*Image of George Harrison & Ravi Shankar in 1971 taken from the internet and likely copyrighted
Rather than push myself and graduate in four years, I stuck around to take what they now call a “victory lap.” I guess I just wasn’t into that “whole completion thing.” My fifth year in college I was taking a lighter load of classes and hanging out at parties and taverns quite a bit. I figured I was going to work my whole life – and I have – why rush towards the drudgery. But that “party-all-the-time” lifestyle can get dull. I was taking some un-required history classes at the time and I dug that whole research thing. Bored, I went to the Manhattan (Kansas) Public Library – not the campus library – and looked up old Rolling Stone issues on microfilm. Or maybe it was microfiche, I get them confused. I later confounded and thoroughly bored my disinterested roommates with a long lecture on rock history about how the mid-70s were a better time for music than the mid-80s. Seger’s peak years were the mid to late 70s. Springsteen’s Darkness On the Edge of Town came out in ’78. Petty’s rise to fame came during that time. Perhaps that odd afternoon was a precursor to B&V… it’s hard to tell…there was likely drink involved. Doing the research for this post, on the music released in 1971, its hard not feel the way I did in the Manhattan Public Library… music was just better back then. And I say that knowing I risk sounding like the meme, “old man yells at cloud.”
I’ve been seeing a whole lot on the landmark year of 1971 since this year means its 50 years behind us. There are a lot of albums and events that are having 50th anniversaries this year so ’71 is hot right now. I figured, why not get in on the ’71 action? I recently posted on the 50th anniversary box set for CSNY’s Deja Vu (originally released in ’70) and joked that I needed to let my hair grow and maybe get one of those groovy fringed leather jackets… maybe some tie dye. I have to admit the research I did while putting this post together had me feeling that groovy hippy vibe again. I definitely think I’d have been a hippy. I like to think I’d be out there somewhere at a protest meeting up with women who burned thier bras. More likely, I’d gone into a deep Hunter S. Thompson jag… staggering around with grapefruits and cocktails… While there were some great albums to come out in 1971 a lot of heavy shit went down as well. I was too young to remember a lot of it… I don’t think I was even in grade school yet in ’71. Maybe I was in kinder garden?
The Baby Boomers who eventually became the Youth Movement of the 60s really thought they could change the world. They were going to right a lot of wrongs. But with the election in 1968 of reactionary conservative (and later criminal thug) Richard Nixon the Hippy Dream (as I like to call it) slipped away. By the 70s, cynicism had replaced much of the idealism that had been prevalent. Nixon didn’t end the Vietnam war, he expanded it. In 1971 specifically he expanded it into Laos. The war was rending the country in two. There was racial strife. Gloria Steinem rose to prominence in the new women’s movement. There were continuing protests – even though in ’70 National Guardsmen turned their guns on Kent State students. Groups like the Weather Underground were kidnapping people. Nixon declared his “War on Drugs.” Verdicts came down on the My Lai massacre and the Manson Family murders. Like I said, it was a heavy time. It wasn’t all bad news… We still had moon landings to enjoy. And hey, Green Peace was formed. As I looked at what America was like in 1971, sadly it didn’t look much different than how things are today: a nation divided, racial strife, protests, greed trumping the needs of the environment. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Although, admittedly, the music was better then.
The music of 1971 really reflects all of what was going on at the time. I’ve never been a fan of codifying music by decades – the 60s or the 70s. I don’t think shifts in music respond to the calendar. There are always bands who transcend decades like Van Halen or the Cars from ’75 to ’85. However, I think ’71 is an especially interesting year as it’s likely the demarcation line in terms of the end of the 60s and beginning of the 70s. By ’71 the vaunted Beatles had broken up and all of them had begun their solo careers in earnest. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young had all gone their separate ways for solo stardom. The Stones had gone into tax exile in the south of France. Sadly, Hendrix and Janis Joplin had both passed away by misadventure. Jim Morrison lived long enough to see 1971 and record a last Doors album, but then died mysteriously in Paris. The 60s really did come to an actual end and the cynical, greedy 70s had begun. All of that can be pegged to 1971. You can almost feel the 60s bands and ethos receding like low tide and ushering in the new era that was the 70s. It was a total sea change.
