The Year That Was: 1973
by Benjamin Ray
1973 was a big year for milestones and touchstones.
Bruce Springsteen released his first two albums in this momentous year. Pink Floyd dropped Dark Side of the Moon. Emerson, Lake and Palmer came out with Brain Salad Surgery, one of the better progressive-rock releases of the year, bettered by Yes' triple live Yessongs, Genesis' Selling England By the Pound and King Crimson's Larks' Tongues in Aspic.Even Elton John put out his most ambitious - and some would say best - release with the double Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, while Led Zeppelin put out the best album of their career with Houses of the Holy. Rock just didn't get better than that, although the Allman Brothers Band's Brothers and Sisters, David Bowie's Aladdin Sane, The Stooges' Raw Power and Steely Dan's Countdown to Ecstasy were all excellent outings. And, of course, 1973 was the year Aerosmith bloozed their way onto the scene with their eponymous debut and the songs "Dream On" and "Mama Kin."
Continuing in rock, Alice Cooper stumbled with the mediocre Billion Dollar Babies but the Who made up for it with the ambitious, complex, sprawling double album rock opera Quadrophenia, the last time they reached heights of this magnitude (or even tried to). Golden Earring put out Moontan and "Radar Love," Lynyrd Skynyrd crashed the party with "Free Bird" and the Rolling Stones also released Goat's Head Soup, their last good album until Steel Wheels in 1988. Led Zeppelin also was joined by the powerhouse debut of their American counterpart, Montrose.
But it didn't end there; Stevie Wonder's amazing Innervisions established him as a romantic and political musical force. Al Green released Call Me and Marvin Gaye offered Let's Get it On. Bob Marley also offered Catch A Fire and Burnin', and Paul McCartney came out of nowhere with his best post-Beatles work, Band on the Run. John Lennon's Mind Games and Paul Simon's Loves Me Like A Rock were less engrossing; skip those and check out Mott the Hoople's finest hour, Mott.
Naturally, the 70's had to have their share of weirdness, which Mike Oldfield delivered in the head-scratching Tubular Bells and King Crimson's Larks' Tongues in Aspic. The New York Dolls added to this with their self-titled debut and Roxy Music released two albums this year. In keeping with the two-album-per-year theme, I should have mentioned Elton John's Don't Shoot Me I'm Only The Piano Player, and David Bowie's cover release Pin-Ups.
The Doobie Brothers put out their finest album in The Captain and Me, Queen dropped their debut, America released Venture Highway, Deep Purple rocked out on Made in Japan, Grand Funk dropped the Railroad and scored big with We're an American Band, and Supertramp's best moment, Crime in the Century, also was released. A couple of glam-rock songs also went under the radar but are ripe for rediscovery, including Cozy Powell's "Dance With the Devil" and Dana Gillespie's cover of "Andy Warhol," perhaps the best version of that Bowie song.
Hit singles included Brownsville Station's "Smokin' in the Boys Room," a few Carpenters hits, Chicago's "Just You 'n' Me," Jim Croce's "I Got A Name," Edgar Winter's "Frankenstein" and "Free Ride," John Denver's "Rocky Mountain High," Dylan's "Knockin' on Heaven's Door," the Isley Brothers' "That Lady," Dobie Gray's "Drift Away," Paul McCartney's "Live and Let Die," Seals & Crofts' "Diamond Girl," Stealer's Wheel's "Stuck in the Middle With You" and the O'Jays' "Love Train," along with a host of other wimpy, forgettable MOR singles that have, fortunately, been lost to time and the occasional Rhino compilation.
And that, friends, was the Year That Was in music.