Rock and roll may have been born in the 1950s, but it really came into its own in the ’70s. The ’70s gave us some of our greatest rock and roll legends including Queen, AC/DC, Led Zepplin, The Ramones, and The Rolling Stones.
We know what happened on rock stages across the country during the 1970s, but what happened behind the scenes remains a mystery— until now. Keep reading to see some rare backstage photos of the good old days.
Somewhere Over The Rainbow
You might recognize the woman in this photo as the legendary Liza Minelli (daughter of Dorothy herself, Judy Garland). The man sitting next to her is Sammy Davis Jr.
Sammy Davis Jr. was born in 1925, so he was no stranger to racism. He fought against institutional racism both in music and in life. Sammy and Liza were pretty good friends, as you can probably tell from this photo. Liza was just 28 years old when this photo was taken.
Fleetwood Mac Is Back
It looks like Fleetwood Mac is having a great time in this photo. They all seem to be laughing and enjoying each other’s company. Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks really put this band on the map.
In 1977, they hit number one on the Billboard chart and stayed there for a whopping 31 weeks! That same year, they won a Grammy for Album of the Year. If they look happy, they have a good reason to be.
The Father Of Funk
By the 1970s, James Brown was already heralded as the father of funk, a relatively new music genre. The R&B musician married the style with African sounds to create hits like “Get Up….” He also wasn’t afraid to be a part of the social movements of the 60s. Songs like “Say It Loud– I’m Black And I’m Proud.”
Brown has been ranked #1 in the top R&B artists and has been inducted into the Rock and Roll and Songwriter Hall of Fame. This backstage photo would have been at the height of his career, in the mid-1970s, before his sales dropped in the 1980s.
Members Of AC/DC Come And Go
AC/DC is an Australian band that released their first album in 1975. Rock fans were instantly attracted to their energy and awesome guitar skills.
The hard, bluesy, heavy sounds brought them up to stardom in the 70s. The band did go through some turbulent times, though. They had to replace their bassist, Mark Evans. They also lost their lead singer, Bon Scott (standing in the back right) to alcohol poisoning and almost split up. It’s a good thing they kept preserving through it all.
We Will Rock You
Queen burst onto the scene with their 1975 album A Night At The Opera, but it was their single “Bohemian Rhapsody” that launched them into superstardom.That song stayed at the top of the charts for over two months.
The photo seems above was taken in 1977. By that point, Queen had already released “We Are The Champions” and “We Will Rock You.” In this moment, they are receiving ice hockey shirts at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto.
The Poet Patti Smith
In this photo, you can see rock legend Patti Smith being smothered by Iggy Pop and James Williamson at the Whisky A Go Go. Patti was more than a rock star. She was a poet. She used her lyricism and sincerity to add some depth to the punk scene.
This photo was taken in 1974, and at that time, Patti had just formed the Patti Smith Group. They recorded their first single, “Hey Joe/ Piss Factory” the same year.
Stevie Wonder Is A Wonder
Stevie Wonder always looks like he’s playing music. While it appears at first glance that he’s playing piano for friends backstage, he actually is just fiddling with a cassette player. Nevertheless, he looks cool doing it.
The musician went blind shortly after birth and was a child prodigy. He was signed by Motown at eleven years old, and by 13 he was the youngest to ever top the Billboards. His hits continued through the 1970s. After a car accident in 1973, he returned just as talented as ever, even after being in a coma for four days.
Ozzy Osbourne Pulling Faces
Ozzy Osbourne has always been hilarious. Just look at him, throwing his leg up in the air with pursed lips. Even the dude in the background is cracking up. At the time, he was the lead singer of Black Sabbath, who released their first album in 1970 and became pioneers of heavy metal.
The album sold millions in the US, setting a fantastic foundation for the band to thrive through the mid-1970s. Unfortunately, Ozzy Osbourne would get booted out of the group in 1979 due to his drug and alcohol use. They’d be reunited again one day; Ozzy is just too irresistible.
Kiss Is At It Again
Kiss committed to personas more than most other bands. Formed in 1973, just a year before this portrait was taken, the musicians took on characters that appear to have walked out of a rocker comic book. From the left, we have the Space Ace (Ace Frehley), the Starchild (Paul Stanley), The Catman (Peter Criss), and The Demon (Gene Simmons).
This photograph was backstage on their very first tour. The band is jokingly looking into a magazine titled “Rock Scene” with what looks to be David Bowie on the cover. The band is either jovially looking at the featured artists, or perhaps at themselves being featured in a story about the new, hot rockers.
The Runaways are seen here messing around backstage at CBGB’s in 1976. The women had just been signed by Mercury Records and were on their way to stardom. However, their bright light burned out fast. In 1977, the group parted over disagreements about money and management. Fun as the picture seems, perhaps it was more symbolic of the ladies clashing.
