Ah, the Seventies: A time when love was free, peace was the sign of the times, people were shouting "me, me, me" through self-esteem, self-discovery and individual identity, and polyester was the fabric of choice. A period in history where the men wear polyester leisure suits with flaring trouser cuffs and huge ties while sporting heavily sprayed and manicured hair, sideburns included. Not to be outdone, the women wore feathered, Farrah Fawcett hair above their slinky dresses with no bras underneath. Black people sported huge, poofy Afros as a Take That to past straightening practices. Heck, even white people had afros if they could grow them!◊ Most people spent at least 92 percent of their waking lives at the disco or behind the wheel of a car◊ big enough to tow the Titanic.
Disco music with a tense "waka-chu-waka" beat often plays during chase scenes, or on pornos.
Elsewhere, Western Terrorists (and the Arab ones) are trying to blow up people, the US is still losing in The Vietnam War, and the blockbuster movie is invented, twice.
Media Technology reaches a turning point, as 8-track audio cassettes and the first VCRs (U-matic in 1971, Betamax in 1975 and VHS in 1976,) appear for the first time, as do the first Laserdiscs (1978), the very first optical disc storage medium, and the very same technology that would later make CD, DVD, and Blu-Ray possible. However despite the new media technology, the old media technologies, namely the LP and Film are both still king as they had been for most of the 20th century. Movies such as Taxi Driver and The Godfather begin to deal with subjects once considered taboo due to the loosening censorship laws, and pornographic film becomes legal. The world learns the meaning of Kung Fu thanks to a tough little guy from Hong Kong named Bruce Lee, while Evel KnievelRamp Jumped everything from cars and trucks to double-decker buses and river canyons.
Television is changed forever by such ground breaking shows as All in the Family, M*A*S*H, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Saturday Night Live and Monty Python's Flying Circus. Meanwhile gentle family shows like The Waltons, Little House on the Prairie and The Life And Times Of Grizzly Adams found their own audience while The Fonz was ruling the kid's imagination while giving Robin Williams his big time start as the master comedian in Mork and Mindy. Meanwhile, Star Trek: The Original Series is Vindicated by Cable and develops a sizable fanbase, spawning a juggernaut franchise that would not die for... well, ever. While the kids have made the best of the Dark Age Of Animation with Saturday Morning Cartoons like Superfriends and Scooby-Doo, they at least had PBS's breakthrough kids shows, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and Sesame Street in their vibrant glory of its youth before they graduated to The Electric Company, Zoom and The Big Blue Marble. Traditional TV genres like the variety show had their last hurrah like Sonny And Cher and Donny And Marie while The Muppet Show became a universally hailed worldwide success.
Comics enter the Bronze Age, featuring death, politics, and "ethnic" superheroes for the first time ever since the Comics Code crippled the medium in the 1950s. That happened when Stan Lee wrote a government requested anti-drug Spider-Man story, which the code was dumb enough to refuse to authorize, forcing Lee to diplomatically defy them to considerable praise.
Punk Rock and Disco, two genres of music which continue to influence music to this day come out during this decade, as does the first primitive electronic music under such bands as the German Kraftwerk, Yellow Magic Orchestra from Japan and Suicide from New York City. The break up of The Beatles however was the defining moment of the music era as it created a power vacuum for any aspiring musician to make it big. The early years of the decade nonetheless, are considered to be the zenith of Hard Rock (and rock music, in general), as easy listening was off the charts and modern pop music wouldn't drive rock from the "top-40" until 1976. Alternative Rock, Heavy Metal and Rap Music took their first steps here too.
While this arguably began late in The Sixties, the '70s also changed the world completely, shaping it to its form nowadays. The Cold War slows down as American and Soviet relations improve for the first time since 1945. American distrust for authority while brewing during the war, suddenly appears in the wake of the Watergate scandal. Crime and grime are on the rise and respect for law and order - from both criminals and their victims - begins to decline in favour of the good old fashioned "headsblownoff" method.
The botched Apollo 13 mission (1970), the Munich Olympics massacre (1972) and the American defeat in Vietnam (ended in 1975) broke forever the sense of security and confidence Westerners had from 1946, although it began to crumble with the assassinations of John F. Kennedy (in 1963), Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy (both in 1968). Munich was notorious for introducing mass awareness of terrorism and the fallibility of basic security, and it was just the beginning. The energy crisis has Westerners running out of gas for the first time, showing the world just how dependent we all are on the Middle East, thus the post war economic boom that dominated The Fifties and The Sixties ends in recession, turning the American manufacturing Belt into the "rust belt". The welfare state-based economy begun with the New Deal loses support and gets replaced by the next decade with the lassez-faire "New Economy"; heavily dependent of the banking industry, with its effects of mass speculation making finances more exciting — and risky.
The environmental movement gains rapid speed as a result of the fuel shortages. In 1970, the first Earth Day is held, and in 1971, Greenpeace is founded. Many people worry that the world is on the edge of an environmental catastrophe. Among other things, people go informal with ties and suits being thrown away (except for going to work: "casual fridays" began in The Nineties) and fashion rules being eliminated stating that "there are no rules in fashion"; the animal rights movement also has its origin during this period; political correctness is born as well as Moral Guardians raise their voice; single parenthood transitions from taboo to become commonplace while gay rights gain steam; women become an important part of the workplace; divorces quickly begin to outgrow marriages and couples begin to live together without marrying at all.
