Chapter 14: Mainstream Rock in the Seventies

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Chapter 14: Mainstream Rock in the Seventies
I. Mainstream rock after 1974

A. Rock becomes extremely diverse – number of different popular styles

1. Not just division of white music, black music

2. Or rock/folk

B. Partly associated with essential change in the nature of rock as a business

1. Becoming more business oriented

2. Less about spontaneity, more about finding mainstream audience

3. Something of a “corporate takeover” of industry

a. By larger conglomerations not associated with music

i. Todd Rungren: companies interested in “money producing


ii. Examples: Gulf and Western, Time magazine

b. Brought about by dramatic increase in record sales

Suggested: clip from Time Life History of Rock and Roll series

episode 8 - 1970s: Have a Nice Decade, on success of Frampton

Comes Alive and Rumors, which set the stage for the mega-platinum” artists of that decade

4. Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) awards for sales

a. In 1958 instituted presentation of gold record for sale of 500,000 copies

b. By 1976 needed to create platinum record for sale of 1,000,000 copies

c. In 1983 official recognition of multiplatinum category for sales of 2

million and up

i. Colloquially used earlier

ii. Used to describe high grossing acts

d. Now a diamond record – sales of 10,000,000 copies

i. Some examples

aa. Michael Jackson, Thriller

bb Eagles Greatest Hits Vol. 1

cc. Led Zeppelin IV (Zoso)

ii. Rare for new releases

5. Reasons for increased sales

a. Economy doing well

b. Rock is the mainstream!

c. Major labels dominating business (again)

d. Cross-marketing

i. Tours used to promote records (as in the beginning)

ii. Arena tours

e. New formats make it easier to access recordings wherever they are

i. Four and Eight track tapes - installed as options in planes,

autos in mid 1960s

ii. Audio cassettes

aa. Boom box – large, portable stereos with cassette and


bb. Walkman (1979) – personal cassette player

f. AOR exposes radio listeners to wider variety of music; not just top 40


g. Record companies aggressively promote “focus” artists

IV. Mainstream rock

A. Big tent, including

1. Many glam rock acts

2. Singer/songwriters like Paul Simon, Billy Joel

3. Pop rock – pop so entangled with rock they become inseparable

a. Groups like the Beatles can’t be called one or the other

b. Ditto for lots of others, like

i. Elton John

ii. Wings

iii. Rod Stewart

iv. Fleetwood Mac

4. Hard rock (aka Classic rock)

a. Continuation of style of Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Who

i. All still touring and charting in 70s

ii. Some of best selling acts, esp. Zep

b. Lots of other acts in similar vein, though less influenced by blues
i. Steve Miller Band

ii. Bachman Turner Overdrive

iii. Aerosmith

iv. Styx

v. REO Speedwagon

c. General characteristics

i. Standard rock setup – 2 guitars, bass, drums, keyboard

ii. Riff-driven songs with lyrics that speak to common experience

iii. Aggressive timekeeping

iv. Flavored, at times, by country, blues, gospel, and art rock

5. Fusions

a. Country rock

b. Jazz rock fusion

c. Blue-eyed soul

i. White musicians performing in soul style

ii. Some examples

aa. Hall and Oates

bb. Steely Dan

cc. Dr. John

iii. Generally embraced by black soul audiences

B. In some ways, carefully controlled

1. Slickly produced – high production values

2. Few truly fringe artists

C. But, within mainstream, room for great deal of diversity

III. Elton John (Reg Dwight)

  1. Another musician who started in a British R&B band (Bluesology)

  2. Singer/songwriter in late 1960s, but limited success

1. Finds niche after pairing with lyricist Bernie Taupin

2. Allows John to focus on music, performing

a. Accompanies self on piano
b. In 1970s, outrageous stage presence

i. Elaborate outfits

aa. including Donald Duck costume, boas and sequins

bb. Incredible variety of wild glasses

ii. Extroverted performing style

iii. Spoof on style of Liberace (?)

