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70s Night Out

Fridays always took an age to arrive and it was essential to keep on the right side of your parents all week if you wanted any chance of making it to the school youth club on Friday night. Not having to be asked to wash up and keeping some floor space free in your bedroom helped as well as looking as interested in possible when your dad went into graphic detail about the new lawn mower he’d just bought. School breaktimes would be spent plotting how you and your friends were going to get to the disco in clothes that didn’t make you look as if you were attending a Sunday School outing. If you were lucky you’d have a friend who had a more extensive wardrobe than you with skirts shorter than the regular knee length you were allowed. If you succeeded in your mission, 5 o’clock on a Friday was the time the preparations began.

Having a friend whose parents were not still stuck in the fifties was essential and their house was definitely the best place to get ready. Having left your own home in a demure little knee length C & A pinafore dress, your chosen outfit concealed underneath, you’d leave the house looking a bit like a female Michelin Man. The relief when you turned the corner out of eyeshot of your house would be extreme and you’d literally skip down the road happily anticipating the evening ahead. Trendy parents were few and far between and often there’d be five or six of us crammed into the lucky friend’s bedroom. There would be a cacophony of shrieking voices, flying eyeliners and discarded clothes.

The first major decision to be taken was which music to listen to whilst you were getting ready. It had to get you in the mood for what was to come and many evenings were ruined by arguments about this. Everything from Donny Osmond to Marc Bolan to Black Sabbath would be suggested and usually the room owner would win; unfortunately in my case that meant Donny. I occasionally got David Bowie added to the mix but not as much as I’d have liked. Make up was poured out of makeup bags and dumped in a rainbow coloured pile on the bed, discarded outfits covered the floor and every available surface. It was like the first day of the sales as we all dived in to pick out the best eye shadow, lipstick or rouge. Miners was the makeup of choice and I still remember an emerald green eye shadow that I smeared over my eyelids every time I went out for about a year. With that accompanied by baby pink frosted lipstick and Baby Jane blushed cheeks I’m sure I looked a treat. Other’s opted for blue eye shadow but the emphasis was on BRIGHT and as we were all poor schoolgirls it was also a case of anything we could get out hands on. I tried false eyelashes once but being completely cack-handed ended up looking like I had a tarantula crawling down my face.

Then came the clothes and that’s where the fun really started. Good wardrobes weren’t usually equally distributed and most of us had to beg, borrow or steal whatever we could from our luckier friends. Happily they were usually generous and having chosen their own outfit would pile everything else up for a free for all. I remember literally fighting for a pair of shiny white PVC knee length Go Go boots that had been added to the pile. They would be perfect with my studded navy hot pants and there was no way I was giving them up to someone else. I’d saved for weeks to get those hot pants and the boots were essential to finish off the look. Happily the diplomatic boot owner was able to persuade my combatant that she would look much better in a pair of sunshine yellow platforms and I got my way. I’ll never forget that night; I felt like the bees knees.

Of course apart from what we were going to wear the main topic of conversation was the boys. Most of us had our favourite type and most of these types were based on our favourite pop star. My perfect man would be a David Cassidy look-alike dressed in Marc Bolan’s clothes and there were many versions of this; unfortunately the reality rarely matched up to the fantasy. As getting ready was accompanied by lubrication by a bottle of homemade wine, nicked from a kitchen cupboard by someone, the conversation became more raucous by the minute. The wine tasted like drain cleaner but we didn’t know any better then. Followed up with large quantities of Polo Mints we’d then be ready to meet our public. We’d be quite a sight walking down the street on the way to the School Youth Club; a kaleidoscope of colour topped off by wild un-serumed hair. The only hair product around then was hair spray and that was strictly for our mothers. Whatever hair you had was what you were stuck with. You’ve only got to watch old episodes of Top of the Pops to see that.

Standing at the door of the youth club would normally be a teacher. It wasn’t cool but at that time it was the only option we had for a night out. Usually the teacher on duty would be one of the more human teachers and doing this favour for all us youngsters made them feel cool even if they didn’t look it. Usually dressed in check shirts and baggy jeans they looked pretty boring next to the rest of us but at least it was an improvement on the shirt and tie that they usually wore.

There was an unspoken agreement that teachers would not discuss these nights on parents evenings unless extreme behavior was involved.

The youth club was basically a pre-fab at the back of the school. The floor of the one and only room was always sticky with the pop that was the only drink on sale and as you had to go outside to go to the loo it wasn’t advisable to drink too much of it. You also had to go outside to get to the hidden alcohol so that was the better option. The room would be dark and the only light came from a flashing light box that was rigged up to provide the disco lights. Chairs circled the room and early on there would only be a few girls strutting their stuff to Sweet in the middle. A sixth former was usually DJ for the night, although DJ was a bit of an exaggeration. His sound equipment consisted of a turntable and two smallish speakers but at least the volume was up full blast. Later on dancers would line up in the middle of the room in what looked like a Western standoff. Boys in one line, girls in the other, battle lines drawn.

The music would be a real mix. Sweet’s Ballroom Blitz was a favourite along with Suzi Quatro’s Can the Can which became an anthem for us girls ‘Put your man in the can, honey. Get him while you can’. There was something for everyone with Black Sabbath for the head bangers, Ike and Tina Turner’s Nut Bush City Limits for the soul lovers and David Bowie’s Star Man for the discerning. Whatever you liked there’d be something for you to get down to. The end of the evening always came too quickly and if the evening had been a success you would be smooching with your chosen one to Roberta Flack’s ‘First Time Ever I Saw your Face’; always the last song of the night and If not, there was always next week.

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Growing Up In The 70s

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