Rossendale Free Press
It was all change in 1971
MARION McMULLEN looks back 50 years to the dawn of hot pants and the new decimal currency
THINGS were hotting up 50 years ago as super-short shorts became the biggest fashion craze. Hot pants, as they were known, were such a hit in 1971 that American singing star James Brown even brought out a funk song called Hot Pants as well as an album of the same name, while stewardesses at Southwest Airlines were issued with tangerine-coloured hot pants as part of their uniforms and nicknamed Love Birds.
The Hot Pants Patrol was also introduced by the Philadelphia Phillies baseball team. They wore hot pants matched with white vinyl go-go boots.
But not everyone was a fan of the leggy look. Princess Anne announced her royal disapproval on television saying she would never be seen in hot pants. She declared: “There are certain things that I will not do and that’s the limit.”
Royal Ascot officials said hot pants would be allowed in the royal enclosure that year if worn as part of an ensemble, but the Duke of Norfolk, the Queen’s representative at Ascot, insisted “the only form of ladies’ trousers permitted will be suits with long trousers.”
Fashion designer Joe Dalyland still arrived for a day at the races wearing a hot pants outfit but was turned away from the royal enclosure.
Helping countless people to further their education, the Open University launched on TV at 11am on January 3 with Open Forum. There were four foundation courses on offer – mathematics, science, humanities and understanding society.
Less than six weeks later, February 15 was the day the nation said goodbye to pounds, shillings and pence and embraced decimal currency.
There were fears elderly people would never understand the new changes and some shopkeepers said it would increase prices. The BBC ran five-minute specials called Decimal Five to explain the new coins while ITV broadcast Granny Gets The Point. Banks were closed for four days before Decimal Day to prepare for the changeover.
On the entertainment front, James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever was released in 1971 and some of the year’s other big box office hits included The French Connection with Gene Hackman, Stanley Kubrick’s controversial Clockwork Orange, starring Malcolm McDowell, and Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory with Gene Wilder in the title role.
Clint Eastwood enjoyed double success – he made his directing debut in Play Misty For Me, which saw him as a DJ being stalked by a female fan – and also starred as the maverick cop in the iconic Dirty Harry.
“I’m number one at the box office, but Hollywood considers me a bore,” said Clint.
The soundtrack of 1971 included novelty records such as Grandad by Dad’s Army actor Clive Dunn and Benny Hill’s Ernie (The Fastest Milkman In The West). Ernie became a Christmas number one and spent four weeks in the music charts.
George Harrison enjoyed chart success with My Sweet Lord, while Middle Of The Road brought out pop hit Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep.
Britain’s Got Talent judges David Walliams and Amanda Holden were both born in 1971, as well as Take That’s Gary Barlow, former Doctor Who actor David Tennant and Trainspotting star Ewan McGregor. But the world said goodbye to The Doors singer Jim Morrison, who died at the age of 27 in Paris, and French fashion designer Coco Chanel.
Crowds turned out when Rolling Stone singer Mick Jagger married Bianca Perez Morena de Macias at St Tropez in France. The bride wore a wide-brimmed hat with a veil and a white trouser suit while Mick sported a jacket, waistcoat and floral shirt.
There were many firsts in 1971. The first video cassette recorders went on sale in shops and the CAT scan was used for the first time, on a patient in a hospital in Wimbledon.
Environmental campaign group Greenpeace was launched by Canadian opponents of American nuclear testing. They set sail in an old fishing boat called The Greenpeace to Amchitka island off the coast off Alaska to try and stop a nuclear weapons test.
The organisation is now present in more than 40 countries.
On the small screen, Coronation Street began its year with Valerie Barlow perishing in a house fire after being electrocuted by a faulty hair dryer and new TV shows included The Old Grey Whistle Test with “Whispering” Bob Harris, on BBC2, and the BBC1 debuts of The Two Ronnies and The Generation Game hosted by Bruce Forsyth. Upstairs Downstairs began on ITV and British viewers got to see American children’s series Sesame Street for the first time.
Crime writer Agatha Christie was made a dame in 1971. Her murder mysteries have gone on to be published in more than 50 languages and sold in more than 100 countries. The creator of Miss Marple and Poirot once said: “The best time to plan a book is while you’re doing the dishes.”