Styles & Forms | Seventies | Rock

After the seismic shifts of the previous decade, the 1970s reflected faster-moving, less permanent crazes, beginning with glam rock and ending with the new wave.

Glam rock saw the likes of Alice Cooper and Kiss taking make-up to extremes, while the comparatively anonymous Eagles and Bruce Springsteen respectively updated the blueprints established the previous decade by country rocker Gram Parsons and singer-songwriter Bob Dylan.

As Motown moved from Detroit to the West Coast, it would be Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye who kept black music progressing alongside former Impression Curtis Mayfield. Disco was more faceless if further-reaching, but a true icon of black music appeared from left field in the shape of reggae pioneer Bob Marley.

The introduction of the synthesizer to work alongside the now-established electric guitar fuelled progressive rock as well as influential European groups like Can and Kraftwerk. Progressive music from Yes, Pink Floyd and Mike Oldfield also used keyboards to best-selling effect.

The arrival of punk and its nihilistic philosophy in the mid-1970s gave music a much-needed kick up the backside. Elements like its newspaper cut-up graphics and ripped clothes would have a lasting cultural impart and, while the music was blunt and direct, its plea for social change and racial harmony was as timely as the hippie movement had been a decade previously.

Sources & Sounds

This was the decade that saw popular music turn into one of the biggest money-making industries of recent times – despite oil crises and vinyl shortages, it did not stop promoters, record companies and acts realize their wildest dreams of fame and fortune as sales of records, concert tickets and associated merchandising went through the roof.

Utopian values turned to greed as musicians abandoned their integrity to go for the big bucks. Of course as was the norm, the 1970s only began in earnest a few years in: 1970–71 continued the trends set in the late 1960s. Peace and love had been replaced by profit and the bottom line.

All of this helped bring music to the masses. With a reduction in price of vinyl, all of a sudden you could buy your own records rather than share your friends’. Your listening experience became a bigger beast in the form of arena tours and as the decade was drawing to a close the compact cassette was starting to make its presence felt – along with which came the high-fidelity stereo meaning quality of sound had arrived!

Going One Step Further

The predilection for big (money-spinning) outdoor events grew even bigger with huge festivals at Bath, the Isle of Wight, Lincoln and Weeley in the UK, whilst Watkins Glen in New York State in July 1973 saw upwards of 500,000 music fans come together to see The Band, The Grateful Dead and The Allman Brothers Band star in what was claimed to be the biggest rock show of all time.

Many musicians who rose to prominence in the 1960s became the rock Establishment...

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Source: The Definitive Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock, general editor Michael Heatley


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