Book: 1971- Never a Dull Moment by David Hepworth

Book: 1971- Never a Dull Moment by David Hepworth


If all we know of David Bowie was what he did in 1971 it would be more than enough.

Changes, Oh! You Pretty Things, Life on Mars, The Bewlay Brothers, Hang On to Yourself, Five Years, Ziggy Stardust, Suffragette City and Starman are all from 1971.

As if that wasn’t enough to quantify that 1971 was the best year in music, the author then lists some of the classics from other artists proclaiming none of them have been forgotten in 50 years.

Nuggets include that Carole King recorded three classics in under four hours in 1 morning.  (Three hours was standard session as laid down by musicians union). This was after she’d penned hits for others; hit songwriter turned album seller. Tapestry the first ‘evergreen’ album – one that keeps selling months (years) after it’s release, paved the way for Meatloaf, Blondie & Fleetwood Mac who later in the decade also put out a lot of singles to keep selling the same album. Tapestry was selling 150k per week and was still selling when the next album came out in the same year.

I knew this book would be good and indeed, there is never a dull moment. Back then, bands used to build their live reputation with covers and then start doing their own tracks, having perfecting them on stage, before going on to record them. Of course The Beatles did this but so did the Who, Springsteen and Led Zeppelin.

If you have the reputation for violence, it saves you the  trouble of resorting to it,  a quote from Peter Grant, Led Zep’s manager.

Dee Anthony manager of J Geils Band told them they should never go on stage without being introduced. Something I wish today’s young bands would do more off. It’s the showmanship that is so often lost these days.

Hepworth describes a simple life in 1971 of not knowing what an album contained, something I recall right into my 1980s school days. There was of less choice of everything; radio, TV and entertainment generally and all of this nostalgic bliss is beautifully described here. This was a time before the coining of the term ‘health and safety’ and of course before equal rights (although we have yet to achieve that in 2018). Women weren’t journalists then, only researchers, no matter if they actually did journalism. Despite Katherine Grahame’s ownership of Newsweek in America (as depicted in The Post).

I’ve never come across An American Family, mooted as the first fly-on-the-wall series It’s what we may call today, reality TV and reading about it makes me want to see it.  Watching this, America realised how dysfunctional they were and made a judgement on what 5 years of free love had done to America.

Tower Records is recalled as the first of the big record stores, although it would have more tapes then. The store had everything out front rather than in store rooms and is reported to be the first to make a big deal of new releases, placed at the door & discounted to entice. In America people wouldn’t have known what artists looked like till they saw the album cover but in the UK we already had the Melody Maker.

Talking of the simple life, Louis Armstrong died aged 69 a few days after Jim Morrison at 27. He stayed in his modest home in Queens ‘because we didn’t think we could have better neighbours any place else’. A policy not followed by Morrison where keeping bad company meant drugs helped his early death.

On Bolan’s reinvention from 60s hippy to 1971’s pop idol, even John peel couldn’t understand why he went pop. He started relying less on charm & more on looks although I learn he was really and old-fashioned teddy boy than a 70s pop idol.

Remarkably, Rod Stewart’s Maggie May was only added to album as it was short. It was a b-side till a radio station in Milwaukie flipped it & played it. Also worth noting for future pop-quizzes, George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass album sold more than Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band.

We have the Beach Boys to thank for ‘best off’ albums as they were able to gain popularity again in  the 70s with their 60s back catalogue. There was no best of the Beatles at this point.

David Hepworth has been a favourite music writer of mine since Smash Hits days so I’m well aware of is rockipedia status. However, the amount of knowledge he has shown in this book makes me absolutely agree, that 1971 was indeed, the best year in rock.

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