I used to think that the world was an awful place for music in the seventies – and Britain was worse than most.
Thirty-odd years later, I realize that statement was at least party something that came from the myopia that comes from being a kid and a bit of a zealot.
Still – the biggest selling British artists of the seventies were Elton John (the Bee Gees were technically Australian, and based out of the US for most of the decade).
Brits didn’t miss disco, per se – but go ahead, name a British disco group. You thought of the Bee Gees, right? See above.
So what does anyone remember from British rock and roll? Glam bands;if you can name one other than Queen, you’re pretty good. Bubblepop bands like Sweet? Down-the-middle pop like Leo Sayer? Ponderous, dozey “heavy metal” like Black Sabbath?
Loathsome, plodding, ponderous art-rock like Emerson Lake and Palmer and (seventies-era) Genesis? Sixties holdovers – including great ones that peaked in the decade, like Zeppelin, the Stones, the Who and the Kinks?
Punk changed that – but British punk in the seventies, looked at thirty-odd years later, was as much music made by screecny post-adolescent art-school fops, aimed at (let’s be honest) screechy adolescent art-school fops (like I more or less was, although not in the sense of actually going to art school).
But punk had a lot of fun slopover throughout Brit music in the eighties.
There was Motörhead…
…which blew away Brit metal’s seventies stodge in a booze-soaked blast of punk-influenced energy. How big were they? One of my enduring memories of being in Europe at the time was how much Motörhead there was, all over the place, from the UK to Germany and everywhere in between.
In fact, Brit “metal” (i use the scare quotes to ward off the inevitable argument about the history and taxonomy of metal leading up to the inevitable “________ is really hard rock, not metal”) went through a resurgence – getting energy and noise from punk, while keeping the chops.
…and Judas Priest…
…were all “metal” (yeah, yeah, blah blah blah) that punk could listen to with a clear conscience.
And it had a much bigger effect on Brit music – much of it it in “Britain”, rather than “England”. More on that as we continue through the week.