Yes, the 1975 got their name from a Jack Kerouac book. No, Matt Healy doesn’t remember which one. And yes, this can be seen as romantic but is mostly immature, like being 15-years-old and naming your third-wave emo band Forever Enjoying Sex or something. However, give credit where credit is earned; the Manchester band grew up (and are still growing up), paid their dues, and became a great rock band the old-fashioned way: They made really good records, toured the hell out of them, and developed an actual fan base. Now they’ve made a great record with A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships, and the 1975 have a chance to join their heroes and be a Big and Important Band. They’ve earned “Big.” Time will tell for “Important.”
The actual year, 1975, was also full of Big and Important Rock and Roll Moments. Bruce Springsteen and the Eagles cemented their legacies, while Elton John, Neil Young, Fela Kuti, Willie Nelson, Paul Simon, and others released new classics to widening audiences. This was also the year the Who got old and disturbed a new generation with the unnecessary Tommy film and underwhelming The Who by Numbers. Because they still packed stadiums, they were allowed to fall apart on the big stage and get away with it. Classic rock was born.
Meanwhile, and more importantly to 2018 listeners, musical worlds outside rock and roll in 1975 were creating their own histories. Fleetwood Mac, now the most rock and roll of blues turned pop bands, gained Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham. Peter Gabriel left Genesis, which in turn introduced the world to Phil Collins (and thus Haim) and later Peter “every romantic comedy trailer” Gabriel. Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder’s “Love to Love You Baby,” Van McCoy’s “The Hustle,” and other era-defining hits strengthened disco’s hold over the clubs and charts two years before Studio 54 and Saturday Night Fever. (1975 was also the year rock bands started successfully ripping off disco.) Elsewhere, DJ Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash, DJ Grand Wizard Theodore, and more were still studying James Brown and laying down the foundations four years before “Rapper’s Delight” brought hip-hop out of the Bronx. Seymour Stein signed his latest act, the Ramones, and gave them money to record their first album. Iron Maiden, the only good band, was formed. And Glen Campbell recorded every future sad indie boy’s favorite country song, “Rhinestone Cowboy.” To the eclectic listener — the audience the 1975 aims to reach — these are all milestones worth celebrating.
The year 1975 can also offer some minor parallels to our modern world. The middle year of Tom Wolfe’s “Me Decade” featured a narcissistic pop culture that had become numb to shock and horror. The Vietnam War, finally and unceremoniously, ended when the U.S. pulled its troops and North Vietnam took Saigon. President Ford, a tired man who pardoned Nixon for Watergate, slogged through a recession and bailed out New York “Drop Dead” City. Congress passed the Metric Conversion Act and then ignored it. Margaret Thatcher became Britain’s Conservative Party leader in the same year the U.K. voted to stay in the E.U. Franco died. Patty Hearst was arrested. Jimmy Hoffa disappeared. The Bus Massacre started Lebanon’s 15-year-long civil war. Jaws created the blockbuster. Monty Python and the Holy Grail and The Rocky Horror Picture Show helped establish future cult classics. Microsoft, Wheel of Fortune, and Space Mountain were born. Americans ignored Pelé and watched All in the Family. Everything changed. Nothing changed. Love it that we made it.
Below are some songs from the year 1975 for those who love to love, love to hate, hate to love, or love to try to figure out the 1975. (Listen to this supercut via Spotify.)
ABBA, “Hey, Hey Helen”
It’s fun watching the 1975 play pop music as a grab bag, in which not only can arena guitars sit alongside church choirs, but that they should, as long as it gets you dancing, or at least swaying.
Aerosmith, “No More No More”
Bob Dylan, “You’re a Big Girl Now”
Cuts the difference between the yacht rock of “Inside Your Mind” (see Dylan’s original non-YouTube version) and the acoustic kiss-off of “Be My Mistake.”
Brian Eno, “Discreet Music”
For those who loved the first half of the ambient middle section of I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It and wished it would go on for another 30 minutes. If you enjoy Eno circa 1975, also check out his other masterpiece and his former band’s pretty great LP.
Burning Spear, “Marcus Garvey”
If A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships is also the 1975’s London Calling (sprawling, topical, and, as Jeff Tweedy points out in his new memoir, “daring in how sincerely and unabashedly it was begging everyone to care more, not less”), then brush up on some good reggae before the band tries writing their own Sandinista! (Or maybe more U.K. garage.)
David Bowie, “Young Americans”
Whether you think this is a too on-the-nose pick from an untouchable icon or a loving tribute to a pop chameleon always obsessed with being relevant will tell you how you feel about the 1975.
Don Cherry, “Brown Rice”
Though it’s easy to think of the 1975 as just Healy, this band would be nothing without George Daniel, Adam Hann, and Ross MacDonald, who are each essential and can groove when they want; picture them covering Cherry’s fusion classic like LCD Soundsystem covering Harry Nilsson’s “Jump Into the Fire.”
Gloria Gaynor, “Never Can Say Goodbye (Album Version)”
It’s not living (if it’s not with the ’74 single and ’75 LP versions of Gaynor’s epic disco hit about how hard it is to walk away from something that gives you life and makes you unhappy, like love or drugs).
Janis Ian, “The Come On”
The most the 1975–sounding track off one of the most underrated albums of 1975. (“Would you like to be friends? / No, I just want a bed for the night.”) Fun fact: Ian, along with Billy Preston, was the first musical guest on Saturday Night Live, which premiered on October 11, 1975.
Joni Mitchell, “The Jungle Line”
If you liked “Mine,” wait until you dig into post-Blue Joni Mitchell.
Keith Jarrett, “Köln, January 24, 1975, Pt. I — Live”
For the seven other the 1975 fans who still get crushed by “Is There Somebody Who Can Watch You.”
Kiss, “Deuce (Live)”
When people talk about “big rock bands,” they’re really talking about, intentionally or not, Kiss and 1975’s Alive!, for better or worse.
Led Zeppelin, “Bron-Yr-Aur”
Though not as heavy, the 1975 carry on Zeppelin’s spirit of self-mythology (the four Zep “they don’t actually mean anything” symbols versus every “The 1975” intro track), forgetting to wear shirts, and writing pretty interludes. In fact, the 1975’s excellent EPs are 52.94 percent pretty interludes.
Lou Reed, “Metal Machine Music, Pt. 1”
If we are to believe the 1975 just made their OK Computer, and if they still want rock critics to care, then their upcoming Notes on a Conditional Form needs to be Kid A.
Melissa Manchester, “Midnight Blue”
Because both Manchester and the 1975 make excellent soundtracks to walking around the city at night with your headphones on, feeling pretty and lonely. (See also 10cc’s “I’m Not in Love.”)
For those who loved the second half of the ambient middle section of I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It.
Olivia Newton-John, “Have You Never Been Mellow”
Tried, true, and gentle pop wisdom à la “Give Yourself a Try.”
Patti Smith, “Kimberly”
The most the 1975–sounding track off the best album of 1975.
Pink Floyd, “Have a Cigar”
Have a Juul.
Queen, “Bohemian Rhapsody”
The 1975 are one album or single away from achieving this level of silliness and ubiquity. Maybe they’ve already achieved it. God bless them for going for it.