic Sandbrook was born in Shropshire in 1974, an indirect result of the Heath government's three-day week giving couples more leisure time. He is now a prolific reviewer and commentator, writing regularly for the Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and Sunday Times. He is the author of two hugely acclaimed books on Britain in the Fifties and Sixties, Never Had It So Good and White Heat.
©2012 Dominic Sandbrook (P)2012 Audible Ltd
“Superb ... vivid ... magnificent ... Anyone who was there should read it: and so should anyone who was not.” Simon Heffer (Literary Review)
“Hugely entertaining, always compelling, often hilarious” Simon Sebag (Montefiore Sunday Telegraph)
“Thrillingly panoramic ... he vividly re-creates the texture of everyday life in a thousand telling details” Francis Wheen (Observer)
Anyone interested in recent UK history, absolutely essential listening or reading. Especially for non-British listeners/readers who have no memory of the events and times.
It seems comprehensive- from Whitehall on down to the Yorkshire mine strikers and every middle-class concern in between. It covers gov't policies on wages and taxes, social movements like feminism and immigration, and pop cultural moments such as Bowie, Rising Damp and A Clockwork Orange in an equally entertaining manner. Despite the utter bleakness of energy shutdowns, general strikes, and stagflation there always seems to be light at the end of the tunnel.
It also helped me understand a lot of the Monty Python sketches I saw as a kid. They'd reference British politicians like Heath or Maudling, often using them as punchlines. I wouldn't get the joke but I'd laugh anyway b/c they were just that funny and I figured I'd get it someday. Or when Eric Idle had to read copy by candlelight wrapped around a blanket. Oh how absurd they are! Nope- that was a lot closer to reality than I could've imagined. Today's the day I got those references. Not just Python, but movies like "Clockwork" and "Straw Dogs" and "Get Carter" now have more meaning b/c of the context provided by this book.
And because of this book I've discovered for myself Kenneth Williams!
His voice is much better than the voice in my head. I love his voice caricatures of the variety of characters in the book: Edward Heath, Kenneth Williams, and Tony Benn in particular.
"You thought the breakup of The Beatles was bad...you ain't seen nuthin' yet!"
The '70s in general gets short shrift as that tacky decade between The Sixties and the rise of Thatcher/Reagan and technology. But that's when so much build-up of the promise of the previous decade ran smack dab into harsh reality; that the world power Great Britain had to learn to live within strict limits, having lost its empire and dealing with the new global economy. As a left-leaner, I had to open my mind to a critique of Keynesian economics and I felt the author is very equitable in his assessments of UK economic policy. As an American in the 21st century, I take for granted low inflation, higher unemployment and a working power grid so hearing about the struggles between the Tories and Labour was utterly alien and fascinating.
In the Top 10
Dominic Sandbrook's incremental histories about Britain in the post-war decades continue to enthrall me. He's perceptive, broad-reaching and witty, all at the same time. Who else can handle the bloodshed in Northern Ireland, miners' strikes, frozen fish fingers and the plots of "Dr. Who" shows and make them all work together thematically? For some, the ins and outs of British politics and culture may be too much detail but I found he manages to weave a great story while explaining an amazingly complicated period marked by sweeping change. David Thorpe does a wonderfully entertaining job as narrator _ even managing credible accents for a variety of characters, from Edward Heath to football hooligans (although his Italian accent is terrible and he tends to make all Americans sound a bit like B-movie gangsters). I loved this book and the followup, "Seasons in the Sun," and look forward to the next installment. I also recommend that Audible get Thorpe to do the previous books in the series, "White Heat" and "Never Had It So Good."
Those of my generation who were approaching their teenage years when Ted 'The Teeth' was at the helm are in for a real treat. This is not just a political history but a social one as well, soaked in the music and television of the time. The cultural references provide the perfect backdrop to the story which is told with such unerring, unbiased and dispassionate prose that I was at first confused as to the author's perspective. Just when he seemed to be writing from a union bashing right wing perspective the following chapter would unceremoniously put the boot into the right while quoting an elegant defence of the miners.
It is a rare piece that can challenge our prejudices and force us to view the history through which we lived in a different light but Sandbrook does precisely that.
The audio book is brilliantly read and I cannot recommend this highly enough.
