The Bands of ’73 Shaped Classic Rock

They formed 50 years ago and still endure.


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Call it the Circle of Musical Life, but it’s a fact that bands form and dissolve every year. Most of them will break up within a year, while a few will put together a combination that allows them to become a working group. A rarified handful will find long-term sustainability, and a tiny percentage of those will actually become, for lack of a better term, rock stars. Fifty years ago, a number of bands that formed in 1973 dramatically affected not only the foundation of rock and roll, but a few related genres as well.


Formation: Sydney, Australia; November 1973
Status: Active

“Back in Black” (Uploaded to YouTube by AC/DC)

Formed in Australia by brothers Angus and Malcolm Young and company, AC/DC have basically defined hard rock. Propelled by an endless series of unmistakable riffs, the band has stomped their way to 200 million records sold worldwide, including 75 million in the U.S.

Key Tracks: Highway to Hell, Back in Black, You Shook Me All Night Long, Thunderstruck, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

Bachman-Turner Overdrive

Formation: Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada; 1973
Status: Retired as of 2018

“Let It Ride” (Live from 2010) (Uploaded to YouTube by Mercury)

Randy Bachman had hard rock success with The Guess Who, laying down lead guitar on tracks like “American Woman.” But he decided to split with the band and eventually started working with his brothers Robbie (drums) and Tim (guitar), as well as Fred Turner (bass-vocals). Picking up “Overdrive” from the cover of a trucking magazine and tacking it on their last names, the band had a title, as well as an easy abbreviation: BTO.

Key Tracks: Let It Ride, Takin’ Care of Business, You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet, Roll On Down the Highway, Hey You

Bad Company

Formation: Albury, Surrey, England; 1973
Status: Active

“Movin’ On” (Uploaded to YouTube by Bad Company)

By the 1970s, rock had been around long enough that “supergroups” assembled by members of previously successful bands became a much bigger presence. The original lineup of Bad Company featured Mick Ralphs (former Mott the Hoople guitarist), Boz Burrell (former King Crimson bassist), and two former members of Free: drummer Simon Kirke and vocalist Paul Rodgers. The band was a smash in the U.S. and their native U.K. Rodgers in particular has frequently been cited as one of the greatest rock singers of all time, with his influence noted by everyone from Freddie Mercury to John Mellencamp, who referred to him as “the best rock singer ever” in a 1991 interview with Spin.

Key Tracks: Can’t Get Enough, Movin’ On, Feel Like Makin’ Love, Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy

Cheap Trick

Formation: Rockford, Illinois; August 1973
Status: Active

“I Want You to Want Me” (Live at Budokan, 1979) (Uploaded to YouTube by Cheap Trick)

The combo of guitarist Rick Nielsen, bassist Tom Petersson, and drummer Bun E. Carlos had played together as early as 1967, but they didn’t form Cheap Trick until 1973. The original lead singer, Randy “Xeno” Hogan, didn’t last long; he was replaced a few months later by the artist who would become the group’s iconic frontman, Robin Zander. Regarded as the founders of “power pop,” Cheap Trick combines rock fundamentals with insanely catchy tunes that still resonate.

Key Tracks: I Want You to Want Me, Dream Police, Surrender, If You Want My Love, The Flame


Formation: Akron, Ohio; 1973
Status: Active

“Whip It” (Uploaded to YouTube by Warner Records Vault)

So much more than just one song and those bright red “energy dome” helmets, Devo has existed at the intersection of art and rock for five decades. As leading lights in New Wave, Post-Punk, Art Rock, and about a dozen other subgenres, Devo drew an audience based on a space that occupies ideas as much as it does music. The group formed at Kent State University with an initially fluid line-up that would include two sets of brothers (Mark and Bob Mothersbaugh, still with the band, and Jim (who left early on), Gerald (who remains), and Bob Casale (who passed away in 2014)). The band generated a following that included David Bowie and Iggy Pop, both of whom urged Warner Brothers to sign the band. Their best-known track, “Whip It,” went to #14 in 1980, but their catalog of material runs quite deep and their stage shows push the boundaries between rock concert and performance art. The band has been a major influence on acts that incorporate electronic instrumentation. Outside the band, Mark Mothersbaugh has shaped the sound of TV and movies across dozens of films and soundtracks, scoring everything from the animated Rugrats to Thor: Ragnarok and Cocaine Bear.

