Friday, 5 November 2010

The Worst of Times

Sometimes, when I’m sitting here thinking about what the hell am I going to write next, if I am very lucky, someone comes along and gives me an idea. And in this instance it is just as well that they did or my next post would’ve been a blank screen - very artistic, I’m sure, but not really in the true spirit of a blog. So I am deeply indebted to Luminous Muse whose post ‘Guilty Pleasures: 70s Songs I Hate to Love’ has set in train a series of thoughts about pants music generally rather than specifically.

I’ve already covered my Guilty Pleasures in a series of posts some time back, so I thought rather than wheel out my list of Hate-to-Love songs yet again, I’d nominate my contender for the worst period in rock’s history and spookily it, too, comes from the 1970s – the decade that fashion forgot. My nomination for ‘Worst Period of Rock…Ever’ is the five year period 1973 – 1978.

The reasons why can be summed up in three words: Glam, Disco and Smart-Arses. It should be remembered that up to about 1973 everything had been going swimmingly from the Rock ‘n’ Roll explosion of the 1950s through the 1960s Beat Boom to Psychedelia and the beginnings of Progressive.

But by 1974 it had all gone wrong. Glam had ousted my beloved Prog and got it firmly on the run. Of course, Prog really only had itself to blame as it had disintegrated into self-indulgent noodling and we were drowning in pixies, but if only it knew what it was letting in... Whilst Glam had its upside, just, in Bowie and Roxy, the remainder was just the worst 1950s pastiche claptrap imaginable. Mud, Rubettes, Showaddywaddy, Sweet, Wizzard (Roy Wood what WERE you thinking?) were all as guilty as hell. Aged 18, music to me was a serious business and this lot were just taking the p…

Disco was almost as bad (with the possible exception of Chic). By the mid 1970s the likes of KC and the Sunshine Band, Sylvester, Heatwave, Donna Summer and Odyssey, were gearing up to batter our ears with stuff that only clubbers understood but the worst offender in this category was the person who invented the 12-inch single. If I ever get my hands on them…well, don’t worry, I’ll think of something. If Disco wasn’t bad enough over 3 minutes it was indescribably tedious over 10 long minutes of melody-free monotonous rhythm.

So for people like me, there was only one area left and unfortunately it was inhabited by the Smart-Arses as represented by the unholy trinity of Steely Dan, Supertramp and 10CC. I will put my hand up and admit to liking the first three 10CC albums but I never really took to either Supertramp or Steely Dan who were just far too clever by half. Thank God for Abba!

Never has one music lover been so relieved than when the Punk revolution swept away all this dross and replaced it with badly played, raucous yet passionate short sharp songs. Luckily this racket didn’t outstay its welcome but its lasting legacy was to open the door to a whole New Wave of artists from Blondie to XTC and by the end of the 1970s music was back on track. Phew!


Paco Malo said...

Well done.

I'd just like to add one name to your appropriately short list of glam rockers that made a difference: Lou Reed. Like Bowie and Roxy, Reed's glam period was just a phase, but all these artists have stood the test of time.

Charlie said...

The 80s were the wort period in rock history. Synthesizers ruined everything.

music obsessive said...

Paco - you're right, of course. My mind was clouded by the rest of the dross! Consider Lou added to the list.

Charlie - Yes, pure rock just about died by the 80s but pop music per se carried on in other forms and I didn't mind that too much as I quite liked the electro-pop and then shoegazing /britpop styles of the 80s and 90s.

luminous muse said...

Thank you of course for the link! Amazing that I've never even HEARD of the list of post-proggers you mention -Showaddywaddy??

You are unfortunately right about Steely Dan, Supertramp and 10cc. While I listened guiltily it was always with more hate than love. That's especially a shame with Dan, because those guys had the talent (and brought in some hellacious guitar players.) But you can never ignore the snot factor.

Of disco the less said the better. But don't forget the Philly Sound.

music obsessive said...

Hi Luminous - Yes, my glam list is a bit UK-centric but honestly, you didn't miss anything! In a way, I quite envy you.

Perplexio said...

I came late to the game with Supertramp but I love their material (especially the stuff from 1974-1979). Steely Dan I heard off and on growing up but they never really did much for me at that time. My mother-in-law and father-in-law are both fans as is my wife (albeit to a lesser extent than her parents) and I've since given their music another try (much to my delight!). They've also given me great appreciation of Toto as at least 2 or 3 of the guys in Toto got their start doing sessions for Steely Dan (before coming together again to do the sessions on Boz Scaggs Silk Degrees album-- brilliant album!).

For prog there was still some good stuff in that era. While Genesis was a bit pretentious when Peter Gabriel was in the band, those first few albums after he first left were pretty damned good. Then Steve Hackett left and Genesis grew increasingly less prog and more pop. Oh well.

music obsessive said...

Hi Perplexio - I, too, listened to Supertramp and Steely Dan, but only because there was nothing else - and that was the whole problem with the mid-70s.

I used to like Genesis alot in their 72 - 75 period but they, too began to deteriorate during the mid to late 70s and when Steve Hackett left, that was it!

I am grateful to Punk for doing two things - setting in motion a whole new wave of excellent acts who weren't necessarily punks and making those already around try harder!

agedhipster said...

"the unholy trinity of Steely Dan, Supertramp and 10CC.:

I'm afraid I loved that unholiness! Still love 2/3 of them.

Disco made me run for cover, but I, too rejoiced in punk, and then the "new wave" of pub rockers like Lowe and Graham Parker.
Great post!

music obsessive said...

Hi Aged! Well, I was OK with 1/3 for a while, but only until something better came along - and finally it did. The late 70s and early 80s was a great time for me. Almost as good as the early 60s.

Jayne said...

Self-indulgent noodling! Perfect description. I've got a few albums where tracks have definitely erred on the self-indulgent noodle side.

As for your worst of times... *looks a bit shifty* I rather liked it back in the days where TotP was full of shiny bacofoil and chortling presenters. But I was under five... perhaps that's why!

music obsessive said...

Jayne - I rather think that you have proved my point: It was a time when music appealed to the under fives and was thus completely unpalatable to a mean and moody teenager!