Clint West’s Americana Plus: The 1970’s – Heaven or Hell?

There was a time not so long ago where, on a fairly regular basis, the Tories would issue dire warnings that Labour would “take Britain back to the 1970s”. You don’t hear that so much now that Labour seems more intent on taking us back to a kind of Cameron/Clegg model of liberal conservatism. However, the jibe always used to mystify me somewhat because you know what – I liked the 1970s! I went to school in the 1970s, I fell in love with music in the 1970s, bought my first car in the 1970s and I met my first girlfriend in the 1970s. I was totally unaware that I was was a supposed to be having a miserable time. Power cuts? I remember those, the perfect excuse for not doing your homework. Rubbish piled up in the streets? A vast resource of scrap wood and metal to make stuff out of. I remember constructing a go-kart and even found some pram wheels for it. It was legalised fly-tipping, people got rid of all sorts of junk, or treasure as this young boy saw it.

The 1970s were fun. I’d go out for hours on end on my bike, with no mobile phone and not even a watch – it was time to go home when it started to get dark. There was great freedom and far less paranoia about the terrible things that might happen to us. I went regularly to late-night rock gigs with mates from the age of 14/15. I went to my first festival (Reading 1977) at the age of 16 and it was brilliant! So for me the 1970s were a great time and the idea of Labour taking us back there was really quite appealing – only this time I’d like a Ford Capri, rather than the battered and rusty Escort that I actually bought for £100 as my first car.

Sorry to be vague here, but I can remember a TV show a while back that consisted of various people advocating for different decades as the ‘greatest decade in music’. I recall that David Quantick was the advocate for the 1970s and that he didn’t do a particularly good job of it, but it won anyway, quite rightly of course. As well as the obvious big-name artists at their peak during that decade (Zeppelin, Sabbath, Floyd, Bowie etc.) there was so much more going in the 1970s: pub-rock, punk and new wave, the emergence of funk and disco, the whole Jamaican reggae scene etc.

What there wasn’t, was an ‘americana’ scene. Well at least nothing that bore that sobriquet as the name didn’t exist at that time. Does that mean that nobody was playing music influenced by America’s great folk, country and roots heritage? Absolutely not, loads of songwriters and musicians were doing exactly that, only as the americana pigeonhole hadn’t yest appeared those artists were likely to place in the folk, singer-songwriter, or country-rock sections of your local record shop.

The ’Seventies Segment’ of my Clint West’s Americana Plus radio show celebrates just those artists; those that might well be labelled as ‘americana’ had they emerged today, rather than in the 1970s. In this section last week, the programme featured Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airman and Gram Parsons. Other weeks have featured more low-profile artists and recently I chose Meal Ticket and Racing Cars just to demonstrate the British were in on the act too. If you have any suggestions for 1970s ‘americana’ acts that you think I should feature on the show, please drop a note in the comments below.

‘Clint West’s Americana Plus’ is broadcast every Tuesday night from 8pm – 10pm on http://socialmusicradio.uk

You can also listen to the show anytime by using the ‘Rewind’ facility on the same link.

Here is last weeks show.

About Clint West 325 Articles
From buying my first record aged 10 and attending my first gig at 14, music has been a lifelong obsession. A proud native of Suffolk, I have lived in and around Manchester for the best part of 30 years. My idea of a perfect day would be a new record arriving in the post in the morning, watching Ipswich Town win in the afternoon followed by a gig and a pint with my mates at night,
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Martin Johnson

For better or worse, I think the ’70s were a lot more innocent Clint. The lack of genres helped artists record what they wanted, and we gave any music played by longhairs at least one listen. Unfortunately, once innocence is lost it can never be regained. Possibles for your ’70s slot Bronco and Heads, Hands & Feet for the UK, and Country Gazette and The Rowans with Peter Rowan from across the pond.

Alan Peatfield

OK, ‘owsabout ….Tom Pacheco, Dennis Linde, Gene Cotton, Lee Clayton, Rusty Weir, Terry Allen, Lost Gonzo Band, John Stewart, Michelle Phillips, Walter Egan, Steve Gillette, Mike Nesmith, Craig Fuller, Firefall, Jennifer Warnes, Karla Bonoff, Jesse Colin Young, Jonathan Edwards, Steve Young, Jim Ringer, Mary McCaslin, Michael Dinner, Larry Norman, Talbot Bros. and on and on ….. I’ve left out some 70’s “big hitters” and apologies if you are (almost certainly) already aware of a number of these artists. Gems – each and every one of them!!