Key Tracks: Jocko Homo, Whip It, (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (cover), Girl U Want, Freedom of Choice


Formed: Seattle, Washington; 1973
Status: Active

“Crazy on You” (Uploaded to YouTube by TopPop)

Singer Ann Wilson joined a band in the early 1970s that ran through a cycle of name changes; alternately White Heart and Hocus Pocus, they were, very briefly, Heart. However, by 1973, with a line-up cemented around Ann, guitarist Roger Fisher, bassist Steve Fossen, keyboardist John Hannah, and drummer Brian Johnstone, the band officially became Heart. The following year, Ann’s sister, Nancy, joined the band on guitar and vocals, and their rocket-ride officially began. With Ann’s vocal pyrotechnics, her and Nancy’s otherworldly harmonies, and a procession of talented bandmates, Heart has placed an album in the Billboard Top Ten in four different decades, scored 19 Top 40 hits, and sold over 35 million albums. With inclusion in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and with Ann and Nancy viewed as the unofficial den mothers of the Seattle rock scene that followed in their wake, Heart has earned one of the finest legacies in rock.

Key Tracks: Magic Man, Crazy on You, Straight On, Barracuda, What About Love, These Dreams, Alone


Formation: San Francisco, California; 1973
Status: Active

“Stone in Love” (Uploaded to YouTube by Journey)

Does Journey need an introduction? Playing their first show on December 31, 1973, they cracked the Hot 100 in 1978, and never went away. There’s probably a Journey song on your local rock radio station right now. Lead singer Steve Perry’s nine-album tenure ran from 1977 to 1987, and again from 1995 to 1998, and he handled all of the well-known tunes; the dude could make a grocery list sound epic. Yes, Journey has had break-ups and shake-ups, but the band continues to tour under the leadership of its one constant member, guitarist Neal Schon.

Key Tracks: Don’t Stop Believin’, Wheel in the Sky, Any Way You Want It, Open Arms, Separate Ways (Worlds Apart), Faithfully, Stone in Love


Formation: Topeka, Kansas; early 1973
Status: Active

“Carry On Wayward Son” (Uploaded to YouTube by Kansas)

Kansas developed over the course of four years as several members from interrelated bands eventually melded into one group. The original lineup featured Steve Walsh (vocals), Robby Steinhardt (violin/vocals), Kerry Livgren (guitar), Rich Williams (guitar), Dave Hope (bass) and Phil Ehart (drums); Williams and Ehart still perform with the band today. The group’s two biggest hits, “Dust in the Wind” and “Carry On Wayward Son” became rock radio staples. Over the course of 15 seasons, the television series Supernatural featured “Carry On” as a recurring anthem to such an extent that Kansas performed at the show’s Season 13 panel at Comic Con International in 2017.
Key Tracks: Carry On Wayward Son, Dust in the Wind, People of the South Wind, All I Wanted, Play the Game Tonight


Formation: New York City; Early 1973
Status: Scheduled to retire after playing Madison Square Garden on December 2, 2023

“Rock and Roll All Nite” (Uploaded to YouTube by acekiss77)

Guitarist Paul Stanley and bassist Gene Simmons were members of Wicked Lester when they embarked on putting together a new group. The two would share vocals, and had soon recruited Peter Criss on drums and Ace Frehley on lead guitar. By January 30, they’d played their first show; their legendary make-up designs were set by March 9. The band built its reputation on the road, drawing fans that loved the live show along with the music. They tried to channel that experience into 1975’s Alive! concert album, and it gave them a gold record and a top 40 hit with the anthem “Rock and Roll All Nite.” Though the players around Simmons and Stanley have changed, Kiss has endured, notching more gold albums than any other American group and selling over 100 million records around the world. Their stagecraft and influence is staggering. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famers will finally retire this year; they confirmed in a March 1 interview on The Howard Stern Show that their final concert will occur at New York’s Madison Square Garden on December 2.