  1. Characteristics

  2. Example “Tiny Dancer” (see listening guide)

1. Lyric dominates

a. Dramatic, film-like vignettes

b. Impersonal portrait, though singer enters story in transition, verse

c. Trivia fact: “Tiny Dancer” –Maxine Feibelmann, was Bernie Taupin’s

girlfriend, later his wife

2. Introduction

a. Piano, stating first phrase of melody

b. Introduces syncopated nature of melody

3. Verse/transition/chorus form

a. Verses in AABA form

b. Musical contrasts define each section

c. Repeated returns to intro separate verses

4. End weighting through gradual addition of instruments, new tone colors

5. Subtle sixteen-beat rhythmic foundation implied by piano, strings

IV. Queen

A. Formed in 1970 by Freddie Mercury and Brian May

1. Known for stylistic diversity and complex arrangements

a. Frequent use of orchestral instruments

b. As well as complex vocal harmonies

2. Elaborate stage performances – elements of glam rock

B. Example: “Bohemian Rhapsody”

1. At the time, most elaborate and expensive single (supplanting “Good


a. Recording took 3+ weeks and four different studios

b. 200 separate overdubs required

i. At time, only 24 track mixers

ii. Had to “bounce down” (reduce 24 separate tracks to one single

track) eight separate times

2. Rare example of rock song with several tempo, style changes

3. Parody of opera

a. Musical irony: music and lyrics don’t match

b. Mocks several operatic conventions and compositional styles

4. Conventional rock instrumentation, plus piano, timpani, gong

5. Unusual form

a. Six separate sections, with no chorus

b. Intro

i. A capella, 4 part harmony

a. Similarities to doo-wop

b. All voices are Freddy Mercury!

ii. Piano enters approximately 0:15, mirrors vocal line

iii. 4 part harmony accompanies lead vocal line

c. More melodic piano part introduces new section

d. Section A – ballad style – 2 verses

i. Standard piano accompaniment to solo vocal line

a. Foreshadows vocal melody

b. Fills based on melodic line

ii. Melody AABA form

iii. Just before B section

aa. drums enter

bb. Modulation to higher key

iv. Drops out in final A

v. Second verse

aa. As before, but guitar enters just prior to B

bb. Continues through rest of verse

cc. Ends with key change prior to

e. Section B - Guitar solo

i. Based on melody of section A

ii. Serves as bridge to

f. Section C – “Opera” – also 2 verses

i. Short piano chords on beat

ii. Parody of comic songs in light opera

iii. Fast harmonic motion

iv. “Send a bolt of lightning” – parody of operas of Richard


v. “Galileo”s – alone took 3 weeks

vi. Final screeching high note a jab at operatic sopranos

g. Section D – hard rock style

i. Driven by guitar riff

ii. Solid rock rhythms: 8 beat style beat and accented backbeat

iii. New melody

iv. Hard rock vocal style

h. Outro

i. Return to style and tempo of intro

ii. Ends with a capella vocals of beginning

V. Fleetwood Mac

A. Started in England in 1966 as blues rock band

1. Lead guitarist Peter Green considered a rival of Clapton

2. Both he and Jeremy Spencer left group in early 1970s

3. Others (Mick Fleetwood, John and Christine McVie) moved to California

4. Married couple Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks joined in 1975

B. Eponymous first album, with new lineup, goes to #1 in US

C. Follow up – Rumors – one of the first multiplatinum albums of mid ‘70s

1. Both couples in band in process of divorce (as was Fleetwood)

2. Personal drama evident in songs

D. Example: “Dreams”

1. Written by Stevie Nicks

2. Hard rock timekeeping and accented backbeats

3. Simple harmonies

a. Christine McVie (keyboards) – “three chords and one note in left hand”

b. Bass plays roots of chords

c. Lack of harmonic drive mirrors sense of lyrics

4. Occasional guitar riffs, fills with wah-wah pedal and distortion

5. Verse/transition/chorus form

6. Thin texture

a. Increases in transition

b. Thickest in chorus

i. Vocal harmonies

ii. More active bass

iii. Congas added

iv. More frequent guitar fills

VI. Fusions

A. Country rock

1. Mixture of country, rock, pop and blues influences

2. Some country rock merely rock bands playing country songs

a. The Byrds

i. Interest in exploring country after Gram Parsons joins

ii. Sweethearts of the Rodeo (1968) first country rock LP

iii. Example: “Pretty Boy Floyd” (but any track fine!)

b. Example: The Band, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”

