I was born in the early 1980s. While that makes me old to many readers, it also means I am too young to have experienced (in my opinion) the greatest decade for rock: the 1970s. The 1950s created rock, the 1960s introduced seriousness and experimentation, but it was the 1970s in which this art form took off.
Established groups like The Rolling Stones and The Who achieved a new level of greatness. Newer acts like David Bowie and Yes became commercially successful off of weird and/or complex music. And jazz directly influenced rock sensibilities through fusion works by Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock and others. More importantly, the album was dominant, something unimaginable now in the age of Itunes and Pandora.
If I could pick one word to describe 1970s rock, it would be grandiose. Complex arrangements, long songs, serious themes, even concept albums that told a story worthy of a novel (although they were often pretty confusing).
Coming of age in the 1990s, the influential acts then never seemed to compare to the stuff I heard in my dad’s record collection (although I would argue The Smashing Pumpkins came close). With the excesses of the 1980s and the cynicism of the 1990s, the earnest grandiosity of the 1970s was something I always missed, even if I could only miss it indirectly.
So it’s worth looking back at that grand era, and some of the albums that made me angrily ignore the Top 40 station in high school.
This article was first posted on February 5, 2013