The Great Radio Documentaries – “You’ll Never Be Sixteen Again” – Episode 6: 1978-1980 – Pretty Vacant

Anarchy in the UK - Tempusfugit Photo
Anarcy In The UK – A movement whose time had come. (photo: Tempusfugit)

You’ll Never Be Sixteen Again – John Peel Narrator – Episode Six “Pretty Vacant” – 1983 BBC Radio 1 –

Part 6 of this 7 part milestone Radio Documentary series narrated by John Peel and first broadcast in 1983. Dubbed “Pretty Vacant” it picks up the story from 1978 as Punk is just starting to evolve and spread throughout the UK and Europe, and eventually to America.

Brought about by a feeling of wholesale marginalization of Youth in the UK, with unemployment figures skyrocketing into the double digits and the ushering in of Margaret Thatcher to the position of Prime Minister. It signaled rebellion, and that rebellion reflected in the music and fashions of the period.

Although it didn’t last long (roughly two years), the impression it left on the country was profound. Punk spread to the US and was moderately popular but for different reasons. Where the atmosphere in the UK was of poverty, disillusionment and feeling invisible to the older generation, in the US it was more a reaction to the musical climate at the time and the mediocre music that was riding high on the charts. There was also that feeling of isolation and America was becoming infatuated with drugs, particularly in Middle America where the affects of the closing of plants and a Recession spreading over the country was bringing about America’s own feeling of isolation and invisibility. That didn’t necessarily mean America embraced Punk with the same enthusiasm as the British Invasion of the early 1960s – in fact, Punk was eyed with more derision than acceptance, particularly among the FM Radio audience.

We had The Reagan Years and the UK had the Thatcher Years and they both represented a decided shift to the Right in ideologies and a feeling of general disenfranchisement among their youth.

Although the only direct reference to an American influence in the UK was the introduction of Saturday Night Fever and Disco making its presence known, along with Polyester, platform shoes and dancing, it did much to bring about what would eventually become New Wave.

So this second-to-last installment of “You’ll Never Be Sixteen Again” continues to be well laid out, extremely well researched and loaded with pertinent information so needed to make sense around the occasionally baffling circumstances. And it continues to let you know being a teenager was just as complicated a period of growth in the UK as it was everywhere else in the world.

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