In ’71 at the dawn of the 70s, the social strife really began to surface in the music. There are a lot of protest or political songs/albums that came out that year. And frankly there were just a ton of great albums that came out in 1971, a truly amazing year for music. Whether it was solo stuff from guys who were in big bands in the 60s (Beatles, CSNY) or artists just starting out (Bonnie Raitt, John Prine had debuts) there were some classic rock LPs released in ’71. Pink Floyd released their best pre-Dark Side of the Moon LP and Zeppelin, Jethro Tull and the Who were at career zeniths. Marvin Gaye, Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen all unleased career topping masterpieces. Even the King, Elvis Presley showed he still had a lot in the tank. 1971 saw several bands release 2 LPs in the year, which is inconceivable now: Yes, Alice Cooper, and the Faces. Hell, Rod Stewart released 2 LPs with the Faces and his best solo album. The LPs that came out that year are truly some of the best rock has to offer. I went through every LP I could think of from ’71 and I pulled 1 song off each LP for this playlist. I had to lay down some limit. I will admit right up front, I left off Funkadelic’s Maggot Brain and James Brown Hot Pants because unlike George Michael who was “Too Funky” I am simply, not funky. Come to think of it, George Micheal and I have absolutely nothing in common.
Here’s my playlist of tracks from 1971. There were so many great albums and I tried to hit most of them, but again I limited myself to 1 song per album. Often I picked the best known track/anthem from an LP but for some I reached a little deeper onto the album. I have listed artist, album, song. The playlist can be found on Spotify under “BourbonAndVinyl.net 1971.” My advice is to shuffle these tracks, but they hold up pretty good start to finish as listed. Put this playlist on, turn it up, pour something strong and pretend this is the coolest radio station in the world… broadcasting live from a basement studio in some unmarked university administration building, occupied for a protest in 1971… What a year it was…and I hope this playlists celebrates all those great ’71 LPs…
- Marvin Gaye, What’s Goin’ On, “What’s Goin’ On” – Marvin giving us the state of the union on this great song, still relevant today. Powerful stuff.
- Jimi Hendrix, Cry Of Love, “Freedom” – From the first posthumously released Hendrix LP.
- Graham Nash, Songs For Beginners, “Military Madness” – Continuing our politically charged theme… from Graham’s first and best solo album. Reeling from his breakup with Joni Mitchell, Nash delivers the goods on this album.
- Faces, A Nod Is As Good As A Wink…, “Stay With Me” – Rod Stewart, Ronnie Wood, Ronnie Lane and co deliver their biggest “hit.” Like Zeppelin they weren’t really a hit making band. They were just a great rock band. This was the second of two LPs from them in 1971.
- Al Green, Gets Next To You, “I Can’t Get Next To You” – Even in this song of frustration, the Reverend Al still sounds happy. Does he have any sad songs? Smooth, smooth voice.
- The Kinks, Muswell Hillbillies, “20th Century Man” – Unable to tour America because of a drug bust I always felt the Kinks turned a little insular. Great album though.
- Bill Withers, Just As I Am, “Ain’t No Sunshine” – In my opinion, the late great Bill Withers’ best song.
- Traffic, The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys, “The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys” – The epic 11 minute song… I do seem drawn to the long tracks.
- Van Morrison, Tupelo Honey, “Tupelo Honey” – Another title track… One of my all time favorite love songs. I would have danced to this at my wedding except for the Rock Chick’s mysterious hatred of Van Morrison. Well that and its like 8 minutes long. I can’t do things I like for 8 minutes let alone dance for that long.
- Yes, Fragile, “Roundabout” – Yes is another band that put out two albums in 1971. It’s nice to see some prog rock on here…
- James Taylor, Mudslide Slim, “You’ve Got A Friend” – JT covering his friend Carole King’s track on an LP whose name he perhaps regrets.
- Leonard Cohen, Songs Of Love And Hate, “Famous Blue Raincoat” – One of Cohen’s most famous songs from one of his most famous albums. I love Leonard.
- David Crosby, If I Could Only Remember My Name, “Cowboy Movie” – I’ve never understood why this great rock tune wasn’t a standard on rock radio like “Freebird” or “Stairway to Heaven.”
- Janis Joplin, Pearl, “Me And Bobby McGee” – Sad that her biggest hit had to be posthumous.
- Alice Cooper, Killer, “Under My Wheels” – Another band who put out two landmark, career albums in 1971. I can’t imagine that happening in 2021.
- George Harrison, The Concert For Bangladesh, “Bangla Desh” – George set the blueprint for charity rock concerts with this show. My friend Ron attended and said it was spectacular. I couldn’t find the live version from the concert album so I went with this studio version that they dropped on another LP as a bonus track.
- Santana, Santana III, “No One To Depend On” – There are few guitarists like Carlos Santana whose tone is as recognizable and distinct as a vocalist.
