For a while it seemed like world peace might just be possible when Woodstock took place in the Catskills, but it turned out the world was way too cynical to embrace the hippie message and as a result, the music of the seventies was cynical too. This was the decade of punk rock after all.
We still had good counterculture anthems like “War” by Edwin Starr and “Ball of Confusion” by The Temptations. That kind of music was a holdover from the decade of Vietnam and to this day I never get tired of listening to them, but at this point there was a significant evolution in popular genres like disco, reggae, soul, heavy metal and punk rock. As stated in my previous blogs I am a rock fan, so I gravitate more towards classic and hard rock, which are my favorite genres aside from classical.
Songs from the seventies that I really like include “ABC” by The Jackson 5 (who doesn’t like that song?), “Let It Be” by The Beatles, “Hooked On a Feeling” by Blue Suede and “Piano Man” by Billy Joel.
The Who are one of my favorite bands of all time. They had a hit in the sixties with “My Generation” although my favorite song of theirs from that decade is “Daddy Rolling Stone.” An already impressive discography was given a jolt in the seventies when they made fantastic stuff like “Baba O’Riley,” “How Many Friends,” and “The Acid Queen.”
Fleetwood Mac always makes me feel good. “I Don’t Want to Know” being my favorite of theirs, and Don McLean hit a home run with “American Pie,” which was the first song I heard as a kid where I actually noticed and admired a singer’s ability to sing, in addition to being a fan of the song in general.
“American Pie” would be my favorite song of all time…if not for the existence of a band called Queen.
Queen was the best thing to come out of the seventies in my opinion. They were a bit of a new entity that was hard to categorize. Widely considered progressive rock, punk rock bands like The Sex Pistols were still en vogue when they bashed that genre, leading to albums like Queen’s News of the World which was a more traditional kind of rock album than what they initially wanted to make. The kind of song they wanted to make? That would be the innovative rock opera suite “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
“Bohemian Rhapsody” is my favorite song in the world, unlike anything before or since.
Written by lead vocalist Freddie Mercury for the 1975 album A Night at the Opera, it was a commercial success in the U.K. while at the same time baffling some music critics.
The music video that accompanied the song predated MTV and was also highly praised by Rolling Stone, The Guardian and others. It helped normalize music videos, which is believed to have led to MTV’s existence.
As stated by Music Professor at Cornell University Judith Peraino, the song was a rock opera that poked fun at both rock and opera, and like an opera it featured a confusing storyline and excessive emotions.
It was seen as unusual because it featured no chorus, has darker than usual themes and combined several genres into one song, but it actually fit in pretty well with the progressive rock being created in Britain at the time by bands like Jethro Tull and Genesis.
The song was actually in Mercury’s mind before the band recorded anything. It was mostly Mercury’s creation. He and the rest of the band have refused to explain the meaning behind the composition, but Mercury has supported suggestions that it alludes to personal traumas from his past.
Other musicians who heard the song before it was released thought there was no hope it would be played on the radio, and a lot of critics were mixed initially, although interestingly, a few negative critics still predicted it was almost certainly going to be a hit.
Beach Boys leader Brian Wilson hailed it as “the most competitive thing that’s come along in ages.”
Queen almost made musical innovators like Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Pink Floyd and The Who seem boring.
For the record, I like the song because even though it’s emotional, it’s a fun song. Which speaks to the kind of band Queen was. People who took their art seriously, but didn’t take themselves seriously.