Monday, December 20, 2021

My Favorite Songs of 1971

Music is playing inside my head
Over and over and over again
My friend, there's no end to the music

Ah, summer is over
But the music keeps playing
And won't let the cold get me down

Pictures are forming inside my brain
Soon with the colours they'll rain together and grow
Then don't you know, don't you know there'll be music

Ah, it's not always easy
But the music keeps playing
And won't let the world get me down
–Carole King, Music

This blog is a twelve month culmination of my ongoing series Fifty Years of Music where I feature a month and year fifty years ago. 

In 1971, I was a sixteen year old sophomore and then in the fall started my junior year of high school. Here's a look back at the historical, film, and musical events of that year. (The following selected dates are from Wikipedia in italics: 19711971 in Film and 1971 in Music. I have also added my own little commentary in regular text on some of the date entries.)

  • January 2 – A ban on radio and television cigarette advertisements goes into effect in the United States. I think my mom banned my dad from smoking in the house around the same time.
  • January 12 – The landmark United States television sitcom All in the Family, starring Carroll O'Connor as Archie Bunker, debuts on CBS. Brilliant script writing, so funny and serious to expose the underbelly of prejudice and belief systems through the eyes and mouth of a lovable bigot.
  • January 25 - In Los Angeles, Charles Manson and 3 female "Family" members are found guilty of the 1969 Tate–LaBianca murders. The word, "psychopath" is integrated into my vocabulary.

  • February - Carole King releases her second solo album, TapestryThe album was certified 13× Platinum by RIAA and it is one of the best-selling albums of all time, with over 25 million copies worldwide. It received four Grammy Awards in 1972, including Album of the Year. The lead singles from the album—"It's Too Late" and "I Feel the Earth Move"—spent five weeks at number one on both the Billboard Hot 100 and Easy Listening charts. In 2020, Tapestry was ranked number 25 on Rolling Stone list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. And if that isn't enough for 1971, she releases her third solo album, Music in December. 
  • February - Yes releases its third album, The Yes Album, and turns around and releases Fragile in November. 
  • February 3 – Davy Jones announces he is leaving the Monkees. Davy, Peter and now Michael this last week (12/10/21).  Rest in peace dear lads. 
  • February 5 – Apollo 14 lands on the Moon
  • February 9 - Satchel Paige becomes the first Negro league player to become voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Social justice happens very very slowly in America.
  • February 13 – Vietnam War: Backed by American air and artillery support, South Vietnamese troops invade Laos. Maybe LBJ wasn't so bad after all, sure could use him now dealing with Joe Manchin.
  • February 28 – Evel Knievel sets a world record and jumps 19 cars on a motorbike in Ontario, California. Knievel was the race car crash everybody was waiting for, just on a motorcycle.

  • March - Elton John releases the soundtrack album to the movie, Friends. Then, turns around and in November releases, Madman Across the Water. Creativity is simply on fire in 1971.
  • March 1 - A bomb explodes in the men's room at the United States Capitol; the Weather Underground claims responsibility.
  • March 8 - "Fight of the Century": Boxer Joe Frazier defeats Muhammad Ali in a 15-round unanimous decision at Madison Square Garden. I was bummed, always rooting for Ali.
  • March 11 – THX 1138, George Lucas' first full-length film, premieres in theaters. I saw it several years later in a community college film class.
  • March 12 - The movie,  The Andromeda Strain is released. I just love 'the last person' scenario in Sci-Fi.
  • March 12–13 – The Allman Brothers Band plays their legendary concert at the Fillmore East. Friend Gary Hill is all in with this band.
  • March 28 – The Ed Sullivan Show airs its final episode. End of an era. We saw all the pop and rock 'n' roll bands first on Ed Sullivan. What a fantastic format of entertainment and music right in our living room. Topo Gigio forever!
  • March 29 - U.S. Army lieutenant William Calley is found guilty of 22 murders during the My Lai Massacre and is sentenced to life in prison (he is later pardoned). For me, this was one of those 'end of the innocence' moments. 
  • March 30 – Starbucks coffee shop is founded in the U.S. state of Washington. At Pikes Place Market in Seattle you can go to the original Starbucks and see the original mermaid logo on the storefront window complete with her breasts not covered by her long flowing hair.

  • April 24 - An estimated 200,000 people in Washington, D.C. and a further 125,000 in San Francisco march in protest against the Vietnam War. At 16, I naively thought there would never be another proxy war like Vietnam with America sending its teenagers to fight and die in another country's war.

