Now this is a little different from the other Diversity of Classic Rock posts and I’m mixing it up a bit here. The semester is halfway done and that means projects, tests, quizzes left, right, and centre. Just a little tip for the third years, or second years, first years, or those not even in university: While it is easy to slack, don’t slack in fourth year! Make it count! If you have a high GPA, keep up the good work! If you don’t have a high GPA, work hard to raise your GPA.
I’m going to be working on a video editing project that will be part tribute to 1976 and part music video. Picking just one song from 1976 was not an easy task because there’s so many good songs to choose from, but ultimately I picked “The Boys Are Back In Town” by Thin Lizzy. A great choice because it gets stuck in your head in a good way, it’s well known because chances are you’ve heard it on a classic rock station, and who doesn’t love dual lead guitars? Also, it reminds me a lot of my time studying abroad in Ireland.
Sadly, I did not live in the 70s, but I’ve heard a lot of stories from my parents about the 70s. My dad was my age, 21, and was in university in his final year, just like me. My mum graduated from secondary school that year. I wore her secondary school class ring to my secondary school graduation, so I’m pretty sure that’s when she graduated. From talking to them, I found out that discos were cool, you gotta have a nice record collection, and that decade was a lot of fun. While the 60s would be my first choice as far as decade to live in, my second choice would easily be the 70s.
The 70s were a great decade in music because of glam rock, prog rock, punk rock, disco, funk, and the mod revival just beginning. 1976 itself was great too. Why is that?
- Lots of women in rock and roll! Sure, there were women in rock in the 60s and early 70s and even earlier than that, but this was a big year for women in rock and roll. By the 70s, you were seeing more and more women writing their own music and playing their own instruments. Many women were prominent in rock and roll/popular music at this time such as Grace Slick of Jefferson Starship, Suzi Quatro, The Runaways (new in 1976): Joan Jett, Cherie Currie, Lita Ford, Jackie Fox, and Sandy West, Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac (Stevie Nicks joined Fleetwood Mac the previous year), Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart (Heart released their first album in 1976), Kiki Dee, Patti Smith, Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad of ABBA, Linda Ronstadt, Karen Carpenter, Joni Mitchell, Debbie Harry of Blondie (released their first album that year), Sonja Kristina of Curved Air (released an album that year and broke up), Renate Knaup of Amon Düül II, Laura Nyro, Sandy Denny, Claire Hamill, Annie Haslam of Renaissance, and many more. Representation is very important and female musicians from the 70s inspired women to be rock musicians in the 80s and 90s.
- Punk becoming popular: Punk had its roots in the late 60s. Why was punk created? What was the goal of punk rock? Punk wanted to get away from those long guitar solos that dominated rock in the late 60s and early 70s. Punk took inspirations from garage rock from the 60s. The songs were short and typically didn’t consist of many chords. Many punk songs were political as well. Punk bands that either started or got big that year include The Ramones (released their first album in 1976), The Clash (formed in 1976), The Sex Pistols (released Anarchy in the UK in November 1976), Patti Smith Group, Generation X (played their first concert in December 1976), The Fall, Siouxie and the Banshees, Warsaw (later became Joy Division), Buzzcocks, Black Flag, The Damned, The Cramps, and the band that would become famous as U2. The Damned were the first UK punk band to release a single, “New Rose”. The punk subculture was something that inspired the mod revival that started around 1977-1978, especially some of the music with bands such as The Jam, The Lambrettas, and Merton Parkas becoming popular in the late 70s and early 80s.
- Disco music became even more popular. Prior to 1976, there were disco songs such as “Love Train” by The O’Jays, “Jungle Boogie” by Kool and the Gang, “The Hustle” by Van McCoy, “K-Jee” by MFSB (originally by the Nite-Lighters – great version but MFSB’s is a bit more disco), “Kung Fu Fighting” by Carl Douglas, “Jive Talkin” by The Bee Gees, “TSOP” (Soul Train Theme) by MFSB, “Rock the Boat” by Hues Corporation, and “Zing Went The Strings of My Heart” by The Trammps. While the famous Studio 54 wouldn’t open its doors until the following year, there were still many discos. Some big disco singles of 1976 are “Love Rollercoaster” by The Ohio Players, “That’s The Way (I Like It)” by KC & The Sunshine Band, “You Sexy Thing” by Hot Chocolate, “Right Back To Where We Started From” by Maxine Nightingale, “Love Hangover” by Diana Ross, “You Should Be Dancing” by The Bee Gees, “Play That Funky Music” by Wild Cherry, “Disco Inferno” by The Trammps, “A Fifth of Beethoven” by Walter Murphy, “Turn The Beat Around” by Vicki Sue Robinson, and “The Rubberband Man” by The Spinners.
Some may argue that 1976 wasn’t a good year in music and I guess that’s all personal taste and you may not agree with me. That’s okay. We don’t have to agree 100% of the time. Common complains are “rock went commercial” and “disco took over so I can’t hear rock and roll anymore” and “many of the releases were mediocre”. I like disco music, so we’re gonna have to agree to disagree here. Every year has its great releases, and its lacklustre, forgettable ones. We do tend to be positive and remember the best releases that year. Obviously since I didn’t live in the 70s, I never really get to see much mediocre 70s albums unless I’m at a charity shop’s vinyl section.
Many great singles were on the charts that year! The first number one in 1976 in the US, was The Bay City Rollers’ “Saturday Night”. Chart songs towards the beginning of the year were released the previous year, so keep that in mind. “Silly Love Songs” was #1 on the Billboard Year-End Chart that year. ABBA were big in 1976 with multiple number ones: “Dancing Queen”, “Fernando”, and “Mamma Mia”. Peter Frampton had three top 20 hit singles that year “Do You Feel LIke We Do”, “Show Me The Way”, and “Baby I Love Your Way”. Other classic rock radio staples like “Slow Ride” by Foghat, “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen, “Blinded By The Light” by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, “Crazy On You” by Heart, “Rock And Roll All Nite” by Kiss, “Rhiannon” by Fleetwood Mac, “Evil Woman” by ELO, “Dream On” by Aerosmith, “Rock’n Me” by Steve Miller Band, “Blitzkrieg Bop” by The Ramones, “Carry On Wayward Son” by Kansas, “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” by Blue Öyster Cult, and “More Than A Feeling” by Boston were released that year or were in the charts that year.
1976 was a decent year in albums as well with Stevie Wonder’s Songs In The Key of Life, Rush’s 2112 and All The World’s A Stage, Rory Gallagher’s Calling Card, Peter Frampton’s Frampton Comes Alive, Wings’ Wings Over America and Wings At The Speed of Sound, Heart’s Dreamboat Annie, Jean Michel Jarre’s Oxygène, Horslips’ The Book of Invasions, Thin Lizzy’s Jailbreak, and Genesis’ A Trick of the Tail.
So what’s your favourite album and song of 1976? Have your say in the comments section below!