I came of age during the great punk revival of the early 90s and there was a huge number of great bands cycling through the underground at the time, some of whom would go on to great fame- the Green Days and Rancids, some onto middle-of-the-road careers NOFX, Bad Religion, and some that would have lasting influence, but not last as bands- Bikini Kill, Jawbreaker, Fifteen. But most never went on to be household names. Such is life.
At the time though, I was thinking- why isn’t this stuff on the radio? It’s a travesty! A lot of other people from my generation thought the same thing. And naturally, if good stuff wasn’t being played on the radio in the early 90’s, imagine all the great stuff they had missed in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, because someone (usually an evil record executive) had kept these great bands down.
What I didn’t understand was the supply/demand curve for rock and roll. I’ve graphed it with numbers pulled out of my ass.
As you can see, supply of bands and audience for said bands roughly achieved parity in the 1970s so the ability of the market to filter the best bands onto the radio was at its peak. That is not to say that there isn’t a lot of garbage 70s rock. But it does say that there is very little reason to go around digging for hidden gems in this period because most of the best stuff is already on the radio, if you can stomach classic rock radio long enough to find it. My experience has largely confirmed this. So too with the 1960’s. Sorry record-unearthers, most of the crap you play for me is from the 60s and 70s vaults is just that, crap.
BUT NOT ALL!
There are a handful of bands that are worth listening to. I roughly group them into –
The Greats- original, excellent bands that put out records with high production values that for one reason or another never made it big. There are about 4.
The So-CLOSEs- bands that had some great ideas that were poorly executed due to musical ineptitude, or were great musicians with few good ideas. Lots of these.
The One-Hit-Wonders of the Underground- bands that had a moment of inspiration but were largely forgettable.
I offer you one of the greats- Radio Birdman.
Radio Birdman was a mid-70s Australian band heavily influenced by the Stooges and the MC5 (a couple of other great bands that never really made it big). They were a 6 piece- drums, 2 guitars, keyboard, bass and a singer. They were tight. I can’t imagine getting three people to play that well together, let alone six. And their production values were off the charts for a band that basically no one knew about. It amazes me how well the instruments are balanced and how clear they sound.
They put out two albums- Radios Appear
Aloha Steve and Danno– their tribute to Hawaii 5-o
New Race– PUNK ROCK!
Monday Morning Gunk– some serious guitar heroism
And Living Eyes
More Fun– I totally ripped off part of this song.
They broke up after moving to England and having no luck at getting a record deal. They still do the occasional tour and I hear they’re a great show even now.