The 1970s music scene was a fizzing mixture of sounds, styles and attitudes. Paddy Mclean looks at the variety of acts that graced the Roundhouse stage at the time.
In the early 1970s, a time when rock music had become the bread and butter of the music industry, the Roundhouse welcomed a plethora of famous faces to its stage. In a decade of breakthrough acts, Londoners were not short of wacky and wonderful performances to choose from.
These were the days of long hair, leathers and shiny, skin-tight suits (well for the Rolling Stones anyway), when rock was making waves amongst the community. Glam rock, electric folk, prog and the whisperings of heavy metal were flooding the homes and streets of the UK, and the Roundhouse was no exception. With a lot of the bands and acts we know today starting in pubs across London, it didn’t take long for the rock-bug to become a full blown epidemic across the country.
The British rock scene was dominating the world, everyone from 10cc to Soft Machine, King Crimson to The Kinks, changes were happening in the world of music. In the post-hippie fallout of Britain, outrageous clothing, makeup and hairstyles were in full force. The charts were full of the multi-genre acts like Elton John and Queen, mixing elements of pop and rock, leading to rich careers that continue today.
The orchestrator for these performances, DJ Jeff Dexter, ran a series of Sunday night gigs called Implosion, which saw some of the biggest names in the rock scene descend upon the Roundhouse. On February 22 1970, Ziggy Stardust himself, David Bowie, hit the stage with his band The Hype. His opening gig at the Roundhouse sadly proved to be quite divisive for fans, but kick-started the presentation of Bowie as a solo artist, leading to The Man Who Sold the World. David Buckley, Bowie’s biographer, described the show as ‘one of the most significant and most indifferently received concerts in rock history’.
Just one year later, rock gods The Rolling Stones graced the Roundhouse stage, entertaining the crowd with hits such as Satisfaction and Midnight Rambler. The Stones and Bowie were just two of the acts that made the venue the place to be on Sunday nights.
The Implosion events and Living Theatre collaborations led to one of the key moments in Roundhouse’s, if not the city’s, rock and roll history. In March 1970, acts such as Black Sabbath, Arthur Brown and Hawkwind were billed to perform. In the formative stages in their careers, Bowie, Hawkwind (pre-Lemmy) and Genesis brought their own unique takes on the genre to the eager rockers. This was a time where Genesis weren’t signed to Charisma, and played to a crowd of less than 20.
Some of the biggest names in the British music scene made their appearances at Roundhouse, with names such as Fleetwood Mac and Elton John featured on the bill, but it wasn’t just the bands that made the 1970s a busy year for the venue. Fans of theatrics were also treated with performances of Catch My Soul, Godspell and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat.
Given its chequered past of rock’n’roll and a colourful crowd, Roundhouse made its name for being one of the Sunday night hotspots for music.