The Weirdest Musicians of the ’70s


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The 1970 to 1979 was a great run of years for rock music. Indeed, some of the most beloved and durable music was made during that time, and it still casts a long shadow over everything that came afterward.

 Part of what made it a great decade for music was the experimental nature of much of it, as personified by bands like Pink Floyd and others who could never get a record deal today. That atmosphere led established artists to take risks with their work and also gave permission to weirder and more bizarre artists to let their freak flag fly. Here are our picks for 15 of the weirdest that decade produced.

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David Bowie

Today his catalog is considered an indispensable body of work that no home should be without, but in the 1970s when he was an emerging artist, the normals couldn’t handle him. He remains an inspiration to weirdos the world over.

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Alice Cooper

If you listen to the music of Alice Cooper in 2023, you may have a hard time understanding why middle America was so scandalized by his brand of hard rock. If you watch early videos of him ending concerts by decapitating himself with a fake guillotine, it will make more sense.

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Captain Beefheart

Captain Beefheart’s most insane album, “Trout Mask Replica,” was released in 1969, so technically he may not belong on this list. At the same time, he was plenty busy in the 1970s, making completely inaccessible music that no one could deal with either, so we’re allowing him entry.

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Genesis may have trafficked in asinine arena rock during their 1980s heyday, but in the 1970s their frontman was Peter Gabriel, who would do things like dress up as a six-foot flower while singing about various cosmic matters. There were more talented people with better artistic sense who appeared on “The Gong Show.”

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Frank Zappa

A close associate of Captain Beefheart, Frank Zappa collaborated with him numerous times in the 1970s, such as on the albums “Bongo Fury” and “One Size Fits All.” These collaborations were slightly more coherent than “Trout Mask Replica,” which isn’t saying much.


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Elton John

He may have worn outrageous costumes and oversized glasses, but Elton John’s keen ear for melody is what made him top the charts in the 1970s and gain mainstream success, despite widespread rumors that he was “flamboyant.” Today, no one cares, but back then, leading an “alternative lifestyle” it was a career-destroyer.

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With their robotic dance moves and energy dome hats, Ohio’s Devo were hands down one of the weirdest ensembles to emerge from the 1970s. To this day, none of the weirdness has worn off even slightly, and if you want to play a fun game, make a child under the age of 12 watch the video for “Whip It.”

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The Residents

The Residents from San Francisco are easily one of the weirdest bands to debut in the 1970s. They wore eyeball masks to hide their identities and their extremely bizarre music consists of such songs as “Smelly Tongues,” “Arctic Hysteria,” and “Hitler Was a Vegetarian.” To this day, no one knows their real names or what they look like.

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Roxy Music

Roxy Music is better known for their later radio hits such as “More Than This” and “Avalon,” but that incarnation was a world apart from their early glam rock years. Brian Eno was a member of the band back then, and when he left, he took most of the weirdness with him.

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The Tubes

They’re not as well-known as other artists with costumes and an elaborate stage show, such as Alice Cooper or KISS,  but during the 1970s the Tubes were plenty weird and gave those artists a run for their money. Singer Fee Waybill would portray different characters over the course of a concert, from country singer Hugh Heifer to glam rocker Quay Lewd and punk casualty Johnny Bugger.

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Sun Ra

If you ever listened to music made in the 1970s that sounds more like a Martian invasion than something with verses and choruses, it’s likely that music was made by people influenced by jazz musician Sun Ra. Claiming the birthplace of the planet Saturn, the music he invented would later go on to be known as Afrofuturism, which is actually interesting stuff sometimes.


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The German experimental rock band was founded in the 1960s but is more identified with the 1970s when they began playing with tape loops and other technological marvels that had not yet been widely embraced. Today, Can is cited as a major influence by every home engineer who composes all their own electronic music on Pro Tools and sells it on Bandcamp.


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Tom Waits

Tom Waits became more widely famous in the 1980s, but his debut album, “Closing Time,” came out in 1973, and he has numerous great records from that decade. In fact, some people believe he was better in his 1970s incarnation, when he sang with his real singing voice than he was when he adopted the gravelly-voiced Louis Armstrong schtick.

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Jobriath was a victim of lousy timing. He emerged in the 1970s as the first openly gay rock artist and as a singer, multi-instrumentalist, and songwriter, he delivered the goods. Unfortunately, audiences in 1973 simply couldn’t get past their homophobia and his records didn’t sell. In 2012, filmmaker Kieran Turner made the documentary “Jobriath A.D.” about him, and it’s absolutely worth checking out.

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Il Balletto di Bronzo

In the 1970s, progressive rock was big, and you could get on the charts even if you made horrible music like Emerson, Lake & Palmer did. Il Balletto di Bronzo, unfortunately, hailed from Italy and sang in Italian, limiting their international commercial prospects, but nothing was going to keep them from the mainstream quite like their own music, which is a tornado of chaos that even the most experienced ears might have trouble comprehending.

This article was produced and syndicated by MediaFeed.

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