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Otto Masson

1970 as a turning point

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I was just watching the Bangladesh concert and the documentary about it, absolutely wonderful ...They interview Jann Wenner from Rolling Stone magazine on the documentary and he's talking about the great sort of disruption in rock & roll as the sixties came to an end, with Janis, Jimi and Jim Morrison all dying, The Rolling Stones having a disaster in Altamont and The Beatles quitting.

Obviously, I have no direct experience of this shift myself, being both too young and living in Iceland. But even if I didn‘t experience this watershed myself, it‘s something one can‘t help thinking about, and to me it seems perhaps exaggerated in many accounts of it. Now, Altamont was a bad thing, certainly, but it was mainly a stupid decision to rely on Hell's Angels, and somebody died ... hardly by itself the end of the hippie ideal or anything, although tragic. If anything the mess going on at the 1969 Isle of Wight festival seems to have been more troubling in terms of bursting the hippie rhetoric balloon. And the thing is, The Rolling Stones not only went on after Altamont - they released some of their best albums ever in 1971-1972 (Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main Street). The Who were also midway through their strongest period, releasing Who's Next in 1971 and then Quadrophenia.

I think what really changed at the turn of the decade was more just the fact that The Beatles had been leading the whole musical movement for so long, and so left a vacuum at the frontline, so to speak ... which the deaths of Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix served to underline. Eric Clapton at the time seemed to be suffering a loss of a sense of direction – everything he did was shortlived and his drugs use escalated to the point where he was hardly active at all. The Beatles had disbanded; even if George Harrison, John Lennon and Paul McCartney were all by no means spent forces, individually they were never going to recapture that kind of momentum, and there was bound to be a change in the leadership of the musical movement, for want of a better description.

What did not happen, however, was a generational shift, because the same generation of musicians were still pretty much monopolizing the scene. The people leading the scene after 1970-1971 had all been prominent in the period before, so in that sense it wasn‘t a dramatic shift at all. Now, the The Rolling Stones were brilliant at the time, but they were never going to define the sound of the seventies or anything like that - so much is obvious to me, and the same goes for The Who, really. A generational shift finally happened a few years later when punk broke through in the U.K.

So what actually happened in around 1970-1971? Led Zeppelin became giants, especially dominating the U.S. market. It wasn‘t a new band, because they had been formed as this particular four-piece band in August 1968 and had been working practically non-stop since, but their attitude from the start seems to have been to not really accept anybody‘s leadership but their own and just develop their music throughout. Jimmy Page has said they thought „Fuck the sixties“ – and I think John Paul Jones was underlining that in his own way when he jokingly said, with his dry humor, „Were there other bands?“ Led Zeppelin had already released three brilliant albums by 1970 and now released their fourth album in 1971, where the different elements in their music finally started to come together really strongly. Next albums: Houses and Graffiti. Unstoppable. There was no real competition.

In the U.K. however, the situation was entirely different: while Led Zeppelin were certainly big there too, they weren‘t the kind of leading presence there that they had become in the U.S. and you then get the start of glam rock and all that. This in turn facilitated the generation shift after 1976-1977.

Any thoughts?

Edited by Otto Masson

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Excellent post..

I'd just add that 1970 also saw the emergence of Prog Rock and Heavy Metal.

ELP, King Crimson, Yes, Genesis, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple etc... all emerged during or right before 1970.

Singles became less important.

Purple's move towards Hard Rock and away from their more poppy and symphonic material was directly due to Led Zeppelin's influence. Ritchie Blackmore himself has stated this.

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I was just watching the Bangladesh concert and the documentary about it, absolutely wonderful ...They interview Jann Wenner from Rolling Stone magazine on the documentary and he's talking about the great sort of disruption in rock & roll as the sixties came to an end, with Janis, Jimi and Jim Morrison all dying, The Rolling Stones having a disaster in Altamont and The Beatles quitting.

Obviously, I have no direct experience of this shift myself, being both too young and living in Iceland. But even if I didn‘t experience this watershed myself, it‘s something one can‘t help thinking about, and to me it seems perhaps exaggerated in many accounts of it. Now, Altamont was a bad thing, certainly, but it was mainly a stupid decision to rely on Hell's Angels, and somebody died ... hardly by itself the end of the hippie ideal or anything, although tragic. If anything the mess going on at the 1969 Isle of Wight festival seems to have been more troubling in terms of bursting the hippie rhetoric balloon. And the thing is, The Rolling Stones not only went on after Altamont - they released some of their best albums ever in 1971-1972 (Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main Street). The Who were also midway through their strongest period, releasing Who's Next in 1971 and then Quadrophenia.

I think what really changed at the turn of the decade was more just the fact that The Beatles had been leading the whole musical movement for so long, and so left a vacuum at the frontline, so to speak ... which the deaths of Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix served to underline. Eric Clapton at the time seemed to be suffering a loss of a sense of direction – everything he did was shortlived and his drugs use escalated to the point where he was hardly active at all. The Beatles had disbanded; even if George Harrison, John Lennon and Paul McCartney were all by no means spent forces, individually they were never going to recapture that kind of momentum, and there was bound to be a change in the leadership of the musical movement, for want of a better description.

