The Greatest Years In Music #5

by Mostyn Taylor-Crockett


Arguably the most significant musical event in 1973 was an image. A prism with light splitting through it on a black background, simple and visually striking. The image would be as influential as the album contained within the sleeve it adorned. The Dark Side Of The Moon is Pink Floyd’s magnum opus, and one of the best and most influential albums of all time. After losing their creative driving force, Syd Barrett, the band had struggled to find their feet again becoming increasingly experimental. Dark Side pushed at the boundaries of musical technology using an early sampling process and an intricate system of clocks and tape recorders to create the oppressive collection of chimes that introduce Time. It is highly reflective dealing with the loss of Barrett as well as the pains that come with fame and, on Us and Them, protesting against the war in Vietnam.

Also finding himself at the cutting edge of music was nineteen year-old Mike Oldfield, devising and recording his debut Tubular Bells almost entirely on his own. It was the first album released by Virgin Records who would go on to sign The Sex Pistols and Genesis, among others, and release many platinum albums. For David Bowie ‘73 was a year of change, at the end of the last show of his world tour (The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars), Bowie retired his alter ego Ziggy Stardust and subsequently began to move in a different musical direction.

After Miles Davis set the genre in motion with In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew, two of jazz fusion’s most important albums were released in 1973: Herbie Hancock’s Head Hunters and Mahavishnu Orchestra’s Birds of Fire. Head Hunters marked a key milestone within jazz, with Hancock taking inspiration from the development of funk and blending this with the influence of previous bandmate Davis. The influence of progressive rock can be seen in Birds of Fire, with its incorporating of guitar lead melody driven by main songwriter John McLaughlin. This was undoubtedly drawn from his experience with bands such as the Graham Bond Organisation.

Following highly successful the previous years’ Honky Chateau, Elton John released his first double album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Smoothly transitioning between the reggae of Jamaica Jerk-Off and the R&B of Bennie and the Jets, the album showed off John’s versatility as an artist. Candle in the Wind was first released on Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Originally written about the life of Marilyn Monroe, it became the second best selling single of all time when it was rewritten and performed at Princess Diana’s funeral.