Beatlemania and go-go boots were the ‘in-thing’ in the 60s. Not to mention miniskirts and lava lamps. The 70s were all about bell bottoms, David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs, Space Invaders, and tubes socks. When the 80s rolled around, everyone was rocking to The Clash on their Walkmans while carrying around trapper keepers and sporting slogan t-shirts. By the time Walkmans were ‘so eighties’ with an eyeroll, teens were bragging with their Sony Discman into which they stuffed CDs featuring Alanis Morrissette or Pearl Jam. Younger (and older) teens tried to skip classes to feed their Tamagotchis while weekends were all about finding the perfect Doc Martens, Play Station and trying to convince parents that an iMac G3 was an absolute necessity of living in the 90s.
Hardcore music fans think of these four decades as the ‘golden age’ of music. It marked the rise of influential bands and artists such as The Beatles, Queen, Michael Jackson, Van Halen, Prince, Whitney Houston, John Denver, Percy Sledge, Blondie, Lionel Ritchie, Nirvana, and so many more.
A study has even shown that music from the 60s through to the 90s are far more memorable than modern songs, even among millennials. Scientists tested a group of millennials on their ability to name hit songs from different decades and the 643 participants consistently remembered songs that came out between 1960 and 1999. Songs that became popular between 2000-2015 faded from their minds much quicker. Those who participated in this study in 2019 were between 18 and 25 years old.
On this list are some interesting facts about just a few of the popular bands that made an indelible mark on the music industry during what is commonly referred to as the ‘golden age’.
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10 Cetera has no time for Chicago
The Chicago Transit Authority, established in 1967, changed their name to Chicago in 1969. The band has sold more than 40 million albums in the U.S. alone and have had five consecutive No 1 albums among a myriad other successes. In 1974 Chicago’s entire catalog of seven albums (at that time) was circulating on the Billboard 200.
Peter Cetera was co-founder and frontman of the band until 1984, after the release of their highly successful Chicago 17 album. Cetera went on to enjoy a famed solo career. He was thrust into the spotlight in 2016 after refusing to perform with Chicago at their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction. He said during an interview that one of the reasons he refused to perform with the band was because they wouldn’t lower the key of the song “25 or 6 to 4” and that “nothing about the event sounded like fun.”
Co-founder Robert Lamm responded to the controversy by saying that Cetera could have at least stood with them, even if he didn’t want to perform.
9 The amp, the amp, the amp is on fire
You probably won’t be able to picture the band AC/DC without hearing Brian Johnson in your head, screaming out the lines of “Thunderstruck” or “Highway to Hell.”
The band was named after Malcolm and Angus Young’s sister saw the initials AC/DC on a sewing machine. Their sister was also instrumental in coming up with Angus’ school uniform after he tried a Superman, Spider-Man and even a gorilla costume.
In 1977, the guitar amplifier used by Angus caught fire during a studio recording of “Let There Be Rock”. Malcolm urged his brother to keep playing regardless, and Angus complied. It happened again during “Rock or Bust” and Angus once again just kept playing, thinking the glow was from a cigarette. This has long been considered a myth but was confirmed by Angus during an interview in 2014.
8 Led Zeppelin and Aleister Crowley
It’s impossible to imagine Thor: Ragnarok without the fight scenes set to the inimitable Immigrant Song by Led Zeppelin. (There is a YouTube video in which the last battle scene plays out to Britney Spears’ Toxic, but that is a story for another list.) Immigrant Song is perfect for Ragnarok however, as it references Valhalla which ties in with Thor’s Norse background.
Led Zeppelin’s music has long been fodder for conspiracy theorists who claim that founder and guitarist, Jimmy Page, sold his soul to the devil for long lasting fame and fortune. This conspiracy gained traction after Page bought occultist Aleister Crowley’s former Scotland home in 1971. Page was a Crowley fan and had Crowley’s “Do what thou wilt” and “So mote it be” inscribed in the run-off groove of the Led Zeppelin III vinyl records. It is believed that Jimmy Page asked his bandmates to join him in a ‘magick’ ritual inspired by Crowley’s writings. All participated except for bassist and keyboardist, John Paul Jones.
In 1972, Page signed up to do the soundtrack for the movie, Lucifer Rising. Page and the filmmaker, Kenneth Anger, allegedly had a very ‘intense’ relationship but the two parted ways in 1975. Rumors abounded that Anger, who was a ‘magick practitioner’, put a curse on Led Zeppelin and Jimmy Page. This curse was blamed, in part, for the trouble that befell the band’s members soon after. This included a car accident involving Robert Plant, illness, rioting fans, and several fights.
7 Heart & Van Halen
Heart was formed in 1970. Sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson were the vocalists, alongside musicians Steve Fossen, Roger Fisher, David Belzer and Jeff Johnson. The group has had a rocky road to success and had to launch a comeback in 1985. Heart disbanded in 1998 but resumed performances in 2002. The band is still performing today, with concerts planned into 2021 depending on what happens with the current Covid-19 pandemic.
The Wilson sisters released a biography in 2012 titled Kicking & Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul, and Rock and Roll. In the book they relate encounters with other bands, including the time they played Stairway to Heaven in a small club and the members of Led Zeppelin walked in during the performance. The night ended with Jimmy Page passed out cold.