What did not happen, however, was a generational shift, because the same generation of musicians were still pretty much monopolizing the scene. The people leading the scene after 1970-1971 had all been prominent in the period before, so in that sense it wasn‘t a dramatic shift at all. Now, the The Rolling Stones were brilliant at the time, but they were never going to define the sound of the seventies or anything like that - so much is obvious to me, and the same goes for The Who, really. A generational shift finally happened a few years later when punk broke through in the U.K.

So what actually happened in around 1970-1971? Led Zeppelin became giants, especially dominating the U.S. market. It wasn‘t a new band, because they had been formed in August 1968 and had been working practically non-stop since, but their attitude from the start seems to have been to not really accept anybody‘s leadership but their own and just develop their music throughout. Jimmy Page has said they thought „Fuck the sixties“ – and I think John Paul Jones was underlining that in his own way when he jokingly said, with his dry humor, „Were there other bands?“ Led Zeppelin had already released three brilliant albums by 1970 and now released their fourth album in 1971, where the different elements in their music finally started to come together really strongly. Next albums: Houses and Graffiti. Unstoppable. There was no real competition.

In the U.K. however, the situation was entirely different: while Led Zeppelin were certainly big there too, they weren‘t the kind of leading presence there that they had become in the U.S. and you then get the start of glitter rock and all that. This in turn facilitated the generation shift after 1976-1977.

Any thoughts?

:goodpost:

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Great post! I think you forgot about Floyd, but nontheless, still a great point of view. Keef said it in his book in the exact same way you did, Altamont was the end of the hippie ideal, the ideal of peace and love and that together everything would be one, that ended when the hell's angels killed that man.

I think you're right on Zeppelin not having competicion, the world was theirs, maybe Pink Floyd was their best "oponent", but still, everybody knew what Led Zeppelin was in 1972, and with the great and flawless albums they were gonna release in the following years, the 70's were theirs.

I think that Paul was the only Beatle to actually get to the point on wich he was a rockstar again, around 1975/76, he did the US tour and there's the show at the Silverdome, the pinacle of his pinacle of his career wasn't even with The Beatles, it all went down to Band On The Run, if the Wings toured when the album was released in 1973, they would have been much bigger, and I'm not saying they weren't big, but it would have been really great to see Paul perform more of the Band On The Run stuff.

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Thanks for your responses! I made a couple of minor changes to my initial post, as it was rather poorly edited on my part ... apologies.

As for Pink Floyd, I think that particular omission wasn't really that much of an oversight on my part. The particular trajectory of the band is what I have in mind: They were formed in the late 1960's, and the leading member of the group was Syd Barrett - the famously mad genius. That phase was over very quickly, and he was lost to serious mental illness. They got a good replacement in Gilmour, but it took a long time for the band to reorient itself and become a serious creative force. By the time that happened, with Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here, we're already well into the decade; and this phase didn't last for very long either. Both Animals and The Wall are very uneven, nowhere nearly as strong, and Floyd never became one of the bands in rock history that released a whole series of strong albums. Their two shining moments - with Syd and with Dave Gilmour - have ensured them a revered status in rock, I guess, and there were a few more great songs, to be sure (and well, who doesn't like those album covers!).

The chase: when you say heavy metal was born in 1970, I assume you mean the combined effect of Black Sabbath's first album and Deep Purple in Rock. That's at least arguable, although I tend to see it a little differently. To me they're both offshoots of a desire to use the hard and heavy sound of Led Zeppelin (and as you point out, Ritchie has indeed acknowledged that for his part) for some new purposes, and Zeppelin wasn't really what is called heavy metal in today's parlance. Me and my friends used to refer to Sabbath, Purple, Zeppelin, Uriah Heep, Nazareth and some others - certainly Queen's first two albums - as heavy rock back in the 1970's. Not metal, but they did have some things in common. Again here it's obvious that Zeppelin were leaders. But I must say to me the real birth of heavy metal is after 1976, with the arrival of a bunch of new bands (and Judas Priest, true). These seem to have learned a lot from the earlier heavy rock bands. What I hear in them is influences from the relentless dark riffing of Brian May on Queen II, the completely vicious sound that Blackmore developed with Purple (made even stronger as Jon Lord using a Marshall for his Hammond, introducing The Beast), his classically influenced soloing on Highway Star, Burn and other numbers, the fantasy or horror movie vibe of the Sabs - and so on ... but very little direct influence from Led Zeppelin, where the riffs tended to be more in the vein of old blues and rockabilly, etc. The sensibility is different, and no wonder ... In point of fact, even when Purple decided to go for hard rock, they couldn't ever have sounded like Led Zeppelin, and they never did. They had their own very different musicianship, and a certain atmosphere or feel that derived basically from the interplay between Lord, Blackmore and Paice, and you could say something similar about Black Sabbath.

