Monday, May 17, 2021

Fifty Years of Music • May, 1971

May, 1971 was a big month for me in the album purchasing department. My budget was tight, but somehow I scrapped up enough money to by:

  1. Ram, Paul McCartney
  2. Songs for Beginners, Graham Nash
  3. Every Picture Tells a Story, Rod Stewart
  4. 5th, Lee Michaels
Upon reflection, I'm sure I spread those purchases over the summer and think that three of my four selections hold up fifty years later. Last week, I featured Ram and Songs for Beginners having fond memories of playing those two records to death in my bedroom as a sophomore in high school.

Every Picture Tells a Story was a one-off for me as I really liked Stewart's old band Faces as most of that band plays on most tracks of the album. In my opinion, Every Picture Tells a Story was Steward's best rock 'n' roll album who later sank into doing smaltzville pop standards. I do remember trying to learn to play the mandolin on the family antique bowlback mandolin for a New York minute, so the album did have an effect on me. 

Lee Michael's 5th was a pure impulse buy as I really liked his big hit, Do You Know What I Mean? Unfortunately, that didn't translate to the rest of the album as I believe that went bye-bye from my vinyl collection in a garage sale.  

This month, I was excited to see CNN's special, What’s Going On: Marvin Gaye’s Anthem for the Ages. However, this documentary seemed like it was thrown together very quickly, like some TV executive said, "Holy s***, it's the 50th anniversary of What's Going On and we better put something together pronto!"

That doesn't mean there aren't some great moments, with one of my favorite parts being the Spike Lee interview. Spike recalls that he got Gaye’s What’s Going On as a sophomore in high school and would listen to it at the Coney Island High School Library. “They had turntables, so if you brought an album they had headphones, and you could put the album on and listen to it. So I would cut class and listen to this album,” Lee said. “This mojo right here is timeless. You listen to Marvin Gaye, this album right here, he’s singing to you.”

When Spike Lee said he was a sophomore in high school when What's Going On was released, it got me thinking about being the same age but how different our lives were. Spike's world growing up in urban Brooklyn was completely different compared to my west coast small town upbringing in Santa Maria, California.

As AM radio programming was playing in our respective communities, Marvin Gaye was singing to Spike, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young were singing to me. 

Eventually, in my cognitive maturation and experience, I grew to appreciate a broader range of music compared to my sixteen year old self. Marvin Gaye started singing to me in the early 1980's, not to mention my newly found appreciation for the singing duo of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell and their recordings together in the late 60's.

Speaking of my sixteen year old self, I for the life of me don't know how I missed John Entwistle's (bass player for The Who) first solo album, Smash your head against the wall. The Who were definitely on my radar in 1971, so why am I only listening to this album fifty years later?

This album is packed with great songs, and who knew Entwistle could write and better yet sing to go with his incredible bass playing? Smash your head against the wall is aptly named in the sense that Entwistle like George Harrison wasn't getting his songs on his famous band's records, and finally just made his own record. The irony here is that so many of the songs on this album would have been good Who songs spread out over several albums.  This album's dark tone and style fit perfectly as classic Who songs. What were Pete Townshend  and Roger Daltry thinking? Poor bass players (except Paul McCartney), they never get any respect.

The playlist this week features songs from nine albums, some deep cuts from other albums and a few hits heard on Top 40 AM radio back in the day.

Enjoy my friends 
as the great albums of 1971 just keep coming back round!

1 comment:

  1. Lots of good stuff on here I never revisit. You don’t hear it on oldies radio stations or nothin. You do hear What’s Going On actually for the very reason it’s on this playlist, it’s 50, and it’s great. Arethas seriously high energy live isn’t she. I always thought she was high energy on her studio albums. Great stuff Doug. Thanks for the look back.


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