Women in Classic Rock Part 2: The 70s

When writing my essay on the representation of women in classic rock from the 60s to the 80s, I noticed a trend of increasing involvement and influence of women in rock music starting in the late 60s. More than singing and being album cover models. Representation really matters and without these amazing ladies, maybe girls in the future wouldn’t have considered that they could be rock stars too. Women were also writing songs and singing them as well. The late 60s had the rise of female singer-songwriters, but they really flourished in the 70s. 1975-1977 were big years for women in rock because bands like Fleetwood Mac, Heart, and The Runaways released albums. Many people remember the Stevie Nicks/Lindsay Buckingham/Mick Fleetwood/Christine McVie/John McVie lineup the best of any incarnation of Fleetwood Mac. Heart’s songs were the baby of Ann and Nancy Wilson, who were responsible for pretty much all of the songwriting in their 70s albums: Dreamboat Annie, Magazine, Little Queen, and Dog and Butterfly. The Runaways was what launched the careers and brought attention to Joan Jett and Lita Ford. Progressive rock, while predominantly male had a few women involved: Sonja Kristina of Curved Air, Inga Rumpf of Frumpy, Kate Bush, and Annie Haslam of Renaissance. In punk, X-Ray Spex and Siouxie and the Banshees were fronted by Poly Styrene and Siouxie Sioux, respectively. Patti Smith was also important in the punk scene. In ska, Pauline Black was in The Selecter and The Bodysnatchers were an all girl group. Women weren’t just singers in rock bands, Tina Weymouth played bass in the Talking Heads. Suzi Quatro played bass as well as singing. Karen Carpenter was also a drummer. Poison Ivy played guitar for The Cramps. Christine McVie played keyboards for Fleetwood Mac.

Like the last post, I will post my top 20 moments of women rocking out. However, this time it’s the 70s turn to dazzle and amaze. These are in no particular order:

1. Niagara – Stone The Crows (1972). This blues rock band from Glasgow, Scotland were fronted by Maggie Bell. Her voice is really powerful and this song really shows it. They released 4 albums within a two year period before Maggie Bell moved on to a solo career in May 1973. A favourite of mine from her solo career is “If You Don’t Know” from Suicide Sal. Thank you to one of my friends, Paul Salley, for the information about the song and introducing me to the music of Stone The Crows.

2. The Battle of Evermore – Led Zeppelin (1971) Sandy Denny shares the vocals with Robert Plant in this Celtic and Lord of The Rings inspired classic off of Led Zeppelin IV. In the 70s she released 4 solo albums in which she wrote most of the songs. Love the mandolin! She sadly passed away in 1978, aged 31.

3. Dreamboat Annie – Heart (1976) This is the title track of their debut album. It’s hard to pick a song by Heart to include in this top 20. They have written so many songs that were relatable to me. This song really stands out to me because of its beauty. The lyric that really resonates with me is “heading out to somewhere, won’t be back for a while.” Ann and Nancy still play this song so beautifully live with Ann on vocals and flute and Nancy on guitar.

4. Them Heavy People – Kate Bush (1978) This song was from her debut album, released just before she turned 20, The Kick Inside. I like the bits of ska influence in the song. That album was very well known for the single, “Wuthering Heights.” She wrote all the songs on that album. She also was a trained dancer and is seen dancing in many of her music videos.

5. Rhiannon – Fleetwood Mac (1975) Stevie Nicks wrote and sang this song. She introduces the song as “This song is about an old Welsh witch.” To add on to the beauty of the song, her stage presence was witchy and mystical, a perfect fit. Her performance of this is very theatrical and really adds to it. Mick Fleetwood even described her performance of Rhiannon “like an exorcism.” This lineup of Fleetwood Mac still tour to this day.

6. St Charles – Jefferson Starship (1976) Grace Slick was also in Jefferson Starship, which was made up of a few of the members of Jefferson Airplane. This song sounds lovely and I really enjoy Grace Slick’s backing vocals. This song was on the album, Spitfire. Grace Slick wrote some songs for Jefferson Starship as well. One from the same album, which I enjoy is “Hot Water.” She sings lead vocals on it too. This song was introduced to me by my friend, thegroovyarchives on Tumblr.

7. Phantasmagoria – Curved Air (1972) This is one of my favourite Curved Air songs. It has a ghost, scary vibe to it. The rhythm section on the song is very jazz inspired, like much of prog rock. Sonja Kristina didn’t only sing. She also wrote and co-wrote songs for Curved Air such as “Back Street Luv”

8. The Acid Queen – Tina Turner (1975) Being a huge fan of The Who, I really love the movie, Tommy. Tina Turner does an amazing job playing The Acid Queen. Many of the movie versions of the songs were very enjoyable, sometimes even better than the original album versions. Tina Turner released an album in 1976 called Acid Queen, featuring covers of classic rock songs as well as songs she wrote with Ike Turner.

