Saturday 26 September 2020

The Saturday List #281 - Ten Drinks that were so 1970's

 The 1970's were a very pivotal decade in many ways. We started the decade with Harold Wilson in charge of the country and ended it with Margaret Thatcher. We started as World Cup holders and ended it with a team that couldn't even qualify for the tournament, the UK's interest in the tournament was with Scotland with Ally's Army. The Barnet Eye has been looking at how our tastes changed in this unique decade. We started with a blog detailing how the British discovered food in the 1970's, last week we listed the foods that seemed exotic in the 1970's. This week, it's the turn of drinks. Of all the lists I've put together, this was one of the ones I've enjoyed most. I was 8 in 1970 and 18 at the end of 1979. It was the decade where I discovered the joys of drinking and the hell of the hangover. For the record, the first time I went in the pub on my own was in 1975. I went to Upton Park to watch Manchester City play West Ham. I hooked up with a bunch of tough Mancunian dockers, who took me under their wing and bought me four pints of bitter in the pub before and after. I was thirteen and it was the best day of my life, although City lost, it was a truly great experience being "one of the lads". I realised that I wanted to spend a lot of my time in pubs. They were very different then. They were owned by breweries and existed to sell the brewery's beer. They were smoky and full of men. At the pub we went into, West Ham and City fans mingled and shared tales of mutual dislike of various football neighbours. The beer pub sold was bitter. The term lager was prefixed with the word "fancy" by my new found City friends. When I got home, I was, shall we say, mildly inebriated. My Dad thought it was hilarious, my mother less so. She immediately banned me from going to football, a ban that lasted until City played in London again. Beer was central to British working culture, but what were the drinks we drank in the 1970's.

Here is my journey through the 1970's in drink

1. Cresta. 

Cresta was a sort of pink gloop that allegedly tasted of strawberry. It was fizzy and I'd probably throw up if I drank some now. But we thought it was cool. It was promoted by the Cresta bear, who was cool and wore sunglasses. My memories of it were of attending Alter Servers meetings at the Sacred Heart and then adjourning to the news agents where Yogopink now stands and buying Cresta and sweet cigarrettes (remember them?) with my mates, John McGeough and Pete Conway. We thought we were acting very grown up and cool. (Pic Nostalgia Central)

2. Top Deck Limeade and Lager. 

We then found that we could actually buy real alcohol as kids. We moved on up to Top deck Limeade and Lager. From memory it contained less than .5% alcohol, so you'd have to drink a hell of a lot to even feel mildly inebriated, but it seemed dangerous and edgy at the time. There was nothing for kids to do in Mill Hill, so sitting on  a bench in the Broadway drinking Top Deck Limeade and Lager seemed to be pretty cool. We'd recite T-Rex songs and discuss football. We all bough Parka coats and called ourselves the Parka brigade. Smiths cheese and onion crisps were the snack of choice, although when they did tomato sauce flavoured crisps, we preferred that for a while. One of our mates had a Raleigh Chopper, which seemed the height of cool and was the aspiration of the Parka Brigade. I never got one, my Dad bough me a racing bike, which in hindsight was a much better choice. My mod phase soon passed.  (Pic Cheerful Nomad)

3. Warnincks Advocaat Snowball.

The first thing of real alcoholic content I ever enjoyed in the 1970's was a Snowball. A mixture of Advocaat and lemonade. My sister Catherine had tried it and Xmas 1972 was all about Snowballs. It seemed to be the most amazing drink in the world, given the way it explosively fizzed up. It was advertsised on telly and seemed glamorous and exotic. The fact it tasted a bit like sick really didn't bother anyone back in the day.  

It seemed that if something was on telly it must be wonderful. (Pic London Unattached)

4. Long Life Beer.

My mum's beer of choice was Guinness, but as a kid I couldn't stand the stuff. Perrys wine merchants in the Broadway would deliver three crates a week to our house. After my mother nearly died of cancer in 1970, she was told, on doctors orders, to drink as much Guinness as she could and would polish off up to eight pints a night. It worked, she lived until 2008, no one survived the operation she had longer. She was her surgeons celebrity patient. In 1985, he got her in for a whole series of tests to find out how she survived. It seemed that she'd more or less completely recovered from having her stomach removed and grown a new one, much to his surprise. When he asked about how she got through, she revealed her alcohol consumption. He was shocked and suggested that a limit of three pints a day now may be prudent. As I didn't like the stuff, her supply was safe, but my Dad quite liked lighter beers. Back in the day, the only tins on sale seemed to be Ind Coope Long Life ale. He'd always have a few tins in the fridge, When I was about 12 I started to help myself to the odd one. I'd sit in the shed, with my mates and drink it. We'd discuss football and girls we knew. It was that awkward age, where if you revealed a crush on anyone, you ran the risk of your mates going "Yuk" and teasing you. I kept quiet as most of the girls I fancied were my mates sisters. There was one girl, who was the sister of a mate from St Vincents we all agreed was very fanciable. She later became my optician. I joked to her that she'd caused many of the problems with my eyesight ( I used to sit next to her at St Vinnies), and she sternly informed me that that theory was a myth. Whenever I see her, I always think of those naïve conversations over tins of Long Life in the shed. I am not sure if you can still get Long Life beer, I've not drunk it since about 1978. (Pic Untapped)

