Taking a look back at obscure bands and artists from the 70’s that got glanced over
Some times when people think of music from the 70’s or any past era, it is easy to just skip to what got and still gets all the radio airplay. Some artists and bands don’t quite make that cut and unfortunately become obscure despite the boundless talent that they had.
For this reason, it is good to some times go up into the attic, rummage around, and see what kinds of hidden previously unknown treasures can be dusted off.
This list will be discussing the top 25 obscure (to varying extents) artists and bands from the 70’s in no particular order (because trying to do so would be way too difficult and an injustice) to give them their deserved moment in the spotlight.
#1) Tommy Bolin
Tommy Bolin might not be the most obscure artist on this list, but he sure doesn’t seem to get talked about by the general public all that much when classic rock is brought up – which is a darn shame.
Bolin was one of the greatest jazz fusion guitarists to ever pick up a six string. He was incredibly talented in multiple genres.
During his time he played with the likes of Billy Cobham, Zephyr, The James Gang, Deep Purple, and his own memorable solo career.
Unfortunately his life was cut short at the age of 25 from a drug overdose.
#2) Lucifer’s Friend
Lucifer’s Friend was (and still is to this day) a German based band fronted by English singer John Lawton.
Their sound can be compared to what the result would be like if Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, and Uriah Heep somehow had a four-way love child together.
Their first album Lucifer’s Friend released in 1970 is still one of the most sought after records by extreme enthusiasts of old school rock and metal who want to go beyond the radio played bands.
They changed sound on every record, but still kept the heart and soul of the band intact.
Trapeze is an absolute gem. Their time as their classic line-up was short lived, but they put out some of the best funk rock and soulful R&B.
Fronted by Glenn Hughes (later of Deep Purple fame) on vocals and bass, Mel Galley (later of Whitesnake fame) on guitar, and Dave Holland (later of Judas Priest fame) the power trio put out three fantastic albums together that ranged in sound.
The undoubted best was their final, You Are the Music, We’re Just the Band. It is full of tunes that to many fans of the band and Glenn Hughes are classics.
Death is a band that came from Detroit in the early 70’s that was comprised of three African American brothers, the Hackneys who of all things played proto-punk.
When they were playing initially, no one was doing anything like it. They could arguably be considered the first punk band.
Death recorded about ¾ of an album with CBS before their contract was terminated due to them not wanting to change the band name.
They fell into obscurity until decades later one of their 45’s was rediscovered, sparking a documentary on the band A Band Called Death and their huge comeback.
Heavy metal vocal god Ronnie James Dio was not always the man on the silver mountain or being tempted between Heaven and Hell.
Before he became the world renowned superstar we know him as today, he was in a fairly unknown blues band by the name of Elf of all things.
Elf was a very piano centric band, though there was plenty of guitar to give it some extra rock n’ roll guts at the same time.
It is quite peculiar to hear Dio sing stuff that is not fantasy themed set to crunchy riffs, but it still oddly works.
Before joining Fleetwood Mac in 1975 and starting their long stream of memorable radio hits, singer Stevie Nicks and guitarist/singer Lindsey Buckingham were in another band that they fronted together called Buckingham-Nicks.
The group put out only one album, which was also titled Buckingham-Nicks. It is very easy to hear the beginnings of the great things the duo would do later on.
Unfortunately it did not score them very much commercial success and it’s never been rereleased on CD, mp3, streaming services, etc. The only ways to find it is through YouTube or tracking down a copy of the vinyl.
If ever it has gone through a casual or newer Metallica fan’s head the question of where they got their influence from, a great deal of it can be traced back to a Welsh metal/hard rock band by the name of Budgie.
Budgie was the definition of a tight locked, riff punching, power house heavy metal power trio, and they existed even before Motorhead.
One of their more well known tunes among the heavy metal community is “Breadfan”, which has some of the best guitar work and most melodic soaring vocals while still exuding sheer prowess in their entire catalog.
For those that are into darker lyrical and musical content, there is Icelandic heavy metal power trio Icecross. They were a blend of doom metal, psychedelic rock, progressive rock, etc.
During their tragically short run, Icecross only put out one album, which was their 1973 self-titled album Icecross. At the time, the album was only put out in Iceland.
