Some Overlooked Bands of the 70s

When you think of the 1970s, certain bands come right to mind. For the most part, these are the groups that you hear on a classic rock station or streaming platform. It will typically include Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, the Stones, Pink Floyd, The Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, AC/DC, and several others. It’s a pretty narrow list.

However, there are more great bands that are seldom mentioned. Some did have success in the United States, but for whatever reason are now rarely heard of. Several bands were much more successful in other countries such as the UK and developed a following here in the US. Here are a few overlooked bands worth checking out (or in some cases, digging in deeper).

The first band is Hawkwind. The group was formed by guitarist and singer Dave Brock and guitarist Mick Slattery in 1969 and is considered one of the first “space rock” bands. Their music is a mix of hard-driving rock, heavy metal, and psychedelic rock mixed with electronic and keyboard elements. One of their standout albums, In Search of Space, released in 1971, demonstrates this space rock theme with the track “Master of the Universe.” The music is so different than what most had heard before and may have been a reason why radio tended to shy away. This is true even in a decade where the rise of FM radio provided for more experimental music.

Blue Oyster Cult may raise some eyebrows being put in the category of “overlooked bands” because they did have some success. Their biggest hit, “Don’t Fear the Reaper,” is still played, however, their catalog is much larger. Their second album Tyranny and Mutation is a classic that many are not familiar with since it came out before their chart hit. Two strong tracks from the release are “Hot Rails to Hell” and “The Red and the Black.”

Although they’re sometimes mentioned as being one of the first punk/glam rock bands, Mott the Hoople had limited success. The band was going to split up until a very big fan by the name of David Bowie convinced them to stay together. Bowie wrote their most successful song, “All The Young Dudes,” released in 1972. It marked a turning point for the band, and a couple of other fairly successful albums followed. However, as is true of many groups, there were several member changes and the band never reached their full potential.

The New York Dolls are recognized as one of the first punk rock bands, with their influence felt in bands including the Sex Pistols, the Ramones, and even Guns N’ Roses. The albums, New York Dolls (1973) and Too Much Too Soon (74) are cult favorites. Despite not having much commercial success, there’s no doubt that the Dolls were well ahead of their time; two of their strongest tracks are “Personality Crisis” and “Trash.”

Formed in London and named after a Dickens character, Uriah Heep has been credited as early innovators of hard rock and heavy metal. Although the group achieved success in the early 70s, they’re rarely heard now on radio. The band still remains together with twenty-four studio albums and several live and compilation releases. Like most bands, there have been numerous lineup changes along the way. Two of their early albums, Demons and Wizards and The Magician’s Birthday both released in 1972 were some of their most popular releases. “Easy Livin’“ and “Sweet Lorraine” were stand-out singles. The band is touring in 2022 and releasing a new album.

So just because these 70s bands have fallen below the radar in recent decades, there are still plenty of good reasons to give ’em another listen.

-Jack B. Stephens

Photo: Mott the Hoople, 1974 (public domain)

This post originally ran in 2022, but since “classic” is timeless, we thought it’d be nice to have another look now…

Other Posts You Might Like

17 comments on “Some Overlooked Bands of the 70s

  1. David S.

    Funny you should mention Hawkwind: I knew of In Search of Space but the production values left a little to be desired. But I just acquired the 3 CD release Dreamworkers of Time: the BBC Recordings 1985-1995. The sound quality is excellent, and the songs top notch. Takes you out of this world. Highly recommended!

    Coincidence #2: I knew of those two Uriah Heep albums because of the Roger Dean artwork (most famous of course due to his work on early Yes albums). But now I’m digging into the entire (large) catalog and finding a lot of great stuff there.

    So, good call on these bands!

  2. Overlooked – are you really proposing that lack of commercial success determines being ‘overlooked’? Of course 1960s garagerock nuggets are now classics, the Velvet Underground was not a commercial success but their early albums are observed and well appreciated today. Like Daniel Lanois recently said in an interviewer, the listeners have an obligation to look for and consider the best sound quality, musicianship and ‘soul’-quality of recorded music. The American criterion of chart success is really not getting to the core of the love for music.

    • If bands don’t sell many records or get a lot of radio airplay, especially in the 70s, then yes…they can easily be overlooked by a huge portion of its potential fan base. Especially pre-internet days where word of mouth isn’t what it is today. Everyone knows sales don’t necessarily define the band’s worth—but c’mon, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have a gold or platinum album.

      • David S.

        100%. In the 70s Hawkwind and Uriah Heep were definitely word of mouth bands, the kind you’d hear about if you were lucky to have a cool big brother. If influential (at the time) Rolling Stone magazine gave them a mention at all, it was in passing with little respect.

  3. The Uriah Heap stuff is literally the raw material for Spinal Tap.
    I tried the first track from Demons and Wizards and was reduced to laughter from the lyrics.

    • jsmbliam

      I agree. Hard the Uriah Heep album Demons and Wzards and whilst a good album, I felt the lead singers voice a bit weak, Still listen to them though..

  4. BOC is my all time favorite band and I agree they are somewhat overlooked. Tyranny is a great album before the hits but Secret Treaties is so much better. And the best songs on Tyranny IMO are Baby Ice Dog and Quicklime Girl with honorable mention to Teen Archer. While red and black and hot rails are good tunes in their own right, I don’t think they are the best tunes on the album. My two cents.

  5. One of my favorite overlooked 70s bands was Detective. They never had any big hits but one of their songs “Dynamite” is occasionally played on the some of the deep cut streaming stations. They are the answer to a classic TV trivia question “who is the band on the poster behind Doctor Johnny Fever in the studio of WKRP?” They also appeared in an episode of the show as the punk rock band Scum of the Earth. I saw them open for KISS once.

  6. Vernon Vogt

    Root boy slim and the sex change band with the rootettes from 1978

  7. Mark Shoemate

    I would not say overlooked. Their sound was not pleasing to the ear and still isn’t.

  8. Although, more popular in the late 60s, Spirit was another pretty decent band that has been forgotten. Saw Uriah Heep and Humble Pie live in 1971… Humble Pie is another talented band now forgotten.

  9. JFW Richards

    Mott the Hoople broke up 50 years ago. Ian Hunter hasn’t stopped since and had a new album this spring.

    Heep, Hawkwind & BOC have had new albums out since 2020. Heep and Hawkwind have regularly released music although Hawkwind have struggled with labels.

    The New York Dolls were always a cult band and were introduced to the UK under the auspices of Malcolm Maclaren pre Sex Pistols. They broke up 47 years ago after 2 albums but were regarded later as one of the most influential bands of the era.

  10. Lyle Keith Williams

    The commercially unsuccessful are my favorites. I liked all the stuff no one had heard of. Strider was one of those bands. Loved it when people asked me “who’s that” driving in my car.

  11. Les Canney

    Good choices all for 70s overlooked bands. I was a huge BOC fan after buying Secret Treaties because it had an ME-262 on the album cover. I was also a Uriah Heep fan, beginning with their first album.

    I would add Bebop Deluxe to the list – their albums Sunburst Finish and Modern Music are classics.

  12. Mr. Harry S. Steinmetz

    For BOC, Hawkwind and the NY Dolls their early albums suffered from poor production. Their live sound just wasn’t captured on their early albums. I suspect that was a major factor in their lack of commercial success.

Leave a Reply (and please be kind!)