9. Can the Can – Suzi Quatro (1973) She pre-dated the Runaways by three years and was a huge influence on them. Not only does she play bass, she also plays guitar, drums, and keyboards. She found more success overseas (Europe in particular) than in in her birth country, the United States. Her stage presence was aggressive, challenging gender roles.

10. Cherry Bomb – The Runaways (1976) Like Suzi Quatro, their stage presence was aggressive and tough. Also like Suzi Quatro, they were more of a success overseas, but in this case, Japan. Their other influences include David Bowie, Ritchie Blackmore of Deep Purple, Jeff Beck, and Roger Taylor of Queen. This song was co-written by Joan Jett and Kim Fowley, their manager.

11. Because the Night – Patti Smith Group (1978) Co-written by Patti Smith and Bruce Springsteen, Springsteen found that this song wasn’t working out well for him so he gave the song to Patti Smith to work with. This single helped with the sales of her album Easter. It was a success in the UK, peaking at #5 and it peaked at #13 in The States. She co-wrote many of her songs and did a lot of classic rock covers such as Them’s “Gloria,” The Who’s “My Generation.” Another favourite Patti Smith song of mine is “Horses.”

12. You Make Loving Fun – Fleetwood Mac (1977) From Rumours, one of the best known Fleetwood Mac albums and a favourite of many fans. Christine McVie’s contributions to the album were this song, “Songbird,” “Oh Daddy,” “The Chain” (co-written with the whole band), and “Don’t Stop” – used as Bill Clinton’s campaign song in 1992.

13. Badge – Fanny (1970) This is a cover of the Clapton-Harrison penned Cream song. The band were made up of two sisters, June and Jean Millington, Nickey Barclay, and Alice De Buhr. Suzi Quatro’s older sister, Patti Quatro was also in the band at one point. All of the band members are skilled at playing their instruments and their voices all sound lovely together. They were one of the first all girl rock bands. They opened for bands like Jethro Tull and Humble Pie and even worked with Todd Rundgren – he produced one of their albums.

14. Heart of Glass – Blondie (1978) Classic Rock meets Disco! This song was co-written by Debbie Harry and Chris Stein years before it was released and became a hit. Debbie Harry had changed in style of music in a decade. She started in the 60s with a psychedelic band called The Wind In The Willows, singing back up vocals. By the late 70s she was making new wave music with Blondie. Blondie started off with more a punk sound in 1976.

15. Lonesome Holy Roller – Marsha Hunt (1970) A rarity. It was the B-side to Keep The Customer Satisfied. She wrote this song, although some pressings of this single say that she co-wrote this song with Maynard Ferguson

16. Spanish Harlem – Aretha Franklin (1971) Highly influenced by gospel music, she started singing secular music in the 60s. She made it big in 1967 and 1968 with songs like “Respect” and “Think.” Both of those songs made it to the top 10 in the US and Canada. She is known as The Queen of Soul. This song made it bigger than the original version, peaking at #2 pop and #1 R&B.

17. Morning – Frumpy (1970) They were a prog band from Germany. Inga Rumpf got much recognition for her beautiful, strong, deep voice, with German journalists considering her one of the greatest vocal talents of the time in Germany. Some even make comparisons of her voice to Janis Joplin’s. The band took the name from the lead vocalist, the word reminding them of the lead singer’s surname.

18. Love Hangover – Diana Ross (1976) She went from singing in the Supremes to Disco and this song was another number one in the pop charts for her. Common in many disco songs, especially full versions, the song starts off slowly and mid way it speeds up and becomes more danceable. This song was written by two female songwriters, Marilyn McLeod and Pamela Sawyer.

19. Tainted Love – Gloria Jones (1965) A northern soul favourite at Wigan! However, it was not a chart hit. In the 70s Gloria Jones went on to be a backup singer for Marc Bolan. This song was the B-side to “My Bad Boy’s Comin’ Home.”

20. Crazy on You – Heart (1976) Also off of the album, Dreamboat Annie. This was the inspiration for my blog’s URL. Excellent acoustic guitar intro by Nancy Wilson. The beginning is known as “Silver Wheels.” This song made it to number one in France. I haven’t heard a better combination of acoustic and electric guitars. Amazing vocals as always by Ann Wilson.

Now it’s time for you to give your feedback and opinions. Leave a comment and share your favourite moments of women in 70s rock!

Until next time!