In some ways the 70s passed me by musically. Born mid-century, a child of Buddy Holly, Brill Building and British Invasion, I rapidly became a 20something curmudgeon, battened down with my Cream and Jimi Hendrix and Simon & Garfunkel LPs and my stack of 45s from my teen years, appalled by what was on the radio.
Like what? Well, disco for a start, which seemed formulaic and mannered and I never really got it anyway; teenyboppers like The Bay City Rollers and David Cassidy who enraged me with their lame recyclings of great pop songs from my recent past; and try-hard pop artists with big heels and hair and gold chains on their chests who seemed to have lost the spark of the 60s and just couldn't reignite it. There were bits I liked: ELO and early Elton John, both of which I grudgingly related to as an extension of the 60s. Oh, maybe J.J. Cale, individual songs like Boys Are Back In Town or All The Young Dudes... my mind's a blank.
Looking back, I can see I was too much of a curmudgeon. I probably relied too much on Top 40 radio, and there would've been things to discover if I'd got out more. Somehow I let Led Zeppelin pass me by for contrary reasons, something to do with preferring the Yardbirds, or something: who knows what prejudice was driving me (until the late 90s when my kids started playing them and I realised what I'd missed out on). If I'd stepped sideways from disco I might've discovered some of the funk that I'm only hearing now through some of the classier mp3 blogs, and there was all that jazz if I'd known where to start.
What snapped me out of my torpour wasn't raw punk of the Sex Pistols' variety, but what came to be known as New Wave. That's a catch-all phrase, easily dismissed, but something was going on in the late 70s at the time I started noticing the likes of Elvis Costello and XTC: it sounded to me as if music had been asleep and had woken up with a start and taken up where it had left off in the late 60s.
I don't know if that stands up musicologically, but that's how it seemed in the musical history in my head, as I headed for my thirtieth birthday. I bought the soundtrack to a film called That Summer (1979). I knew nothing about the film, but the tape included such joyous rocky-pop as The Only Ones' Another Girl Another Planet and Eddie & The Hot Rods' Do Anything You Want To Do.
I wandered into a little record shop above a hardware store in Tenterfield, a country town in NSW, and found an audiocassette of XTC's Drums & Wires: I'd heard Making Plans For Nigel on the telly, and the album was startling in its innovativeness and musicality, and its nutty, off-kilter view of things.
I'd bought a tape of Elvis Costello's My Aim Is True by mail, through a record club (Watching The Detectives and Alison had been on the radio a lot) . When it went haywire on me I sent it back, and received an apology and a replacement, "another tape by the same artist": Elvis Presley's Viva Las Vegas. Some folks in record sales hadn't caught up with what was going on.