Dominic Sandbrook’s new book Seasons In The Sun has just been published, and concludes his monumental quartet of social and political histories of a period of time in Britain which can be seen as a discrete era unto itself: 1965-1979. The previous three volumes have each borne a title associated with the utterances of the Prime Ministers who dominated the period in question: Never Had It So Good for the Harold Macmillan years (1956-63); White Heat for the Harold Wilson 60s; and State of Emergency, that announcement which the hapless Edward Heath was forced to make on so many occasions between 1970-74. Perhaps significantly, the fourth volume, Seasons in the Sun, takes its title from a song which was a huge hit for Terry Jacks in 1974, and whose lyrics are a valedictory farewell from a dying man. It was also a considerably defanged and sentimentalised translation of a song written by the Belgian chansonnier Jacques Brel, a legendary figure in France (and a source of inspiration for David Bowie, Scott Walker and Marc Almond), which gives the title an extra layer of irony. The lack of a defining phrase from the Prime Minister of the era under scrutiny reflects the collapse of traditional power and strong leadership, with the book covering the fag end of Wilson’s political career and the desperate attempts of Jim Callaghan to reign in social chaos and stave off the worst effects of industrial and economic decline. This latest volume continues the pattern of the previous books in regarding politics as a drama in which the personalities of the performers are of key importance, and of reflecting on the reality of life as experienced by the majority of people in the country (and of examining how the latter was affected by the outcomes of the former).
The Seventies, of necessity a considerably condensed version of his last two books in the now complete quartet – a major work of cultural history.