This idea started as a thought I had on Facebook. I didn't get a whole lot of suggestions (I'm still trying to figure out exactly how Facebook will fit into the Retrospace Universe the way Tumblr and podcasting has); but it did get me started thinking about all those bands of the 1970s that I had NO IDEA what they looked like.
It's almost incomprehensible today that Billboard's charts could be dominated by bands who wouldn't be recognized by even an ardent fan. Indeed, popular music has ALWAYS relied on image as a part of its allure: from Elvis and the Beatles to David Bowie and Madonna. The music and the image have always gone hand in hand.... but not so much in the 1970s.
Something happened in the 70s. The so-called "Album Oriented Rock" bands began to sell out stadiums, and their records (when not being used as a surface to roll joints) were on constant rotation. How could we know what Boston looked like when there were no music videos, their likeness was not on album covers, and they weren't likely to show up on Captain & Tennille or Sonny & Cher? The best look at the band you'd get was at a concert: and then it was from 60 rows back through a thick layer of smoke.
In the 1980s, faceless bands became victims of a mass extinction caused by MTV. Certain bands, like Journey, Chicago and Rush, survived; but for most it was The End. No one wanted to see a Little River Band music video, and it didn't help that they were as ugly as Christopher Cross. It was back to the way it's always been, with image being as front and center as the music. It was only during those few years in the 70s when the rules of the game were changed and bands focused on the sounds rather than the looks. It was brief but refreshing.
So, here's my Top 30 Faceless Bands.... that is to say the best bands of the 1970s who's faces were largely unknown.
IMPORTANT: If they "came out of the closet" so to speak later on, that does not disqualify them, but still taints their once brilliant anonymity. Hence, Journey loses points because, God knows, we saw enough of Steve Perry's ugly mug during the 1980s.
Also, this is not just a list of "corporate rock bands" and "AOR" bands; other genres like "soft rock" had their share of faceless musical groups.
- Blue Oyster Cult
- Pink Floyd
- The Little River Band
- REO Speedwagon
- Steely Dan
- King Crimson
- Captain Beefheart
- April Wine
- The Pure Prairie League
- The Steve Miller Band
- Gentle Giant
- Uriah Heep
- Golden Earring
- Bachman Turner Overdrive
- Molly Hatchet
- Pink Floyd (with Roger Waters) didn't come "out of the closet", but rather "went into the closet" after Syd Barrett left. Thus, a little deduction is necessary for their very image oriented period with Barrett.
- Styx would arguably be number one on this list were it not for the tragic "Mr. Roboto" period.
- Chicago was super anonymous, as was REO Speedwagon, until Cetera and Cronin decided to get public - hence the deductions.
- Yes loses points because the band actually appears on their first LP and for their video "Leave It".
- I've heard the term "faceless band" was first used to describe Triumph in Rolling Stone magazine.
- The Eagles and Genesis were pretty faceless in the 70s, but members became so high profile afterwards that it's ruined any sense of anonymity they might have once had.
- Where's The Moody Blues, Dire Straits, Jethro Tull and Rush? I think people who bought those groups' records pretty much knew what the members looked like..... which is unfortunate in the case of Geddy Lee.