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That Was the Year That Was – 1970
Image by brizzle born and bred
In 1970, the self-made builder’s son Edward Heath came to power promising a "quiet revolution" that would turn around the fortunes of Great Britain PLC.
The 1970s began under Tory rule, with Ted Heath as Prime Minister. Yet it was a very different kind of Tory party. Heath was a liberal Conservative who believed in a “third way”. He was pro-union and pro-EEC, and launched the Department of the Environment. He favored devolution of power to Scotland and Wales. When Rolls-Royce aircraft engines was about to go bankrupt, he led a successful move to nationalize the company until it could be returned to a stable financial footing.
Then things started to go wrong, as they did almost immediately when council workers went on strike in October 1970 (a foretaste of the “winter of discontent” eight years later), Heath quickly buckled to the prevailing conventional political and economic wisdom. Failing industries were bailed out or nationalised. And as the government pumped up demand in a bid to contain rising unemployment, a succession of baroque incomes policies were conceived to keep a lid on inflation.
Of all post-war decades, the 1970s has undoubtedly had the worst press, but the truth is that most ordinary families in 1970s Britain were better off than ever. "With higher wages for the working classes, access to affordable housing, free health care, free higher education and low levels of crime, all in a much less unequal society, life then was superior to life as experienced by most of us today".
1970 you were likely to die at 68
You smoked heavily. You missed out on university. You didn’t take foreign holidays. You didn’t have a car. You had a job in a factory. And you were likely to die at 68.
It sounds like a pretty grim picture nowadays, but hold on a minute. That was probably you – at least if you were a man in 1970.
If you were a woman back in 1970, much of that catalogue might have applied to you too, and in addition, you were married and would have had your first baby before you were 25, and you were spending a fifth of the household income on food (whereas these days, your biggest expenditure will be on energy bills, probably for all those gadgets you own).
It shows that during the course of over four decades, our lives, while similar in broad outline, have changed in a myriad subtle ways: we are living longer, being educated for longer, being alone more, taking more holidays and are healthier in some ways (fewer of us smoke) but are less healthy in others (more of us are obese).
With the benefit of over 40 years’ hindsight, life in 1970 appears to have been ludicrously cheap. A loaf of bread cost 9p and the average weekly wage was around £32. Today, a loaf costs 53p and weekly wages are about £475. Property prices have also risen. In 1970, homebuyers could expect to pay £4,975 for a house. Today, their children would not get much change from £140,000.
It was a similar story on the roads. The Range Rover, which was launched in 1970, could have been yours for £1,998. Almost a quarter of a century later, a 4.4 litre Range Rover Vogue will set you back £57,700. The Mini, which celebrated its 11th birthday in 1970, cost around £600. Its redesigned descendant now sells for £10,500.
A glance at Britain’s social life in 1970 is equally intriguing.
A trip for two to the cinema cost less than 90p, compared with at least £9 today, while a bottle of plonk was about £1. Today it is £4.55. For those with more spirited and extravagant tastes, a bottle of whisky cost £2.69 back then, compared with £12 now.
Pub prices, too, seem foreign. A pint of lager in your local was 20p, a far cry from today’s average of £2.10. And cigarettes, which enjoyed a lot more popularity then, were 20p for 20. Today, the habit costs about £4.65 a pack.
Still, it’s not all doom and gloom. Prices have gone up but so has our spending power.
And some things have even risen for the better. In 1970, the average life expectancy in Britain was 72. Today, it is 77 – giving us five more years of spending.
Life expectancy is perhaps the most notable single change. In 1970, when Edward Heath had just become Prime Minister and The Beatles were breaking up, for men it was 68.7 years and for women it was 75 years; over 40 years on, these figures have shifted substantially. Male life expectancy is now 77.8 years, and for women it is 81.9 years. Doubtless the fall in heavy smoking has played a part in that. In 1974, 24 per cent of men and 13 per cent of women in Britain who smoked regularly were classed as heavy smokers, whereas in 2008 the figures were 7 per cent of men and only one in 20 women.
But not all of us have become more healthy as the years have gone by: many of us have piled on the pounds. Although figures recording obesity only go back 15 years, there is a clear increasing trend.
1970 Music continues to make significant impact with the largest ever rock festival held on the Isle of Wight with 600,000 people attending, including some of the biggest name in music including Jimi Hendrix and The Who. This is also the year The Concord makes it’s first its first supersonic flight. Another significant change is the age of voting is now lowered to 18 in the US.
