Roundhouse and 1970s Youth Culture - Roundhouse - Celebrating 50 Years


1970 – 1978

Whether you were a hippie, glam rocker or a punk, all were welcome at the Roundhouse. Angel Lambo tell us how the nation’s youth shook up 1970s Britain.

1970s youth culture

Credit: Wikipedia, under the Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

In 1970, the Roundhouse became one of the coolest venues in London as it transitioned from a theatre and counter-cultural centre to the epicentre of London’s rock music scene. There was a calamitous collision of musicians, dramaturges and circus troops as the venue embraced London’s weird and culturally changing landscape.

Implosion was an iconic series of Sunday afternoon gigs run by DJ Jeff Dexter that ran on long into the evening. The alumni from these much-loved nights include Black Sabbath, Arthur Brown and David Bowie, who made additional appearances at the Roundhouse’s Atomic Sunrise festival in March 1970.

David Bowie…or rather, Ziggy Stardust, redefined fashion norms for the nation’s youth. The Martian messiah challenged gender binaries by performing interstellar pop in high-heels, silk dresses and a full face of makeup. A teenager during this time would have been spoilt for choice as so many musical legends graced the stage in Chalk Farm. During the same period The Who dedicated a song to their support act, Elton John, and the Rolling Stones embarked on a farewell tour ahead of their departure to France.

Unfortunately, the heady high of the sixties became the crushing comedown of the late seventies. From the maiden flight of the Concorde to the UK’S first comprehensive criminalisation of drugs act; from the Apollo moon landing to 1972’s Bloody Sunday; From Beatlemania to anarchy.

Some view the seventies as a time of economic stagnation and stunted growth and was a far cry from the prosperous, flower-powered society of the previous decade. Mods, Rockers, Teds, Skinheads – these subcultures emerged as teenagers began to organise themselves into tribes based on music, fashion or idealism.

But punk was in a league of its own. When The Ramones supported The Flamin’ Groovies at the Roundhouse in July 1976 this night was seen as the first time punk went overground.

Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, then the manager of The Sex Pistols, ran a shop at 430 Kings Road called SEX. All manner of tight leather, bondage-wear and sexually graphic t-shirts were sold. Sex was a Mecca for Punks and miscreants in an area not too dissimilar to what Dalston is today.

Punk became the definition of British counter-culture around the world as a new class of dissident youths preferred to play with the rules than by them. It stood in defiance of post-war consumerism and stuck its nose up to prudishness. Under the leadership of Vivienne Westwood and the media-fuelled antics of The Sex Pistols, safety clips, ripped jeans and offensive slogans became Punk’s uniform.

Anything you see in today’s music or fashion that is anti-establishment, provocative or subversive first appeared in the seventies. This is the lasting legacy of a decade which transformed a generation.