Favourite Reads and 1971, the Start of the ‘Rock Era’

I know there are quite a few of us in my little blogging circle who prefer to write anonymously using an alias. It gives us an enormous sense of freedom as we can write about our daily lives, our innermost thoughts, and even hark back to the days of our youth, telling the tales of those times. Of late however, for one reason or another, a few more people in the real world have found out about this place than I might have liked, and although I’m sure they have better things to do than trawl through these pages, it does kind of affect the openness of the writing.

I’m mentioning this because I finally bit the bullet this week and shared the domain name with my course tutor. Regulars around here will know I joined the student body of my local college a couple of years ago, and the new semester has just begun. It got to the point I had mentioned my elusive ‘web-diary’ so often it was getting silly, so to offer up an explanation I sent her a link. As that link will land on the homepage, the pressure is on to make this next post a good one, which is a bit of an oxymoron, as when it comes to writing, pressure and quality never seem to go well together.

Ok, so I’ve had a bit of a wordy lead-in to this one, but I just wanted to get it out there that my course tutor Sara might drop by, and it’s making me nervous. Also, I haven’t really mentioned the fact it’s ostensibly a music blog that’s just grown arms and legs over the years, so it might come as a bit of a surprise.

Last time I wrote about all the great telly shows we’ve been fortunate enough to have at our disposal during these tough times of lockdown and restrictions. Prior to that I shared some of the pictures I’ve been taking on our daily walks and created a little montage. Another of my lockdown pastimes has been reading. Yes, lots and lots of reading, because that’s what students do isn’t it? (Do you think that’s enough to convince Sara?).

The background of choice for many a Zoom call, but have they all been read?

As it turns out, just like music, reading is for many of us as essential to life as the air we breathe, so simply part of our daily routine. Since starting my course, I’ve been keeping a record of what I’ve been reading, and like last time I’m happy to share my lockdown list. Again I’ll highlight my favourites, just in case you trust my judgement.

The complete works of Jenny Eclair (yes, another string to her bow), The Other Half of Augusta Hope by Joanna Glen, Why the Dutch are Different by Ben Coates (explains a lot!), Broken Greek by Peter Paphides, The Forensic Records Society by Magnus Mills), The Dressmaker’s Gift by Fiona Valpy, Department of the Peculiar… Goes Pop, 1&2 by Rol Hirst and Rob Wells (the latest comic book series from our talented blogging pal and his mate), Final Demand by Deborah Moggach, Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, Queen Bee by Jane Fallon (Ricky Gervais’ other half), Tidelands by Philippa Gregory, The Switch by Beth O’Leary, Uncommon People and 1971, Never A Dull Moment both by David Hepworth.

A very rich and varied selection there and although maybe more aimed at a female market, I have been mighty impressed with Jenny Eclair’s output over the last few years and look forward to whatever she may publish next. On my list are a few books relating to the world of rock and pop, and Pete Paphides’ autobiography about growing up as part of a Greek family in 70’s/80s Britain, really resonated with me. Not because of the Greek part, but because he was a bit of a ‘rock and pop nerd’, and his relationship with radio chart shows, TOTP, and new albums, very much mirrored my own.

The two books below were in my Christmas stocking, and I’ve now finished both. David Hepworth is a fabulous writer and between these two books and the one by Pete Paphides, I have added more new words to my ‘new word notebook’ (it’s a thing), than from all the other books put together. In Uncommon People, the premise is that the era of the rock star came along in the mid-fifties but faded away in the last decade of the 20th century. There is a chapter for all of these ‘uncommon people’, starting with Little Richard in 1955 and ending with Kurt Cobain in 1994. As we often say around here, the 21st century has produced a totally different kind of artist what with the lack of physical product to covet and hold; the committee approach to making hit records; the importance of choreography; and, the mystique-destroying internet.

As for 1971, Never A Dull Moment, David reckoned that for a music fan like himself, having been born in 1950 was the equivalent of having won the winning ticket in the lottery of life, as he turned 21 at just the right time. On New Year’s Eve 1970, Paul McCartney issued a writ in London to wind up the Beatles, thus ending the ‘pop era’. The following day was 1971, and the first day of the ‘rock era’.

In the book, David chronicles those 12 months and it soon becomes clear that it was indeed an exceptional year. Many of those who first achieved stardom in 1971 – David Bowie, Rod Stewart, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Elton John and Joni Mitchell – went on to have long careers, and looking at the Top 100 albums of the year, many have truly stood the test of time and are still being purchased 50 years on. Songs from some of these albums have on occasion found their way onto this blog and all of them from way before my peak time as a consumer of vinyl, but now just part of our musical heritage:

Rod Stewart – Every Picture Tells A Story
Carole King – Tapestry

The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers
Nick Drake – Bryter Layter
The Faces – A Nod’s As Good As A Wink To A Blind Man
Joni Mitchell – Blue
David Bowie – Hunky Dory
Nilsson – Nilsson Schmilsson
John Lennon – Imagine
The Carpenters – Carpenters
Isaac Hayes – Shaft
Cat Stevens – Teaser And The Firecat

etc, etc, etc…

For once, I’ll not get all wordy about the artist or the song, as if you’re reading this you probably already know more about them than I ever will. I’ll simply select three of my favourite songs from a few of the above albums and leave it at that. Hope you approve of my choices.