3. Others strike more of a balance

4. The Eagles (Glen Frey, Don Henley, Bernie Leadon, Randy Meisner, Don


a. Started as backup band for singer Linda Ronstadt

b. Combined country rock with slick pop production, laid back feel

c. Extremely popular in 1970s

i. Eagles Greatest Hits Vol. 1 second best selling LP of all times

ii. 23 million copies to date

d. Biggest hit – “Hotel California”

e. Example - “Take It Easy” – more typical of style in 1970s

i. Country influence is unmistakable

ii. Tight vocal harmonies influenced by Byrds, Everly Brothers

iii. Folk associations (especially Dylan), also clear

iv. Harmonically simple

v. Rhythmically straightforward

f. Much of impact depends on lyrics, melodic interest
B. Jazz-rock fusion (or jazz fusion)

1. Two types of jazz rock fusion

2. From the jazz side...

a. Several jazz artists attempt to add rock characteristics to modern jazz

i.Straight eighth notes

ii.Electronic keyboard(s), electric guitar, bass

iii.Repetitive bass lines

  1. iv.Electronic effects and post-production

b. Most successful

i. Herbie Hancock

ii. Miles Davis

aa. True jazz legend

bb. Fusion experiments met with mixed results

cc. Album Bitches’ Brew (1969) is the primary testament of

jazz-rock fusion

iii. Weather Report

iv. Mahavishnu orchestra

3. From the rock side…

a. Rock bands influenced by jazz rhythmic and harmonic sophistication

  1. Band members often have jazz experience

  2. Examples

i. Blood, Sweat and Tears

ii. Chicago

iii. Steely Dan

4. Chicago

b. Example “Saturday in the Park”

i. Opens with syncopated piano riff

ii. Based on chord progression for “Heart and Soul”

aa. Old Tin Pan Alley standard

bb. Favorite of jazz musicians since 1930s

5. Steely Dan

a. Not a rock band in the traditional sense

i. critics have called it “concept” and “non-band.”

ii. Outlet for Walter Becker and Donald Fagan -only permanent


aa. jazz fans with a warped sense of humor

bb. like beat poetry, absurdist literature, and songwriting

iii. Permanent band for a few years

iv.Dissolved in favor of using studio musicians for albums

b. Sound is rooted in jazz, but also influenced by pop, R&B, classical, folk

c. Lyrics are poetic, but (like Dylan) meaning not always clear

i. Most sarcastic, filled with obscure references

ii. “post-folk rock for the intellectual set”

iii. Often something vaguely sinister

  1. Arrangements loaded with complicated jazz harmonies, meters

  2. Melodies hooky enough for pop radio.

  3. Example: “Peg”

i. Studio band largely composed of jazz rock musicians, including

Larry Carlton and Wayne Shorter

ii. Backing vocals by Michael McDonald of Doobie Brothers

iii. Intro

aa. Keyboard riff reminiscent of angular lines of bebop

--Compare to Dizzy Gillespie, “Salt Peanuts”

bb. Evokes disco in quavery electronic sounds produced by


cc. and 16 beat style beat provided by delicate guitar line

v. Verse

aa. Short melodic phrases, concluded by guitar or riff from


bb. Appropriate, since harmonies are reworked 12-bar

blues progression

vi. Chorus sweetened by background vocals

vii. Thick texture

aa. Electric piano

bb. Synthesizer

cc. Clavinet (electronic clavichord)

dd. 16 beat style beat guitar line

ee. Drums

ff. background vocals

vii. Complicated rhythmic interactions between all parts

viii. Harmonic variety typical of jazz

ix. Lyrics almost superfluous

5. Blood, Sweat, and Tears “Spinning Wheel”

a. Ensemble

iv. Lead vocalist David Clayton

v. Rhythm section – drums, piano, organ, guitar, bass

vi. Horn section

b. Sophisticated jazz harmonies

c. Jazz-influenced horn riffs

d. Juxtaposed with syncopated R&B riffs

e. Short intro - crescendo (increase in volume), horns play one measure of

16-beat style beat

A: “What goes up…”

A: “You got no money…”

B: Extensive contrasting section/short bridge

A: “Someone is waiting…”

A: 1/2 verse as bridge (piano solo)

C: solo section: Improvisation on melody by trumpet,

2x through chord changes, plus extension

A: “Someone’s waiting…”