The females all went on their own ventures in the world of rock and roll, but arguably Joan Jett made the biggest impact. After being rejected by 23 labels, she became one of the first female artists to found her own label, named Blackheart Records.
The Supremes Lounging Around
It turns out, The Supremes weren’t always dancing. In this photo, you can see them lounging around on a couch backstage. The Supremes, made up of Jean Terrell, Cindy Birdsong, and Mary Wilson, were a chart-topping Motown girl group. In this photo, Wilson is tempting a small dog with a bite of food.
The Supremes were originally known as The Primettes when they first got together in 1959. After a whole bunch of success in the ’70s, the group disbanded in 1977.
Blondie And A Snake
Long before Britney Spears made it sensual to sing while wearing a snake, Debbie Harry of Blondie cautiously draped a snake over her shoulders while backstage at the Philadelphia Spectrum. The show marked a transition as the band went from being underground to mainstream.
Blondie first caught the public eye in the UK and Australia, but by the late 1970s, the US was finally ready to embrace the punk group. Their third album Parallel Lines was an international hit in 1978 and put them on track for mainstream success. Fortunately, the snake never harmed Debbie, and she went on to have a long career with the band.
The Kinks Cracking Open A Cold One
In this photo, you can see Ray Davies and Mick Avory of the Kinks at Newcastle City Hall in October 1973. They were already a pretty popular bang by then. They got their start in the 1960s.
The Kinks have had five Top 10 singles on the US Billboard chart with nine of their albums reaching the Top 40. In 1990, the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005.
Another Rolling Stone
Keith Richards being embraced by Ronnie Wood really conveys the sense of humor that a lot of rock bands seemed to possess in the 1970s. While rock and roll was the seed from which harsher genres like metal and punk grew, rock seemed to cling to a lightheartedness that made its deeper moments more viable.
Ronnie Wood had just joined the Rolling Stones after musician Mick Taylor left the band. It’s clear that Ronnie Wood was already cozying up to the band members. The band would go on to reach their commercial peak in the late 1970s.
Tough Times For Lynyrd Skynyrd
Contrary to popular belief, Lynyrd Skynyrd isn’t the name of one person, but of a band that became popular during the 1970s. Their hit “Sweet Home Alabama” is still often on played radio stations today. The band originally formed in 1964, but they didn’t release their first studio album until 1973.
It wasn’t smooth sailing for Lynyrd Skynyrd. Drummer Burns had a mental breakdown while on tour, and bandmates Kooper and King left the band. Then, in October 1977, three of the band members died a plane crash while the remaining were seriously injured.
Jerry Lee Lewis Smoking A Cigar
Pictured here is Jerry Lee Lewis enjoying a cigar and a drink backstage at the Palladium in London in April 1972. Also known as “The Killer,” Lewis earned a name for himself as “rock and roll’s first great wild man.”
Known for helping popularize rock and roll and rockabilly music, he became internationally famous after the release of his 1957 hit “A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.” However, controversy about him marrying his 13-year-old cousin took a hit on his career. His later transition into country music helped give him a boost.
Jim Morrison With The Doors
IN this photo, you can see Jim Morrison and his band The Doors backstage in 1970. Sadly, Jim Morrison passed away shortly after this photo was taken on July 3, 1971. The whole band looks pretty tired in this photo.
At this point, Morrison’s alcoholism was wearing him down, and he couldn’t stay out of trouble with the law. On September 20, 1970, after a particularly wild show in Miami, Morrison was sentenced to six months in prison for indecent exposure and profanity.
It’s not all that often that you see a photo of three absolute legends all together in one place. From left to right, this is a photo of Cher, Elton John, and Diana Ross that was taken in 1975. Elton and Diana were hosting the first-ever Rock Music Awards. Cher was just popping in for the photo opportunity.
Elton looks so young in this photo. Can you believe that he was ever that boyish-looking? Cher and Diana look absolutely radiant.
A Saturday Night Live Performance
The Swedish group Abba was one of the first groups from a non-English speaking country to achieve wild acclaim in English-speaking countries. Though they’d only formed in 1972, the group topped the charts from 1974 to 1982, right around the time they posed for this photograph.
In 1974, the group won the Eurovision song contest with “Waterloo”, and a year later they were one of the first performers on Saturday Night Live. Backstage at SNL‘s fifth-ever episode, they posed for a group picture, seen above. They still had no idea what the next decade, and Mamma Mia, had in store for them.
