Once again we were invited to submit a piece to TURNTABLE TALK on Dave Ruch’s excellent ‘A Sound Day.‘ blog.
Dave’s site covers all genres and eras of music with insightful articles and great writing, and it’s well worth a visit.
This months topic was Those Were The Days My Friend.
Simply put, Dave was asking, what was “music’s best year.”
Here was my take on it….
This month’s Turntable Talk topic is a nice subjective one… ‘what was the best year for music?’
Well, it’s no surprise to discover that every generation thinks their era was the best, which makes perfect sense – people’s memories are precious and music plays a major part in that.
My musical consciousness began as a 10-year-old in the late 60s.
The Beatles were at their creative peak, The Stones, The Kinks and The Who were already established and there was plenty of radio friendly pop music on the radio courtesy of – The Monkees, Herman’s Hermits, Marmalade, etc.
Whilst I can remember some of it, truth be told I was too young to appreciate the cream of 60s music, with The Beatles, Dylan, Hendrix, Motown, Stax and the Laurel Canyon scene inspiring what was to follow.
And what was to follow was pretty special.
Take 1971 as an example.
Here’s a few albums you may of heard of….
- The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers
- Carole King – Tapestry
- Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV
- David Bowie – Hunky Dory
- Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On
- Rod Stewart – Every Picture Tells a Story
- John Lennon – Imagine
- Joni Mitchell – Blue
- The Who – Who’s Next
- T Rex – Electric Warrior
- Cat Stevens – Teaser and the Firecat
- The Doors – LA Woman
- The Faces – A Nods as Good as a Wink to a Blind Horse
- James Brown – Sex Machine
- Don McLean – American Pie
- Gil Scott Heron – Pieces of a Man
- Jethro Tull – Aqualung
- Pink Floyd – Meddle
- James Taylor – Mud Slide Slim
- Isaac Hayes – Shaft
- Yes – Fragile
- Paul McCartney – Ram
It’s staggering that the majority of theses artists were able to release landmark albums of such exceptional quality on an annual basis; sustaining a creative peak whilst still finding time to live a 70s rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, which is no mean feat!
Included on this list are two of the top three albums of all time, according to music bible – Rolling Stone magazine‘s top 500 albums.
Marvin Gaye’s – What’s Going On and Joni Mitchell’s – Blue.
Another remarkable thing about this era was the diversity of the music.
Rock, pop, soul, reggae, jazz, country folk, glam, funk – it was one big melting pot.
In 1971 you would find Benny Hill rubbing shoulders at the top of the singles charts with Deep Purple and The Doors, and Jim Reeves swapping album chart positions with Led Zeppelin and Wishbone Ash.
In terms of the best year for music?
I think you could probably make a reasonable case for any year between 1967 and 1976, however, 1971 was seminal for me, it was the year I started going to record shops and buying albums, and it left a lasting impression.
Of course, I couldn’t afford to go record shopping every week, and whilst a 7yr old Jeff Bezos was still dreaming of Alexa in 71, every trip this 13yr old made to the record store was an event, and every purchase was critical.
I’m pretty sure the first album I purchased with my own money was Rod Stewart’s Every Picture Tells a Story.
(Ironically the opening line on track one, side one on Every Picture Tells a Story is one that summed up my record shop experiences up until I made my first purchase… “Felt some time feeling inferior”)
I remember travelling into the city to the record shop with a couple of mates – buzzing to be going with my own money, to make my own choices.
I can remember – the sense of privilege and belonging I felt for the first time in a record shop, as an active consumer rather than the annoying wee pleb who’d spend ages going through racks of albums, asking to hear tracks, with no intention (or means) of purchasing anything.
It made sense therefore that the record shops that made us feel welcome (or less unwelcome) were the one’s that got our business when we eventually made our buying decisions.
I can remember – the anticipation on the journey home, auditing the sleeve-notes, absorbing every bit of information, using the lyrics to sing along, a-cappella style on the top deck of the bus.
I can remember – when you got home the magic of placing the needle on track one, side one, and then settling back to hear that opening riff or vocal for the first time.
From Robert Plant’s “Hey, hey mama said the way you move” to Don McLean’s “Long, long time ago”.
From Keef’s “Brown Sugar” riff to the sax intro on “What’s Going On” – 1971 was the gift that just kept on giving.
If you need any further convincing, here’s a 1971 playlist to give you a taste of the year’s releases….
(Paul Fitzpatrick: London November 2022)