Michael Walker has captured the exuberant excess that defined rock and rock decadence of the 1970s. He makes the argument that 1973 was the year that these excesses completely overcame and destroyed the ’60s peace/love era once and for all.
To illustrate this, Walker examines the 1973 big budget tours of three powerhouse bands: Alice Cooper, Led Zeppelin and the Who. All three came out with albums in 1973 that were watershed moments in their careers.
- Billion Dollar Babies launched Alice Cooper into the status of superstars and their subsequent tour changed live rock and roll forever.
- Led Zeppelin cemented their throne as the world’s greatest band while capturing America while supporting their new LP, Houses of the Holy.
- The Who was touring to support Pete Townshend’s ambitious Quadrophenia album/rock opera to mixed results.
So many of rock and roll’s touring stereotypes have their roots from those three tours – trashing of hotel rooms, back stage sex /drug parties, chartered jets, massive, elaborate stage shows, strong-arm tactics by managers versus promoters. Pete Townsend and Roger Daltry coming to blows backstage over the set list, Alice Cooper drinking a case of beer (American only, please) every day, followed by two bottles of Seagram’s VO each evening, Led Zeppelin’s ravaging of hundreds of under-aged girls across America …
Other than Walker’s tendency to namedrop a bit too often, this is an immensely enjoyable read. It gives you a front row seat of the debauchery – backstage, on the plane and the bus, and in the hotel rooms.
My favorite tidbit concerns Glenn Buxton (guitar player for Alice Cooper). The 1973 tour ended the band – seventy dates in 90 days – while Cooper himself continued on as a solo artist. Buxton, the creator of the opening riff of Cooper’s massive hit, “School’s Out,” died in 1997 and his headstone contains a musical bar on which the guitar riff is engraved. A fitting memorial for a musician.