Rock's heaviest era: 1970-1975
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Rock became heavier and even more varied in the early 1970s. Some feel that this period was rock's best era, dominated by heavy bands such as Led Zeppelin and The Who. A few years later, rock would be against the wall, facing the darkness that was disco.
By Nick Rogers
The Kinks: "Lola"
The best song ever written about being in love with a transvestite.
Ray Davies' sing-along songwriting coupled with Dave Davies' country-inspired guitar licks make "Lola" one of The Kinks' most popular tunes.
Creedence Clearwater Revival: "Ramble Tamble"
My favorite song by one of my favorite bands, "Ramble Tamble" jams and, at more than seven minutes, is a great cruising song.
The song pounds forward and then slows down to a seeming end. After a brief pause, Tom Fogerty picks out a nice progression while brother John comes in with a melodic lead played mostly on one string. The solo starts out low, but gains in volume, following a building tempo until the song returns to the opening drive.
Derek and the Dominos: "Bell Bottom Blues"
Eric Clapton's best friend was George Harrison. Clapton was also in love with Harrison's wife, Pattie Boyd. The result was one of the most depressing albums ever made, "Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs."
The album drips in heartache and unrequited love, exemplified by "Bell Bottom Blues."
"Do you want to see me crawl across the floor to you?/Do want to hear me beg you to take me back/I'd gladly do it because/I don't want to fade away/Give me one more day, please."
Jethro Tull: "Aqualung"
"Aqualung" was written by singer Ian Anderson and his wife, Jean, after looking at photos she had taken of London's homeless. The song reflects the complicated natures of the world, both pitiful and loathsome.
"Aqualung" has both a strong rock structure that breaks down midway into a folk song before picking it up again. It is an interesting note that Tull recorded the "Aqualung" album in the studio next to Led Zeppelin, who was recording "Zeppelin IV."
The Who: "Baba O'Riley"
My senior class in high school voted for this as its class song, but because the song's subtitle is "Teenage Wasteland," the man said "no."
Originally meant to be part of another rock opera by the band, "Baba O'Riley" represents the Who's continued growth into becoming not only one of the most conceptual rock bands, but also one of its hardest (and certainly one of history's loudest). It also marks guitarist Pete Townshend as one of rock's greatest songwriters.
"Baba O'Riley" speaks of a youthful desire to escape encroaching adulthood. This theme is reinforced with Roma-styled fiddle solo (played on harmonica by singer Roger Daltry in live performances).
Moody Blues: "The Story in Your Eyes"
The Moody Blues could write remarkably great tunes, the kind that pull you in and make other songwriters wish they could write such a tune. "The Story in Your Eyes," penned by singer/guitarist Justin Hayward, is one of the band's rare guitar-heavy songs. The song features rich harmonies and a sound that can only belong to the Moody Blues.
Pink Floyd: "Echoes"
As phenomenal musicians, Pink Floyd could produce some very engaging songs. "Echoes" typifies the band's style, blending blues, jazz, funk, rock and that which is uniquely Pink Floyd.
David Gilmore's guitar work is clean and flawless, his fingers playing as smooth as if they are on glass. Roger Water's bass not only fills the sound, but dominates it during the funk-inspired section. Richard Wright's keyboards add atmosphere and, importantly, don't sound dated. Drummer Nick Mason perfectly keeps time, keeping together the song's many shifts and changes.
Led Zeppelin: "Stairway to Heaven"
I fought myself over this. I originally didn't want to put "Stairway to Heaven" on the list simply because it's always on such lists. Plus, there are so many great Zep songs to choose from. In the end, I couldn't ignore it.
The reason "Stairway to Heaven" is always so highly touted is because it is a perfect song. "Stairway to Heaven" completes Zeppelin's attempts to build a rock soundtrack to England's mythical past. The song opens in a Renaissance style with acoustic guitar and recorders. The song builds tempo as the electric guitar comes in and slowly overtakes the acoustic, eventually ending in an electric tour de force. The drums don't even come in until more than four minutes into the song.
One of the main reasons I picked this song is because Jimmy Page produces probably the most beautiful guitar solo ever written.
David Bowie: "Suffragette City"
David Bowie is usually recognized for his ethereal sound, but with Mick Ronson on guitar, Bowie also recorded some good rockers, such as "The Jean Genie," "Rebel Rebel" and "Suffragette City," which came off "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars," possibly Bowie's most eclectic album.
The song's most famous characteristic is the harmonized refrain, "Hey, man," which precedes each stanza sung by Bowie.
Stevie Wonder: "Superstition"
At just 22 years old, Stevie Wonder began to develop the sound that would come to define him with "Superstition."
The song's drum beat was written by guitar great Jeff Beck, who also plays guitar on the song. Wonder himself plays the drums and key boards.
"Supersition" has a funky sound and complex arrangement that testify to Wonder's brilliance.