Liner Notes

The Year That Was: 1974

by Benjamin Ray

Nineteen seventy-three and 1975 were two excellent years for rock music; the year in between, not so much. There was some fine classic rock, some great (and terrible) pop, some great soul music, but overall the scene just felt like it was missing something this year.

Consider the world of progressive rock, which had grown in both popularity and self-importance to the point where Yes could release a double album of four songs, the nearly-unlistenable Tales From Topographic Oceans, and still have it sell well. Genesis also had a double album, The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, their last with Peter Gabriel and a mix of beautiful, honest work and pointless, dull space-fillers. King Crimson also had two albums with its second lineup, the aimless noodling of Starless And Bible Black and the far better Red, while Brian Eno put out the strange Here Come The Warm Jets, Roxy Music offered Country Life and Rick Wakeman, who had bolted from Yes, offered Journey To The Center Of The Earth.


Or consider the established rock artists of the era, who seemed to be flailing this time around. John Lennon put out Walls And Bridges (with stuff like "Whatever Gets You Through The Night"), the Rolling Stones put out the mostly-dull It's Only Rock And Roll, Elton John offered Caribou, David Bowie ended his sci-fi glam phase with a dull thud on Diamond Dogs (although "Rebel Rebel" is a trashy classic), Jethro Tull lost the plot with War Child, Neil Young took a detour with On the Beach and Black Sabbath turned in Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, which showed the formula wearing quite thin.

So it was up to the new guys to bring back the spark to rock music. Debuts from Rush and KISS appeared this year, as did the New York Dolls' sophomore effort Too Much Too Soon, Queen's Sheer Heart Attack, Robin Trower's very good Bridge Of Sighs, Steely Dan's Pretzel Logic, Aerosmith's Get Your Wings and the Doobie Brothers' What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits. Grand Funk put out two discs and had hits like "The Loco-Motion" and "Some Kind of Wonderful," Nazareth hit with a cover of "This Flight Tonight," and the author of that latter song, Joni Mitchell, turned in the very good Court and Spark.  Other solid rock songs of the year arrived from the J. Geils Band ("Musta Got Lost"), Bad Company ("Can't Get Enough") and Lynyrd Skynyrd (the redneck anthem and love letter "Sweet Home Alabama").

Chicago put out yet another double album, Chicago VII, which had moments of genuine beauty among the weeds, while Mott the Hoople offered Hoople, Lou Reed released Rock And Roll Animal, folkies Richard and Linda Thompson put out the highly-rated I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight, Linda Rondstadt released Heart Like A Wheel, Bob Marley had Natty Dread and Kraftwerk fired the first shot of the computerized music age with Autobahn, with the edited version of the title track becoming a hit.


Unfortunately, albums like these didn't have a wide audience; instead, listeners had to put up with pop piffle like Blue Swede's cover of "Hooked On A Feeling" (ooga chaka), Paul Anka's "(You're) Having My Baby"), Eric Clapton's "I Shot The Sheriff," John Denver's "Sunshine On My Shoulders," Terry Jacks' "Seasons In The Sun," Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods' "Billy, Don't Be A Hero," Carl Douglas' "Kung Fu Fighting," Hues Corporation's "Rock The Boat," Barry Manilow's "Mandy," Olivia Newton-John's "I Honestly Love You," Billy Preston's "Nothing From Nothing," Barbra Streisand's "The Way We Were," Redbone's "Come And Get Your Love" and, of course, Ray Stevens' "The Streak."

Slightly better than these was Paul McCartney's "Junior's Farm," the Average White Band's instrumental "Pick Up The Pieces," Abba's Waterloo, Harry Chapin's "Cats In The Cradle," the Jackson Five's "Dancing Machine," Dionne Warwick's "Then Came You," Kool and the Gang's "Jungle Boogie," Maria Muldaur's "Midnight At The Oasis," Sweet's "Ballroom Blitz," the O'Jays' "For The Love Of Money" and Barry White's "Can't Get Enough Of Your Love." Sparks released two albums, the Meters offered Rejuvenation, Al Green put out Explores Your Mind and Stevie Wonder, continuing a creative streak, had Fulfillingness' First Finale and "You Haven't Done Nothin'," a pointed attack at Richard Nixon.

And that, friends, is the Year That Was in music.

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