- Harry Nilsson, Nilsson Schmilsson, “Jump Into the Fire” – I feel like Harry could have been a lot bigger than he was. I think this track is brilliant but even I admit the in-song drum solo is… indulgent?
- Elton John, Madman Across the Water, “Madman Across the Water” – One of my favorite Elton “deep tracks.” I could have gone with “Tiny Dancer” from this great LP, but we’re not really a “Tiny Dancer” blog.
- The Allman Brothers Band, Live At The Fillmore East, “Statesboro Blues” – For the most part I avoided live LPs for this list but this LP and this song are too epic to ignore.
- Yes, The Yes Album, “Yours Is No Disgrace” – I still have this album on vinyl and yes, it does get played here at the B&V labs.
- John Lennon, Imagine, “Imagine” – Eschewing the pain and screaming of Plastic Ono Band, Lennon indulges his utopian side on this, his greatest solo track.
- Ike & Tina Turner, Workin’ Together, “Proud Mary” – Their best LP… as a duo anyway. Tina and company own this CCR track.
- Paul McCartney, Ram, “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” – Ram was credited to Paul and Linda McCartney but I think that was designed to expand their cut of the publishing. It’s a great record but I chose this rather cheesy, Beatlesque track to show the contrast of how far apart Lennon (no. 23) and McCartney had grown from each other. The songs couldn’t be farther apart in style, tone etc.
- Sly & the Family Stone, There’s a Riot Goin’ On, “Family Affair” – This is one of my all time favorite tracks from the oft-overlooked genius of Sly Stone.
- Alice Cooper, Love It To Death, “I’m Eighteen” – A perfect expression of teenage male Id.
- Pink Floyd, Meddle, “One Of These Days” – Probably my favorite LP from the period after Syd Barrett and up to Dark Side of the Moon. This harks back to the time before Roger Waters took “control.”
- Black Sabbath, Masters Of Reality, “Sweet Leaf” – Sabbath’s ode to pot on what to me is their heaviest album.
- T. Rex, Electric Warrior, “Bang A Gong (Get It On)” – I don’t feel Marc Bolan and T. Rex ever got their due in America. This is an iconic track from an iconic album. The Power Station later covered this song.
- Rod Stewart, Every Picture Tells A Story, “Maggie May” – Rod not only put out this, his best solo LP, he did two albums with the Faces. Amazing year for him.
- Carole King, Tapestry, “I Feel The Earth Move” – King stepped out of the shadows of being a songwriter and delivers her greatest album.
- David Bowie, Hunky Dory, “Changes” – Bowie’s signature tune from one of my favorite Bowie LPs.
- The Doors, L.A. Woman, “L.A. Woman” – Jim Morrison’s last, brilliant album. I chose the title track for it’s L.A. noir, but there were some great blues stuff on this album too.
- James Gang, Thirds, “Walk Away” – It was Joe Walsh’s last LP with the James Gang but he delivered this timeless rock n roll classic.
- ZZ Top, ZZ Top’s First Album, “Backdoor Love Affair” – Our first salvo from that Little Ol’ Band From Texas.
- Jethro Tull, Aqualung, “Locomotive Breath” – I could have gone with the title track but I just prefer this propulsive tune.
- Led Zeppelin, IV, “Rock N Roll” – I felt “Stairway To Heaven” was overplayed so I went with this one… which is probably also overplayed. Zeppelin’s crowning achievement of an album.
- Bonnie Raitt, Bonnie Raitt, “Mighty Tight Woman” – Great little blues cover from Bonnie Raitt. I love her early blues stuff.
- Joni Mitchell, Blue, “All I Want” – I’m not a huge Mitchell fan but you can’t ignore Blue, her masterpiece.
- The Temptations, Sky’s The Limit, “Just My Imagination” – Later covered ably by the Stones… but you’ve got to love the Temps’ version.
- The Rolling Stones, Sticky Fingers, “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” – Speaking of the Stones… I could have gone with “Brown Sugar” but I love this tune, the riff and the extended jazz jam at the end. One of guitarist Mick Taylor’s finest moments with the Stones.
- The Who, Who’s Next, “Won’t Get Fooled Again” – “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss…” Says it all.
- War, All Day Music, “Slippin’ In To Darkness” – A great, ominous track from the funk masters.
- Stevie Wonder, Where I’m Comin’ From, “Do Yourself A Favor” – This is a great track that I feel is slightly overlooked.
- Fleetwood Mac, Future Games, “Show Me A Smile” – From probably the best post-Peter Green, pre-Buckingham/Nicks Mac album. Christine McVie delivers a beautiful ballad.
