by Karen J Mossman
In 1973, I was a teenager and the most important things in my life were music and fashion. I lived in Manchester with my family.
A few of us, including my brother Phil, would go to an under 16s discotheque. There was always someone who didn’t know about the neon lighting in the foyer. It showed up anything in white – bras mostly, which made us giggle.
We danced to Gary Glitter who was at the height of his popularity with Do You Wanna Be In My Gang and I Love You, Love. The D.J. was Andy Peebles, who found fame with Radio One. I recalled him turning up one night with his face bruised. Rumours circulated how he’d got into a fight outside.
The 70s were a time of wild fashion and everybody loved dressing up. We were no exception with our penny round collars, tank tops, and flared trousers. We thought we were cool with our feather cuts and bomber jackets.
Platform shoes were the height of fashion, only your mother ever wore shoes without a platform. The trendiest ones I had were made from brown fabric with a platform resembling a brick.
Bruce Lee made his first film, Enter The Dragon and David Carradine was starring in the cult TV series Kung Fu. Everybody wanted to learn how to fight.
I fell in love for the first time in the autumn of ’73. His name was Steve, he worked with Martin, Phil’s friend, and rode a motorbike. I couldn’t eat or sleep just living for when we could be together; life was wonderful.
Martin and his mate Keith were impressed with Steve’s Honda motorbike, and saved up to buy one each. This meant they could travel anywhere, and they met two girls, Jo and Lisa . It didn’t matter that it was illegal to carry pillion passengers until they’d passed their test, or even for passengers to wear helmets.
My best friend Sue and I were in awe of the girls. Jo in particular. She had a dark fringe and the rest of her hair was a bleached blonde. She also wore heavy black eyeliner and had a tattoo on her arm. She was different to the normal girls we hung around with. She and Sue always wore the latest fashion of midi skirts with short waisted cardigans.
‘What do you think of my shoes?’ Jo asked one day as we were sitting on the wall outside my house. ‘I’ve sprayed them silver.’
It impressed me. ‘Wow, that’s cool. My mum’d never allow me to do that.’
‘I needed a new pair,’ she said, shrugging as if it was an everyday occurance. They had a big thick heel and a smaller platform.
Carl Douglas entered the charts with Kung Fu Fighting and we were all in the grips of Kung Fu Mania. Jo loved The Jackson Five. I would watch her dance and wanted to be like her.
Keith was still seeing Lisa, but two-timing her with Lauren. It was complicated for a while, before he stuck with Lauren. Things between Martin and Jo were not going well either. Jo was smitten, and Martin moaned to me. ‘She’s getting to be a nuisance. I get home from work and she’s sitting on the doorstep. She won’t take the hint. ‘You have to just tell her,’ I said, knowing it would break Jo’s heart.
One day I came home from work to find the police talking to Mum. She looked worried. ‘Here’s Karen now. Come and sit down,’ she told me. ‘These policemen want to talk to you.’
I was shocked to see them. ‘When was the last time you saw Martin?’ one asked.
‘Last night,’ I said puzzled. Martin had never been in trouble with the police. ‘He was here, playing cards with Phil and I.’
‘What time did he leave?’ they asked.
‘About 11.30.’ The questions bewildered me. ‘Why? What’s wrong?’ Something bad must have happened.
‘Can I tell her?’ Mum asked. They nodded and mum whispered, ‘Karen, Jo’s dead.’
My first thought was Martin had finished it and she had killed herself, but they soon put me straight. ‘Someone murdered her,’ said the detective. ‘She was found this morning in a playground.’
‘You don’t think Martin…’ The thought was preposterous.
‘He’s gone missing,’ they said. ‘We know he was going out with her.’
‘He was trying to finish it,’ I blurted, ‘She didn’t want to. He would never do that. Besides he was here till late,’ I repeated.
The date was Friday 13th September. Shock waves ran through us all. While the police were with me, Martin and Keith were at the scene talking to detectives there. They were quickly eliminated from their enquires.
We bought every newspaper that carried the story and went to Keith’s house to read them. We discussed every possibility. Who could have done it, and why?
Murder was unusual in those days and it made the headlines. Apart from her photograph, there was a picture of the scene, and a single silver sprayed shoe.
They apprehended the killer. Someone she knew followed her from the Fish ad Chip shop. He was convicted and sent to jail.
Kung Fu Fighting reached number one, Jo would have been pleased.
No one ever spoke of her again but once in a while Kung Fu Fighting comes on the radio and it transports me back. She should be out there somewhere too, smiling as I do whenever someone mentions the Seventies.