One of the most important changes to rock music in the late 1960s was the new focus on albums rather than on singles.
By the early 1970s, some rock music exhibited a “hippie aesthetic,” which emphasized sophisticated music, lyrics dealing with important issues, and virtuosic performances.
The hippie aesthetic connects a variety of 1970s rock styles to one another as well as to the psychedelic music of the 1960s.
Blues-Based British Rock
The Rolling Stones, Cream, and the Yardbirds
The blues-based rock coming out of Britain in the 1970s continued earlier traditions, and bands such as the Rolling Stones, Cream, and the Yardbirds established a stylistic foundation; Jimmy Page of the Yardbirds formed Led Zeppelin.
Led Zeppelin: Blues, Folk, and Psychedelia Take the Next Step
Led Zeppelin was one of the most successful British groups of the 1970s; the band’s influences included electric blues and acoustic folk.
“Stairway to Heaven” demonstrates how Led Zeppelin could blend electric, acoustic, and psychedelic elements.
Led Zeppelin’s lyrics often focus on sexual themes; Page produced the band’s albums, and they toured until 1980.
“Whole Lotta Love” demonstrates how Led Zeppelin combined blues with other influences; elements of psychedelia can also be heard in the song.
The formal structure of “Whole Lotta Love,” compound AABA, became common among 1970s bands; in this form, each “A” section is typically made up of a verse-chorus pair, and the “B” section is contrasting.
Deep Purple: Blues, Classical, and Psychedelia
Deep Purple formed in London in 1968 and made three albums; after personnel changes, the group found chart success.
“Highway Star” blends rock music with classical idioms.
Black Sabbath: British Rock Meets Boris Karloff and the Gothic Beginnings of Metal
Black Sabbath formed as a blues band in the 1960s; they became known for a dark style, though their music remained based on blues riffs and common rock structures.
American Blues Rock and Southern Rock
Southern Rock: The Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and the Charlie Daniels Band
In the 1970s, blues influences could be heard in rock music associated with the American South; the Allman Brothers band formed at the end of the 1960s and became the most important “southern rock” band.
The influences of the Allman Brothers Band included the rhythm and blues of the American south, British blues rock, and psychedelia.
Despite the deaths of two members in the early 1970s, the band continued to record successfully.
Guitarist, singer, and fiddle player Charlie Daniels formed a successful country-oriented band.
Use of the term “southern rock” came in part from writers and music executives not from the South who were drawing on stereotypes; in reality, southern culture is more complex.
Texas and South of the Border: Santana and ZZ Top
The electric blues mixed with influences from Texas and Mexico in the music of ZZ Top and Santana; Santana was led by Mexican-born Carlos Santana and emerged from the San Francisco psychedelic scene.
Texas electric blues were not yet influential when ZZ Top formed, but the group found success into the 1980s; while neither ZZ Top nor Santana are typically thought of as southern rock bands, their music shows stylistic similarities to southern rock.
American Bands: Steppenwolf, Three Dog Night, Grand Funk Railroad, and Aerosmith
The influence of the blues was not restricted to the American South; blues-inspired bands Steppenwolf and Three Dog Night formed in Los Angeles.
Grand Funk Railroad formed in Michigan and had roots in 1960s pop and soul.
Aerosmith’s style was often compared to that of the Rolling Stones.
Both British and American groups produced commercially successful blues rock in the 1970s; most of these groups incorporated elements of the hippie aesthetic.
Progressive Rock: Big Ideas and High Ambition
Philosophical Lyrics and Concept Albums
Following the success of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, many groups made concept albums; the idea of an album as a self-contained artistic statement became central to progressive rock.
The Use of Classical Music with Rock
The use of classical music was a primary element of British progressive rock in the 1970s.
The Who: Townshend’s Big Projects
The Who are not usually considered a progressive rock band, but their ambitious projects—such as the concept album Tommy—were influential on progressive rockers.
The Who followed Tommy with two more concept albums.
In the Beginning: King Crimson and Emerson, Lake & Palmer
King Crimson’s In the Court of the Crimson King was a stylistic template for later progressive rock; the band blended various classical and jazz influences in a rock context.
Keyboardist Keith Emerson’s bands, which included Emerson, Lake & Palmer, produced more commercially successful music than King Crimson.
Hippie Spirituality: Jethro Tull and Yes
Jethro Tull and Yes produced works on religious and spiritual themes; Jethro Tull started as a blues band before producing ambitious albums with spiritual themes, including Aqualung, Thick as a Brick, and A Passion Play.