5. Watneys Red Barrel.

Watneys Red Barrel seemed to be the beer of the future in the mid 1970's. It was promoted heavily on TV and there was all sorts of merchandise, everyone seemed to have Watneys Red Barrel key rings. I probably drank Red Barrel on my first trip to the pub watching West Ham, although I'm not sure. I definitely know when I drank my last pint. When I was in Stockholm in 1981, my girlfriend took me, as a treat, to the British Pub, that served real British beer. To my horror, it served Watneys Red Barrel. Not only that, but it served it chilled. The rumour was this pub had bought up the entire world stock of Red Barrel and had enough for the next 100 years. One of the advantages of red barrel was that it didn't go off, although  in truth, it tasted so awful, you couldn't really tell. It was the beer that inspired the Campaign for Real Ale. Watneys Brewery was seen as the devil by real ale fans. To be honest I loved the branding. If they'd come up with a decent beer, Mr Watney would have conquered the world. (Pic

6. Watneys Party seven.

Watneys Party Seven was the other prong of Watneys plan to conquer the world. It was a seven pint can, Watneys had cunningly calculated that this was just the right amount to get a young man bladdered. It tasted disgusting, but in the mid 1970's was the beer you took to a party. I recall turning up to a party in the late 1970's with a tin in each hand. It was at the house of one of my sister Carolines mates. As I walked up the stairs, a drunken Scotsman saw me and smacked me in the face as hard as he could. As I didn't want to drop the tins, I had a dilemma. Luckily, when he saw that I was unhurt by his best effort, he ran away. I was bemused. It turned out, he was one of the flatmates and had thought I was nicking his Party 7 stash. I instantly developed an aversion to Party 7, deciding that it must cloud the judgement. Sadly I never got to punch his lights out, as he ran away and hid for the rest of the evening. I had a rather magnificent black eye. 

The joys of teenage parties in the 1970's. There's a nice write up on the beer at Retrowow (thanks for the pic). In todays money a Party 7 cost £9, so it really wasn't that cheap for a big tin of disgusting beer.

7. Bulls Blood.

Sometime around 1978, I discovered the joys of 1970's wines. The first of these was a delectable little number from Hungary called Bulls Blood. It had two rather endearing properties. It got you hammered and gave you a proper hangover. My sister Caroline was going out with a local biker and he had a taste for Bulls Blood. He introduced me to, prior to that I'd always thought wine was for the upper classes. Mum and Dad would serve it with dinner if they were trying to impress someone. Bulls Blood seemed like a 'wine for the people', so I felt it was far more acceptable. I soon realised it was not a great drink if you wanted to be a functional human being. 

The poster from the Advertising Archives gives some clue as to the target demographic. In 1982 I worked for a Hungarian decorator called Mickey Domegal, who started telling me about how marvellous Hungarian wines were. I mentioned Bulls Blood and he nearly sacked me on the spot, ranting that I was a moron for the best part of an hour. As a punishment, I was sent to dispose of a wasps nest in the loft of the house we were renovating. 

8. Black Tower.

Of all the drinks mentioned, this is perhaps the one which I have fondest memories of. Sometime around 1978, a girl I had a passing interest in bumped into me in Edgware and  asked me she could borrow a couple of my favourite punk albums. This seemed like a rather nice way to spend an afternoon, as she was very good company so I told her I'd nip back to my house, get them and nip over. To me great surprise, when I turned up, she told me her parents were away for the weekend. Not only that, but she produced a bottle of Black Tower from the fridge. There is something about listening to punk rock, drinking black tower on a Saturday afternoon, with a woman of exceptional beauty that simply cannot be bettered. Sadly, I have never found a bottle of black tower that tasted as good since, I long since stopped searching. 


9. Blue Nun.

No tour of the 1970's beverage industry would be complete without the famous Blue Nun wine. There was a period in the  mid 1970's where this was the accompaniment of choice for my mothers culinary experiments with fish dishes. As I didn't really like her fish dishes or Blue Nun, I didn't have fond memories of it. One thing that I did recall was when my parents returned from a trip to Australia in 1977, having been there for six months. My Dad had told me that he'd been to a restaurant and ordered some Blue Nun, as it was his favourite with his meal. It was very expensive being an import. The restaurateur asked him if he'd ever tried Aussie wines. My Dad, who was and Aussie who left in 1942 to fly for the RAF and was on his first trip back said "No", thinking Aussie wine was muck. The bloke persuaded him to try some and to his delight, it was far superior to the Blue Nun. We never had it in the house again. 


10. Cinzano Bianco.

There really was only one place I could end this. Perhaps the best TV ad ever. Leonard Rossiter and Joan Collins. It seemed that every house in the country had a bottle of Cinzano in the 1970's. I suspect that every house had bought one as a result of this ad, had one sip and left it on the shelf. Even when teenagers had parties when parents were out, the Cinzano would not be touched. Did anyone actually like it? What was interesting about the 1970's is just how few of the drinks were actually nice. It was all style over substance.  That was the beauty of the 1970's, everything was rubbish, but it all seemed great at the time! Cinzano was the perfect example

Have a great weekend. 

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