D (outro)? Mixed meter stop time, alternating with calliope-like


II. Punk

A. Punk is a response to the above, but

1. But really just a continuation of garage bands like Kingsmen

2. Combined with aggressive, in your face attitude that rejected corporate image

of most rock of the day

3. Either rebellion against basically all rock after early 1960s or extension of hard

rock to its ultimate extreme

B. First surfaces in NYC in 1974-75, at club called CBGB OMFUG

1. (Country, Blue Grass, Blues, and Other Music for Urban Gourmandizers) –

2. basically, eclectic bar where any and all music was welcome

C. First punk band debatable, but most give title to New York Dolls

1. Five piece band modeled after English glam rockers (T. Rex, Bowie)

2. Regularly performed in drag, had the attitude and showmanship

3. BUT – no one in the band was a skilled musician

a. BUT – they liked to play

b. There was a place for them to do so

c. So – they did; “do-it-yourself” attitude

D. The Ramones exemplify sound of punk

1. Like a surf band on speed

2. Reduction of all rock to most basic, common denominator a. Simple and repetitive music

i. Rejection of art rock “pretension”

ii. the complete dominance of the riff

b. “Saturated eight beat” – rock beat in every instrument, and pretty

much the ONLY thing going on in most of the parts

c. Extremely fast tempos

d. Deliberate rejection of all overt moves to court commercial popularity

i. Lyrics often gross, inane, or offensive (or unintelligible)