Key Tracks: Rock and Roll All Nite, Beth, Detroit Rock City, Shout It Out Loud, I Was Made for Lovin’ You, Lick It Up

Los Lobos

Formation: East Los Angeles, California; 1973
Status: Active

“Will the Wolf Survive?” (Uploaded to YouTube by Los Lobos)

Some kids take band in high school, and some kids form bands. For Los Lobos, Garfield High School was ground zero for their multidimensional blend of Tex-Mex-influenced, Americana-infused rock and roll. Four original members (including vocalist/guitarist David Hidalgo, drummer Louie Pérez, guitarist/the-dude-in-sunglasses Cesar Rosas, and bassist Conrad Lozano) remain with the band today, an incredible feat of longevity. Los Lobos has appealed to a wide variety of audiences, opening for acts like The Clash or Public Image Ltd while also recording albums for children and cartoon theme songs (Handy Manny). Their big commercial breakthrough happened in 1987 when they covered a number of Ritchie Valens songs for the film La Bamba; their version of the title track went to #1. Reverent and relevant for fifty years, the band won their fourth Grammy (this one for Best Americana album) in 2022.

Key Tracks: La Bamba (cover), Come On Let’s Go, Will the Wolf Survive?, Set Me Free (Rosa Lee)


Formation: California; early 1973
Status: Disbanded in 2012, with occasional reunions

“Rock Candy” (Uploaded to YouTube by Montrose)

Ronnie Montrose made his name as a session man for the likes of Van Morrison and as the guitar-slinger for The Edgar Winter Group (that’s him on “Frankenstein”). He assembled his own band in 1973 with drummer Denny Carmassi and bassist Bill Church. On vocals was a guy named Sam; he would eventually become much more famous as Sammy (Hagar, that is). Montrose were not hugely successful on the charts, but they were definition of a working, touring band. They’re mainly notable for giving Hagar the showcase that launched a career that featured solo hits and his eleven-year tenure as lead singer of Van Halen.

Key Tracks: Bad Motor Scooter, Rock Candy, I Got The Fire

Quiet Riot

Formation: Los Angeles, California; 1973
Status: Active

“The Wild and The Young” (Uploaded to YouTube by QuietRiotVEVO)

Founded by the late guitar legend Randy Rhoads and bassist Kelly Garni, Quiet Riot became part of the bedrock of the L.A. hard rock and metal scene. After the departure of Rhoads and Garni, the band coalesced around a lineup of Kevin DuBrow (vocals), Frankie Banali (drums), Carlos Cavazo (guitar), and Rudy Sarzo (bass). Their breakthrough came with 1983’s Metal Health, which was the first heavy metal album to claim the #1 position on Billboard’s album chart. Buoyed by the band’s cover of Slade’s “Cum on Feel the Noize,” the record sold 10 million copies and kicked off the reign of ’80s “hair metal.” Though DuBrow and Banali have passed, Sarzo anchors the modern version of the band.

Key Tracks: Cum on Feel the Noize, Bang Your Head (Metal Health), The Wild and the Young


Formation: New York City; March 12, 1973
Status: Active

“Marquee Moon” (Uploaded to YouTube by Shame)

Television isn’t the most famous band on the list, and they never dominated the charts. But what they wielded was influence, and the acts that they inspired include U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Joy Division, The Pixies, Sonic Youth, Echo & The Bunnymen, and R.E.M. Emerging from the heart of NYC’s punk scene at CBGB, Television put together a two-guitar sound that drew up the blueprint for modern alternative rock. The original line-up included guitarist/vocalist Tom Verlaine, bassist/vocalist Richard Hell, guitarist Richard Lloyd, and drummer Billy Ficca. Hell departed in 1975 and was replaced by Fred Smith. The band then cut Marquee Moon; that 1977 debut album is regarded as one of post-punk’s authentic masterpieces, drawing praise from critics and publications like Rolling Stone. Though the band essentially sat out the 1980s, they reformed in 1992 (Lloyd left in 2007 and was replaced by Jimmy Rip). Television suffered a major blow in January of this year when Verlaine passed away; the future of the band is presently unknown, although there are currently no shows scheduled for 2023.

