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24 September 2014

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Richard Cartridge in the 70s
Richard Cartridge in the 70s

Seventies scene

As BBC Radio Solent celebrates its 35th anniversary, one of the station's longest serving presenters, Richard Cartridge takes a look back at the decade that style forgot - but what was Hampshire really like back in the 70s?

70s looker

Fashion was everywhere, especially on the new colour television but most people couldn't afford to be that fashionable - so you kept your best flares for Saturday night.  My Saturday night outfit was orange and yellow, I had a frilly shirt, high pointed collar, 28 inch waist. And I did have an afro, you'll be alarmed to know!


The 1970s was a great time for going out and having a laugh.  Musically, it was a move on from the Merseybeat of the 60s to Disco and John Travolta and the whole glam rock thing. Southampton and Portsmouth have always had a good pub music scene, a lot of artists have come from here. 

Until 1974 we had the Mecca Ballroom on the end of Southampton Pier - complete with plastic palm trees - which seemed a good idea at the time.  The Top Rank Suite in Bannister Road, had an ice rink beside it.  It's odd to think of 18 or 19 year-olds ice skating to music - especially with flares on! 

There was also a club in the old Itchen floating bridge, with the rather unfortunate name of 'Floaters'. I can't remember much else about a disco or club scene - maybe someone can remind me?!

Radio daze

BBC Radio Solent's 1970s logo
BBC Radio Solent's 1970s logo

I started on Radio Solent in 1972 presenting a country music programme and then a show called 'Happening Now'.  I can't describe the feeling when I got the job. When I listen to the odd tape of those early shows you can tell it's very different - it's more professional now because of the competition.

We had to please as many people as possible with our music so we played a smattering of the hits of the day - although glam rock was considered a bit raucous!

The technology was completely different - today we take the internet and e-mail for granted - in those days as a producer/presenter, I had a secretary and a lot of the day would be spent dictating letters  - it was a tremendous waste of time!

70s Superstars

The Generation Game
The Generation Game

We had many of the TV and film stars of the day visiting South Western House - Michael Palin when Monty Python was at its height, Larry Grayson of Generation Game fame.

I remember having Spike Milligan on who gave a great interview - afterwards he  went off and what I didn't know was that he had got into the news studio during the bulletin and shouted  "...the world's coming to an end, Chris"' - the news editor went incandescent!

I interviewed Pat Phoenix who played  Elsie Tanner in Coronation Street - she was a real star.  With fewer TV channels at that time, Coronation Street's audience was absolutely huge. The nature of celebrity has changed - some people are famous for being famous.  In the 70s I think there was more distance between ordinary people like us and real stars - like David Essex and Alvin Stardust.

70s events

Saints winning the FA Cup was the big sporting event of the decade.  People couldn't stop talking about it - because no-one expected Saints to win, it was even more joyous.

The FA Cup winning Saints team
Saints in the FA Cup Final

I remember watching the game at home and within the week I was interviewing Peter Rodregues who set up the goal. 

We broadcast from the Silver Jubilee street parties with lots of people having a good time.  It was only later that I achieved a lifetime's ambition to commentate at a royal visit and to describe the Queens outfit on air - "Her Majesty is wearing a lilac outfit with matching hat" - you can't imagine how thrilling that was!

The 1970s is remembered for strikes and shortages, but I don't remember a permanent feeling of gloom - when you've lived through a period, you see it from a different perspective.  BBC Radio Solent actually went on air early to broadcast news of the power shortages, that was recognised as the unique function local radio could have - telling people what's going on in their area.

The death of Elvis was a big blow - he was such an icon who changed the face of pop music and was loved by men and women alike. A short time afterwards I got to interview Charlie Hodges - one of Elvis' entourage, who actually discovered his body.

Home life

My wife and I bought our house in 1972 - a three bedroom bungalow in a third of acre of land in New Milton for £6,500! 

Timeless toy - the spacehopper

We took off the dado rail and all the original fittings - shame really - and put up woodchip paper and put  bright orange and yellow emulsion over that - fab!

Our two sons were born within a couple of years of each other so we had buckets full of Terry toweling nappies -  no disposables.  Later on Spacehoppers were a big thing and there was Star Wars.  We had collections of the little figures, all of which we vowed to keep, but didn't and now they are selling for a fortune on ebay! I think it marked the another big shift to being marketed at, big companies realised they could market things and create a demand.

Rose-tinted, star-shaped spectacles?

You naturally blot out the bad times, but  personally, it was very happy time for me, being my first decade in broadcasting. It meant so much and it still does - if someone had told me I'd still be doing it 30 years later I wouldn't have believed it.  It was a good decade, and somehow more innocent.

What amazes me now is that the 70s has such an appeal to a younger generation who went even around then - I was at a gig in the Brook recently by the remaining members of 70s band, The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, and half the audience were under 25 and mouthing along with the words - I wonder why people are drawn to that particular decade.

Looking back, it was fab, it was sensational and it was just magic to feel part of it all.

last updated: 06/01/06
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