A Beginner's Guide to 70's Music

     The Psychedelic 70’s—a time of individualism and experimentation for many. As people lined the streets waiting to get into nightclubs like the acclaimed Studio 54, the music industry was seeing monumental innovations from all across the globe. Navigating the 70’s music scene is enough to make one mad, hence the need for this guide to lead you through some of the most iconic artists of the time across multiple genres.

 

ABBA

     ABBA is the sun that shines its glorious Swedish light upon the 70’s. The quartet, featuring Agnetha Fältskog, Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus and Anni-Frid Lyngstad, won Eurovision in ‘74, along with the hearts of Europe.

     ABBA’s sound is upbeat and romantic. Arrival (1976), as well as the compilation, ABBA Gold, are very reflective of the group’s sound. While the albums from the 70’s were bright, the 80’s brought on an edgier side to the Swedes. Lyrics turned darker as tensions between the four increased.

     My go-to singles are: Does Your Mother Know (1979), Thank You For The Music (1977), If It Wasn’t for the Nights (1979), and Money, Money, Money (1976).

 

Fleetwood Mac      If ABBA is the sun of the 70’s, Fleetwood Mac is the moon. The folk/rock band formed in London, just before the turn of the decade in 1967. Though the group had musicians come and go, some of the most notable members are Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, Peter Green and Christine Perfect.

     Fleetwood Mac (1975) and Rumors (1977) are two notable albums that highlight the ethereal, folksy rock that the group is known for. Much like ABBA, Fleetwood Mac faced some tension within the band, but still go down in history as one of the most recognized groups of their time.

     Some personal favorites are: Never Going Back Again (1977), The Chain (1977), Landslide (1975) and Seven Wonders (1987).

 

David Bowie

     This Brixton-born musician began playing saxophone at 13, and went on to pioneer the music industry through his work in glitter rock, punk, pop, and soul. Seeing himself as an actor rather than a rockstar, Bowie created alter-egos to perform and embody his music.

     The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars (1972) gives great insight into Bowie’s signature sound. Young Americans (1975) is another notable album—after being inspired by the soul movement, Bowie decided to give it a shot. His personas, like Ziggy Stardust, Major Tom, and the Thin White Duke aided him in expressing his inner dialogue. Struggling with substance abuse throughout his career, Bowie passed of liver cancer in 2016. Still, his legacy and creativity are transcendent beyond time.

My favorites of Bowie’s sound lie in: Space Oddity (1969), Ashes to Ashes (1980), Starman (1972) and Fame (1975).

 

Queen

     This British rock band formed in 1970, featuring the artists Brian May, Roger Taylor, John Deacon, and Freddie Mercury. The group embodies the glamour of the 70’s, and put a theatrical take on rock through their music and performances.

     Sheer Heart Attack (1974) was insanely successful in relation to its commercial ability, most likely because it featured more radio-friendly music. A Night At the Opera (1975) gives great examples of the musical fusion created by Queen, and features the iconic Bohemian Rhapsody.  In 1991, the world lost the iconic Freddie Mercury, but the band continued to perform and put out music after his passing.

     Some personal favorites are: Lazy On A Sunday Afternoon (1975) and Killer Queen (1974).

 

Ramones

     For a touch of punk rock, the Ramones are the group to listen to. Formed out of New York in ‘74, the group made rock history, being noted to be the first to create the punk sound. The members went under pseudonyms: Jeffrey Ross Hyman (Joey Ramone), Douglas Glenn Colvin (Dee Dee Ramone), John William Cummings (Johnny Ramone), and Thomas Eredeti (Tommy Ramone), and faced lineup changes throughout their career.

     Ramones (1976) and Rocket to Russia (1977) are two key beginner albums featuring iconic sound and look of the group. The Ramones produced varying strengths of punk throughout time in hopes to generate a larger following, and in ‘95 they released their last studio album titled, Adios Amigos.

     Some of my favorite signals are: Baby, I Love You (1980), Blitzkrieg Bop (1976), and I Wanna Be Sedated (1978).

Black Sabbath

     The 70’s would have been lackluster without Black Sabbath. This English hard rock group featuring Geezer Butler, Bill Ward, Tommy Iommi, and Ozzy Osbourne, widened the depth of rock through its innovation in heavy metal. Iommi lost some of his fingertips while working in a factory; rather than wasting away in despair, he pressed on and created a new sound using lighter weight guitar strings and stronger bass.

     Black Sabbath and Paranoid were the group’s first albums, both released in 1970. Right out the gate they made it clear that they were going to change the industry. The group underwent several lineup changes, and continued to perform until their disbandment in 2017.  

George Harrison

     Though The Beatles disbanded in 1970, each member pursued solo careers at varying rates of success. I find that George Harrison had the most success in the 70’s and can be seen embodying the time period through his music and lifestyle.  

     The album All Things Must Pass (1970) is a wonderful escape into the mind of Harrison. He continued to produce solo albums in the 70’s and 80’s, and joined the Traveling Wilburys in the late 1980’s. Harrison passed on 2001 from lung cancer.

     Some personal favorites from my favorite Beatle are: Dark Sweet Lady (1979), My Sweet Lord (1970), Cheer Down (1992), and All Those Years Ago (1981).  

     The 70’s offered a wide array of music styles and influences, far greater than just the names mentioned here. This list serves as a taste of the styles of this decade, hopefully leading to further research and interest.