Key Tracks: Marquee Moon Part 1, Marquee Moon Part 2, Prove It, Foxhole, Call Me Mr. Lee

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  1. I’m amazed that no one has mentioned Uriah Heep. There still making albums and there new one is awesome!

  2. Deep Purple formed in 1968. They had six albums out before 1973.

    Which means, of course, that they did not FORM in 1973. Which, again, was the premise of the piece.

  3. Umm.. deep purple is the cornerstone of Classic rock. of course they don’t get mentioned because here in America, they are virtual unknowns, which is pathetic.

  4. The mighty Van Halen, who changed from Mammoth to Van Halen in 1973, is superior to every band in the list.

  5. If that’s all 1973 had to offer no wonder rock started to suck. I’ve never heard Television or Montrose but the rest are a bunch of glam and fluff. No music. I think rock started to die shortly after to his. The Stones and Led Zep kept it going. No wonder John Lennon said wasn’t the 70s a drag.

  6. The Sweet are most excellent, but formed in 1968. They cracked the U.S. charts for the first time in 1972 with “Little Willy.”

  7. I’m pretty sure ‘The SWEET’ should be on this list! They were the founders of the whole ‘Glam Rock’ genre. (‘Ballroom Blitz’, ‘Love is like oxygen’, ‘Fox on the run’…)

  8. There might be a case to be made for Van Halen, but their history includes several name changes and goes back to the mid-’60s (Eddie and Alex were Broken Combs as early as 1964). They were still Mammoth through at least half of 1973 before they got a cease-and-desist from another band. Stories differ as to whether they became VH then or in ’74 (AllMusic and Ultimate Classic Rock list the official name change as ’74, so by the criteria I used for Heart, VH would be a “’74 band”). So, for the sake of most sources, I’d stick with ’74, but I see where you’re coming from.

  9. In keeping with the motif of wondering why bands that didn’t form in 1973 are not on a list of bands that formed in 1973:
    Why aren’t these bands on the list?
    Led Zeppelin
    Rolling Stones
    Sex Pistols
    The Ramones
    Buddy Holly and the Crickets
    The Clash

    Huh? Why aren’t they?

  10. I can believe the Allman Brothers weren’t on the list because they were formed in 1969. This article, when you read it, is about bands that formed 50 years ago in 1973. It’s not hard.

  11. LAME!!! Why is Boston not listed. Also, why are they STILL not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

  12. Neither Grand Funk Railroad nor Jethro Tull formed in 1973. So it’s not “limited,” but “the premise.”

  13. Where is Grand Funk Railroad in this list? You people are so limited. You missed “Hard Luck Woman” from Kiss. But you did rock on BTO.

  14. Was an awesome time to be young, alive, and great music coming out almost daily. I remember getting Dreamboat Annie and I believe Boston on the same day. Talk about wearing out 8-Track in our vehicles lmao Double tracking, so using books of matches to make them play right !! Wish I still had the vinyl or reel to reel’s of them. I also had Kiss Alive I the day it came out, but didn’t see them till Detroit Rock City. Then Bad Co ?? What can you say ?? Awesome, and I think it was with Thin Lizzy I saw them in 75-76 Amazing !!

  15. This list comprises most of my youth. Having seen the majority in concert, and often together: (AC/DC 4X: 3 with Bon, and with Cheap Trick whom they opened for ), and Kansas 5X (1X with Montrose, and Sammy doing: Bad Motor Scooter IMO a much better song than Rock Candy !! They opened for for Rush 2112 and was 1 helluva concert ’76 and also saw Kansas at a bar doing song’s from John Browns Body (The drawing of him at the Capital building in Topeka), and I’m 61 so could recount concerts from above. Altho why Devo is on this list is almost an affront to me !! The rest is
    P. S Altho I never remember hearing of Television


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