The 10 Best Years Of Music – by Ginger Wildheart
The best of everything, every day on TeamRock.com
"What was the best year for rock music?"
It’s a grand pub argument genuinely worthy of its status, isn’t it?
When Prince jammed for fifteen days. When Nickleback changed the world. When U2 finally retired. You’ve all got yours, and you’ll continue to have them. Trouble is you’re wrong.
Not because yours differs from mine (although mine is patently correct) but because it’s an argument that is actually necessary. We need to remind ourselves that we’re so passionate about music that we’ll engage in beer wars and fervently slur until dawn on this most essential of topics. Few things stir the same fire within the hearts of loyal supporters of any cause.
And in this confused, confusing age where too many new bands either sit like baby birds waiting for success to locate their needy little beaks, only to deservedly die of laziness, there are genuine musicians who want to work as hard as their peers. Who want to know how to do it, like a pro.
Fired-up young players who neither expect the gift of a free audience by fan funded enterprises, nor expect to get rich from streaming sites. Smart kids, the righteous creators of tomorrow.
Y’see, now is the time to get practical, to wake up and learn to survive. Don’t eat the bullshit, there is no easy route to being part of the future.
Your fellow musicians will be taken down like the hundreds of millions of sperm that were ejaculated along with you. And only you will make it, through sheer determination and a fierce imagination. And balls the size of Motorhead’s stage volume.
For you it’s not about financial booms or golden eras of platinum returns, it’s about inspirational bands that reshaped the future. Those explosions of style and sound that influenced all that followed and made it hard to imagine a time before them.
You don’t want to be the richest or the most pampered, you want to be the most respected and highly regarded. Money dies with you but your legend lives on. And nothing denotes this statement this more than great music.
And so it is, with this pioneering spirit fanning the flames of my heart, that I present the 10 best years of music, in no order whatsoever other than a chronological one.
So don’t argue. I’m right. And mine's a pint.
As the Vietnam war finally limped to an inglorious conclusion and Watergate freshly enraged an already heavily-politicised American youth, the arts were directly inspired by the ire. The gloves were off and an adult rating was rightfully held as a goal and not a threat. Movies got tough, with Bruce Lee kicking in new levels of violence and The Exorcist bringing hardcore horror into the family dynamic, with devastating effect on an unprepared audience. Music would also follow suit as Iggy And The Stooges unleashed Raw Power (1973) cheek to cheek with New York Dolls' debut album, the UK rock invasion of USA officially became a monster with Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones creating arena rock and a new band called Kiss were freshly signed.
Everything was big and getting bigger. Rules were being written by an excited and utterly overwhelmed industry. Meanwhile, on British soil an entirely different beast was being given grubby life.
As David Bowie kills off Ziggy Stardust, the death is celebrated by a storm of visually inspired bands, only this time with trouble in mind. Even Queen’s debut album is a muted affair next to glam rock’s assault on the charts. Brickies in blouses disturb the ranks of waif-like Marc Bolan’s T Rex and the tackily refined chic of Roxy Music as the stomping anthems of The Sweet, Slade, Mott The Hoople, Wizzard, Mud, Suzi Quatro and Gary Glitter (R.I.P) gatecrash the party.
It was arguably the first wave of punk. It was outrageous, it was raucous, it was aimed at a wayward youth and parents hated it, yet all the while glam kept its tongue firmly lodged in its heavily Max Factored cheek. It knew it had limited shelf life, and it behaved like it. It partied in the precious moment and created waves that would directly affect cultural tastes and establish fresh boundaries from this point on.
Clockwise from top left: 'The Exorcist', David Bowie, the New York Dolls' self-titled debut album and Richard Nixon
I think part of the reason I don’t like heavy metal was that I grew up with bands like Thin Lizzy, Sparks, Montrose and The Rolling Stones, all of whom where doing great things in the mid 70s. Ronnie Wood had just joined the Stones, which was the perfect match and turned me into a huge fan. And AC/DC released High Voltage, still my favourite album of theirs.Friends of my parents who would play Welcome To My Nightmare by Alice Cooper which made me think that all albums must be this good. What with Bohemian Rhapsody being Number One in the charts, I just figured music was simply a magical element. It wasn’t until later that I realised that Welcome To My Nightmare would be my generation’s Pet Sounds, and only a few albums ever made would be this good, and Bohemian Rhapsody was actively altering the limitations of radio – as well as my own idea of composition, by being a lofty 5:55 in length. Spooky number, eh?
Status Quo had also reached the peak of their powers, something even they didn’t know until they derailed some years later, and The Sweet were in the charts with Fox On The Run, a song that still makes me feel like a kid to this day. All in all, a quality period where the songs were as important as the musicians. Something I’m glad I got to learn first hand.
As the Queen’s Silver Jubilee struggles to boost morale against current affairs, the death of Elvis brings an era to an inevitable close. In a mere four years since glam pretended to be both big and clever, genuine musical giants like Fleetwood Mac and Kiss are now regarded with scorn, as a youth, robbed of opportunities, seek out something closer in spirit to their own feelings of rejection.
And the already hissing device known as punk rock is that release.
The Clash, The Damned, The Sex Pistols, Blondie, Ramones, Buzzcocks and so many more utterly brilliant realisations of frustration and nihilism charged uninvited into the homes and hearts of a culturally starved nation. While rebellion was nothing new in entertainment, the music had never sounded like its soundtrack until now. It wasn’t only exciting, it was liberating. Anyone could play punk with just a rudimentary understanding of music. In fact, the simple approach worked in its favour, pushing would-be criminals into bands and social unrest into lyrics. Protest songs never sounded so fresh and vital, and the music still thrills to this day. You don’t like punk? I don’t like you.