Maybe as a reaction to the previous year, though maybe just coincidence, 1974 didn’t have the all round focus of it’s forebears. Whereas 1973 had been a home to various albums that have spanned generations, ’74’s best strengths were in the singles market.
Bowie’s escalating drug habit left him with ideas of an unfinished musical and an album that’s arguably his most unfocused of the decade. ‘Rebel Rebel’, however, remains a great and enduring single cut, brimming with the last vestiges of glam. Lulu did an excellent job of covering ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ and ‘Watch That Man’, filling both sides of an essential 7″, Ace’s ‘How Long’ – while easily dismissed as soft radio filler has stood the test of time and now sounds like a near perfect piece of songcraft, while everyone’s favourite ragamuffin, David Essex, topped the UK chart with a smart and disposable single about making disposable pop music.
If 1972 were the year where the 1970s took on its own distinctive image with glam rock flaunting its majesty in a peacock-like fashion, then 1973 was the year the beards fought back. Every up has its flipside and so it goes here. The polar opposite of Bolan’s optimism, 1973’s biggest selling albums included Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of The Moon’ (a lavish concept album about depression and mental stability), The Who’s ‘Quadrophenia’ (a concept album about angst, youth and mental stability) and Mike Oldfield’s ‘Tubular Bells’, arguably the biggest foray into self-indulgent prog rock this side of Yes’ double platter bore-fest ‘Tales of Topographic Oceans’ (also released in 1973).
That’s not so say the great and accessible pop and rock had been swept away, of course. Nor that glam was dead – far from it, in fact. Sweet scored some big hit singles, Bolan told us the ‘Children of the Revolution’ couldn’t be fooled and one time hard rockers Slade escalated in popularity on the back of some great singles.
1972 AD. The year that bored suburban teens attempted to resurrect Dracula, in a much maligned Hammer film that’s actually quite good fun. The year that Bolan’s musical craft was at its most perfect; the year Ziggy Stardust came to Earth and changed Bowie’s fortunes forever.
In March 2017, we created a playlist of some of our favourite 70s tunes. In an effort to shake up our spare time listening, the playlist included none of the usual stapes. There were no tracks by Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Thin Lizzy or Led Zeppelin and yet we still managed to create a golden listening experience spanning several hours.
The experience got us thinking. What if we were to create extensive playlists of music we liked – or maybe brought back fond memories – for each year of the decade? Would one year stand out above all others? With this remit and using only two or three tracks per chosen album (maybe stretching to one extra in the instance of a double platter), we set to work.