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)
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."
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.
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.
"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!
"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.
"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.
"Very listen-able history of early '70s"
Another excellent listen from Dominic Sandbrook - chronicling a turbulent period of British history. It covers the social and political history of the time, brought to live by super narration by David Thorpe. [I sometimes select my audible purchases by narrator - and David Thorpe is high on the list!]
It is a lengthy tome, but you can't help sticking with it to see how it turns out!
There were parts of the book which seemed to be repeated verbatim. The end was very abrupt.
I've never read or listened to books by Dominic Sandbrook before. It was interesting having been brought up in the era to hear the 'real story' as opposed to general myths. However it was a bit like hearing a sociology thesis.
I haven't heard David Thorpe before but he was excellent and brought the book alive
I assume that there is a follow up book because it ended so abruptly
Overall interesting and worth the listen.
"The "right" side of the Seventies."
The author delivers a thoughtful reinterpretation of Britain suffering its post-1960s hangover. Politics, culture, society, economics - all aspects of life in Ted Heath's Britain are examined from a sympathetic point of view. Particularly interesting is how the author foreshadows the the Thatcher years as a continuation of what proceeded her premiership rather than a break with the past. Looking forward to the release of the earlier volumes in this series.
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