10 Underrated British Bands of the 70s You Should Listen To

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The 1970s was a golden era for British music, known for its diverse range of sounds from rock to punk. While some bands like Led Zeppelin and Queen dominated the charts, many talented bands flew under the radar despite their unique contributions to the music scene.

Discovering these hidden gems can provide a fresh perspective on the musical landscape of the 70s. By exploring these underrated bands, listeners can uncover the rich variety and depth that characterized this vibrant decade.

1) Be-Bop Deluxe

Be-Bop Deluxe, formed in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, England, in 1972, was led by singer and guitarist Bill Nelson. The band’s sound combined elements of progressive rock and art rock, creating a distinctive style that set them apart.

Their 1976 album “Sunburst Finish” is highly regarded and showcases their unique approach. Although they never achieved massive success in the United States, three of their albums reached the Top 20 in the UK.

Be-Bop Deluxe’s music featured intricate guitar work by Nelson and explored themes that were both imaginative and ahead of their time. Their ability to blend various musical styles made them a standout act in the 70s British rock scene.

Despite their talent, Be-Bop Deluxe remains lesser-known outside of the UK. Fans of progressive rock and art rock should give their discography a listen, especially “Sunburst Finish.”

Be-Bop Deluxe’s innovative sound and Nelson’s guitar prowess make them a must-listen for any rock enthusiast looking to explore the hidden gems of the 70s. Their work continues to influence musicians and inspire listeners to this day.

2) Budgie

Budgie was a Welsh power trio formed in the 1960s, known for their heavy metal sound. Despite their talent, they never reached the same level of fame as some of their contemporaries.

The band released seven studio albums between 1971 and 1978. Their music combined heavy riffs with melodic sensibilities, setting them apart from other bands of the era.

Budgie’s influence extended into the 80s and beyond. Notably, Metallica covered Budgie’s song “Breadfan,” bringing renewed attention to the band.

One of their standout albums, “Never Turn Your Back on a Friend,” features iconic tracks like “Parents” and “In the Grip of a Tyrefitter’s Hand.” This album showcases their ability to mix hard rock with thoughtful lyrics.

Budgie’s live performances were also noteworthy. They played major festivals and smaller venues alike, building a loyal fan base over the years.

Though they never achieved mainstream success, Budgie’s music remains influential. Their blend of heavy metal and hard rock continues to resonate with fans and musicians today.

3) Camel

Camel is a British progressive rock band formed in Guildford, Surrey, in 1971. The band was led by guitarist Andrew Latimer. Despite not achieving mass popularity, Camel developed a cult following with albums such as Mirage (1974) and The Snow Goose (1975).

The band is known for its melodic compositions and intricate instrumental passages. Their music often features elements of jazz and classical music, setting them apart from many of their contemporaries.

Camel’s third album, The Snow Goose, is a concept album based on the novella by Paul Gallico. It’s entirely instrumental, showcasing the band’s ability to convey emotion and storytelling through music alone.

Though they were not widely recognized during their peak years, Camel’s influence can be seen in many modern progressive rock and metal bands. Their dedication to musical experimentation and innovation has earned them lasting respect within the music community.

Long-time fans appreciate Camel for their thoughtful lyrics and complex musical arrangements. New listeners often find themselves drawn to the band’s unique sound, which remains fresh even decades after its initial release.

4) Caravan

Caravan in 1974

Caravan is a progressive rock band from Canterbury, England. They started in the late 1960s and became known for their unique blend of rock, jazz, and classical music. Their sound often features complex arrangements and extended instrumental passages.

Their most famous album, “In the Land of Grey and Pink,” came out in 1971. It is considered a classic in the progressive rock genre. The album includes tracks with whimsical lyrics and rich musical textures.

Caravan’s lineup has changed several times over the years, but the band has maintained a loyal fan base. Their music often features intricate keyboard and guitar work, making them stand out among other bands of the era.

Despite not achieving the same level of fame as some of their contemporaries, Caravan has a dedicated following. Their influence on the progressive rock scene is significant. Their live performances are known for their high energy and skilled musicianship.

Caravan may not be a household name, but their contributions to music are undeniable. They offer a rich and rewarding listening experience for fans of progressive rock.

5) Atomic Rooster

Crane

Atomic Rooster was formed in 1969 by members of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, organist Vincent Crane and drummer Carl Palmer. They later went through many lineup changes but remained a powerful force in rock music.

The band is known for its unique blend of hard rock and progressive rock. Their early 70s hit singles like “Tomorrow Night” and “Devil’s Answer” reached high positions on the UK charts.

Vincent Crane’s intricate keyboard work was a standout feature of their music. His ability to combine intense melodies with complex arrangements gave Atomic Rooster a distinctive sound.

John Du Cann played guitar and provided lead vocals during some of the band’s most successful periods. Alongside Crane’s keyboards and Paul Hammond’s drumming, they created a trio that defined their best-known work.