- Gene Clark, White Light, “White Light” – Former Byrd Gene Clark never sold in the numbers he should have but he accomplished the blend of country and rock that Gram Parson’s kept trying to pull off.
- Crazy Horse, Crazy Horse, “I Don’t Want To Talk About It” – Neil Young’s once and future backing band’s debut LP. This song, later covered by Rod Stewart, was Danny Whitten’s finest hour.
- Badfinger, Straight Up, “Day After Day” – Great song from a band I think I need to get more into.
- The Isley Brothers, Givin’ It Back, “Ohio/Machine Gun” – The most striking tune on a very striking album. The Isley Brothers mash up CSNY’s “Ohio” and Hendrix’s “Machine Gun” in an amazing protest anthem. This is a track everyone should hear.
- John Prine, John Prine, “Illegal Smile” – It’s a shame we just lost John Prine last year. This track from his debut is one of his most famous tunes.
- Elvis Presley, Elvis Country, “Tomorrow Never Comes” – It may have been 1971 but the King was far from being a spent force. He’d gone to Memphis and spent a week recording that resulted in two landmark rock n roll LPs. He did the same thing here – only this time went to Nashville and recorded two LPs of fantastic country-ish music. “Tomorrow Never Comes” shows Elvis was in tune with the times.
- The Band, Cahoots, “When I Paint My Masterpiece” – The Band were always the greatest interpreters of Dylan… This was the first official recorded version of the song released. Dylan’s oft bootlegged version came out officially later.
- John Lee Hooker and Canned Heat, Hooker N Heat, “Whiskey and Wimmen'” – This is a great blues album. Canned Heat and John Lee were great together.
- Faces, Long Player, “Bad N Ruin” – Long Player may be my favorite album from the Faces… I once played this song on a radio show the Rock Chick and I did on a Public Radio station morning show… it’s a long story.
- Aretha Franklin, Aretha Live At Fillmore West, “Love The One You’re With” – One of only three live tracks here but a monumental live LP from Aretha. I don’t know why this wasn’t on our favorite live LPs list. Its amazing how many artists covered this Stephen Stills’ tune.
- B.B. King, Live In Cook County Jail, “How Blue Can You Get?” – One of B.B. King’s finest live LPs, along with Live at the Regal. One of B.B.’s finest tracks, live at a jail.
- Free, Highway, “The Stealer” – One of their greatest songs. I don’t know why they were merely a one-hit wonder in the States. I know Rod Stewart was a huge Free fan. Paul Rodgers delivers the goods on vocals.
- Humble Pie, Rock On, “Shine On” – Peter Frampton delivers on lead guitar and vocals on this track from his last studio LP with Humble Pie.
- J. Geils Band, The Morning After, “Lookin’ For a Love” – J. Geils were such a great blues rock band, it’s a shame they are mostly known for “Freeze Frame.” I urge everyone to check out their early LPs.
- Little Feat, Little Feat, “Willin'” – A song about “weed, whites and wine” that got Lowell George fired from Frank Zappa’s band. He formed Little Feat and recorded this for their debut LP. Later covered by Linda Ronstadt.
I’ve likely missed an LP or a song from 1971 but I feel like I’ve captured that year relatively comprehensively. If you’ve got an album or song I missed, please suggest it in the comments section and I’ll add it to the Spotify playlist. It was hard to pick just 1 song from these landmark LPs. I’ve seen ads for a documentary named “1971: The Year That Music Changed.” I’m not sure music changed. I do think it evolved in tone and subject matter from the utopian dreams of the 60s to a more cynical, societal-focused bent in 1971. But that would soon give way to the greed and corruption of the decadent 70s. Who knew punk and disco were lurking on the horizon. Music tends to change every year, slowly but surely. I will say that 1971 was a simply smashing year for music. Turn this up loud.
16 thoughts on “Playlist, We Look Back 50 Years to: 1971”
Have you read the book by David Hepworth ? It’s called 1971 I think , well worth a read if you haven’t . Great post btw
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I have not read the book but will seek it out! Thanks fort he tip and the feedback!! Cheers!
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Maybe you forgot an important one – 4-Way Street from CSN&Y. But it was a live album and that might be the reason why she’s not on the list. But it’s a great record and it was a showcase of their individual talents. Four musicians on top of their game.Greatings.
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Yeah you’ve hit the nail on the head. I did include a few live tracks but I chose to try and limit the live stuff for the playlist… I love live albums but sometimes feel that I alone do so… ‘4 Way St’ is one of the best live LPs ever!