The energy crisis was gathering apace. American artists were refusing to tour Britain out of fear that they would be subject to the power cuts blighting the country following yet another miners’ strike. Meanwhile, with oil prices sky-high, there were fears of a vinyl shortage, though this didn’t seem to deter mega-rockers Led Zeppelin and Yes, who had double and triple albums respectively flying high in the charts.
Gone: Paper Lace reached Number One with ‘Billy Don’t Be A Hero’, a song about a young civil war cavalryman. In case fans didn’t get what the song was about, the band dressed as young civil war cavalrymen on TOTP. Your parents were unintelligent people.
Album of the year: Physical Graffitti – Led Zeppelin
Single of the year: Rock Your Baby – George McRae
Band/artist of the year: Led Zeppelin
1974 belonged to: Led Zeppelin, Mud
Key event of the year: Abba announced their intentions of world domination, winning the Eurovision Song Contest with ‘Waterloo’. British pop continued to manifest all kinds of pre-punk cartoon weirdness but it least it was beginning to hint at the future. Cockney Rebel made a virtue of vocalist Steve Harley‘s fruity London accent, a trick Johnny Rotten would later develop, while the rock’n’roll revivalism of Mud, Showaddywaddy and Alvin Stardust would pave the way for the mighty Shakin’ Stevens in the Eighties.
There were glimmers of quality – the slick, pre-disco sound of Philly and George McCrae, for instance. But you had to dig deep for the quality stuff in 1974 (Robert Wyatt‘s ‘Rock Bottom’, Can‘s ‘Soon Over Babaluma’). It says much for the wretchedness of this year that Nick Drake, one of England’s greatest singer-songwriters, died at 24, utterly unnoticed by the media.