Rock ‘n Roll: Living in the ’70s

Rock’n’Roll I gave you all the best years of my life
All the dreamy sunny Sundays, all the moonlit summer nights
I was so busy in the backroom, writing love songs to you
But you were changing your direction and I never even knew
That I was always just one step behind you.

Rock ‘n’ RollKevin Johnson – 1973

Arriving at college in 1969, Joanne was impressed by people who knew a lot about music.  Her flatmates Margo and Shauna started a Folk Club which she joined, listening to Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, Cat Stevens and Woody and Arlo Guthrie.  The college library also had records, turntables and headphones where she worked on music assignments based on ‘Carnival of the Animals’, ‘The Planets’ and ‘The Grand Canyon’ suites.  She also joined the college orchestra, playing a trumpet somewhat inexpertly but enjoying the combined sound they made.

When she first visited Leo’s parents’ house, she noticed they had a very modern radiogram.  It was stereo, meaning it had two speakers built into a glossy timber box with gilt and plastic trim. Leo played his favourite records, brought back from England.  The Bee Gees equalled the Beatles as his favourite group, he said, and he loved to mime, ‘You don’t know what it’s like, to love somebody, the way I love you.’

Leo’s favourite band

Leo also had Rolling Stones, Simon and Garfunkel, Manfred Mann and the soundtrack to Hair, but it was a problem having to go upstairs his parent’s house to play music once they were married and living in the flat.

They had to buy their own sound system.  Meeting up with the Americans from the pool in Fiji, they were impressed by their music system.  ‘You have to get individual components,’ said Pete. ‘That way you get the best of each, put it together and you have great sound.’

Pete and Peta had a Marantz amplifier, Bose speakers and a Dual turntable.  Joanne and Leo decided to try and get the same combination.  After all, it sounded fantastic.

Despite saving for a block of land, owning no furniture and receiving comparatively low teachers’ salaries, the young couple thought that a music system was more important than anything else.  They drove to Miranda Hi-Fi which was where you went if you were serious about your music.  Buying a sound system was not as easy as they had imagined.

‘You’ve got to keep up with the latest,’ said the salesman.  JVC have just brought out an amplifier that gives you Quadraphonic sound.’

‘But we can’t afford four speakers,’ said Joanne.

‘Buy two now and two later,’ said the salesman.  You can still get good quality stereo sound on all records.  There aren’t many CD4 records out now but there will be.  It’s the sound of the future.’

It seemed the Bose speakers weren’t available but the salesman showed them two large Marantz speakers with thick padded speaker grills.  They at least managed to get an automatic Dual turntable which had a tone arm that had to be carefully calibrated and balanced.  A cleaning brush that sat on the record as it spun and another brush for the stylus ensured that all would be dust free.

They were too exhausted and traumatised at how much money they had spent so they left the boxes unopened that night.  Next morning Joanne woke to the sound of glorious music coming from the lounge room.  Leo had put the system together while she slept and it worked! ‘The Mexican Hat Dance’ had her up and jumping in minutes. She just had to be careful she didn’t bump the needle.

Records in the new CD4 format

While Quadraphonic Sound faded into obscurity in the 1970s it was resurrected in a new form in the 1990s with the introduction of home cinema.  However this didn’t worry Leo and Joanne unduly as they could play regular records with no loss of sound quality.

The purchase of a Sony Tape deck, attached to the JVC amplifier, heralded the era of copying records onto cassette tape.  Visiting friends for the weekend involved hours spent in front of the record player, recording their music and writing all the songs in tiny print on the cassette case.  The same would happen when friends came to visit.  Of course this wasn’t strictly legal, and some people recorded their own records to “save” them from wear and tear.  The cassettes could be played in the car, except when they got stuck and spools of tape went everwhere.

CDs were a thing of the future.  They wouldn’t appear until 1982. Records were still the most popular way to play music, although Leo and Joanne did buy some pre-recorded tapes.

Records were expensive so their collection was never large. Saying that it included Elton John, Air Supply, Carole King, Ike and Tina Turner, John Lennon, Wings, Kate Bush, Bryan Ferry, Bread, Gordon Lightfoot, Glen Campbell, Bob Dylan, Melanie, Fleetwood Mac, Neil Diamond, ELO, Billy Joel, Boney M and the Little River Band so they didn’t do too badly.