It’s more than a feeling: Many of the rock ’n’ roll bands that were huge in 1977 will make up a big part of the summer concert market 40 years later.
Queen, Foreigner, Boston, Aerosmith, Kiss, Alice Cooper, Billy Joel and Rod Stewart are among those launching major tours this spring and summer, even though some of them haven’t had a big hit since Jimmy Carter (or at least Ronald Reagan) was in office.
Concert industry executives say nostalgia acts are still reliable sellers, with satellite and classic rock radio keeping their hits alive.
“The simple answer is that good music is still good music,” said guitarist Tom Scholz, who founded Boston and found immediate stardom with tracks that remain staples of classic rock playlists including “More Than a Feeling,” “Peace of Mind,” “Long Time” and “Don’t Look Back.” “It’s pretty much still Boston, as long as I’m alive, as long as I can stand up and play.”
To get a feel for how long ago that was, 1977 was the year that serial killer Son of Sam was arrested in New York, when George Steinbrenner, Billy Martin and Reggie Jackson turned the Yankees into a three-ring circus, when “Star Wars” and “Saturday Night Fever” packed theaters, and when the King of Rock ’n’ Roll, Elvis Presley, died.
It was the year Kiss neared the zenith of its popularity, with the “Love Gun” and “Alive II” albums. Fellow shock rocker Alice Cooper scored huge airplay with an unexpected orchestral ballad, “You and Me.” Rod Stewart was on every rock and pop station with “Hot Legs,” “You’re in My Heart” and “I Was Only Joking,” and scored the Billboard No. 1 song of the year in “Tonight’s the Night.”
It’s easier to list which songs on Joel’s 1977 album “The Stranger” weren’t major hits than to list the ones that were. And Foreigner followed Boston’s success of a year earlier to become the new overnight sensation with a debut album that sold 4 million copies, powered by classics like “Feels Like the First Time” and “Cold As Ice.”
“I never could have imagined when I set out to create Foreigner 40 years ago, that we’d still be touring around the world and performing the music we love all these years later,” said guitarist and founding member Mick Jones. “I can’t express the gratitude I feel when fans share stories of how our songs have been woven into their milestones and memories over the years.”
That’s a big part of why classic rock bands remain reliable draws on the concert circuit, said Gary Bongiovanni, editor of the concert industry publication Pollstar.
“The audience that grew up on rock ’n’ roll are still rock ’n’ roll fans,” he said. “They still want to see these acts, whether they have a new record or not. That’s a big part of the concert business.”
And fans are forgiving (or sometimes oblivious) of lineup changes. The original singers for Boston and Queen died, Foreigner vocalist Lou Gramm left in 2003, and Kiss’s original lineup last toured in 2000.
Aerosmith is the most unlikely band of survivors, given its members’ history of drug use. Yet they’re still out there with all five original members.
“Anytime I can go see Aerosmith, I will go,” said Queen guitarist Brian May. “I love to take my kids to let them see what it was really like to be in a rock concert and have that spontaneity and danger and passion. It’s not mapped out; it’s all happening right in front of your eyes. It’s a live tradition and I’m proud to have been a part of that.”