The Isle of Wight Festival takes place . 600,000 people attend the largest rock festival of all time. Artists include Jimi Hendrix, The Who, The Doors, Chicago, Richie Havens, John Sebastian, Joan Baez, Ten Years After, Emerson, Lake and Palmer and Jethro Tull.
Jimi Hendrix dies of barbiturate overdose in London age 27
Janis Joplin dies in a cheap motel from a heroin overdose age 27
Simon and Garfunkel release their final album together, Bridge Over Troubled Water. The Title Track won the Grammy for song of the year.
The Beatles break up. By the end of the year, each member had released a solo album.
George C. Scott gives one of film’s most memorable performances in Patton. He won the Best Actor Oscar for his turn as the title character, but refused the gold statuette.
The first festival at Glastonbury
The first Festival was held on the day after Jimi Hendrix died, over a two day period and before long “word had got around”. It was the Blues festival at the Bath & West Showground that had inspired Michael Eavis to begin a festival of his own although on a smaller scale.
The first festival at Glastonbury was not free and was decidedly overshadowed by the 1971 event, probably for good reasons . This festival was very sparsely attended , despite having Marc Bolan , Ian Anderson, Keith Christmas , Quintessence , Stackridge , Al Stewart, Amazing Blondel and Sam Apple Pie on the bill- hmmmm, perhaps thats why so few people showed up. Not exactly household names – even in 1970 – although all very respectable acts in their own right .
Badly advertised, poor organisation , not exactly an auspicious start to one of the longest running rock festivals of all time. But it was a nice site and the precedent was set as regards having a festival in the area.
Apparently government health inspectors visited the site as part of a report they were compiling about health standards at rock festivals. Interestingly, after all these years of warnings about the health hazards of food /sanitary conditions at festivals, I have yet to hear of a severe outbreak of food poisoning occurring.
Acts included: Marc Bolan, Keith Christmas, Stackridge, Al Stewart, Quintessence
Price: £1 including free milk from the farm.
1 January – The age of majority for most legal purposes was reduced from 21 to 18 under terms of the Family Law Reform Act 1969.
The half crown coin ceased to be legal tender.
The National Westminster Bank began trading following merger of National Provincial Bank and Westminster Bank.
Control of London Transport passed from the London Transport Board (reporting to the Minister of Transport) to the London Transport Executive of the Greater London Council, except for country area (green) buses which passed to London Country Bus Services, a subsidiary of the National Bus Company.
4 January – The Who drummer Keith Moon fatally runs over his chauffeur with his Bentley while trying to escape a mob outside a pub. The death is later ruled an accident.
16 January – John Lennon’s London art gallery exhibit of lithographs, Bag One, is shut down by Scotland Yard for displaying "erotic lithographs"
18 January – The grave of Karl Marx was vandalised by anti-Germanic racists at Highgate in London.
21 January – Fraserburgh life-boat Duchess of Kent, on service to the Danish fishing vessel Opal, capsized with the loss of five of the six crew.
22 January – A Boeing 747 landed at Heathrow Airport, the first jumbo jet to land in Britain.
26 January – Rolling Stone Mick Jagger was fined £200 for possession of cannabis.
Simon & Garfunkel release their final album together, Bridge Over Troubled Water. It tops the album chart at regular intervals over the next two years, and becomes the best-selling album in Britain during the 1970s.
February – Chrysler UK launched its new Hillman Avenger small family car, which would be built at the Ryton plant near Coventry and compete with the likes of the Ford Escort and Vauxhall Viva.
11 February – The film The Magic Christian, starring Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr, is premiered in New York City. The film’s soundtrack album, including Badfinger’s "Come and Get It" (written and produced by Paul McCartney), is released on Apple Records.
13 February – Garden House riot, Cambridge: A demonstration at the Garden House Hotel by Cambridge University students against the Greek military junta led to police intervention; eight students subsequently received custodial sentences for their part in the affair.
English band Black Sabbath released their self titled debut album in the U.K., credited as the first major album in the heavy metal genre.
14 February – The Who records Live at Leeds in Yorkshire, England.
19 February – The Prince of Wales joined the Royal Navy.
23 February – Rolls Royce asked the government for £50 million towards the development of the RB 211-50 Airbus jet engine.
28 February – Led Zeppelin perform in Copenhagen under the pseudonym The Nobs, to avoid a threatened lawsuit by Count Eva von Zeppelin, descendant of airship designer Ferdinand von Zeppelin.
2 March – Ian Smith declared Rhodesia a republic breaking all ties with the British Crown, four years after the declaration of independence. Wilson’s government refused to recognise the new state.
