In the early 1970s, the rock world was dominated by men. Some of them wore androgynous outfits and lipstick, but guitar driven music was largely a male scene. There were exceptions, of course: Suzi Quatro – a musician for whom the idea of gender was less rigid – had hits on both sides of the Atlantic; the Wilson sisters scored great success with Heart; Fanny pioneered the “all female band”, and the rarely mentioned Birtha weren’t far behind.
The arrival of The Runaways in the mid 70s came like a lightning bolt. Here were five teenage girls, ready to make a huge noise and ready to flaunt a bucket’s worth of sexuality. Ostensibly a package deal put together by Kim Fowley, The Runaways weren’t just a girl band; they could really rock, and by straddling a sound somewhere between trashy hard rock and proto-punk, their brand of noise really struck a chord with the era. They were pioneers. Without them, there would be no Donnas, and possibly no Babes In Toyland or L7.
The British blues boom was arguably one of the most important movements in musical history. Not only did it launch the careers of various guitar heroes – players much loved for decades afterwards – but the guitar driven sounds also paved the way for a whole universe of rock music. With that in mind, it’s interesting how few compilations have celebrated the British blues scene. Aside from Grapefruit Records’ excellent ‘Crawling Up A Hill’ box set, any other releases have been label specific, leaving a huge gap in the market for a set to explore some of the more niche sounds from the era.
‘Shake That Thing: The Blues In Britain 1963-1973’ is perfect in that regard. This three CD set from Grapefruit casts a much wider net than their earlier box set, but never loses site of its core objective. Bluesy sounds are out there, front and centre, at all times, but it also looks beyond the usual suspects to celebrate blues laden tunes shared by other singer songwriters, folkies and rock bands during a hugely transitional period.
1973 was something of a banner year for progressive rock. That year, Pink Floyd released their billion selling ‘Dark Side of The Moon’; Genesis released a career best with ‘Selling England By The Pound’; a double whammy from Gong – ‘Flying Teapot’ and ‘Angels Egg’ – cemented their place in the psych-prog underground; both King Crimson and Emerson, Lake & Palmer released albums that would go on to become fan favourites, and Mike Oldfield became an instant national treasure with his ‘Tubular Bells’, despite his Piltdown Man scaring the shite out of a generation of small children.
Throughout the late 60s and early 70s, the landscape of rock music shifted. Over the course of five or six years, psychedelia gave way to hard rock, and a heavier approach to both blues and rock gave birth to a sound that would eventually be considered the birth of heavy metal. ‘We’re An American Band’, a 3CD set from Cherry Red’s retro subsidiary Grapefruit Records, charts these musical changes on the US rock scene, bringing together various key tracks and fantastic album cuts. In doing so, it ventures far deeper than your average compilation, despite presenting several very familiar names.
In the minds of many, Trapeze will be best remembered as the band that gave the now legendary Glenn Hughes his first major steps in the music world. On three albums recorded between 1969 and 1972, Hughes showed a strong vocal talent. Whether tackling strange psychedelic jams (as per the Trapeze debut), or losing himself within deep, soulful blues, it seemed there was nothing the young musician couldn’t take in his stride. It wasn’t until the release of 1972’s ‘You Are The Music…We’re Just The Band’, however, that Hughes and Trapeze really hit upon a perfect sound, with a blend of hard rock, blues and soul that would rival the likes of Free in terms of talent. As great as the album was – and remains – it failed to chart, but Trapeze hadn’t gone entirely unnoticed. Whilst playing live shows for the album, Hughes was headhunted by Ritchie Blackmore for a new line up of Deep Purple, and fter the release of their ‘Burn’ LP in 1974 – a massive hit on both sides of the Atlantic – Glenn’s career was catapulted into the stratosphere.