  • May - Paul McCartney releases Ram, an album I played to death in my bedroom. Then in December, Paul releases Wildlife with his new band Wings. On this one, Paul seems to be wandering in the wilderness, looking for his dear friend.
  • May 1- Amtrak begins intercity rail passenger service in the United States.

  • June movies released - McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Klute, Carnal Knowledge, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory
  • June 13 - Vietnam War: The New York Times begins to publish the Pentagon Papers. The antiwar movement is picking up steam.
  • June 17 - President Richard Nixon declares the U.S. War on Drugs. Nixon just liked war... and oh, how did all those drug wars work out?
  • June 27 – Promoter Bill Graham closes the Fillmore East in New York City with a final concert featuring The Allman Brothers Band, The Beach Boys and Mountain. Patrons are given commemorative posters at the door and find red roses on their seats

  • July 3 – Jim Morrison is found dead in a bath tub in Paris, France, aged 27. Alain Ronay would claim, years later, that he assisted Morrison's lover, Pamela Courson, in covering up the circumstances. Courson surely wouldn't be the last to help a famous person OD.
  • July 4 – The Fillmore West is closed in San Francisco with a final show featuring Santana, Creedence Clearwater Revival and The Grateful Dead. I was just young enough to miss all this cool hippie stuff that was starting to fade away...
  • July 5 – Right to vote: The 26th Amendment to the United States Constitution, formally certified by President Richard Nixon, lowers the voting age from 21 to 18. In 2021 looking back- How does a Republican President, no less Richard Nixon pass voting rights legislation??? Nothing like that would ever happen today with a Republican President.
  • July 7 - The movie 'Two-Lane Blacktop' is released starring songwriter James Taylor, the Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson, Warren Oates, and Laurie Bird. James Taylor has said he has never seen this movie! I loved this movie and thought James was great!
  • July 9 – Grand Funk Railroad becomes only the second band (after The Beatles) to perform a sold-out concert at Shea Stadium breaking The Beatles record of selling out the venue. Listen, young people make mistakes. You were once young and stupid yourself. How does this entry even make Wikipedia?
  • July 23 - Alison Krauss, American country singer is born. She's a baby and her future musical collaborator, Robert Plant (23 years old at the time) is having another monster year in Led Zeppelin.
  • July 31 – Apollo 15 astronauts David Scott and James Irwin become the first to ride in the Lunar Roving Vehicle, a day after landing on the Moon. Americans are starting to take this for granted.

  • August 1 - The Concert for Bangladesh at Madison Square Garden, New York, starring George Harrison, Ravi Shankar, Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan and Leon Russell; also featuring Billy Preston, Eric Clapton, Jesse Ed Davis and Badfinger. George was on a roll.
  • August 1971 - The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour premieres on CBS. From Ed Sullivan to now Sonny & Cher on Sunday nights, was the fall of western civilization far behind?
  • August 14 – The Who release their fifth studio album Who's Next, reaching Number One in both the UK and the US. I wore this album out! Like Tapestry, this album is a greatest hits album all by itself. The one thing that always stood out for me even at 16, was Keith Moon's drumming on this album, simply the best I've ever heard over one album. What a birthday present this must have been for someone?
  • August 31 – John Lennon leaves Britain for New York City and will never return. Now the shit that John got from Tricky Dick and his government FBI thugs trying to deport him didn't work and he eventually won permanent residency status in 1976.

  • September 6 – Dolores O'Riordan, Irish singer (The Cranberries) is born. Don't you just love bands named after bugs and fruit.
  • September 8 – In Washington, D.C., the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is inaugurated, with the opening feature being the premiere of Leonard Bernstein's Mass. Nothing like watching the Kennedy Center Honors or any other arts honors ceremony when Trump isn't in the White House.

  • October movies released - The French Connection, Play Misty for Me, The Last Picture Show.
  • October 1 – Walt Disney World opens in Orlando, Florida. My wife and I went there several years ago and were not impressed. Nothing beats the OG.
  • October 29 - Duane Allman, American rock guitarist, co-founder and leader of the Allman Brothers Band is killed in a motorcycle accident. He was only 24 and one can only imagine if he would have been around longer, same for Buddy Holly, Otis Redding, Jimi Hendrix and Gram Parsons.

  • November movie releases- Fiddler On The Roof, Duel (TV), and Brian's Song (TV).
  • November 8 – Led Zeppelin release officially untitled fourth studio album, which would become the biggest-selling album of the year (1972), the band's biggest-selling album, and the fourth best-selling album of all time. I wasn't a huge hard rock fan but no one could deny their presence and power in the 70's. They came along at such a critical time reminding the world what great Tier 1 Rock really sounded like- as so many crappy Tier 2 and 3 rock bands emerged in the 70's to fill the airwaves with just hot air.