Covers roughly the period from the Kent State Massacre of 1970 to the inauguration of Ronald Reagan politically (replace with Margaret Thatcher if you're British). Culturally, roughly speaking, it started with the Altamont Free Concert in 1969 and ended with either the Disco Demolition Night of 1979 or with the start of MTV in 1981. The most representative years are arguably 1972 through 1976: the years before that still have some baggage left over from the '60s (and, in some cases, even the '50s), while at about 1977 the tropes begin to shift: the sideburns get shorter; mass entertainment (movies especially) moves in the direction of pure escapism for the first time since the mid-'60s; the "women's-lib" movement goes mainstream and loses most of its earlier radicalism; and the (then) avant-garde musical styles of punk, New Wave, heavy metal, and (to a lesser extent) rap start to slowly eclipse the more proletarian or petit bourgeois styles of hard rock, R&B, and soft pop. Much of the sleaze and cynicism of the earlier part of the decade also begins to fade by this time: While disco was sweeping the nation, the Watergate legacy is repudiated by the election of the almost ridiculously idealistic and pure-hearted Jimmy Carter as President, and the rise of the Moral Majority within fundamentalist and evangelical Christian sects does a creditable job of rolling back (at least for a time) the sexual carnival of the '60s. But, needless to say, neither lasted beyond 1979 (the Carter administration, if not dead on arrival, clearly died with the hostages crisis), setting the bases for the turbulent 1980-1985 period.
See Also: The Roaring Twenties, The Great Depression, The Forties, The Fifties, The Sixties, The Eighties, The Nineties, Turn of the Millennium and The New Tens.
The Alleged Car: Pollution control systems were in their infancy so stalling, sputtering, and backfiring were often the order of the day. Lemons: The World's Worst Cars makes note that during the seventies, "quality control" took a nose-dive. Noted auto journalist Peter Egan once dismissed the entire decade as The Era of Stupid Design while Dave Barrytheorized that the first generation of American subcompacts were a Batman Gambit to discredit the very concept of a non-aircraft-carrier sized car.
Germans Love David Hasselhoff: The short period of stability, economic growth and liberalism from the end of The Sixties onward in the Communist Bloc allowed a bit of openness to Western media, which made a lot of East Europeans to adopt the fashions of the age (Russian Humour also stabbed with the sharp point or irony the fashion of flaring bellbottom trousers and '70s Hair), but they clung to them even 30 years too late, inasmuch as a guy from the early 2000s may think outfits with knitted sweaters, jeans and moustaches, homes with bizarre pattern furniture, bars with pinball machines and nightclubs with disco balls are perfectly acceptable. Only by 2003-2004 the middle aged generation gradually abandoned them.
Greaser Delinquents: The subculture essentially died out in the last years of The Sixties, save for a few holdouts in the Midwest, and what was left of that died out in the early 1970's. However, portrayals of greasers in fiction and pop culture start to pop up during this decade as nostalgia for The Fifties starts to set in. The most famous greaser delinquent in fiction, The Fonz, is a pop culture icon of The Seventies.
Vysotsky. Thank You for Living is a very good recreation of Soviet Seventees.
The made-for-tv Elvis Meets Nixon comically imagined the events leading up to the meeting of two major players from The Fifties who fell off the radar in The Sixties only to get big again at decade's end.
Fawlty Towers: Ricky Gervais has noted that Basil Fawlty's obsession with climbing the social ladder was much more important in the 1970s than when The Office (UK) was made - when David Brent's preoccupation was becoming a celebrity.
The Toku genre exploded in The Seventies, giving us several classic shows and two franchises that are still with us. More Toku shows aired per year in this decade than any other decade before or since.
Kamen Rider began in 1971 with its namesake series, and it's still going on (except for that break between 75 and 79 when Ishinomori was working on Sentai, and the break between 1980 and 1987, and the break between 1988 and 2000).
Devo. Formed in 1972; first album 1978 (although they did have a single release and two movie appearances prior to their first full-length LP).
Bob Dylan. Career started in the 1960s. Released a number of hits within this decade.
Eagles, Formed in 1971,note originally as a backup band for Linda Ronstadt, but proved to be good enough to demand their own following debut album in 1972. Their most popular song, "Hotel California," and its parent album came out in 1976.
Apple Computer got its start during this time too, although it wouldn't be a serious competitor to IBM until the mid-'80s.
Nike adopted its iconic "swoosh" logo in the closing years of the decade.
McDonald's brought fast food to the masses, introducing breakfast items on its menu for the first time and opening its first foreign restaurants (first McDonald's in Great Britain in 1974). The Big Mac hamburger (introduced in 1968) first became popular at this time. Ronald McDonald (who had gotten a classy makeover in 1967 with the now-familiar yellow jumpsuit and striped socks) was joined in McDonaldland by his friends Birdie, the Hamburglar, the Grimace (originally an octopus-like creature who loved milkshakes) and the Fry Kids. Mayor McCheese is a relic of this era, nowadays only turning up in parodies.