Yes blended instrumental virtuosity with spiritual subject matter.
Progressive rock bands created longer musical arrangements, but the elements were drawn from common pop music forms; Yes’s “Roundabout” uses compound AABA form.
“Roundabout” reflects classical influences by using melodic material in new ways and incorporating inventive rhythmic ideas.
“Roundabout” shows how progressive rock drew on both pop and classical traditions, and its formal pattern recurred regularly in Yes’s music from the 1970s.
Bizarre Tales and Progressive-Rock Theater: Genesis and Pink Floyd
Genesis focused on long and carefully worked out musical arrangements; lead singer Peter Gabriel used costumes and props to act out songs on stage.
After their success in the London psychedelic scene in the 1960s, Pink Floyd had a series of successful experimental albums; Pink Floyd extended the concept of the psychedelic light show into an elaborate stage production for their concept album The Wall.
Lighting and props were a common element of progressive rock shows; progressive rock extended and refined the hippie aesthetic.
The jazz-rock bands Blood, Sweat & Tears and Chicago became known for their use of horns; Blood, Sweat & Tears created arrangements that made horns central and also featured long instrumental sections.
The band Chicago blended pop influences with jazz-inspired arrangements dominated by horns.
The popularity of jazz rock created controversy in the jazz community, where some traditionalists viewed it as “selling out” to the pop music industry.
Glam Rock and Rock Theater: Shocking Characters
Dressing Up and Acting Out
In the 1970s, big rock shows were staged in stadiums and arenas, which led to a growth in production standards and new attention to visual and theatrical elements.
“Glam rock” was a theatrical style particularly popular in the United Kingdom in the 1970s; David Bowie was one of the most important glam stars.
Alice Cooper: Welcome to My Nightmare
Alice Cooper was a character performed by Vincent Furnier; Cooper’s stage shows explored gruesome and ghoulish themes.
Although their approaches differed, both Bowie and Alice Cooper created stage personas based in fantasy that pushed the boundaries of sexual and gender identities.
KISS and Makeup
All four members of KISS, not just the lead singer, wore makeup and costumes onstage; essentially a blues-rock band, KISS’s stage shows created high-energy spectacle.
The Importance of Being Earnest
Because they seemed to reveal their unmediated personal perspectives, the singer-songwriters of the 1970s can be viewed in contrast to performers such as Bowie and Cooper; the impression of sincerity projected by singer-songwriters, however, is still mediated by show business concerns.
James Taylor, who started his career in the late 1960s, gained international popularity; songwriter Carole King began performing in the 1960s and became one of the most influential female artists of the 1970s.
After recording a series of hits with Art Garfunkel, Paul Simon began working as a solo artist; he employed studio musicians to expand on the singer-songwriter style and was also influenced by jazz.
American Poets Society
Other important singer-songwriters of the 1970s included Carly Simon, Harry Chapin, Don McLean, and Jim Croce.
British Singer-Songwriters: Van Morrison, Cat Stevens, and Elton John
Van Morrison, Cat Stevens, and Elton John were British singer-songwriters who enjoyed success in the mid-1970s; Elton John was among the most successful singer-songwriters, achieving chart hits in both the United States and the United Kingdom with the help of lyricist Bernie Taupin.
Canadian Voices: Joni Mitchell and Neil Young
Joni Mitchell’s music in the 1960s was influenced by the folk revival; she went on to become one of the most musically eclectic and experimental singer-songwriters, incorporating styles such as jazz.
Neil Young performed with Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, and Nash; he also made several successful albums as a solo artist.
The Gift to Be Simple
Country rock artists in the early 1970s reacted to the excesses of psychedelic rock.
Crosby, Stills, and Nash (with or without Young) blended folk rock with elements of jazz, country, and blues.
The Band was influenced by the music of the American South and released a series of successful albums beginning in 1968.
Poor Boys Make Good: Creedence Clearwater Revival
Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR) formed in the San Francisco Bay Area; they had a country sound, but also incorporated elements of the hippie aesthetic.
Los Angeles, Woodstock, and San Francisco became centers for country rock in the 1970s; the Eagles were the leading country rock band in Southern California.
The Eagles’ “Take It Easy”
The Eagles’ first hit, “Take It Easy,” demonstrates their country rock approach; the arrangement includes folk-rock and country-influenced guitar sounds, vocals with high harmony, and a banjo.
This chapter traced several rock styles of the early 1970s from their roots in the psychedelic era; in the mid-1970s, corporate involvement in rock, the punk movement, and disco changed the course of rock history.