‘If the 1960s were a wild weekend and the 1980s a hectic day at the office, the 1970s were a long Sunday evening in winter, with cold leftovers for supper and a power cut expected at any moment.’
A jaw-droppingly brilliant account of how the seventies was defined by mass paranoia told with Francis Wheen’s wonderfully acute sense of the absurd.
The nostalgic whiff of the seventies evokes memories of loons and disco, Abba and Fawlty Towers. However, beneath the long hair it was really a theme park of mass paranoia.
‘Strange Days Indeed’ tells the story of the decade that a young Francis Wheen walked into having pronounced he was dropping out to join the alternative society. Instead of the optimistic dreams of the sixties he found a world on the verge of a collective nervous breakdown, huddled over candles waiting for the next terrorist bomb, kidnapping or food shortage warning. Whether it was Nixon's demented behaviour in the White House, Harold Wilson's insistence that 'they' (whoever 'they' were) were out to get him, or the trial of Rupert Bear, it is a story almost too fantastical to be true. With his brilliantly acute sense of the absurd Francis Wheen slices through the pungent melange of mistrust and conspiratorial fever to expose the sickly form of a decade in which nations were brought to a sclerotic halt by power cuts, military coups, economic anarchy and the arrival of Uri Geller.
Since the Great Crash of our generation barely a week passes without some allusion to that distant decade. As we are consumed by the heady stench of our own collective meltdown, there is no better guide than Francis Wheen to shine his Swiftian light on the true nature of the era that has returned to haunt us. Amidst the chaos ‘Strange Days Indeed’ is an hilarious and jaw-droppingly revealing chronicle of the golden age of the paranoid style.