The Hits of 1974: Disco Rules, Rock Drools

Which songs of 1974 were your favorites?


The year 1974 brought continuing economic problems to the world as inflation rates increased,  and gasoline prices went up even as supplies dwindled. Teschnology advances brought pocket calculators to the stores and the very first word processors appeared on the market for business. The Watergate hearings were televised, and widely watched, and by the end of the year Richard Nixon had resigned from the presidency in disgrace, the first to do so. New President Ford immediately pardoned Nixon, and also was responsible for an amnesty program for Vietnam war deserters and draft dodgers. On the nation's highways, the 55 MPH speed limit was put into effect as a fuel-saving effort. It was not a popular law.

What happened in 1974's Music?
New musical trends were afoot in 1974, and some old ones got a shot in the arm. Eric Clapton had a worldwide hit with Bob Marley's I Shot the Sheriff, making sure everyone finally knew what reggae music was and who Bob Marley was. Jazz and rock got married, and Steely Dan and Joni Mitchell celebrated, and funk showed up with artists like Funkadelic and the Average White Band providing material in that vein. Led Zeppelin started their own label, and released the best rock album of the year, the double LP Physical Graffiti. Dylan released his best record in years - Planet Waves - and actually toured for the first time since 1966, selling out big venues all across the country. Steve Miller, a survivor from the San Francisco hippie era, had a worldwide number one smash with the Joker. And the Bay City Rollers were joking their way to the top - like the Monkees without a TV show.

Rock falls asleep
The major 70s trend of rock becoming mediocre at best continued. The mood was solemn in some cases - Neil Young's On the Beach is often cited as a representative album of these times - and the problem was just plain low quality in others. Many top stars put out 2nd or 3rd rate albums, and the charts were full of jokes and non-rock. It was the year of Foghat, Supertramp, Neil Sedaka, Edgar Winter, greatest hits albums, and the disturbing trend (to a rock and roll lover) of a new type of dance music.

Disco wakes up
Two of the biggest worldwide hits in 1974 were Carl Douglas' Kung Fu Fighting, and Rock Your Baby by George MaCrae. These were the first bona-fide hits of the disco era, and further evidence of the decline of rock and roll in many people's opinion. Dance clubs in the metropolitan areas were all the rage, and the dancers needed more tunes to gyrate to. Artist obliged in strange ways - even John Lennon's Whatever Gets You Through the Night and Eltin John's the Bitch is Back sounded like disco songs. KC and the Sunshine Band were formed and signed, Donna Summer started her career, and ABBA's Waterloo packed the discotheque floors. It was a sad time for the sleeping genre of rock, but what was a poor boy to do about it?

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Punk rock is officially an embryo
While rock slept and disco was waking up, something else was stirring as a reaction to these trends, and poor boys and girls were doing the reacting. On the east coast in New York City, a nightclub called CBGB's opened for business. History's first punk rockers, the Ramones, practically took up residency there, honing their material and writing new 2-minute blasts of speed in a frenzy, waiting to get signed. Patti Smith and her band recorded their first single - a version of Hey Joe, a song made famous by Hendrix - and the Talking Heads and Blondie formed and got right to work on the next big thing. And the New York Dolls, actually a punk-glam rock hybrid, were a bright spot in the year with their second classic album, In Too Much Too Soon. The times were a changin' once again as the 70s wore on.


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