Big afros and even bigger flares

Here’s something I did a few weeks ago, in a frivolous moment, for Louder Than War. I think we could all do with a bit of light relief this weekend… N.B. You could never riot in these outfits.


Forget punk and prog rock. The real musical and sartorial highlights of the Seventies are to be found in the phenomenon that could best be described as ‘Men with Afros wearing Garish Suits with Big Flares doing Synchronised Dancing’. A movement which had its origins in the doo-wop groups of the fifties and ended up, I suppose, spawning the current generation of boybands. Here are some of the best…

The Four Tops…

Yes, this isn’t from the decade that taste forgot, and there’s not a flared trousers or sequinned applique in sight, but I adore the Four Tops so I’m putting it in. The Four Tops performed with the same line up for 44 years, until Lawrence Payton died in 1997. Someone had pointed out to me that U2 have only 9 years to go to beat that record… I have a horrible feeling that they will.

The Temptations…

Obviously you can’t have the Four Tops without having the Temptations too. Brilliant, brilliant song. I can remember the summer I discovered this and Cloud Nine and Psychedelic Shack… This either features some very bad miming or some very bad synchronisation between video and vocals, but the synchronised dancing is spot on, and the pink suits are just fab.


The Drifters

Whereas the Four Tops had the same line-up for more than four decades, the Drifters found it almost impossible to hang onto band members for any length of time. This is almost certainly because they were forced to wear suits like this.

My favouriteDrifters track is “There Goes My First Love”, which includes a perfect example of what I call onomatopoeiac pop (probably wrong, but I really don’t care). When he sings “my heart is breaking” he somehow manages to make the word breaking sound like it’s, well, breaking. The ‘k’ sounds like a snap in the middle of the word. Other examples are Aretha Franklin’s opening line in “Without Love” where she sings “all night long last night I could not sleep, for ring-ing-ing-ing in my ears” and Dolly Parton’s voice quivering on “and shaking me up so” in “Here You Come Again“. It takes a real talent to do that properly. Anyway, that’s my favourite song, but couldn’t let you miss out on seeing those suits.

Gladys Knight and the Pips…

Somewhat disappointed that they don’t do more in the way of train movements. Still, the one on the right is really enjoying himself. Great song, great voice.

The O’Jays…

Bit more effort on the train movements front here, but their synchronisation is quite frankly, crap.

The Stylistics…

This is more like it. These guys have been practising. I like the way they let Gary Barlow sit it out on the stool.

The Miracles…

So this is what love machines looks like. Pink suits and floppy hats. Nice.



Very impressed by the dancing on this one. The outfits are… brave.

The Manhattans…

Don’t you just love spoken intros? You’re not allowed to laugh at this one. They’re taking it very seriously.

The Spinners…

The world would be a far better place if more people could do the rubberband dance.

Sweet Sensation…

The lad in the big glases, Marcel King, is almost certainly the only person – no, he’s definitely the only person – who’s won New Faces and then gone on to record for Factory Records. He released “Reach for Love”, produced by Bernard from New Order, on Factory in 1991 but sadly died of a brain haemorrhage four years later, at the age of 38

The Floaters…

So which one would you choose ladies?

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