1970s: Disco Glam vs. Recession Reality
The biggest single song of the 1970s was the Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive" from the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever in 1977. In fact, the image of John Travolta in a three-piece white suit is one of the pop culture images most associated with the decade. While disco is thought of as emblematic of the 1970s, it actually wasn't that popular until the closing years of the decade. The decade opened with the breakup of the Beatles, as well as the deaths of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. This signaled the decline of psychadelic rock and other new genres began to take its place. Pop rock bands like Boston and Kansas rose to stardom, as well as arena rock roups like Grand Funk Railroad. Music, in general, began to take on a harder edge as it reflected to the economic downturn of the early 1970s.
The 1970s recession (primarily between 1973 and 1975) was a period of economic hardship for most of the Western world. This recession signaled an end to the economic expansion that thrived post-World War II. It was unique in its challenges as it was characterized by both high unemployment and high inflation. While it began in the US around 1973, its effects would continue to be felt into the 1980s. One of the effects of this economic downturn was a growing sense of pessimism among young people, particularly those of working class backgrounds. For the first time since WWII, children were not necessarily going to be as successful as their parents. In London and New York this led to the emergence of punk music, and the emergence of rap music in the South Bronx in New York City.
This section delves into the origins of punk and rap, but begins with a discussion of disco before delving into glam rock. While glam rock was a relatively short-lived music movement, its influence can be traced to numerous artists that followed. The 1970s invite a relfection on the relationship between economics, music and fashion and we invite you to reflect how this idea is interpreted by various musical artists.