Saturday, 2 March 2013

Scrub my last music post – 1972 was almost as good as 1971 for albums, even better for singles!

Okay, I’ve got my excuses ready. The reason I was so wrong about 1972 is… the cat ate my homework! Will that do? Oh, the hell with it – I just got so over-excited by becoming re-acquainted with the glories of 1971, that I began dissing its younger brother without doing proper research. Truth is, ’72 – bless it! – was only a gnat’s behind ’71 in terms of albums, and actually ahead when it comes to singles.  The singles list alone is actually awe-inspiring – and I thought the early ’70s was meant to be the era of the long-player.

As for the albums, well, they’re impressive, but – and here’s the rub - I didn’t get to hear most of them at the time:

Exile on Main Street – The Rolling Stones
Harvest – Neil Young
Paul Simon – Paul Simon
Manassas – Steve Stills
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars – David Bowie
The Harder They Come – Soundtrack
Dr John’s Gumbo – Dr John
Into the Purple Valley – Ry Cooder
The Late Great Townes Van Zandt – Townes Van Zandt
No 1 Record – Big Star
Sailing Shoes – Little Feat
Hot Licks, Cold Steel & Trucker’s Favourites - Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen
Will the Circle Be Unbroken – The Nitty Gritty Dirt band
Pink Moon – Nick Drake
Sail Away – Randy Newman
Transformer – Lou Reed
Can’t Buy a Thrill – Steely Dan
Eat a Peach – Allman Brothers Band

To be honest, I only knew about the first five at the time – the rest I’ve discovered over the years. And I didn’t even rate Exile or Manassas or Ziggy Stardust back then, feeling all three albums weren’t a patch on their predecessors (like everyone else with ears to hear, I’ve changed my mind about Exile). I was two or three years away from catching up with Commander Cody (Hot Licks was their finest hour), Randy Newman, Dr John, Little Feat and Ry Cooder – while it would take me decades to become acquainted with the likes of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Big Star, Nick Drake (who’d only just departed Cambridge by the time I got there) and Townes Van Zandt.

At the same time, Stevie Wonder, Jackson Browne, Roxy Music and The Eagles all released decent albums – but nothing compared to what they’d soon be producing. And there were some okay albums from artists who’d recently released much better LPs, including Van Morrison, Rod Stewart, Sandy Denny, Marvin Gaye, Carly Simon, Cat Stevens, Grateful Dead and Joni Mitchell. There was a whole bunch of Krautrock and experimental stuff that was either dull or unlistenable from the likes of Faust, Can, Captain Beefheart, Popol Vuh, Tangerine Dream; pompous Prog-rock from the likes of Jethro Tull, Yes, Hawkwind and Genesis; and dullish R&B stuff from the likes of Rory Gallagher and Wishbone Ash.

As I’m being honest, I should admit than only two – yes, just two – of the albums on the list knocked my no doubt malodorous undergraduate socks off at the time – the ones by Neil Young and Paul Simon. So, it’s only in retrospect that 1972 looks like one of the best ever years for albums.

My only excuse is that (a) I was hanging out with students, and their taste was mainly rubbish, and (b) I listened to an awful lot of classical music during those twelve months.

Enough with the excuses. 

Interesting to note that only three of the 18 albums on my list are by UK artists – as commenter ex-KCS pointed out, UK rock performers actually lost their way at the end of 1960s when it came to albums. And a third of the LPs have a distinctly retrospective tinge to them – the Big Star platter, for instance, is a homage to melodic ‘60s pop, Ry Cooder is harking back to the 1930s, and The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band was a (successful) attempt to capture toots music traditions they feared might be dying out.

There’s far less nostalgia amongst the singles, and over half the artists are British (24 out of 42, with one European – well done, you continentals!).


“Whiskey in the Jar” – Thin Lizzy
“Donna” – 10CC
“Burning Love” – Elvis Presley
“California Man” – The Move
“Silver Machine” – Hawkwind
“Gud’Buy T’Jane” – Slade
“Let’s Stay Together” – Al Green
 “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” – Roberta Flack
 “In a Broken Dream” – Python Lee Jackson (aka Rod Stewart)
“Layla” – Derek and the Dominoes
“American Trilogy” – Elvis Presley
“Crocodile Rock” – Elton John
“Shotgun Wedding” – Roy C
“Hold Your Head Up” – Argent
“You Don’t Mess Around with Jim” – Jim Croce
“Telegram Sam” – T. Rex
“Ventura Highway” – America
“Superstition” – Stevie Wonder
“Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” – Temptations
“Love Train” – O’Jays
“You’re So Vain” – Carly Simon
“Take it Easy” - The Eagles
“Rocket Man” – Elton John
“All the Young Dudes” – Mott the Hoople
“I Can See Clearly Now” – Johnny Nash
“Listen to the Music” – Doobie Brothers
“Stuck in the Middle with You” – Stealer’s Wheel
“Rock and Roll Part 2” – Gary Glitter
“Garden Party” – Rick Nelson
“Freddie’s Dead” – Curtis Mayfield
“Doctor My Eyes” – Jackson Browne
“Love and Happiness” – Al Green
“Virginia Plain” – Roxy Music
“The Jean Jeanie” – David Bowie
“I’m Just a Singer (in a Rock ‘n’ Roll Band)” – Moody Blues
“Metal Guru” – T Rex
“Mama Weer All Crazee Now” – Slade

If you hear anyone praising the 1970s, they're either radical leftists or they didn't live through them: it was a horrible, dishonest, corrupt, decade marred by crap food, crap clothes, crap hair-styles, crap cars, crap colours, crap business and crap politics. But, with the benefit of hindsight, I have to admit that the music - surprisingly - wasn't half bad.


  1. An excellent post. I wonder where I put my flares and that tasteful orange shirt with the Harry Hill collar. I'd take issue with the reference to Stevie Wonder. I think 1972 was probably his best year, with Music of My Mind and Talking Book both as fresh as they day I first played them. I don't feel the same about his later stuff.

    It's odd that Harvest made Neil Young a multi-millionaire when it's an easy listening step backwards from both After the Goldrush and Everybody Knows this is Nowhere. It's probably his most disciplined album but it's his least adventurous and some of the lyrics are hilariously bad. You don"t have to be Germaine Greer to find A Man needs a Maid well dodgy.

    The serious omission from your list is Todd Rundgren"s Something Anything. The first side is just one great tune after another, melodic, witty, tuneful 70s pop at its best. I still play it, along with the two Stevie albums, Steely Dan and Manassas. There's a great video on You Tube of Stephen Stills rehearsing the band through Bound to Fall. Those boys could play.

  2. I'm keener om Stevie Wonder's later stuff - mind you, no objection to the earlier albums.

    "Everybody Knows" is the bollocks. Just listened to Goldrush for the first time in years - and I'll admit I'd forgotten how good it was. But Harvest still does it for me. I gave up caring much about lyrics early on, because it would have made 98% of all rock music unlistenable! I particularly remember a line on a Van Morrison number along the lines of "Woman, fetch me down my walking boots" where I was hoping to hear a feminine voice respond with, "Fetch them yourself, you fat little wally". Hippies really were fantastically sexist. (And I realise "There's A World" is also another absolute clunker from Harvest.)

    Rudngren - too MOR, AOR, tuneful soft-rock for me. I've tried, honestly! "I Saw the Light" and "Wolfman Jack" are good - grant you that.