It is now available digitally everywhere. One of the songs on it “Jesus Freaks” was one of the first real anti-Christianity songs in rock/metal.
Unfortunately the band having too difficult of a time striking it big disbanded for good in 1975.
#9) Ken Hensley
Uriah Heep in its heyday was comprised of some absolute top notch musicians, but keyboardist and primary song writer Ken Hensley stood head and shoulders above the rest. So much so that he ended up starting his own solo career.
Much of Hensley’s 70’s solo work never got much attention, but that’s understandable considering the classical/orchestral nature of it.
One of the best songs he ever released “How Shall I Know” is mostly string instruments and piano, but the dual harmonized electric guitar makes it a true rock classic ballad that sadly is not considered so by the general public.
#10) Toe Fat
Speaking of Uriah Heep, before that band began keyboardist and primary song writer Ken Hensley (and was replaced eventual Bee Gees member Alan Kendall) as well as drummer Lee Kerslake were in another short lived band called Toe Fat.
The band had a heavy psychedelic rock sound, which was somewhat indicative of where Uriah Heep would come from.
It is a transitional band of sorts in terms of sound because the acid sounds of the 60’s were wearing off and the heavier sounds of the 70’s were creeping in. Toe Fat released two albums between 1970-71 before dissolving for good.
#11) Frijid Pink
Frijid Pink is an obscure Detroit based psychedelic and hard rock band that actually still exists to this day after having reunited in 2007 after their 1975 break-up, but with a very niche cult following.
The band is known for their 1970 debut LP Frijid Pink which garnered some attention, but not enough to make them a popular mainstream band that sells out theaters or stadiums.
Their debut album contained a more driving and hard rocking cover of The Animals version of “House of the Rising Sun”, but it is in 4/4 time rather than 6/8 like The Animals did.
Pentagram is one of those bands that though they are obscure and have been since their inception in the early 70’s have managed to build up an extremely loyal cult following, especially after their singer and only consistent member Bobby Liebling got off drugs in the early 10’s and started touring again.
Their sound is very reminiscent of Black Sabbath in some ways, but in others it is darker, more raw.
When listening to one of their records it is easy to feel just a little bit frightened and to ask oneself whether it was ok to listen to this.
By the mid to late 70’s, prog rock was definitely dying down in terms of its popularity. Most people were flocking to either punk or disco. However, that did not stop a band called England from giving it a go anyway.
England while being progressive also had commercially friendly pop elements too in a Styx meets The Beatles way.
One of the interesting aspects of the band is keyboardist Robert Webb played a Mellotron sawed in half.
England only put out one album in their “heyday”, Garden Shed in 1977 which is considered by connoisseurs of the genre a classic.
#14) The Lafayette Afro Rock Band
The Lafayette Afro Rock Band from Roosevelt Long Island, NY were one of those funky soul bands that while having a huge impact on the way funk and soul music has been made were never given the credit they deserve due to getting overshadowed by the bigger acts of the time.
Songs like “Hihache” and “Darkest Light” have been sampled by countless hip-hop artists over the years.
The band kicked a groove from 1972-78. Fortunately, though few LP’s survived much of their music was converted to digital formats so future generations will be able to discover the treasures they made.
When hearing of a band with the name Suck, it is fairly easy to get the impression that they are no good in the slightest. However, this could not be any further from the truth.
Suck was a hard rock band that lasted eight months between 1970-71. They were from South Africa and one of the first hard rock bands from the continent.
They released one LP titled Time to Suck, which was all covers except for one song, “The Whip”. Initially the album was only released in South Africa and France, but in 2009 it was reissued in America.
#16) Claudia Lennear
Claudia Lennear rose to just enough prominence to release her own album by serving time as an Ikette during the Ike & Tina Turner era. Ms. Lennear sadly only released one album of her own in 1973, Phew!.
On the Phew! Record Claudia’s voice incredibly powerful. It had that Janis Joplin grit and earthiness with that Tina Turner power and passion.
Her music was incredibly sensual and charismatic, a blend of rock and occasionally classical elements.
Lennear’s lasting legacy however is partly attributed to being the inspiration to the Rolling Stones hit “Brown Sugar” and David Bowie’s “Lady Grinning Soul”.
#17) Sir Lord Baltimore
Sir Lord Baltimore were a Brooklyn, NY based stoner metal band who in their initial run actually managed to put out two LP’s before breaking up until a reunion in the mid-2000’s.