Despite their talent and success, Atomic Rooster didn’t achieve the same level of fame as some of their contemporaries. Fans often regard them as being just as skilled as larger bands like Yes, Genesis, and Pink Floyd.

The band’s music continues to be appreciated by rock enthusiasts who admire their innovative style and powerful performances. Atomic Rooster’s legacy lives on through their influential recordings and the dedicated fans who celebrate their contribution to rock history.

6) Barclay James Harvest

Barclay James Harvest formed in Oldham in 1966. The original lineup included Les Holroyd, John Lees, Mel Pritchard, and Stuart “Woolly” Wolstenholme.

They signed with EMI’s Parlophone and released their first single, “Early Morning,” in April 1968. The band was known for blending rock with orchestral elements like cello and flute.

Their albums, “Everyone Is Everybody Else” (1974) and “Gone to Earth” (1977), are standout records from their peak in the 70s. Both albums showcase their melodic rock sound.

They were pioneers in the prog-rock scene, but never reached the same level of fame as some of their peers. However, their unique style has earned them a dedicated fan base.

7) Hawkwind

Hawkwind is a British rock band known for their unique blend of space rock and psychedelic music. Formed in 1969, the band quickly gained a reputation for their energetic live performances and innovative sound.

Their music often featured futuristic themes and experimental sounds. This set them apart from many of their contemporaries. Songs like “You’d Better Believe It” showcase their ability to merge rock with sci-fi elements.

One of their most influential albums is “In Search of Space”. Released in 1971, it contains tracks that are considered essential listening for fans of the genre. The album highlights their talent for creating immersive musical landscapes.

Hawkwind also had a significant impact on the development of punk and heavy metal. They are often credited with influencing the punk movement with their raw, high-energy style. This influence extended to bands that followed in the late 70s and early 80s.

Despite their contributions to music, Hawkwind remains underrated. Their albums rarely appear in top lists. Their work, including albums like “Warrior on the Edge of Time,” deserves more recognition.

8) Gentle Giant

Gentle Giant

Gentle Giant is a British progressive rock band from the 1970s. They are known for their complex and intricate music. Unlike many bands of their time, they often used medieval and baroque influences in their sound.

Their music isn’t always melodic and sometimes leans towards atonal rhythms. This distinct style set them apart from more mainstream progressive rock bands. Despite not having typical prog rock trademarks like long songs or mellotrons, they had a dedicated fan base.

The band members were highly skilled musicians, and each one played multiple instruments. This skill allowed them to create rich and varied soundscapes in their albums. Listening to Gentle Giant often reveals new layers and details with each playthrough.

Albums like “Octopus” and “In a Glass House” showcase their prowess. These records are a good starting point for anyone new to their music. High-quality headphones or speakers are recommended to truly appreciate the depth of their recordings.

Even though they didn’t achieve the mainstream success of some peers, Gentle Giant remains influential. Their creative approach and dedication to pushing musical boundaries have earned them a lasting legacy in the world of rock.

9) Gryphon

Gryphon was a British progressive rock band that started in the early 1970s. They are known for their unique blend of rock, folk, and medieval music.

The band was formed by Richard Harvey and Brian Gulland. Both were students at the Royal Academy of Music. They specialized in using traditional instruments like the krumhorn and bassoon.

Their self-titled debut album came out in 1973. It featured a mix of renaissance and folk music, which set them apart from other bands at the time.

In 1974, they released “Midnight Mushrumps.” This album showed a shift towards a more progressive rock sound. It featured a 19-minute title track that became a favorite among fans.

“Red Queen to Gryphon Three” came out in 1974 as well. It was an instrumental concept album inspired by the game of chess. This album is often cited as their masterpiece.

Gryphon continued to experiment with their sound. They released “Raindance” in 1975 and “Treason” in 1977. Despite their talent and innovation, they never achieved mainstream success.

The band briefly reunited in the 2000s, much to the delight of fans new and old. They remain a hidden gem of the 1970s British music scene.

10) Curved Air

Curved Air, formed in 1970, are a British progressive rock band known for their innovative sound. They combined elements from classical, folk, and electronic music. This unique mixture set them apart in the rock scene of the 70s.

Their early albums had significant success, with their first three albums breaking into the Top 20 in the UK Albums Chart. Songs like “Piece of Mind” showcase their progressive style with complex compositions by guitarist Francis Monkman.

Curved Air’s music often features elaborate arrangements and instrumental expertise. They used baroque piano passages and other classical influences, which added depth to their rock foundation. This fusion of genres made them stand out.

Despite frequent lineup changes, the band managed to maintain their distinctive sound. With eight studio albums, they left a lasting mark on the progressive rock genre and continue to be a name worth exploring for music enthusiasts. Their innovative approach still resonates today.