Stewart And Bowie
British musicians Rod Stewart and David Bowie are photographed here chatting backstage at Madison Square Garden in 1975. By this time, Rod had established himself as a solo artist. His style combined folk, rock, and blues, and was popular enough to make his one of the best music-selling artists of all time.
David Bowie had just wrapped up his tour as Ziggy Stardust, a character he performed as through the early 1970s. He was quoted discussing how Ziggy freed him from feeling like a robot. Though his commercial success would hit in the 1980s, Rod seems to be holding his bottle of wine to toast Bowie, who’s clearly not having it.
Aerosmith Conquered The ’70s
Aerosmith formed in 1970 and exploded over the course of the decade. After landing a dozen Billboard Top 100 singles, they were in high demand and toured extensively. Songs like “Dream On” and “Walk This Way” are hits that still rattle the streets today, all of which became smashes in the 1970s.
The term “throw your hands in the air and wave them like you just don’t care” is more or less conveyed in this photo of the band, who probably know they’re rocking it.
For those who hated peppy disco and upbeat soul and funk, there was a harsher sound in the 1970s called punk. The Sex Pistols brought the punk movement of New York to the UK in the mid-1970s. London teens formed the band in 1972, and by 1978 they were as volatile as their music suggested.
This photograph taken in San Francisco shows lead singer Johnny Rotten facing away from surrounding fans. This backstage shot was taken at the band’s last concert. After a year of destroying rooms, self-mutilation, fights and even gang violence, the punk rockers broke up, probably for everyone’s best interest.
The Ramones Were Underrated
Fun fact, all of the Ramones actually adapted pseudonyms; none of them are biologically related despite having chosen to go by the last name Ramone. The dark hair and similar style can be deceiving, though.
Backstage at the Paradise Theater in 1978, the Ramones sit back and relax. You may have noticed that they look rather even-keeled and relaxed for rockstars. That may have something to do with the fact that their commercial success didn’t really hit in the 1970s, which is really unfortunate considering they are now ranked in the top 100 rock bands.
The Million Dollar Babies Tour
This image was taken during a press conference with Mark Volamn from the group Flo & Eddie opening a joke container of canned snakes. Volman and his bandmate Howard Kaylan opened up for Alice Cooper during his Million Dollar Babies Tour.
Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan were original founders of the rock and roll group The Turtles but joined the Mothers of Invention after the Turtles had broken up and were known as Phlorescent Leech & Eddie. They would later befriend Alice Cooper and join him on tour.
Bo Diddley Chowing Down
Here is an image captured of Bo Diddley frying chicken while giving an interview during the concert movie Let The Good Times Roll at Madison Square Garden in May 1972.
Bo Diddley is recognized as being one of the first musicians to make the transition from the blues to rock and roll having been cited by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, among others, as a great influence. During his career, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and received a Lifetime Achievement Award and a Grammy, among several other accolades.
T. Rex Does Makeup
Here, singer and guitarist Mark Bolan of T. Rex helps out his fellow bandmate Mickey Finn with his makeup backstage before a television performance in 1973. T. Rex was formed in England in 1967, releasing four psychedelic folk albums under the name Tyrannosaurus Rex.
In 1969, the band began to shy away from their original electric sound and began shifting more toward acoustic music. Shortening their name to T. Rex in 1970, the band’s sound evolved once again as they became pioneers of the glam rock scene, experiencing equal popularity as the Beatles between 1970 and 1973.
The Jackson 5’s Vocal Warm-Up
The Jackson 5 can be seen here warming up backstage at the Inglewood Forum on August 26, 1973. Composed of members of the Jackson family, the Jackson 5 was a pop group established in 1964, and were one of the first African American groups to achieve a crossover following alongside other Motown acts.
Over the course of the group’s career, they managed to sell more than 100 million records worldwide, making them one of the best-selling bands of all time. They were also the first group to release four consecutive Hot 100 hits.
Long John Baldry’s Beard
Backstage at the Reading Festival on August 24, 1974, Long John Baldry is enjoying a quick beard trim before going on stage. Baldry came into popularity in the 1960s as one of the first British vocalists to perform the blues, eventually sharing the stage with the likes of the Rolling Stones and the Beatles.
Even Rod Stewart and Elton John played in groups led by Baldry before they achieved their own fame. His career peaked in 1967 when his album Let The Heartaches Begin reached the No.1 spot in the UK and Australia.
Kicking It With Thin Lizzy
At the dressing room at the Roadhouse in London, rock and roll group Thin Lizzy is enjoying some suds while preparing for their show on November 3, 1974. Founded in Dublin, Ireland in 1969, Thin Lizzy was led by vocalist Phil Lynott, who wrote most of the material and fronted the band for their twelve studio albums.
Lynott is recognized as the first black Irishman to achieve commercial success in rock and roll music with the Rolling Stone noting that they were “far apart from the braying mid-70s metal pack.”
