A brief history of popular muisc #3 (1970s)

1970s: From arena rock to disco

By the end of 1970 the hippie era is definitely over. Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin both dies in 1970 only 27 years old, and are followed by Jim Morrison (at the same age!) in 1971. The 1970s are characterized by really big money entering the music business, stadion concerts, flashy costumes, glam, prog, disco, punk, synthesizers and the album as the primary aesthetical unit.

The ultimate album? Pink Floyds The Dark Side of the Moon

It might be a bit stupid to post a youtube-video with an excerpt from an album to use as an example of the album as an aesthetical unit, but there you go - it's the Internet. LPs of between 35 and 45 minutes become the symphony of rock and pop in the 1970s. On an album a band or a singer can demonstrate a more or less coherent unit of songs and musical ideas, as the composers of the 18th and 19th century did in the symphony. It is no coincidence that the length of a symphony and an album is approximately the same. 45 minutes is the maximum limit of what an ordinary listener can tackle in one sitting. The album is also great for dividing the career of a band or musician into coherent and comprehensible chapters, and has thus often been the focus point in popular music histories.

Stadion rock 

Some of the 1960s acts, like Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin, turn into stadion rockers. The stadium concert was a sort of follow up to the music festivals of the late 1960s, and got popular with the big event loving Americans.


20 minute songs, classical music-like arrangement, theatrics, and lyrics rich on mythology and allegory. Love it or hate it, but prog rock were a strong force in rock during the early 1970s. This is one of my favourites - Genesis' 23 minutes Suppers Ready, recorded live in 1974. Prog got severely bashed by punk a bit later in the decade.

1976 - Punk anarchy

Talk about a breath of fresh air - here's the Sex Pistols: 

1977 - Disco revolution

Hated by proggers and punk rockers alike - Disco ruled the charts and dance floors in the late 1970s. The film Saturday Night Fever with John Travolta is as iconic as Bee Gees' classic disco music.


Synthesizers started emerging already in the 1960, but the minimalistic sound of Kraftwerk and other synth groups redefined music as something that could be programmed bottom up. Strangly enough it made the dance floors rock, and the futuristic sound Kraftwerk pointed into the plastic 1980s. This is a "live performance" from 1978.


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