Wednesday, 20 February 2013

1971 - the best year ever for great albums and singles

Yes, "The Wasp (Texas Radio and the Big Beat)" is pretentious - and Jim Morrison was an utter knob - but it's also magnificent, and LA Woman is still one of my  favourite albums from 1971, a year when popular music reached a zenith of creativity, when every month seemed to produce yet another timeless classic. What made the year every bit as good as 1970 (which I wrote about here) is that there was no ascendant style - talent was exploding across the whole musical spectrum, both here and in the States: garage punk from the Flamin' Groovies, Glam from T. Rex, bar-room country-rock from Commander Cody, Cock-Rock Folk from Led Zeppelin, classic R&B from B.B. King, jazz-tinged Prog from Traffic... and glorious rock from the finest rock'n' roll band in the world, the Rolling Stones:

Of course, being somewhat of a twat, I was convinced music was actually getting worse in 1971: I spent much of that year catching up on old acoustic blues, late '60s US garage punk, Bob Dylan’s back catalogue, Fairport Convention, Sun rockabilly and early Beach Boys albums. I even remember traipsing back from visits to Andy's Record Stall in Cambridge Market moaning about the lack of decent new releases. If only I'd known that (for someone with my eclectic but basically rootsy tastes), the music really never would be that good or as diverse (dread word!) again. For instance, you had the likes of James Taylor and Joni Mitchell being achingly sensitive at one end of the scale - and the Flamin' Groovies doing hilarious but affectionate pastiches of Sun rockabilly at the other:

I didn't "get" all of these albums at the time - I refused point blank to listen to Led Zeppelin, having loathed "Whole Lotta Love", and it was several years before I'd even learn of Commander Cody's existence - but I bought most of these at the time:

LA Woman – The Doors
Surf’s Up – The Beach Boys
Blue – Joni Mitchell
Tupelo Honey – Van Morrison
Teenage Head – Flamin’ Groovies
Naturally – J.J. Cale
Lost in the Ozone – Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen
Man in Black – Johnny Cash
Led Zeppelin IV  - Led Zeppelin
Who’s Next – The Who
Hunky Dory – David Bowie
Sticky Fingers – The Rolling Stones
Imagine – John Lennon
At Filmore East – The Allman Brothers Band
Pearl - Janis Joplin
Every Picture Tells a Story – Rod Stewart
John Prine – John Prine
The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys – Traffic
American Pie – Don McLean
Mud Slide Slim & the Blue Horizon – James Taylor
Live in Cook County Jail – B.B. King

Just to show I have a sensitive side, here the only female performer on the list - Joni Mitchell at her magnificent best:

As for the singles released that year - we didn't know we born. Apart from all the ones from the above albums, there were these little beauties:

"Baby Jump" - Mungo Jerry
"Sylvia’s Mother" – Dr Hook & the Medicine Show
"Funky Nassau" – Beginning of the End
"Get It On" – T. Rex
"Let’s Stay Together" – Al Green
"Coz I Luv You" - Slade
"Theme from ‘Shaft’" – Isaac Hayes
"Long Cool Woman (In a Black Dress)" – The Hollies
"Ain’t No Sunshine" – Bill Withers
"Respect Yourself" – Staple Singers
"Without You" – Nilsson
"Inner City Blues" – Marvin Gaye
"A Horse With No Name" – America
"Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves" – Cher
"Stay With Me" – The Faces
"Hocus Pocus" – Focus
"Coat of Many Colours" – Dolly Parton
"Jeepster" – T Rex
"Outa-Space" – Billy Preston
"Have You Ever Seen the Rain" – Creedence Clearwater Revival
"Wild World" – Cat Stevens
"Yours Is No Disgrace" – Yes
"Proud Mary" – Ike & Tina Turner
"Super Bad" – James Brown
"Lady Eleanor" – Lindisfarne
"Back Street Love" - Curved Air
"Tired of Being Alone" – Al Green
"Amos Moses" – Jerry Reed
"Me and You and a Dog Named Boo" – Lobo
"Willin’" – Little Feat
"Family Affair" – Sly & the Family Stone
"I’ve Just Begun to Care (Propinquity)" – Michael Nesmith
"Witch Queen of New Orleans" - Redbone
"Your Song" - Elton John
"Strange Kind of Woman" - Deep Purple
"No Matter What" - Badfinger
"He's Gonna Step On You Again" - John Kongos
"Devil's Answer" - Atomic Rooster

And that's without even mentioning such classics as "Grandad", "Ernie" and "Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep"!

I'll leave you with this stomptastic Hollies number... :

.. and this from the hardest-working sideburns in show business:

Name me a better pop year!


  1. Great post. Most of the singles and albums you posted have worn well. I have a theory that you like the Hollies track, a departure for them, because it's their attempt to sound like Creedence. I suppose I could make a plea for "4 way street" by Crosby Stills etc but it has an equal mixture of good stuff and ' Let's give Graham and Dave some royalties' tracks. Stephen Stills was an underrated talent - a great guitarist and songwriter who peaked early and fell prey to the indulgences that went with the territory and then totally lost it. "Blue" is the subject of some discussion at home. I find the detuned guitar and zither an annoying mess, love "Carey" - Stills again- and prefer the later version of "A case of you". This is heresy, punishable by death.

    Missing singles. "How can you mend a broken heart" by the Bee Gees which I prefer to the more famous Al Green version. In 1971, I remember switching on the radio as I got home after the demise of a teenage relationship to hear this great song, after which the DJ helpfully added " Well how can you mend a broken heart? You're probably wondering. Well let me tell you this. You can't. It lasts forever. Ha Ha." Thanks.

    Others? "Back street luv" by Curved Air but only for the B side called "Everdance", which after about 40 seconds of hippy nonsense suddenly breaks into a lovely guitar and violin coda using a scale that probably has a name like 3rd century Mixolydian. "Just my imagination" by the Tempts, "My brother Jake" by Free and "I'm still waiting" by Diana Ross, a song to indulge your misery in after being dumped to the tune of "How can you mend a broken heart".

    Bring on 1972 and I'll try to convince you of the merits of "I saw the light" by Todd Rundgren.

  2. I'd never realised how similar "Long Cool Woman" and "Green River" are. Thank you. I was watching a documentary about the Hollies on Sky Arts last week, in which it was pointed out that "Long Cool Woman" was the first Hollies track not to feature any harmony singing at all.

    "Back Street Luv" is in my list, but I'm not sure I'd ever listened to the B-side.

    I'm not good with soft soul, unless it's Al Green ot Smokey Robinson - no idea why.

    And I'd never heard the Todd Rundgren song - actually pretty good.

    I'm working on 1972 - which turns out to be an infinitely better music year than I'd remembered, so I'm going to have to apologise to it.

    1971 was evidently not a great year for you relationships-wise! Sorry to bring back painful memories.