Alan Peatfield

Oh …. and whilst I’m in the flow, a shout out for 70’s mags/fanzines. Omaha Rainbow, Kerrville Kronikle (anyone remember them???). Great sources of singer-songwriter and country-rock as it was known then.

ANDY TROTT

Were they not great times Alan? My pal Peter O’Brien would be chuffed you gave him a deserved mention for “omaha Rainbow”. The Kerrville Kronikles” were a fine read too. As were “Hot wacks” & (of course) “zig zag” . I wonder sometimes if the genre Americana would be so popular here in the U.K. if it were not for those magazines setting the groundwork and for bringing our attention to those fantastic artists you mentioned above.

Last edited 25 days ago by ANDY TROTT
Alan Peatfield

Thanks, Andy. I remember speaking with Peter when he curated a John Stewart gig in London “back in the day.” (my age prevents me from remembering accurately the venue – somewhere near Euston I think!). Anyway he was clearly passionate about all things s/s, c/rock morphing in to Americana. Hope he is well. Shout out too to my mate Arthur Wood editor of the now lamented Kerrville Kronikle. And, as you say, Hot Wax and Bert Muirhead in Edinburgh. Pioneers every one of them. So, come on Clint (or Mark, or Graeme or someone!) surely an exploration of the 70’s music and the appraisal of assoc. fanzines of the day is warranted??

ANDY TROTT

The gig you may be thinking of was probably the “AMAZING ZIG ZAG” CONCERT” 28th April 1974 @ the Roundhouse , Chalk farm London. He is still passionate about our music and continues to be a great source of knowledge.What a debt i/we owe him! Bert Muirhead! His Hot Wax shop and his mail order business ! Where else would we have found all those elusive records?!! Blimey mate, you are stirring up some memories.

Paul Kerr

AUK spoke to Tony Poole about the Zigzag Roundhouse gig a while back, read it here https://americana-uk.com/interview-tony-pooles-back-pages

Paul Kerr

For me a great decade but that’s probably an age thing as most folk’s teen years are the best. Anyway, started off a prog rock fan until Neil Young on the BBC’s In Concert kickstarted an “americana” obsession.Saw Emmylou, Neil, Poco, Petty, Lofgren, Ozark Mountain Daredevils and others while Zigzag magazine became my bible.

Brian Hoskin

Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, John Prine, Kris Kristofferson, Rodney Crowell, Emmy Lou Harris . . . .

adrian hodges

I couldn’t agree more with Clint’s thesis – I loved the 70s and still do love the music of that time – Little feat at the Hammersmith Odeon in 1976 remains in the memory to this day. Contrary to what TV drama would have us believe, life was in colour not just brown and avocado, and life was good if you were a teenager at the time. Read David Hepworth’s book on 1971 for a passionate account of the fabulous music of that era if you don’t believe me. Good on you, Clint -great name for a writer on Americana, by the way.

Pete Feldon

Are we all referring to pre-punk 70’s? Don’t forget the UK pub-rock bands like Brinsley Schwarz that were developing their version of country-rock, until they blown out of the water by punk.

ANDY TROTT

Another great piece Clint. And yes, a big thumbs up for your radio show.
Some nice comments here re other bands and artists of the 70’s to add. I’ll just endorse that yes, the British were indeed in on the act concerning the birth of Country rock with Starry eyed and laughing, Help yourself and of course Chilli Willi &red hot peppers and the marvellous Head hands and feet. Jeeez, i’m getting misty eyed thinking about those times!

Paul Higham

Although photos show the 70s I lived through were quite brown in colour, for me it was a great decade. First loves, moving away from home, adventures abroad and finding Yanks & Pandemonium in Manchester at a time when I had a little disposable income. I believe most people’s nostalgia for the past is a nostalgia for their youth when possibilities were many.

In addition to those already proposed, I’d suggest the Eagles “Desperado”, Jesse Winchester, “Heart Like A Wheel” era Linda Ronstadt, Michael Nesmith and Elton John (for “Tumbleweed Connection”). And another thumbs up for “Zigzag”.