6 March – The importation of pets was banned after an outbreak of rabies in Newmarket, Suffolk.
12 March – The quarantine period for cats and dogs was increased to one year as part of the government’s anti rabies measures.
13 March – The Bridgwater by-election became the first election in which 18-year-olds can vote. Tom King won the election for the Conservative Party.
17 March – Martin Peters, who scored for England in their 1966 World Cup final win, became the nation’s first £200,000 footballer in his transfer from West Ham United to Tottenham Hotspur.
19 March – David Bowie marries model Angela Barnett.
21 March – British-born singer Dana wins the 15th annual Eurovision Song Contest for Ireland with the song "All Kinds of Everything".
23 March – Eighteen victims of thalidomide were awarded a total of nearly £370,000 in compensation.
1 April – Everton won the Football League First Division title.
10 April – Paul McCartney announced his departure from The Beatles.
11 April – Chelsea and Leeds United drew 2-2 in the FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium, forcing a replay.
16 April – Dr Ian Paisley entered the Parliament of Northern Ireland after winning the Bannside By-election.
18 April – British Leyland announced that the Morris Minor, its longest running model which had been in production since 1948, would be discontinued at the start of next year and be replaced with a new larger car available as a four-door saloon and three-door fastback coupe, and possibly a five-door estate by 1975.
29 April – David Webb scored the winning goal as Chelsea defeated Leeds United 2-1 in the FA Cup final replay at Old Trafford, gaining them the trophy for the very first time. Last year’s winners Manchester City clinched the European Cup Winners’ Cup with a 2-1 win over Górnik Zabrze of Poland in Vienna, Austria.
8 May – The Beatles’ last album, Let It Be, is released.
16 May – The Who release Live at Leeds which is their first live album. Since its initial reception, Live at Leeds has been cited by several music critics as the best live rock recording of all time.
19 May – The government made a £20 million loan available to help save the financially troubled luxury car and aircraft engine manufacturer Rolls Royce.
22 May – A tour by the South African cricket team was called off after several African and Asian countries threaten to boycott the Commonwealth Games.
23/24 May – Hollywood Festival, Newcastle-under-Lyme is staged featuring a line-up including The Grateful Dead, Black Sabbath, Free, and Jose Feliciano. Everyone is completely upstaged by the previously unknown Mungo Jerry, whose debut single "In the Summertime" becomes the best-selling hit of the year.
24 May – The Britannia Bridge, carrying the railway across the Menai Strait, was badly damaged by fire.
28 May – Bobby Moore, captain of the England national football team, was arrested and released on bail in Bogotá, Colombia, on suspicion of stealing a bracelet in the Bogotá Bracelet incident.
29 May – Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act abolished actions for breach of promise and the right of a husband to claim damages for adultery with his wife.
1 June – Harold Wilson was hit in the face with an egg thrown by a Young Conservative demonstrator.
2 June – Cleddau Bridge, in Pembrokeshire, collapsed during erection, killing four, leading to introduction of new standards for box girder bridges.
4 June – Tonga became independent of the UK.
10 June – Just a few months after the Conservatives had enjoyed opinion poll leads of more than 20 points, opinion polls were showing Labour several points ahead of the Tories with eight days to go before the general election. If Labour won the election, it would be a record third consecutive general election win for the party and would probably result in the end of Edward Heath’s five-year reign as Conservative leader.
13 June – Actor Laurence Olivier was made a life peer in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list. He was the first actor to be made a lord.
14 June – England’s defence of the FIFA World Cup ended when they lost 3-2 to West Germany in the Mexico quarter final.
17 June – The bodies of two children were found buried in shallow graves in woodland at Waltham Abbey, Essex. They were believed to be those of Susan Blatchford (11) and Gary Hanlon (12), who were last seen alive near their homes in North London on 31 March this year.
British Leyland created a niche in the four-wheel drive market by launching its luxury Range Rover, which was to be marketed as a more upmarket alternative to the utilarian Land Rover that had been in production since 1948.
David Storey’s Home premiered at the Royal Court Theatre.
18 June – The General Election was held, the first in which 18-year-olds could vote.
19 June – The General Election proved to have been won by Edward Heath’s Conservative Party by a majority of 30 seats, a major surprise as most of the opinion polls had shown that Harold Wilson’s Labour were likely to stay in power. Among the new members of parliament are Neil Kinnock and John Smith for Labour, and Kenneth Clarke, Kenneth Baker, Norman Fowler and Geoffrey Howe for the Tories.
