Los Angeles, CA – 46 years ago, three trends intersected in one of the most consequential twelve months in rock history. As ‘60s legends released their final masterpieces, radio programmers discovered a new format that led to increased segregation on the airwaves – but on the fringes, underground movements were born that would eventually rejuvenate popular music.
In 1973: Rock at the Crossroads, music historian Andrew Grant Jackson (1965: The Most Revolutionary Year in Music, Still the Greatest: The Essential Songs of The Beatles’ Solo Careers) delivers a captivating account of a defining year for the bestselling artists in music history – the year rock peaked, began to die, and was reborn.
Read excerpts from the book, watch videos, and listen to playlists HERE
It was the last time all the ‘60s heavyweights released blockbuster albums in the same year, many the climactic work of their careers: the former Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and Elvis Presley.
Meanwhile, a trio of mid-level veterans finally ascended to the pinnacle: David Bowie at the height of Ziggy Stardust mania, Pink Floyd with the fourth best-selling album of all-time Dark Side of the Moon, and Elton John, who topped the album charts for two and a half months. Bob Marley made his American debut.
And a staggering new crop of superstars released their first LPs: Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, Queen, Aerosmith, the New York Dolls, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Tom Waits, boasting classics including “Dream On,” “Free Bird,” and “Piano Man.”
With the Vietnam War ending in the spring, and long hair increasingly accepted, white males no longer had a need to rebel. But there were plenty of others with barriers to breakthrough music. Female singer-songwriters like Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon, Dolly Parton, and Stevie Nicks brought a new groundbreaking frankness.
Suzi Quatro, Fanny, and Birtha proved female musicians could rock as hard as men, mirroring the sports triumphs of Billie Jean King and Maria Pepe. Stevie Wonder, the Temptations, and Philadelphia International’s Gamble and Huff led the golden age of protest soul. David Bowie, Lou Reed, Elton John, and Freddie Mercury gave a soundtrack to the gay liberation movement.
In rural America, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson brokered peace between the rednecks and the hippies.
And while the new Album-Oriented Rock radio format increasingly shut out anyone who didn’t fit the mold, under the radar punk, glam metal, indie rock, technopop, disco, reggae, and hip hop began their ascent.
1973: Rock at the Crossroads takes a fresh, often revisionist look at the best anthems and albums, and delves deep into the turbulent personal lives that fueled the musicians’ artistry, celebrating a pivotal moment in music history: the sweet spot when the ‘60s titans were still going strong but the next revolutions were being born.
Jackson’s previous books include 1965: The Most Revolutionary Year in Music, well-reviewed by The Washington Post, and Still the Greatest: The Essential Songs of the Beatles Solo Careers, excerpted by Rolling Stone. He has written for Slate, Yahoo!, and PopMatters. He directed and co-wrote the feature film The Discontents starring Perry King and Amy Madigan. He lives in Los Angeles.