The sisters also recount meeting Eddie and Alex Van Halen and being propositioned by them in 1979. Ann and Nancy declined and the conversation between the foursome turned to music. Nancy learned that Eddie didn’t own an acoustic guitar and she gifted him her own. Overcome with emotion and gratitude, Eddie took the guitar and then called her room at 7am the next morning to serenade her over the phone with a song he had written in her honor.
6 Airplay thanks to student
Roxette was formed in 1986 and enjoyed massive successes including 19 UK Top 40 hits, a host of US Hot 100 hits and four number one songs. Marie Fredriksson and Per Gessle were both established artists when they recorded “Neverending Love” under the name Roxette. The song was a hit in Sweden and the rest, as they say, is history. Roxette has sold over 75 million records worldwide and have become Sweden’s second best-selling music act, right behind ABBA.
The duo’s first global hit song, The Look, was only played on the air after an American exchange student by the name of Dean Cushman heard it and gave it to his local radio station. It soon became a massive hit and reached number one on the US charts.
One of Roxette’s most popular songs, “It Must Have Been Love”, was not written for the movie Pretty Woman, contrary to popular belief. When Touchstone Pictures approached Roxette about contributing a song to the movie’s soundtrack, they didn’t have enough time to write something new. Instead they chose a song they had written two years prior.
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5 The band who outsold The Beatles
The Monkees’ original band members consisted of Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, Peter Tork and Davy Jones. The group was a made-for-TV band and formed specifically for the sitcom, The Monkees, which saw airplay between 1966 and 1968. After the sitcom was cancelled, The Monkees recorded music until 1971 at which time they disbanded. Some of their most well-known hits include “I’m a Believer”, “Daydream Believer”, and “Last Train to Clarksville.”
What some fans may not know is that the band has been banned from the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame after co-founder Jann Wenner insisted that they cannot be included since the band members were first hired as actors and not musicians. This is despite the fact that they have had incredible success as a band and even outsold The Beatles and The Rolling Stones in 1967. Their album sales topped both of these popular British bands’ sales combined that year.
4 The Animals’ influence
The Animals were known for their distinctive sound as showcased in their only number one hit in 1964: “The House of the Rising Sun.” The Animals consisted of vocalist Eric Burdon, keyboardist Alan Price, bassist Chas Chandler, guitarist Hilton Valentine and drummer John Steel. The band’s sound even inspired Bob Dylan’s decision to work with musicians playing electric instruments.
Bruce Springsteen gave a shoutout to the band in 2012 when he performed at the South by Southwest Festival. He said that he had never related to another band as much as he had to The Animals and that a lot of their work was reflected in his music. After The Animals disbanded, Chas Chandler discovered Jimi Hendrix and helped him form The Jimi Hendrix Experience. He financed their first single and gave Hendrix the idea to set his guitar on fire.
3 A band of trouble
Oasis was formed from a previous group called the Rain and originally consisted of 5 members including brothers Liam and Noel Gallagher. The band has sold more than 75 million records and holds the distinction of being one of the best-sellling bands of all time.
The feud between the Gallagher brothers became almost more prominent than the band’s music when Noel quit in 1994 after Liam threw a tambourine at him. In 1995, Noel hit Liam over the head with a cricket bat. The bad blood continued in 1996 when Liam pulled out of an MTV Unplugged show and instead heckled the band from the crowd.
On top of all the sibling troubles that lasted several more years, Oasis were also sued for ripping off a member of a Beatles parody band as well as ripping off a Coca-Cola jingle. Soon the band engaged in a full on ‘war’ with English alternative rock band, Blur, and things got so heated that Noel told a reporter that he hoped Damon Albarn and Alex James would “catch AIDS and die.”
2 First choice for Friends’ opening song
R.E.M will arguably forever be known as the band whose song “Shiny Happy People” was almost the opening song for Friends. And, of course, for the song “Everybody Hurts”, which has been rated as one of the 1001 best songs ever, with its music video directed by Ridley Scott’s son, Jake. “Shiny Happy People” became one of their biggest hits but vocalist, Michael Stipe, eventually started hating the song because of the peppy lyrics. He stated that “It’s a fruity pop song written for children.” He also said that if ever there was one song sent into outer space to represent R.E.M. for eternity, he would definitely not want it to be “Shiny Happy People.”
R.E.M.’s song “Monty Got a Raw Deal” was inspired by actor Montgomery Clift, even though most fans assumed it was about Monty Hall who was the host of the game show Let’s Make a Deal. Stipe wrote the song about Clift after R.E.M. was visited in studio by a photographer who had worked on one of Clift’s last films, The Misfits, and looked at photos from the movie set.
1 Cobain and Vedder slow dancing
Eddie Vedder was the last member to join the band first known as Mookie Blaylock and now known as Pearl Jam. The band was formed in 1990 and had sold more than 85 million albums worldwide by 2018. They are considered one of the most influential bands of the 90s.
Pearl Jam have cited many bands as influences for their music, including Led Zeppelin, The Ramones and The Who. The band were labelled ‘sell-outs’ by Nirvana after their album ‘Ten’ became a hit and soon there were rumors of a feud between Nirvana and Pearl Jam, including some trash-talk in public.
Eddie Vedder and Kurt Cobain confronted one another backstage at the 1992 VMA’s, but then the unexpected happened. As Eric Clapton played ‘Tears of Heaven’ on the stage above them, Vedder and Cobain shared a slow dance, setting aside their differences.
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