"A thorough look at recent history, expertly read"
I enjoyed this title, with its thematic approach. It is the first of Dominic Sandbrook's that I have read. I shall follow on with the others. It did much to challenge some of my assumptions about 1970 - 1974, and didn't fear stepping outside the years covered where necessary to make a point. What particularly made this book pleasurable was the skilled narration by David Thorpe. Perhaps I should call this a performance rather than a narration, but it brought the text alive. I will also be looking out for other books read by David Thorpe.
"The 70's I didnt understand but now do!"
I was born in 1970 so Edward Heath, the 3 day week, Don Revie, etc were all things I had heard snippets about but not the whole picture. This book really brought to life the time period and gave me a better understanding of the countries woes. I'm not a political person but a look of the books foundation was based on the politicians of the time and how it affected the country, from the limited number of women politicians to the battle between Wilson and Heath. Also hearing from those I'm a little more familiar with like Douglas Hurd and Michael Foot was also interesting. So although I'm not a political person, this didnt take away from my enjoyment of the book.
I also liked hearing about the intricacies of Don Revie's resignation, the TV of the time and the development of our penchant for luxuries like holidays abroad which were starting to take off.
The narrator was very good and was also excellent in being able to do many impressions of the characters he spoke about including a funny Margaret Thatcher!
If you have any interest in this period or were alive and dont remember or even want to remember it, then this book is for you!
"Reminder of a dismal period told with verve"
For listeners over 55 or so this book will bring back memories of IRA bombings, power cuts, eye-watering inflation, and what seemed like non-stop strikes and over-time bans by militant unions. Rubbish piling up in the street, bodies unburied, the possibility of petrol rationing and even food shortages. The author tells the story of the political and social upheavals of the early 70s in a lively manner and with the benefit of hindsight highlights some of the reasons why things went so badly wrong. It was a grim time.
For younger listeners a pivotal period of recent history is brought to life and helps one to understand the radical political changes of the 1980s.
Despite being a very long book I had many hours of interesting listening. All aspects of life are covered from pop music to international affairs and the only part that I found boring was a long chapter about football matches, teams and managers, but I’m not a fan of football.
The narrator is excellent and is good at mimicking the accents of the people of the time.
"A marvellous listen it was enthralling."
Dominic Sandbrook is a great talent. He does to political and social history what the Beevors, Holmes's and Hastings have done for military history. I walked away with a different understanding of my recent history and could see with clarity how much of what I perceived from the 70's was flawed due to my close proximity. There is no political addenda, no egg head leftist argument or right wing 're-assessment' Just excellently researched history. And with the recent death of Mrs Thatcher I'm the only one around the bar now who knows what he is talking about. I have a good political, social and economic understanding of what happened to get us to 1977.
I have just purchased Dominic Sandbrook's second volume and its just as good. If you like Question Time, read a good daily paper, know that very little is as simple as it looks and what to know the truth rather than an opinion get this. Its great.
"Gave up listening half way through"
Yes if it was a fiction book, most of the voices he mimicked seemed OK and some seemed very good but others were way off the mark.
He sounded engaged with the content and as though he was enjoying reading it, unlike the robotic style narrators.
I doubt it
Very disappointed, found myself getting more and more annoyed as there was too much of the author's personal political opinion or perhaps it was political correctness.
Also if I'd read the book description with more attention I might have gathered that it was predominantly about politics. I was hoping for information about popular culture, domestic life etc so I could enjoy a trip down memory lane to my early childhood. Perhaps there was less political content in the last 16hrs ....... I'll never know
This is an excellent history of the early 70s. Cranbrook delves deeply into all the areas of life during this period. The performance by the narrator David Thorpe is first rate too. Brings the characters of the day to life. I was particularly impressed with his impression of Edward Heath.
Well worth a listen.
I loved this audiobook. Full of anecdotes of the decade of my childhood. A sunny time of playing on the street and not caring about anything. The book informed me of what a really bloody awful time it was. Well written and fair to its protagonists, I thoroughly recommend this book
"An essential listen"
This book gives a brief but great insight in British politics, economics and the society of the first half of the 70s and is an essential listen to understand the more recent history of Britain better. Dominic Sandbrook did a great job extracting the essentials of that period into only 32 hours of audiobook and David Thorpe's narration adds much value to the experience.
I can hardly wait to start listening to 'Seasons in the Sun', the next volume in the history of Britain of the 70s :)
"If you wonder why there was a Scottish referendum"
Great fuss was made by the author of the World Cup of 1974 and the fact that England wisnae there. However, another home team was. That was, of course, Scotland. Not mentioned. However I would not let that small quibble ruin what was for me a totally engaging listen. Thank you Mr Sandbrook!
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