ii. Image often bizzare, obnoxious, or offensive

iii. Talent seen as optional; passion essential

3. Listen to Blitzkrieg Bop

E. Even though weren’t formed until almost a year later, Sex Pistols are band most

people associate with punk

1. Certainly most notorious

2. Ramones played fast, hard music, but no one was named Johnny Rotten or Sid


3. Added to characteristics of NY Dolls and Ramones

a. Nihilistic attitude - nothing matters, and its all bad anyway

b. Gross antics and stage behavior (copped from Iggy Pop and the


c. Screamed, monotonous lyrics

4. Ironically, much of their behavior, lyric content carefully designed to offend, as

surely as pop rock was designed not to

a. Ex. God Save The Queen

b. Immediately banned by BBC, caused a big scandal

c. Got tons of publicity

d. Shot their album Never Mind the Bollocks, Here Come The Sex Pistols

to the top of the charts in the UK – first successful punk album

F. Punk burned itself out within a few years

1. Hard to be that continually pissed off, especially when you’re starting to make


2. When Sex Pistols started to hit big, Johnny Rotten walked away in disgust

3. Had also by then sparked trends in fashion, social behavior modeled after


G. Energy, drive that punk brought back to rock influenced almost all bands that came


1. Arguably most influential of all movements in rock

2. Especially if duration is factored in

H. Bands that took punk as a primary influence, and then fused with other rock influences

– New Wave

III. New Wave

A. Another broad category

B. Punk mixed with nearly everything (except country), creates wide variety of styles

C. Energy, riff-basis of punk seemed to fuse particularly well with reggae

1. Political and social protest of punk

2. Rhythmic activity of reggae, especially accented afterbeats

3. Examples – Clash, Elvis Costello

D. Punk and pop seems like unholy combo, but actually worked

1. Back to basics feel of punk revitalized tired pop

2. Bright rhythmic feel of pop worked well with dominant eight-beat rhythm

3. Both employed stripped down, simple textures

4. Examples – B-52s, Elvis Costello, Blondie, lots more

E. Punk + art rock

1. Another unlikely combination

2. Basic, stripped down textures of punk provided canvas for basically anything

3. Beat-type poetry, world music influences, electronic additions

4. Examples: Patti Smith, Devo, Talking Heads

a. If time, play Psycho Killer

b. Thin, transparent texture

c. Eight beat very much present – simple, continuous rhythmic pulse

d. As is somewhat the “behind the beat” feel of reggae

e. Definitely not pop lyrics – a little creepy and…psycho

f. Nearly monotone lyric delivery
III. The Future of Rock

  1. Number of hard rock groups of late 1970s returning to “core values” of rock

1. Solid rock timekeeping

2. Standard rock ensembles

3. Abandonment of “pretensions” of mainstream 1970s rock

a. Excessive use of electronic technology

b. Sprawling, multi-sectional forms

c. Influence of progressive or art rock

d. Lack of lyric depth

  1. Bruce Springsteen

1. Style encapsulates nearly every type of rock and roll

a. Early rock and roll

b. R&B and electric blues artists like Bo Diddley, John Lee Hooker

c. Folk and folk rock

d. Garage rock

e. Blues rock

f. Country rock

g. Latin rock

2. One of rock’s finest lyricists

3. Background

a. Began fronting garage and blues rock bands in mid 1960s-early ‘70s

b. Early 1970s worked as a singer/songwriter in coffee houses in

Greenwich Village

c. Returned to New Jersey and joined local E Street Band

d. Signed to three LP deal with Columbia records

i. First two sold modestly

ii. Built audience through touring

iii. Gained reputation as exciting live band playing straight ahead

rock and roll of type not heard in mainstream rock

e. Last chance – Born to Runfinally charted
4. Style

a. Vocal style

i. Mostly raspy blues and folk rock vocals

ii. Though can invoke gospel and soul when called for by lyrics

iii. Solid middle range

b. Riff-based guitar in the Chuck Berry, Keith Richards

i. Riffs frequently long

ii. Often different for verse and chorus

c. Frequently works with E Street Band

i. Similar to Booker T. and the MGs style

ii. Horn punctuation, riffs

d. Heavy rock timekeeping (unless performing in folk style)

e. Great hooks – catchy, but don’t seem manufactured

f. Invokes number of stylistic influences, based on lyric content

g. Great poetic imagery, abundant use of similes and metaphors

4. Example “Born to Run”

a. Lyrics encapsulate spirit of trying to break away…

i. Doesn’t say from what

ii. More universal appeal

b. Unusual form – modified AABA

c. Introduction

i. Assertive eight beat rock rhythm in bass, keyboard, toms

aa. Preceded by snare fill

bb. Snare then emphasizes backbeat

ii. Long guitar riff doubled by glockenspiel (chime sound)

aa. Marching band instrument, like a vibraphone

bb. Not synthesized!

d. Long A section, concluding with title phrase

i. Two melodic phrases, each repeated

aa. First

i. Mumbled lyrics in low range

ii. Single, long lyric phrase

iii. Accompaniment: rhythm section with rock beat

bb. Second: guitar, glockenspiel arpeggios added

i. Short, rhyming poetic ideas

ii. “Ooh,” sustained keyboard chord precedes repeat

iii. Higher vocal range

iv. Faster harmonic rhythm

v. Leads directly into..

ii. First melodic phrase in higher register, with title phrase

e. Repeat of introduction serves as transition to

f. Second A section

i. As above + sustained keyboard chords

ii. Doesn’t conclude with title phrase

  1. Tenor saxophone solo in early rock and roll style

  2. Riff leads into

  3. B section – new melodic idea

i. stated twice

ii. each text phrase at successively higher pitch

iii. Less aggressive timekeeping

aa. Implied, not stated

bb. Soft rim shots on backbeat

iv. Accompaniment: guitar and glockenspiel arpeggios

iv. Second statement of melody

aa. Strings and sustained notes on tenor sax

bb. More aggressive vocals

j. Interlude

i. Saxophone riff

ii. Double time, Dick Dale influenced guitar

iii. Complex harmonies

iv. Sustained chord

v. Yelled “1 2 3 4” signals repeat of

k. A’ section, in higher key

i. Accompaniment as in second A section, with sustained notes in


ii. Less aggressive timekeeping

l. Vamp to end, over music from intro

  1. Aerosmith

1. Hard rock band influenced by Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin

a. High vocal range of Steve Perry clearly modeled on Robert Plant

b. Extensive use of power chords, pentatonic scales

c. Distorted guitar and bass

d. Loud volume

e. Demonstration of influence: compare opening of “Black Dog” and

Walk this Way”

2. Successful career as mainstream hard rock act in ‘70s, but band derailed by

substance abuse

3. Career restarted when early rappers Run-D.M.C. cover “Walk this Way”

a. began as a rap over the opening riff of the Aerosmith classic

b. Soon developed into a rapped cover version of the song

c. Producer Rick Rubin suggested that Run-D.M.C. bring Joe Perry and

Steven Tyler into the studio to record with the group

d. Song served as bridge between heavy metal and rap

e. As well as R&B and rock

4. Example: “Walk This Way”

a. Aggressive rock timekeeping

b. Long, snarling guitar riff in 16-beat style beat

i. influenced by funk horn lines

ii. Compare to opening of “Superstition”

c. Verse/chorus form

i. Verse delivered in rapid fire, accented style

ii. Chorus in more traditional hard rock style

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