The early 1970s saw a continuation of the pop explosion of the late 1960s. The successes of Woodstock and Monterey festivals flooded into the ‘70s with bands performing to ever-bigger audiences. While music genres changed, some bands with loyal followings maintained their popularity. Sadly, the music industry mourned the passing of some great musicians and showmen, while other acts simply split-up and went their own ways.
Outdoor Rock Concerts and Festivals
While indoor concerts continued to flourish, massive audience opportunities made outdoor concerts lucrative alternatives. The ‘70s also saw the continuing of free open-air concerts. In June 1970, the Bath Festival in the United Kingdom was the first big concert of the decade. Headlined by Led Zeppelin, it attracted 150,000 attendees. A free concert held in Hyde Park, London a month later, featured Pink Floyd and attracted 120,000 fans for the six-hour concert. However, biggest of all United Kingdom festivals was the Isle of Wight festival of 1970 that drew a rumored 600,000 fans. In the U.S., concerns over safety and security at concerts became an issue culminating in 11 fans’ crushing deaths as they entered a concert in Cincinnati in 1979.
The Motown sound and easy-listening music overlapped the ‘60s and ‘70s. Hard rock had its foundations in the ‘60s, but established itself in the following decade with such bands as Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and AC/DC. A new form of rock, "Punk Rock" came to the fore in the mid-1970s. Bands such as The Sex Pistols, The Clash and X Ray Spex depicted an angry, anti-establishment youth that often screamed obscene lyrics to receptive audiences. Completely opposite to "Punk Rock" was "Glam Rock." These acts took visual appearance to extremes, wearing glitter, excessive makeup and brightly colored clothes. The music was simple, but catchy and appealed to the "Teeny-Bopper" audience. Glam rock artists included The Sweet, Gary Glitter and Mud.
Bands like the Who and Rolling Stones, now eclipsing five decades, experienced the heights of musical influence during the 1970s. Other performers, such as Elton John, created musical fashion, with new music genres setting trends at the same time. The Sex Pistols promoted politically radical ideologies, while enlightening audiences to punk culture. Heavy rock disciples followed Led Zeppelin and Queen, two of the most successful groups of the ‘70s, with the Eagles and Dire Straits easy-listening styles appealing to a wider audience.
Films and Musicals
“Godspell,” the musical, opened in 1971 with its film released over two years later. Although not considered a rock musical, a song from the show entered the pop charts. “Grease,” the theater musical, ran from 1971 to 1980, but it was the 1978 film version that made the story and music famous. “Jesus Christ Superstar,” a rock opera written by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber, prolific songwriters of the 1970s, opened on Broadway in 1971 causing much controversy over its subject matter. “Tommy,” a rock-opera album originally by The Who, made into a film in 1975, starred The Who, Elton John, Tina Turner and Eric Clapton. Another rock-opera concept album led to the musical, ”Evita,” opening in London's West End in 1978, another Webber-Rice composition.
Musician Jimi Hendrix died in September 1970. Singer-songwriter, Janis Joplin died in October 1970. Jim Morrison, lead singer with The Doors died in July 1971. All died at the age of only 27. Another 13 lesser-known musicians also died at the age of 27 in the 1970s. This phenomena led to the naming of the “Forever 27 Club.” Other notable music industry deaths included, Mama Cass Elliot, July 1974, Marc Bolan, September 1977, Keith Moon, September 1978, Sid Vicious, February 1979 and Elvis Presley, August 1977. All died long before their time, with several deaths attributed to drugs.
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