Where 1970 was the bud on a young tree full of endless possibilities, 1973 was the year that that saplings fruit began to ripen to the sound of dueling banjos To be sure, the previous three years of the grooviest decade on record saw their fair share of tragedies, both actual (the deaths of Hendrix and Joplin) and sociological (The Beatles breaking up,) but on the whole, the music world stayed true to the course it set back in 1970 and continued to push on towards greater undiscovered countries. Arguably some should have stayed that way, but for better or for worse, 1973 was a time of expansion of the mind and the soul, huge debuts, a record that would change the face of music forever, and a narrowly avoided crisis (that wasn’t avoided at all) that threatened to destroy the universe as we knew it. Before we get to that though, let’s take a look at the new kids on the block.
Before 1973 names like Aerosmith, Springsteen, Waits, New York Dolls, Lynrd Skynyrd, were all just ideas floating in the ether/bong water. Not only did 1973 introduce us to these artists we now know consider legends but it gave us some of their best work to date. Closing Time, (Pronounced 'Leh-'nérd 'Skin-'nérd, Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ. – all masterpieces and all almost instant classics found their way onto turntables en masse over the course of the year and simply never left them.
But it wasn’t all about the new guys. No, future heavy hitters like The Eagles, The Faces, Chicago (EVERY DAMN YEAR THESE GUYS), Steely Dan all loosed their latest opus upon the world – and trust me folks, Desperado is TRULY an opus – leaving a long lasting mark on what we hear on the radio today. Hell, even the ex-Beatles got into the act with John Lennon releasing his Mind Games up against Paul McCartney’s Wings’ Band on the Run. These were big albums, but we still haven’t made it to the biggest.
Top 100 songs of 1973
For a little perspective understand that in addition to minor masterpieces like the Raspberries Side 3, Hall and Oates Abandoned Luncheonette, or Steve “I AM CLASSIC ROCK” Miller’s The Joker, whose megahit title track contains probably the first known mention of a “space cowboy," there were still bigger, MUCH BIGGER albums to come. Albums like Billy Joel’s Piano Man, Lou Reed’s – Berlin, Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On, The Stooges Raw Power, and oh did we mention Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road? These are records that make up the very foundation of what we consider to be rock, classic or otherwise today, and if you just stopped right there, 1973 would already be one of the most top heavy years for awesome music that has ever, or likely will ever be.
But that would be ignoring the 22.7 million pound gorilla hanging out in the corner of the room. No, I’m not talking about fat Elvis – that comes later. I’m talking about Pink Floyd’s record setting, genre smashing (at the time), mind bending, soul manipulating magnum opus The Dark Side of the Moon. If you’re reading this, then you’ve heard it. Shit. EVERYONE HAS HEARD IT. Dark Side is currently the number three selling album of ALL TIME behind AC/DC’s Back in Black and Michael Jackson’s Thriller, and as of March of this year it has spent an absolutely lunatic 800 weeks on the Billboard 200 charts. Process that for a minute. We’ll wait.
What made Dark Side such a huge record? In the truest sense of the word, that’s up to you. It’s not like there’s technically a “hit” on the record. It’s the type of music Floyd had been perfecting for years. But somewhere deep down under the cash register ca-chings, and the ticking of clocks there was an old soul, a message trying to get out, and it very clearly resonated with just about the entire world, meaning something completely different to each and every person it touched. That doesn’t happen often – in fact it’s NEVER happened, and the importance of this record simply can’t be overstated. Would we even have dorm rooms if it weren’t for Dark Side? Think about it. Dark Side of the Moon is as much a rite of musical passage as it is comfort food, making its way through the universe without compromising an inch of artistic integrity or heart. Put simply: There have been two albums in history that have been bigger, but none have been BIGGER.
So yea that happened. And that might have been what saved us all from total annihilation at the hands of Barry Manilow’s first record, the birth of Alabama, Bachman Turner Overdrive and, gasp, JOURNEY.
And then there was this:
FUN FACT: Elvis’s”Aloha from Hawaii”, besides being one of the largest telecasts in HISTORY at the time – you could even pick it up on the dark side of the moon - was actually first conceived on July 8, 1972 – THE DAY I WAS BORN. So if you ever wondered if I secretly have it out for your ear holes, I think you might have your answer.
So, 1973. You conquered great odds, threw down the gauntlet and survived to give us some of the truly great masterpieces of the 20th Century. You were all of this and more, but perhaps most of all, at least by me, you’ll be remembered for this:
SPACE WHALES, HEALING CRYSTALS AND GROWN ASS MEN WEARING CAPES, OH MY!