A ton of great music came out in 1975 including, Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks, Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here, Queen’s A Night at the Opera, Aerosmith’s Toys in the Attic, Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti, the Who’s The Who By Numbers, Steely Dan’s Katie Lied and Rush’s Fly by Night just to name a few. As all of these albums celebrate their 40th anniversary, I’m reminded of just how important 1975 was for music. While each of these recordings were monumental, there are four that stand out as groundbreaking, Fleetwood Mac’s self-titled debut, Patti Smith’s Horses, Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run and David Bowie’s Young Americans.
Fleetwood Mac was a blues band that emerged out of England in the late 1960s. After a brief stint with Bob Welch, they were seeking a new sound. By sheer chance, they were in the same studio while Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham were laying down tracks. Enamored with Nicks’ sultry vocals and Buckingham’s master of the six string, they were asked to join the band on the spot. While Lindsey was reluctant, Stevie was all over the prospect. The sophomore release eventually topped the Billboard 200 and spent 37 weeks in the top ten.
In New York, there was another scene happening called punk. Patti Smith emerged from CBGBs Nightclub to record one of the most influential albums of all time, Horses. Patti reworked the Them classic “Gloria,” but added her unique spin. The first words you hear when you put the album on the turn table are “Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine” and from there, you are taken on a journey through the mind of Smith. Rolling Stone ranks the breakout album number 44 of the top 500 records of all time.
Known best as a great live act, Bruce Springsteen was relatively unknown. His first album, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J., had proved moderate success as Manfred Mann covered his seminal song “Blinded by the Light.” Even though he enjoyed critical accolades, record sales were slow. His second effort, The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle received a similar response. In 1974, Springsteen and his band entered the studio and by hook or by crook emerged with Born to Run. While he hadn’t abandoned his signature sound, the recording spoke to the public as he sang about topics everyone could relate to. “Thunder Road,” “Jungleland” and “Tenth Ave Freeze-Out” broke the singer/songwriter into the mainstream and forced the buying public to reexamine his first two releases. Although it only piqued at number 3 on Billboard, it would go on to sell over 6 million copies.
After abandoning Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, everyone wondered what David Bowie would do next. Although Diamond Dogs was a precursor to what Bowie had planned for his 9th studio release, he still hadn’t shed the Ziggy persona. By 1974, Bowie became enamored with soul music and set out to record an updated version of the sound which he dubbed “Plastic Soul.” The result was Young Americans and once again, Bowie reinvented himself as the Thin White Duke. The album was a critical and commercial success and spawned his first number one hit “Fame” on which John Lennon got co-writing credit as well as singing backup. Bowie gave a nod to the Beatles with the Lennon penned “Across the Universe” and during the title track, he used a line from the McCartney/Lennon original “A Day in the Life:” “I heard the news today, oh boy.” While he was still far from being mainstream, Young Americans showed growth and proved to everyone that he was no one-trick pony.
While some of you might be too young to remember these albums, I would encourage you to give them each a spin. For, if not for these records, music may have taken a different path.