Pink Floyd In Their Prime
Pink Floyd formed their band in the mid-‘60s and after a few bandmate adjustments, they were solid as ever. The Lond crew became an international success with the album Dark Side Of The Moon.
Pioneers of concept albums, the band produced songs throughout the 1970s that were meant to be listened to as pieces of one grand whole. In 1979 Pink Floyd transcended the music industry again with The Wall, an album that spawned a film.
Nona Hendryx In Her Dressing Room
Here, Nona Hendryx of Labelle is making sure her outfit is in order before taking the stage in Rotterdam, the Netherlands in 1975. Hendryx is known for her solo album as well as being a member of the trio Labelle, best known for their hit track “Lady Marmalade.”
With many genres in her arsenal, she was able to play music ranging from soul to hard rock, and even new wave, making her extremely versatile. She’s also a distant cousin of guitarist Jimi Hendrix, with her last name originally containing an “i.”
The Clash Changed The Game
The Clash formed in London in 1976, and barely made it into the punk rock scene of the 1970s. Their third album, London Calling, debuted in the UK in December of 1979. It hit the United States at the very start of the 1980s and was declared the best album of the 1980s by Rolling Stone.
The Clash’s punk attitude toward politics combined with their experimental sound made them a perfect fit for the late 1970s. CBS Records asked the band to tone down their raunchy sound and produce something cleaner, which merely forced the band to combine more genres that paved the way for their 1980s success.
The New York Dolls
The New York Dolls were a hard rock band that formed in 1971. By the mid-’70s their cult records had developed a following. Their androgynous wardrobe– high heels, top hats, satin, scarfs, patterns, etc.– made them a standout amongst the rest of the decade’s rockers.
After the fatal overdose of their drummer Billy Murcia in 1972, the band auditioned such drummers as Richard Hell of the Ramones and Peter Criss of Kiss. They went with their friend Jerry Nolan, but the band ultimately fizzled out through the latter half of the decade.
King Crimson Made It Through
King Crimson was a band that formed at the end of the 1960s and influenced the formation of progressive rock. The band formed out of the psychedelic pop trio Giles, Giles, and Fripp. In 1969 the band released the album that sent them soaring through the 1970s, which combined jazz, classical, and experimental music.
Though the band doesn’t consider themselves progressive rock, they have nevertheless impacted various rock genre groups in arenas from psychedelic rock to alternative metal.
The Allman Brothers Band
The Allman Brothers Band was formed by brothers Duane and Gregg Allman. Contrary to the name, the rest of the five members were not related, but may as well have been for all they went through together in the band’s earliest years.
In 1971, just two years after the band formed, Duane Allman died in a motorcycle accident at the young age of 24. The band pressed on for another five years, but ultimately parted ways in 1976. They’ve reformed and dissolved in the years since.
Jackson Browne Takes It Easy
Jackson Browne was signed in 1971 and over the next several years his melodic, piano-driven songs would bring a cooling sensation to the otherwise upbeat, intense sounds of the 1970s. He had written songs for others throughout the 1960s and came into the spotlight as an individual artist through the 1970s.
His first songs hit the US charts and his 1973 song “Take It Easy” still remains a top hit. The family man was accompanied by his wife and young son in his 1975 tour and began a life of activism in 1978.
The Spinners Had A Slow Rise
The Spinners formed back in 1954 but didn’t reach commercial success until 1972. Fortunately, their R&B sound just doesn’t go out of style. After being signed to Atlantic Records the group landed two top ten singles and five top 100s.
Fans couldn’t get enough of the band’s love-inspired songs such as “Could It Be I’m Falling In Love” and “Together We Make Such Sweet Music.” Their album Mighty Love featured three top twenty hits.
Emerson, Lake & Palmer
Emerson, Lake & Palmer, also known as ELP, were one of the most successful progressive rock bands of the 1970s. They had nine RIAA-certified Gold record albums in the US and 48 million records sold. Their mix of rock, classical, and jazz created a sound that could appeal to various audiences.
The band hit it big in 1970 and stayed prominent, putting out albums every year for the first half of the 1970s. After three final albums were released, two in 1977 and one in 1978, the band separated at the end of the decade.
The Funky Commodores
The Commodores kept funk thriving through the end of the 1970s with songs like “Brick House” and “Nightshift.” Their debut album featured songs on the Billboard Hot 100 list in 1975. The six-man soul band appeared in the movie Thank God It’s Friday in 1978.
Their hard funk sound in the mid-1970s gave way to softer songs moving towards the end of the decade. By the 1980s they were more focused on a commercial pop sound, and band members like Lionel Richie left to pursue individual success.