Tennis Girl did for naked bottoms what Farah did for nipples, providing a respectable way for teenage boys to get rude bits on their bedroom walls without being embarrassed in front of their mums. And while the Farah poster is all-American — bursting at the seams with teeth, hair, and have-a-nice-day vitality — Tennis Girl couldn’t be more British: It’s saucy rather than than dirty (cheeky, even!) and is really just a naughty seaside postcard given the soft-focus and gauzy lighting of upmarket “artistic” erotica like the movie Emmanuelle which was also a big mainstream success back then.
I didn’t have one on my wall (or Farah either) because even back then I thought it was a bit naff. Marilyn and Kate Bush were my choice of bedroom-wall totty, and I kept the naked bums hidden in my closet where my mum couldn’t find them.
A very impressive list it is too (if you can ignore the presence of Yes and Jethro Tull which I’m trying hard to do) and in response I offer what would have been on the Mercury Prize shortlist in 1979. I’m leaving off some out of personal preference (The Fall, not my cup of tea) and I’m sure there are others missing that will be pointed out in the comments.
Metal Box – Public Image Ltd.
Unknown Pleasures – Joy Division
London Calling – The Clash
Entertainment! – Gang Of Four
Armed Forces – Elvis Costello & The Attractions
154 – Wire
The Raincoats – The Raincoats
Squeezing Out Sparks – Graham Parker
The Specials – The Specials
Forces Of Victory – Linton Kwesi Johnson
The Undertones – The Undertones
Setting Sons – The Jam
Drums & Wires – XTC
Cut – The Slits
Broken English – Marianne Faithful
Not that I want to start a generational war or anything, but: Eat that 1971!
I was 17 in 1979 so obviously I have a sentimental dog in this race but I think it wins this one by several noses. Not only is that a list of great records, many of them are great records which had a huge and lasting impact on rock music. 1979 looks even better when you see the NME albums and singles of the year.
Was it a better year than 1972 overall? We could argue about that until the cows come home but that’s what we like doing best isn’t it? Having completely pointless arguments about things that can never be proved one way or the other.
It might be sacrilege to say it but I’ve always preferred this version to Bill Withers’ original. Partly because it’s the first one I knew, but I also love its more expansive treatment of the song. That Jackson kid was a hell of a singer, too. Whatever happened to him?
I write a lot here about how effed-up and miserable Britain was in the 1970s but there were also times when reality took on the lurid, couldn’t-make-it-up quality of a cheap paperback thriller — one written by someone on drugs.
Take the story of “Lucky” Lord Lucan: the dashing, flamboyant aristocrat (apparently once considered for the role of James Bond) whose wife ran into a London pub one night in 1974 covered in blood and screaming “Help me, help me, help me! He’s in the house! He’s murdered my nanny!” Back at their house the bludgeoned body of their children’s nanny was found tied up in a mailbag in the basement but Lucan was gone, and two days later his abandoned car was discovered with bloodstains on the seats and a piece of lead pipe like the one used in the murder.
In the intervening days Lucan mailed a letter to a relative explaining his side of the story and saying he intended to “lie doggo for a bit” which turns out to have been a typically-British understatement because Lucan vanished off the face of the earth and was never seen again. Over the years Lucan became something of a tabloid Moby Dick with newspapers breathlessly following any hint of a sighting of the fugitive, phantom peer all over the world no matter how unlikely. 40 years later he still sends British tabloids into a tizzy.
The Lucan story was sensational and strange enough but in the 1970s it shared headline space with several other bizarro scandals. Like the one involving Jeremy Thorpe, the leader of the Liberal Party who was accused of hiring a hit-man to kill his former gay lover Norman Scott. Adding extra eccentric tabloid spice to the story was the fact that Thorpe’s pet-name for Scott was “Bunny” and the hit-man only managed to shoot his dog. Scott’s other claim to fame was inadvertently coining the term pillow-biter which became derogatory slang for a gay man that was much used at my school.
Then there was the case of John Stonehouse, the Labour MP who faked his own suicide — Reggie Perrin style, leaving his clothes on a Florida beach — and a few months later was discovered to be very much alive and hiding out in Australia with his mistress. When police found him they initially thought they’d discovered Lord Lucan who apparently had a large scar on his right leg, so for proper identification they asked Stonehouse to take his trousers down before they arrested him. Years later it was revealed that Stonehouse — a Government minister — had also been a Communist spy.
It’s no wonder the Monty Python team called it quits in 1974, their satire couldn’t keep up with reality. In this context I think of Maggie Thatcher as Graham Champman’s uptight colonel who would walk on in the middle of a sketch and tell everyone to stop because things were getting “too silly.”
Being a snotty-nosed teen I rather disdained this record when it came out in 1979, thinking it bland rubbish for mums and dads. Now I’m an old dad myself I think it’s quite gorgeous and ethereal, a minor tweak here and there and it could be a Trip-Hop record. No wonder Mylo sampled it.