I was eight in 1971 and although a bit young to remember most of the year I do remember bits and pieces. It was the year All in the Family aired. I thought Archie Bunker was funny but didn’t understand the humor. It was the year astronauts rode the moon buggy on the surface of the moon. In music, how could anyone miss “Joy to the World”, “Maggie Mae”, and “Me and Bobby McGee”. I remember the music because for the large part it is still around. Granted (and maybe, fortunately) the Osmonds’ “One Bad Apple” has gone away.
It was the start of the era where music stayed and although it was still around, bubblegum pop was being pushed aside. The big names came out and moved to their prime. Led Zeppelin, The Who, Pink Floyd, and Black Sabbath all found traction in 1971. The music industry started to change too. No longer was it waiting to play number one songs. It actively searched for them. Stations realised that it was better business to discover new music than merely follow along. I was fortunate to grow up with a very progressive radio station, WMMS, that promoted new bands. It was also the era of album rock and longer songs like “Stairway to Heaven” and the 45 you had to flip over to listen to the whole song “American Pie.”
Hepworth examines the stories behind the music how the industry thought they were getting a mediocre album from Carole King. Even the photographer for the album cover arrived to find a frizzy-haired woman in jeans and a pullover sweater. She looked like she was about to go work in the garden not make an album cover. The photographer put her cat in the frame and suddenly Tapestry became an iconic album. Tomboy Karen Carpenter came to fame as the drummer who sang. Once she was moved from behind the drums to center stage she became self-conscious of her looks and body which eventually lead to tragedy. December 1970 was the end of the Beatles and 1971 was the year Mick Jagger worked to save the Stones from breaking up. Black Sabbath released “Sweet Leaf” showing that Keith Richards wasn’t the only one who could experiment with guitar tuning. And on the subject of experimental, Pink Floyd released Meddle.
1971 was a unique year. Music spread. The “Theme from Shaft” and “Jesus Christ Superstar” brought music to other media. Just a quick glance at the top albums shows how 1971 shaped music — Led Zeppelin IV, Who’s Next, Hunky Dory, Sticky Fingers, LA Woman, Aqualung, The Yes Album, Pearl… 1971 is a playlist in a year. Even for me, the music from bands and singers I normally wouldn’t listen, Joni Mitchell or Funkadelic, to all made music that I like. Hepworth knits the year together and explains the importance of that year in music combines it with pop culture. One would be hard pressed to find another year that offers the range and quality of music.