The Impact of British Bands in the 70s

British bands of the 1970s changed the music scene with their creativity and unique styles. They influenced not only the culture of the era but also modern music genres and artists.

Cultural Significance

British bands in the 1970s played a vital role in shaping global pop culture. Groups like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and The Clash became international icons. Their music reflected the social and political changes of the time, resonating with youth who were looking for new forms of expression.

The Sex Pistols

Fashion trends often followed the lead of these musicians. The punk movement, sparked by bands like The Sex Pistols, defined a generation’s look with its rebellious style. Festivals and concerts became significant cultural events, drawing fans from all over the world and creating a sense of community.

Influence on Modern Music

The influence of 70s British bands extends to many modern music genres. Rock bands like Queen pushed the boundaries of performance and recording, inspiring future acts with their ambitious live shows and studio techniques. The innovative use of technology by bands like Genesis and Yes paved the way for electronic and progressive rock music.

Punk rock’s raw energy and attitude can be seen in today’s alternative and indie scenes. The legacy of 70s British music continues to inspire contemporary artists across genres, from rock and pop to electronic music. Modern musicians often cite these bands as key influences, underscoring their lasting impact on music history.

Characteristics of 70s British Band Music

British bands in the 1970s were characterized by diverse musical styles and innovative instrumentation. Their songwriting often mixed traditional rock elements with other genres, creating unique and memorable sounds.

Musical Styles and Genres

British bands in the 70s were known for their wide range of musical styles. Rock was the dominant genre, but many bands effortlessly incorporated influences from blues, folk, and even classical music. Progressive rock, for example, was prominent with bands like King Crimson and Genesis, who blended classical music with rock.

Punk rock also emerged in the late 70s, with bands like the Sex Pistols leading the movement. They introduced a rawer, more rebellious sound. Another notable genre was glam rock, epitomized by David Bowie and T. Rex, marked by flashy costumes and theatrical performances.

Folk rock saw a blend of traditional folk music with rock, producing a more mellow sound. Bands like Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span were leaders in this subgenre. Heavy metal also began to take shape during this period, driven by bands such as Black Sabbath and Deep Purple, known for their powerful and aggressive sound.

Instrumentation and Songwriting

Instrumentation in 70s British bands was diverse and experimental. Electric guitars were central, often accompanied by synthesizers and mellotrons to create rich, layered sounds. Bands like Pink Floyd utilized these instruments to craft their iconic psychedelic rock sound.

Traditional rock instruments were common, but many bands incorporated unconventional instruments. Jethro Tull, for instance, included the flute in their rock compositions. The use of orchestral elements was also notable, with bands like Electric Light Orchestra combining rock with full orchestras.

Jethro tull

Songwriting during this era was innovative, with complex arrangements and poetic lyrics. Progressive rock songs often featured long instrumental sections and elaborate concepts. Lyrics ranged from introspective and personal to socially and politically charged. Bands like The Clash used their music to address contemporary issues, making their songs both entertaining and thought-provoking.

The Evolution of British Bands Post-70s

British bands from the 1970s have profoundly influenced music in the decades that followed. This section explores how these bands have continued their legacies and how modern artists reinterpret their sounds today.

Continuing Legacies

Several iconic 70s British bands have kept their influence alive well into the 21st century.

Fleetwood Mac: Despite lineup changes, Fleetwood Mac continues to tour and release new music, maintaining their popularity. Their albums, especially Rumours, still resonate with audiences old and new.

Fleetwood Mac Rumours trade ad Billboard

Led Zeppelin: Even though Led Zeppelin disbanded in 1980, their music remains a cornerstone of rock. Re-releases and remastered versions keep their legacy fresh.

Led Zeppelin logo

Pink Floyd: Pink Floyd has continued to influence rock music with occasional reunions and solo projects from its members. Albums like The Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall remain iconic.

Queen: With the addition of Adam Lambert as their lead vocalist, Queen continues to tour the world. The band’s music, including hits like Bohemian Rhapsody, is celebrated across generations.

Modern Reinterpretations

New bands and artists draw heavily from the 70s British rock scene, reshaping it for today’s music landscape.

Arctic Monkeys: This modern British band has cited 70s rock influences in their music. Their guitar riffs and storytelling lyrics echo the style of their predecessors.

Arctic Monkeys

The 1975: Known for their eclectic sounds, The 1975 blends rock, pop, and electronic elements inspired by 70s pioneers.

Tame Impala: Although an Australian project, Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker infuses British progressive rock elements into his work, reflecting the experimental vibes of the 70s.

Muse: Muse’s theatrical style and complex arrangements showcase the influence of Queen and other 70s bands, making them a modern embodiment of classic rock grandeur.

Florence and the Machine: Frontwoman Florence Welch channels the mystical and ethereal elements of 70s rock into their music, creating a sound that feels both vintage and contemporary.

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