When the french house duo Daft Punk released their latest album Random Access Memory last year, it immediately became a hit with fans all over the world. Younger listeners loved the synthpop fused with techno and funk —they found it novel and innovative. The song ‘Get Lucky’ was a standout number, with its pop-electronic influences producing a sound that had never been heard before. Or had it? Watching youngsters sway and dance to ‘Get Lucky’, older music fans may have smiled quietly to themselves. They knew what was going on. Years, even decades ago, in the pre-internet Jurassic era, forbears of Daft Punk had produced almost the same sound except that, at that time, it was all seen to be very avant garde and niche. Remember Kraftwerk, the Germans who broke the barriers set by the sweet bubble gum pop of Abba? Or ‘Popcorn’, the silly but peppy dance number by Hot Butter, which fully exploited the new Moog, which was a revolutionary new invention? Or Giorgio Moroder, the Italian master who pioneered synth disco and electronica? No surprise at all then that Daft Punk has a track called ‘Giorgio By Moroder’, which features a monologue by him talking about his career. A very Meta moment indeed.
All these are groups from the 1970s and Daft Punk has cleverly and ingenuously brought back music from the period and given it a contemporary twist. But a question arises in the mind: Is this experiment by Daft Punk a homage or just a canny recognition that the ’70s are now experiencing a revival in popular culture?
Look around you. Even in India. Director Farah Khan, with a keen sense of that time, made Om Shanti Om which accurately reproduced the kitschy confections of the ’70s a la Manmohan Desai—loud colours, weird hairstyles and bell-bottoms. It was all a joke, of course, but Sudhir Mishra’s Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi, about urban Naxalites, was an altogether more serious re-examination of the romantic impulses of a generation.
The ’70s, a decade we had presumed long dead and buried, is now visible all over the place. Popular culture—cinema, music and ads—are the obvious, in-your-face manifestations, but even in other, more subtle ways, we are seeing a return to a time varyingly described as innocent and colourful or socialistic and grim, depending on where you stand. There is an amber glow of nostalgia about that period in India’s history, when things were definitely simpler, but equally, there are those who think that India, then a closed economy, lost out on decades of potential growth for which the misguided policies of the 1960s and ‘70s were responsible. Yet, for the most part the ‘70s are viewed today as a wonderful time. Nor is this limited to those who actually lived through those days; I have heard numerous youngsters say they wished they had been around in the ‘70s.
How do we define the 1970s? The literal way to do it would be to bookend it between January 1, 1970, and December 31, 1979. But that would be wrong. What we term today as the ‘70s really began in the decade earlier, segueing smoothly into the next few years and continuing till the very early 1980s. The decade-and-a-half stretch saw the emergence of women’s lib, hippies, mind-bending substances, changed sexual attitudes and, of course, some great rock music and dubious fashion sense. But that
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(This story appears in the March-April 2014 issue of ForbesLife India. To visit our Archives, click here.)