  • December movies releases - Mary, Queen of Scots, Sometimes A Great Notion, A Clockwork Orange, Harold and Maude, Dirty Harry, Straw Dogs, and Diamonds are Forever.
  • December 4 - The Montreux Casino burns down during a Frank Zappa concert (the event is memorialized in the Deep Purple song "Smoke on the Water"). Now Deep Purple, that's a Tier 1 Rock band. I remember teaching in the early 90's and my young assistant who loved to talk music didn't know Deep Purple or the song Smoke on the Water, I was perplexed?

1971 is often called by music critics as the "Best" year of rock 'n' roll. I can't deny that this week's playlist of 200 could have easily taken on many more songs but for the fact that YouTube stops embedded playlists at 200. 

I know I lose marketing hits to the blog by using the term, "Favorites" but so be it, people want to be told what are the "Best" songs to listen to.

Here's my Favorite 'Top 40' albums of 2021. I did rate them, blending my 16 year-old self with my 66 year-old self. The majority of the 200 great songs in the playlist this week come from these 40 albums. I did not rate the songs themselves but simply created my standard handmade random-feel mix. 

Shuffle icon
This mix got me thinking about the first cassette mix tapes I started making in the 70's and playing in my car. In 1979, Sony created the Walkman® and revolutionized taking your personal music with you on a walk or run. When the Apple iPod came out in 2001, it continued making personal music portable and lighter, but also freed songs from being in a linear order with the digital 'Shuffle' feature. For me, Shuffle has been a concept I have fully embraced for twenty years now for listing to playlists, or when listening to all your songs on a device or service. My YouTube playlists are almost always designed to create a handmade random-feel of the Shuffle button I use on my smartphone music app. 

But putting all order aside, this is an endearing if not enduring group of albums and songs from just one year in rock 'n' roll. Long live 1971!

  1. Who's Next, The Who
  2. John Prine, John Prine
  3. Nilsson Schmilsson, Harry Nilsson
  4. Tapestry, Carole King
  5. Madman Across The Water, Elton John
  6. American Pie, Don McClean
  7. Sticky Fingers, The Rolling Stones
  8. Teaser And The Firecat, Cat Stevens
  9. Ram On, Paul McCartney
  10. Mudslide Slim And The Blue Horizon, James Taylor
  11. Year Of Sunday, Seals and Crofts
  12. If I Could Only Remember My Name, David Crosby
  13. Imagine, John Lennon
  14. America, America
  15. Stephen Stills 2, Stephen Stills
  16. Led Zeppelin IV, Led Zeppelin
  17. A nod is as good as a wink... to a blind horse, Faces
  18. Straight Up, Badfinger
  19. Aqualung, Jethro Tull
  20. The Yes Album, Fragile, Yes
  21. Live At The Fillmore East, The Allman Brothers
  22. Crazy Horse, Crazy Horse
  23. Bryter Layter, Nick Drake
  24. Friends, Elton John
  25. Music, Carole King
  26. The Low Spark Of The High-Heeled Boys, Traffic
  27. Mudlark, Leo Kottke
  28. What's Going On, Marvin Gaye
  29. Every Picture Tells A Story, Rod Stewart
  30. Tupelo Honey, Van Morrison
  31. Anticipation, Carly Simon
  32. Thirds, James Gang
  33. The London Howlin' Wolf Sessions, Howlin' Wolf
  34. Liv, Livingston Taylor
  35. If You Saw Thro' My Eyes, Iain Matthews
  36. Dave Mason & Cass Elliot, Dave Mason & Cass Elliot
  37. every good boy deserves Favour, The Moody Blues
  38. Mirror, Emitt Rhodes
  39. The Point, Harry Nilsson
  40. Grin featuring Nils Lofgren, Grin

Enjoy my Friends and Happy Festivus... for the rest of us!

1 comment:

  1. Awesome blog, phenomenal year in music! My personal subtext for 1971 reads something like this: 1971 was the year Ken Forman graduated from high school and joined the Navy. In no time at all he realized the magnitude of his mistake and he spent the next 18 months figuring out how to right this wrong. He never hears Maggie May or The Thrill is Gone without haunting memories of boot camp and marching on the grinder in the wee hours at the San Diego Naval facility. Carry on my friend!!


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