Following on from the British beat boom of the 1960s, the 1970s was a decade when British music still rocked. Here are ten British groups that made their mark in the 1970s – and beyond.
An extremely precocious band that produced one of rock’s true great rock anthems in the shape of All Right Now in 1970. Other fine songs included Wishing Well and My Brother Jake. Sadly, guitarist Paul Kossoff’s terminal decline due to drugs halted this impressive young outfit from going on to even greater success.
9. The Clash
After The Sex Pistols, The Clash were the most influential of the British punk bands. Never scared to depart from the punk style that was expected of them, The Clash helped turn on many of their fans to reggae. Frontman Joe Strummer also rivalled The Sex Pistols Johnny Rotten as a spokesman for a disaffected generation.
8. Deep Purple
As with all of the greatest groups that are categorised as heavy rock, Deep Purple were never chained to a stereotypical headbanging style. With Jon Lord’s keyboard wizardry, and Ritchie Blackmore’s guitar pyrotechnics, Deep Purple were a real force on the British rock scene in the ’70s until personality clashes stopped their momentum.
7. The Who
Though The Who’s fame began in the 1960s they made possibly their best album in the early ’70s – Who’s Next. That album contained Won’t Get Fooled Again, which is pretty much perfection as far as a rock song goes. In singer Roger Daltrey, guitarist Pete Townshend, drummer Keith Moon and bassist John Entwistle no British group of the ’70s could boast greater individual talent than this London quartet.
6. The Rolling Stones
Always thought of a ’60s band The Stones, like The Who, still created some impressive work in the early to mid-1970s, such as Brown Sugar, Angie and It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll. That the classic songs dried up later in the decade was probably down to Keith Richards apparent doomed descent into self-destruction.
5. The Sex Pistols
The Pistols remain one of the most influential British bands of all-time. Pre-punk, rock music had become overblown, with progressive rock in particular coming in for searing criticism from the punk crowd. The Pistols exploded onto the British music scene as something radically different in the mid-1970s – both musically and lyrically, and spoke for a generation growing up accustomed to unemployment and to having, seemingly, no future.
Fronted by one of rock’s greatest ever showman in Freddie Mercury, Queen, like The Who, were blessed with virtuoso musicians – guitarist Brian May, bassist John Deacon and drummer Roger Taylor. Their 1975 song, Bohemian Rhapsody, was also a prime example of their unique, musical approach. The accompanying video for the song was similarly ground-breaking. A very versatile group, Queen also dabbled in electronic music, i.e. with Radio Ga Ga, and disco, with Another One Bites the Dust.
Though Marc Bolan was a teen idol, T-Rex certainly weren’t a cheesy pop group. Bolan’s unusual voice and lyrics were an unlikely fit for a mainstream audience, but his catchy tunes broke through any boundaries, and Get It On was a big hit on both sides of the Atlantic. Ride a White Swan, Metal Guru, Hot Love and Telegram Sam were all massive hits in the UK, and Bolan ingeniously managed to appeal to both a rock and pop audience – much as fellow teen idols The Beatles had done in the previous decade.
2. Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd, though often unfairly lumped together with the more pretentious of the British prog rock groups, produced three of the greatest albums of the ’70s – The Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here and The Wall. The latter also showed any disdainful punks that The Floyd could attack the system too in a very clever way, notably on their first ever number one single, Another Brick in the Wall. Pink Floyd made music in the ’70s that had a killer formula – it was thought-provoking and intelligent, but it was still very much accessible too.
1. Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin were the biggest British rock group of the 1970s, and, almost uniquely, achieved worldwide fame by preferring to concentrate on releasing albums rather than singles. Though they are often called a heavy rock group Led Zeppelin had a lot more subtlety than that – as the different musical styles on their finest song, Stairway to Heaven, undoubtedly proves. In Robert Plant, Led Zeppelin had a rock god as a frontman, and add the sublime talents of guitarist Jimmy Page, bassist John Paul Jones and drummer John Bonham, and it’s perhaps understandable why many consider Led Zeppelin to be not only the greatest British rock group of the ’70s, but of all-time.