Both progressive rock and heavy rock (or heavy metal, if you prefer that label) were distant derivatives from the psychedelic turn of the Beatles and the birth of album oriented rock, it seems to me. Both scenes tended to speak to a more pre-defined niche of the market, already much more of a market sub-category than The Beatles ever were, and also more narrow in terms of their impact than Led Zeppelin. It's interesting that members of Zeppelin referred to their own music in 1968-1969 as progressive, by which they seem to have meant it was pretty experimental, a sort of open-ended attempt to explore what you could do with rock music and make cohesive album statements. This, however, is not really the sense in which we now use the epithet prog or progressive rock, by which is usually meant the more classically influenced bands, like Genesis, Gentle Giant, Yes, ELP, Focus and others (partly Jethro Tull). That whole scene was born at around 1970, as you say, but it was perhaps too marginal to be easily comparable to The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin, etc. and this despite the fact that they sometimes became quite big - Genesis, for instance.

Edited by Otto Masson

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So what actually happened in around 1970-1971?

Hi Otto,good to see you again.

I believe,in the new decade that was the 70's people were looking for something different to the pop sounds of The Beatles and also other late 60's AM radio fare such as Val Doonican,Perry Como,The Supremes,The Beach Boys etc.

Of course this all depends on your age group,I was born in '62 so by the late 60's-70's those artistes mentioned above were what I was hearing on the radio along with the odd Zep tune,Cream and so on.This was broken up by my elder brother and sister playing CCR,Joe Cocker and Steppenwolf along with many bands/singers.

I suppose one of the main points I'm trying to make are people were more receptive to the heavier sounds that were on the rise at that time and with the afore mentioned decline of the hippy-free love era the world and it's music would never be the same again.Even though millions look back at that era with deep affection.

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Very interesting points. Would you say that's when the powers that be saw the opportunity to organize rock music into a massive commercial industry, in terms of concert promotions, magazines, album sales, etc.? Could that be part of the shift (aside from who the major players were)?

It was happening before, but not on the scale it was in the 70s?

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Very interesting points. Would you say that's when the powers that be saw the opportunity to organize rock music into a massive commercial industry, in terms of concert promotions, magazines, album sales, etc.? Could that be part of the shift (aside from who the major players were)?

Yep ! Even if one just looks at the attendance figures for the music festivals of the day, it would be hard not to see that a massive business opportunity was just sitting there waiting to be launched and, launched it was ;)

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IMO, 1970 was the moment of truth for many bands and solo artists who broke through during the Sixties. Would they be able to sustain lengthy careers in the music industry or would they slide into obscurity? The Rolling Stones and The Who were able to keep moving forward and sustain decades-long careers. Creedence Clearwater Revival didn't.

...What did not happen, however, was a generational shift, because the same generation of musicians were still pretty much monopolizing the scene. The people leading the scene after 1970-1971 had all been prominent in the period before, so in that sense it wasn‘t a dramatic shift at all.

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Would you say that's when the powers that be saw the opportunity to organize rock music into a massive commercial industry, in terms of concert promotions, magazines, album sales, etc.?

I would.

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Virginia, that's an important question, and all I have to go from is impressions. Quite limiting, because while outward signs can be indicative, we would still need a lot of verified facts and figures to back up any real evaluation of the development of the business side of Rock & Roll, which, as far as I know, has still not been researched extensively at all. It is clear that Rock & Roll has had that aspect from the outset. Born after the war, it's always been a business. However, it‘s also a cultural phenomenon that has its own logic and cannot be reduced to the workings of business. My impression (and it's only an impression) is that the turning point around 1970 had more to do with the musical movement as such than any fundamental change in the business environment of it, which to me seems to have come a little later. There is a new book just out, What You Want is in the Limo by Michael Walker, that I haven't been able to read still. Apparently it is argued there that 1973 was a turning point in this direction, if I am not mistaken. That does sound plausible to me, but I also think it was a gradual and uneven process. The arrival of punk in England is also relevant there I believe. The musicians still had a strong position when dealing with record companies and promoters, etc. in 1973; after 1976, less so, it seems to me.

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Funny ... I think of the early 70's as a very artist friendly time period.. Definitely the most creative time... IMO.

Bands / Artists were allowed and even encouraged to develop their own thing. They weren't dropped by their label if an album or two tanked.. The labels actually encouraged it .. The range of acts was incredible. To think that Black Sabbath and Yes could tour together. It was a very interesting and exciting time.

Look at the list of bands that appeared at the 1st Cal Jam in 1974.

Amazing.. you don't get a package like that these days.

But it all got a little out of hand and self indulgent after a while.. which helped bring in the Punk revolution.

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With the comment from rs editor, about a disruption in rock music....and then the 80s with the control over music that mtv had, that does sort of block the 70s as a specific time. But i think it just worked out that way. I like how music side steps entities like rolling stone, mtv and corporate radio and takes on a movement of its own over time. Like how the grateful deads popularity peaked in the late 80s...and zeppelin would have experienced that second wave of popularity as well.

There was alot of variety in the 70s...and music was pushed forward, but there was also meandering in the creative process...which is probably what it always is. Looking back, learning and reshaping for the current time. I see that in led zeppelin, stones, the who, grateful dead, allmann bros, the band....great bands from the 70s. And i always find it interesting that bands like iron maiden and ramones were around in the later 70s as well. It shows what a vital time it was for rock music.

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