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on 5 August 2006
This was a very enjoyable read, an amazing panorama of the arts in one ten year period. The author has set out to celebrate the 1970s, which he thinks underrated (me too), through the best of its culture, concentrating on a few key stories. These are wide-ranging, taking in architects such as Richard Rogers, painters like David Hockney, rock stars (Bowie, Stevie Wonder, Joni Mitchell at last given her due), movie-makers, sculptors and writers. A brilliant chapter about Iris Murdoch: very funny and enjoyable. Sounes doesn't get into the politics of the decade, other than to sketch in key events such as Watergate and the Vietnam War. He also takes a wider view than just what was happening in the UK. This isn't a book about the 70s as seen from the sofa watching Dr Who. Nothing about Top of the Pops or Chopper biks here. Also scant interest in the three day week, Wlson, Heath etc. Dull fellows that they were. Rather international events in the widest sense are the background to the arts: the stories of the creative geniuses of the decade, sometimes starting their stories earlier than the 1970s, but always returning to some key achievement of the time, something that has stood the test of time, such as the saga of the design and construction of the Sydney Opera House, finally opened in 1973 and as Sounes says surely the greatest public building of the last century. (Amazing story in itself). Although there are lots of characters, and lots of chapters, the book reads smoothly, one story segues into another. It is beautifully illustrated in colour, informative, funny and moving in places. Even when the basic stories seem familiar -- making of Apocalypse Now, Andy Warhol's Studio etc - Sounes makes them come alive and surprises with detail and anecdotes. Great summer read. Also probably an important book in the long term. All my favourites are here as a child of the time. Viva 1970s! Wasn't that a Roxy Music album title?
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on 9 August 2006
This was my era: the 1970s. And it's great to see somebody finally taking the decade seriously and pointing out how much it gave to world, not just Slade and Mud and It's a Knockout, but Bowie, Apocalypse Now, the Godfather, Bob Marley, great books and paintings.

It seems obvious that a picture like Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy by David Hockney is a great classic, a million times more enjoyable than so much current fashionable Brit Art. It was a 1970s picture and the story of its creation is one of those told in this hugelyu enjoyable book that starts in 1970 and then follows the decade chronologically, with chapters about Monty Python, the Pompidou CVentre, Jaws, Andy Warhol, Bowie, the Sex Pistols, Jack Nicholson and so on. He makes hjis points very well. Tremendous stuff, highly recommended.
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on 2 August 2007
This is a very good read. As some one who lived through the 70s, but was too busy with work and family, to take in all the films, books and music at the time, I now look back and see what a creative and exciting period it was.

The author writes very well, clearly, unpretenciously and wittily about the decade, and some of its great creative characters. Each chapter is self-contained, but linked in subtle ways to the others, as well as being presented in chronology, so you start the book in 1970 and end in 1979, left with the feeling of having been on a magic carpet ride.
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on 22 August 2006
Having just finished this history of the 1970s I feel moved to go online and urge anybody else interested in the culture of the decade to take a look at Seventies by Howard Sounes.

I kept me gripped, and indeed I plan to read it again because it is quite densely packed with information -- a lot to take in first time.

Dominic Sandbrook's White Heat is excellent too and at first I thought his approach better, but in fact they are just different. Sandbrook the historian has British domestic politics as the foundation to his story, and that gives him the characters that recur in his narrative. Sounes' net is in fact flung wider, and politics is hardly touched on. This means that there are fewer recurring characters, less a sense of England was we knew it, but instead of that there is a rather more exciting international reach -- so he writes about Bob Marley in Jamaica, the Sydney Opera House, the Pompidou, Solzhenitsyn, as well as British culture: Sex Pistols, Day of the Jackal, Python, Germaine Greer, Clash, Stones, Bowie.

Anyway, it works. Read it and have fun.
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on 20 March 2008
For one like me, who had his formative years in the austere, but innocent postwar years and became an adult in the permissive, but optimistic 1960s, the 1970s stands for economic backlash and a more pessimistic view of the future. However, I must admit that Howard Saunes manage to catch my interest with his colourful description of the decade's most prominent personalities within the cultural field - in the visual arts, literature, film and pop music - many of them icons today. Sounes' biographies, most of them about English and American artists, are all very readable and seem to be well researched. (Even if I am not a great fun of pop music, the tragic fate of many of the pop musicians cannot but make an impression and strengthen my belief that the most important thing in life is not worldly success, but to keep oneself intact as a human being.) My only and minor objection is that I miss a more detailed description of the social and political setting of the decade. After all the artists were children of their time.
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VINE VOICEon 18 October 2007
A personal look at some of Mr. Sounes cultural favourites from what he sees as an unjustly reviled decade. Some of his picks are fairly obvious - The Pythons, Bowie, Sex Pistols, etc, but their are also some odd ones, such as Andy Warhol's usually-dismissed output of the period. It isn't, and doesn't claim to be, any kind of overall cultural history.

What's great about Sounes' work is he always manages to find something new to say - I've got more than a dozen books on the history of The Sex Pistols, for instance, but the chapter here still threw up some stuff I wasnt aware of. Recommended.
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on 8 November 2007
This is a wonderful book. It does not pretend to be the ultimate and definitive cultural history of the decade. Instead it strikes down on selected episodes, works, things that happened in the world of culture from 1970-1979. I definitely got a better understanding of the significance of Bowie, Woody Allen, the Sex Pistols, Sidney Opera House, WTC and hte great dramas of Hollywood of the period.
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A history of the 1970's which explores a decade which gave us culture as diverse as Benjamin Britten's Death in Venice and the Space Hopper set in an appropriate historical and social context with a bit of good old fashioned nostalgia thrown in-sounds like a really enjoyable read doesn't it? Wrong. For a start, Sounes starts with the false premise that everyone has utterly dismissed the 1970's as a cultural desert peopled with nothing more stimulating than long hair and Showaddywaddy whereas anyone knows that every epoch is full of highpoints and lowpoints even such legendary times as the Sixties. This fault would be less serious if the author had some original perspectives to offer on his chosen era: but do we really need to be told David Bowie was one of the most innovative performers of the early 1970's or that punk was a `watershed'? Some the examples chosen to demonstrate the creativity of the period are bizarre: The Sydney Opera House was conceived in the 1950's and built partially in the 1960's and few would think that Andy Warhol or Bob Dylan did their best work after 1969. Then there are absurd omissions: nothing about theatre, classical music or dance, little on fashion, advertising or television except the predictable chapter on Monty Python. Sounes has done some research for this book, but doesn't have the intellectual equipment to synthesise it into a coherent narrative: his use of `great', `masterpiece', `classic' and `brilliant' make his writing seem like something from the sixth form common room. Here we have a journalist trying to sound like a great popular historian but without the knowledge to sustain it: Peter Hennessy would have done the job ten times better. If you know nothing about this time you will find some useful food for for thought here, but many others will surely reflect how much better this book could have been.
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