Their sound essentially was in some ways like Cream, but on steroids.
The band was another power trio, but one of the things that made them stand out was that their drummer John Garner was also their lead singer.
Sir Lord Baltimore was arguably the first band to be given the label “heavy metal” by Creem Magazine in 1971 in a review of their debut album Kingdom Come.
#18) Brenda Patterson
Brenda Patterson is Memphis based blues singer who was a backing singer for Ry Cooder and Bob Dylan.
Throughout the 70’s while teamed up with Native American band Redbone and released three solo albums and one collab album with The Coon Elder Band.
She had one hell of a passionate voice that touched the soul was just as talented as the other soul vocalists at the time, but she fell into obscurity.
Patterson did manage to release another record in 1999. Two of her best songs are “Keep On Keepin’ On” and “Ain’t No Grave Can Hold My Body Down”.
#19) Crabby Appleton
Crabby Appleton was an LA based pop rock band fronted by singer songwriter Michael Fennelly.
Their sound was sort of like the driving rhythms and catchy melodies and chord progressions of Kiss but with keyboard and a more polished and clean sound.
They had a bit of spotlight for a brief moment, but their 15 minutes of fame did not last long.
Crabby Appleton did actually managed to score a Top 40 hit “Go Back” from their 1970 debut album Crabby Appleton, but after their second album Rotten to the Core ended up flopping in 1971 they split for good.
#20) Blue Jug
Blue Jug was a Nashville based southern/country rock band. They had elements of pop rock, blues rock, country, and southern soul all blended together in their sound.
The vocal harmonies the band utilized were immaculate. They were so well blended and stacked that it almost sounded like a hillbilly choir of sorts.
Unfortunately however they broke up after only one album, 1975’s Blue Jug. It did not sell particularly well because at the time they were making it The Band was calling it a day and Blue Jug’s sound was just similar enough that people were not interested.
#21) Third World War
Third World War took a lot of the balls to the wall sounds of early heavy metal and combined them with the raw passion and aggression of punk to form something that a broader audience could appreciate and relate to.
While together they only recorded one album, 1971’s Third World War.
Third World War imploded when in the process of recording their second album because they were failing to make enough of a commercial impact due to the unpolished non-commercial aspects of their sounds and image and the revolutionary content of their lyrics. Some consider them England’s first punk band.
#22) Phantom’s Divine Comedy
For those who wish that there was more music from The Doors, there is Phantom’s Divine Comedy. When the band had put out their one and only album Part 1 in 1974, many people thought that Jim Morrison had secretly formed a new band despite having died three years prior.
Phantom’s Divine Comedy does share some similarities to The Doors in terms of sound, but their music had plenty of head banging metal elements additionally to their sound in certain places.
Their label Capitol Records decided to play into the rumors for marketing purposes, but legal action made them stop.
Stepson was a Portland, OR based hard rock band that got together in 1974. They had a driving bluesy hard hitting rock n’ roll sound, but not in a way that mimicked other bands too much aside from a few nuances here and there.
The harmonizing backing vocals added a delectable layer to their sound.
The band did not last long, however. They never toured at all either.
Rumor has it that Stepson was working on a second album, but ultimately it never came to fruition because they broke up before anything of the sort could be completed and released.
Starz is one of those bands that despite having a great deal of melodic and pop appeal backed with some rafter shaking guitars never has had much commercial success, though since 1975 has gathered a cult following.
Bands like Poison, Motley Crue, and Twisted Sister have all listed them as an influence. It shows in their early recordings, considering the heavy glam nature of their sound right from the get-go.
Starz broke up in ‘79 but had multiple reunions over the years and continued on starting in 2003. One of their best known songs is their 1977 hit “Cherry Baby”.
#25) Magik Dayze
Magik Dayze was an Ohio pop rock band that sought to do their own take on the kind of sound Rush and Pat Travers had.
The result was something that sounded like a cross between those things as well as Styx and Boston. They had a upbeat, lighthearted pop rock vibe with lots of Mellotron, organ, and other synth to back it.
During their tenure, they only put out one album, Volume 1 in 1978. Afterward Magik Dayze continued touring as well as recording here and there, but before they could do a second album they just ceased to exist.
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