Saturday, 20 April 2013

Origin story for Sex Pistols, Judge Dredd, Basil Fawlty and.. Margaret Thatcher

I've got a really populist scifi novel I'm reading at the moment and a
big history tome.. and it's the history tome I can't put down

Seasons in the Sun: The Battle for Britain, 1974-1979 by Dominic Sandbrook

Mentioned already, this is Britains dramatic late 1970s history brilliantly presented as a really gripping, but very funny tragedy that we all lived through once and weirdly in many ways we seem to be living through again (were we once had out of control Unions, we now have out of control Banks), illustrating the chaos of the Wilson - Callaghan years with contemporary excerpts from tv* and music of the time.

For over seas or younger readers.. this is is the story of how the worlds first industrial nation, undisputed world super power only a century before, crashes and burns in spectacular style without any serious outside pressure (in fact the ony foreign intervention is the IMF bailout), producing extreme characters like Basil Fawlty, The Sex Pistols, Judge Dredd - (because I don't mention him enough on this blog) and Margaret Thatcher : a collection of mostly fictional, mostly reprehensible and probably inevitable characters that probably could not have come from any other place and time.

Sandbrook is a bit of a Tory but generally is pretty fair handed
(though he hates Tony Benn he doesn't seem to idolise Thatcher). He
admits Callaghan - Healey stablised the country after near hyper
inflation and IMF bailout, set the UK up nicely for Thatcher, and were
then destroyed just before the 79 election by a new generation of
militant shop stewards that ignored their union leaders

I have just passed the moment were the (already well paid) tanker drivers union demand a 60% pay rise and kicks of the mass suicide of the unions in the Winter of Discontent.. Think the winter of 2012 but with virtually everyone on strike and the country in virtual shutdown for months.

I'm about to go out and get Sandbrooks previous, on the Heath years,
State of Emergency.. Apparently his White Heat (Wilson late sixities)
and Never Had It So Good (Macmillan, early sixties) go right back to
Suez Crisis but I guess they won't seem so horrifying and hilariously
familiar as this one

*Though the excerpts from classic tv like Rising Damp, Fawlty Towers and Dr Who are generally funnier this is my favourite : 

In the chapter talking about Europe Sandbrook mentions the obsession with WW2 in British 1970s sitcoms..

In Are You Being Served? Mrs Slocombe complains about the German Air Force during The War... 
that a bomb from a German plane blew her off her feet..
Mr Lucas responds ironically that all the other times she ended up on her back it was because of the US Air Force

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