Paul Fitzpatrick: June 2022, London
My good mate Jim Martin (of this parish), sent me the above graphic, listing a selection of albums released 50 years ago in 1972.
Looking at the list we joked that our musical tastes haven’t progressed much as we continue to binge on a daily diet of much the same content.
I expect it will be a similar story next year when we reflect on the top albums from 1973 and no doubt for a few more years to come, probably until 1978, or should I say, 2028.
As far as music critics are concerned it’s well chronicled that 1971 is seen as being the most prolific/creative year for popular music.
Seminal albums like Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On’, Joni Mitchell’s ‘Blue’ and ‘Led Zeppelin IV’ are all lauded as being among the best and most inspirational albums of their type.
Whilst there’s an argument to be made that 1971 was music’s high point, surely it’s also a moot point, for when it comes to music, or for that matter any art-form, there’s no right or wrong…
One man’s Elvis can be another man’s Shakin’ Stevens, because beauty, as we know, is in the eye, or in this case, the ear, of the beholder.
Despite what highbrow critics will lead you to believe, music isn’t measurable… just because a critic in The Guardian awards 5 stars to the latest ‘Let’s Eat Grandma’ album, it doesn’t mean you’ve got to love it too, or there’s something wrong with your tastes if you don’t.
Music is about opinions, personal taste and the emotions certain songs invoke, particularly tunes from your formative years.
Take 1971 – there’s no doubt it was a classic year, but in truth as an early teen who was just getting into music, it passed me by.
I caught up of course, and looking at my vinyl collection today, Joni, Marvin & Zep are all well represented but in 71 I’d no idea who Joni Mitchell was and the first Zep album I listened to in full was Zeppelin III in 1973.
Cut forward 12 months and things were different, I feel I was present for a lot of the marquee releases in 72 and remember them well, particularly those by Roxy Music, Lou Reed, Alice Cooper, Mott The Hoople, Rod Stewart, Neil Young, Uriah Heep, Deep Purple and of course the baptism of fire that was Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust, which still sounds great today.
Maybe I wasn’t as switched on as I thought I was though, two of my all-time favourite bands, Steely Dan and Little Feat, also released albums in 1972 that I’d no idea about at the time.
So why should 12 months make such a difference?
I think I figured it out…
In the summer of 1971, I was adjusting to the evolution of becoming a teen as well as navigating & negotiating the ensuing boundaries.
I was into music but my inputs were basically restricted to two sources – Radio One and Top Of The Pops.
Fast forward to the summer 72, I was heading into my 3rd Year at school, edging ever closer to the coveted back row of seats on the school bus (and the cinema!), I’d experienced my first kiss, had my first beer and there was a new found confidence that on reflection came from nowhere.
Looking back, I relate this embolden sense of self to the scene in Young Frankenstein where Gene Wilder introduces the Creature on stage –
“From what was once a mass of inarticulate lifeless tissues, may I now present a cultured, sophisticated man about town”
Of course the Creature fell on his arse as we all do when we get a bit cocky.
In terms of musical awareness though, the difference between 71 to 72 was enormous and it was primarily down to access.
The incremental freedom I enjoyed in 72 vs 71, enabled me to access a lot more music via….
The Youth Club – where the older girls had great tastes and dominated the record player.
Record shops – I was now allowed to go into town unchaperoned.
Late night listening – Old Grey Whistle Test & Radio Luxembourg.
Gigs – my first gig was at the Greens Playhouse in 72 to see Humble Pie, supported by Peter Frampton.
So, thank’s Jim for triggering some great memories although we both know there’s a glaring omission from the list of albums.
That album being The Temptations ‘All Directions’ which features a 12 minute version of ‘Papa Was A Rolling Stone’.
A track that Jim & I used to listen to open mouthed, in 23rd Precinct’s listening booth on a Saturday afternoon, when there was no football.
I look forward to receiving the 1973 list of albums next year.
*Inspired by this trip down memory lane I’ve cobbled together a playlist of tracks released in 1972. A mishmash of singles and less obvious album tracks for your listening pleasure….