They Came From The ’70s: Five Faves I Still Enjoy

Published on December 5th, 2011 in: Dancing Ourselves Into The Tomb, Issues, Listicles, Movies, Music, Staff Picks, Top Five Lists |

By Julie Finley

Although for some of these artists, fame came before or after the 1970s, I am solely focusing on their 1970s stuff.

sahb

1. The Sensational Alex Harvey Band

Yes, Alex Harvey himself had been a struggling musician for many years (since the 1950s), but this is when Alex’s spot in the limelight was its most intense! When Alex saw a ridiculously skilled band called Teargas in a Scottish pub in the early 1970s, he had a vision! Soon thereafter, Teargas became “The Sensational Alex Harvey Band.” Alex had more connections in the biz, mainly because he’d “been there & done that” by the time the ’70s came around. He was quite a bit older than his proteges, too, but together they combined age-old wisdom with youthful recklessness and threw in some cabaret theatrics to become something rather epic. Unfortunately, only a few markets in the USAnus embraced the band, and due to that, the Americans missed out (too busy limping-out to The Eagles, I guess). But Europe and Australia embraced the band. Alex has left his fingerprint on many wild front men who emerged later on, but the difference between Alex and the people he influenced, is that he didn’t need to be on heroin to go above and beyond! Sadly, the ’80s killed Alex. He died from a heart-attack in 1982, a day before his birthday.

the hammer

2. Fred Williamson

Fred started acting in the late 1960s (and was a football star before that). Even though he was cast in what is considered to be “Blaxploitation,” Fred took an empowering approach to it. He never saw it as being exploited, because everyone was paid! He was a quick study, and realized he could direct as well as act. He never gave a shit if the production was cheap, either; he just did it his way whether people liked it or not! I have to admire his confidence and ambition, even if the results weren’t always good. HOWEVER, even in some of the crappiest productions in which he was involved, he was always amusing. He still makes movies even today. The man is a senior citizen, but you’d never know it by looking at him . . . and especially by talking to him. He walks the walk, and talks the talk! I still watch any film of his I can find: they are fun! One can only hope to age as well as him!

birthday party photo by david arnoff
Photo © David Arnoff

3. The Boys Next Door/The Birthday Party

The Boys Next Door formed in 1973. but changed their name to The Birthday Party when they uprooted their Aussie asses to the UK in 1980. They were the same band (with the same band members), but went through a metamorphosis over time. I still listen to both quite regularly, as I just don’t seem to ever grow sick of them. Their UK fame came more so in the ’80s, but they were definitely a sensation on their home turf long before they went to the UK. The most prominent shift in their sound came in 1978, when (the late) Rowland S. Howard joined the group. He gave them an edge they were lacking . . . and the rest was history! I also would like to emphasize here that the Boys Next Door, as well as the Birthday Party, were a BAND, not Nick Cave and some douche-bags backing him up! Nick would be nothing without those guys!

roxy music

4. Roxy Music

Roxy Music formed in 1971 (roughly around the same time as The Sensational Alex Harvey Band) and also had a unique perspective on rock that wasn’t currently happening. Sure, Bowie had been around, and yes, he is an influence, but Bryan Ferry has always had a distinctive approach to his vision. When it boils down to it, Roxy Music is truly Bryan Ferry’s “baby,” but Ferry knew he wanted the style to equal the substance, so when recruiting band members, he knew what he was looking for. The members of the band are extremely literate with their instruments; these guys were no slouches! (Actually, I consider the appreciation of Brian Eno as puzzling since he was the only one in the band that didn’t know how to play anything, but apparently could twiddle knobs and wear funky clothing.) Bryan Ferry’s artistic leanings were what truly set Roxy Music apart from other bands. They weren’t necessarily “theatrical,” but they were very visual. I never get sick of listening to them due to the fact that I LOVE Bryan Ferry’s voice. The intricacies of the music (whether they are being experimental with “Ladytron” or smooth and romantic with “Avalon”), as well as the nuances of the players themselves, are truly intoxicating! Let’s face it—they had some memorable album covers, too! And you need to thank Bryan Ferry for that, no doubt . . . he orchestrated all of that!

millie jackson

5. Millie Jackson

Millie had always been singing, but her first album came out in 1972. Yes, she still makes music, but not at the prolific rate she did during the ’70s and ’80s. Millie does have an absolutely powerful and perfect voice . . . but that’s not why she caught my attention. The first time I ever stumbled upon her, was finding her live Back to the Shit album (1989) which I bought based on the cover alone! How could I not? She’s simulating taking a dump—probably one of the funniest album covers of all time! What I was surprised to find was, even though Back to the Shit isn’t really one of her best albums, her banter with the audience and the lyrics to some of her songs were so raunchy, I was in tears laughing! YET, at the same time. I could not deny the fact that she can sing her ass off! I then bought 1977’s Feelin’ Bitchy and have been hooked ever since! I do enjoy Millie’s ’70s albums more (they are still raunchy) but musically, they are perfect! No cheap synths, but soulful strings, and funky wacka-wacka guitars galore!

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