21 June – British golfer Tony Jacklin won the U.S. Open.
22 June – The Methodist Church allowed women to become full ministers for the first time.
26 June – Riots broke out in Derry over the arrest of Mid-Ulster MP Bernadette Devlin.
29 June – Caroline Thorpe, 32-year-old wife of Liberal Party leader Jeremy Thorpe and the mother of his two-year-old son Rupert, died in a car crash.
3 July – Three civilians were killed and 10 troops injured when British Army soldiers battled with IRA troops in Belfast.
4 July – 112 people were found dead among the wreckage of a British Airways Manchester to Barcelona aeroplane that went missing yesterday. The wreckage was found in the mountains of Northern Spain, and there were no survivors.
8 July – Roy Jenkins became deputy leader of the Labour Party.
12 July – Jack Nicklaus won the Open Golf Championship at St Andrews, defeating fellow American Doug Sanders in an eighteen-hole play-off.
15 July – Dockers voted to strike leading to the docks strike of 1970.
16 July – A state of emergency was declared to deal with the dockers’ strike.
16–25 July – The British Commonwealth Games were held in Edinburgh.
17 July – Lord Pearson proposed settlement of docks strike.
30 July – The docks strike was settled.
31 July – The last issue of grog in the Royal Navy was distributed.
9 August – Police battled with black rioters in Notting Hill, London.
20 August – England national football team captain Bobby Moore was cleared of stealing a bracelet while on World Cup duty in Colombia.
21 August – The moderate Social Democratic and Labour Party was established in Northern Ireland.
26–31 August – Third Isle of Wight Festival attracted over 500,000 pop music fans, with appearances by Jimi Hendrix, The Who, The Doors and Joan Baez.
27 August – The Royal Shakespeare Company’s revolutionary production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by Peter Brook, opened at Stratford.
9 September – BOAC Flight 775 was hijacked by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine after taking off from Bahrain—the first time a British plane had been hijacked.
17 September – Jimi Hendrix makes his last appearance, with Eric Burdon & War jamming at Ronnie Scotts Club in London. Hendrix dies the following day from a barbiturate overdose at his London hotel, aged of 27.
18 September – American rock star Jimi Hendrix, 27, died in London from a suspected drug-induced heart attack.
19 September – The first Glastonbury Festival was held.
September – The Album musical Jesus Christ Superstar, by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, was released.
3 October – Tony Densham, driving the "Commuter" dragster, set a British land speed record at Elvington, Yorkshire, averaging 207.6 mph over the flying kilometre course.
5 October – BBC Radio 4 first broadcast consumer affairs magazine programme You and Yours; it would still be running forty years later.
12 October – After a debacled launch only 18 months previously, British Leyland announce a much improved Austin Maxi featuring a new gearchange, increased engine size and much improved trim, answering many of the critical points raised by the motoring press at the car’s original launch.
15 October – The government created the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of the Environment.
Thames sailing barge Cambria, the last vessel trading under sail alone in British waters, loaded her last freight, at Tilbury.
The last narrowboats to carry long-distance freight commercially on the canals of the United Kingdom arrived with their last load, coal from Atherstone for a west London jam factory.
19 October – British Petroleum discovered a large oil field in the North Sea.
23 October – The Mark III Ford Cortina went on sale. At launch a full range of models are offered including 2 door and estate variants. Unlike previous models this Cortina was developed as a Ford Europe model sharing the floor-pan with the similar German Ford Taunus
25 October – The Canonization of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales by Pope Paul VI took place.
17 November – The first Page Three girl appeared in The Sun.
20 November – The ten shilling note ceased to be legal tender.
27 November – The Gay Liberation Front organised its first march in London.
10 December – Bernard Katz won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine jointly with Ulf von Euler and Julius Axelrod "for their discoveries concerning the humoral transmittors in the nerve terminals and the mechanism for their storage, release and inactivation".
26 December – Athlete Lillian Board, 22, died in Munich, West Germany, after a three-month battle against cancer.
31 December – The Beatles split up after 10 years.
Richard Branson started the Virgin Group with discounted mail-order sales of popular records.
The last forced child migration to Australia took place.
Nijinsky became the first horse for 35 years to win the English Triple Crown by finishing first in the Epsom Derby, 2,000 Guineas and St Leger.
Mathematician Alan Baker won a Fields Medal.
Trade union membership now accounts for nearly 50% of the workforce.
Computer Floppy Disks Introduced.