Reason To Believe by Rod Stewart:

I Feel The Earth Move by Carole King:

Wild Horses by the Rolling Stones:


So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – I kind of got into my stride by the end of this post and forgot that people from the ‘real world’ might drop by. Whenever I’ve been in this position before, I soon regain my confidence, as it seems our family and friends are generally a lot less interested in what we write about than we might suppose. Just as well really.

As for my reading list above, hope I’ve given you a few ideas, as I was in turn by another blogger who frequents this place (he knows who he is). I’m always a sucker for rock and pop related volumes and autobiographies, and would thoroughly recommend the ones mentioned. For the record, a few examples of the new words added to my ‘new word notebook’ are as follows (every day’s a schoolday):

salmagundi – a pot pourri; a miscellaneous collection
gimcrack – cheap or showy ornament; a knick-knack
athwart
across from side to side; so as to be perverse or contradictory
bowdlerised – material removed from a text if deemed ‘improper’ making it weaker or less effective
ululating – a howl or wail as an expression of strong emotion (Yoko Ono was at times prevented from appearing on stage, for fear of her potential ululating!)


Do you wish you’d been born in 1950 in order to have experienced the music of 1971 at age 21, or are you happy with how the die was cast? Although 1971 was a remarkable year that gave us all these monumental albums, I’m personally happy with my own era, and still have the advantage of being able to continually make new discoveries. I think we probably all feel a bit like that, and long may it continue.

Until next time…

Reason To Believe Lyrics
(Song by Tim Hardin)

If I listened long enough to you
I’d find a way to believe that it’s all true
Knowing that you lied straight-faced while I cried
Still I look to find a reason to believe

Someone like you makes it hard to live without
somebody else
Someone like you makes it easy to give
never think about myself

If I gave you time to change my mind
I’d find a way just to leave the past behind
Knowing that you lied straight-faced while I cried
Still I look to find a reason to believe

If I listened long enough to you
I’d find a way to believe that it’s all true
Knowing that you lied straight-faced while I cried
Still I look to find a reason to believe

Someone like you makes it hard to live without
somebody else
Someone like you makes it easy to give
never think about myself

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days - I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 50 years ago the song "Alfie" was written by my favourite songwriting team Bacharach and David - The opening line to that song was "What's it all about?" and I'm hoping that by writing this blog, I might find the answer to that question.

20 thoughts on “Favourite Reads and 1971, the Start of the ‘Rock Era’”

  1. I’m reluctant to respond to this post, since when I left a similar comment on your TV shows post, it made you feel guilty, and that wasn’t my intention.

    I’ve been reading the same book for going on a year now. It is a beautiful book, full of warmth and nostalgia, and deep thinking on life and death, and when I do get time to read it, I never want to read too much since I’m savouring every word. That’s not the reason it’s been on the bedside table for a year though… but we all know the reasons for that. Anyway, it’s Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury, and I’d recommend it to anyone. It’s one of the few things that’s kept me going this last year, and I’m almost afraid to finish it.

    I’m sure Sara is proud to have you as a student, Alyson.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Happy you responded but yes, I of course feel guilt yet again as I know you have had little free time over the last year. Alyson’s Highland Adventures is on hold for the moment and I seem to have a bit more time on my hands than is maybe good for me but it could all have been so different if we’d both still had our jobs and DD had been younger. Just the way it’s worked out.

      Thanks for the heads up about the book though – I will add it to my wish list. It sounds as if it’s made a real impact on you and I totally get that feeling of not wanting it to over. I think I’ve been remiss in forgetting the latest instalment of Dept of the Peculiar however. I will do an edit shortly and add it to my list (along with the previous editions as I had a recap before I read the new one).

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    2. Born in 1950, and musically, very glad of it. The old refrain, “they don’t make them like that anymore” generally applies to music from the age of my youth (1967-1972, 17 to 22 years old) because the words meant more to us then. Of course, there was alway our favorite music that we associated with a particular friend or place, and one song that would forever be “OUR” song with our first (or subsequent) love.

      I got married in 71 around the time Rod Stewart’s “Every Picture Tells A Story” came out. Of course, I bought the album for “Maggie Mae” and got pleasantly surprised with “Reason to Believe.”

      But…wait a minute! I’ve heard this before! Back to my growing collection of albums…search…look…and come up with Mason Williams (“Classical Gas”) album “Hand Made.” And there it is (https://youtu.be/IEAyqE1HhSI) “Reason To Believe,” a more “Countryfied” version, with twangy voices and wailing, weeping steel guitars. MY kind of “Country” (a reference to another discussion we had a couple weeks ago, Alyson.) I bought this album after my 1st return from Vietnam in mid-1970.

      Now, fast forward to the middle of 1991. I’m now in my “middle” ages with teenaged daughters. They came rushing in from school one day, telling me of this “new” song that I just had to hear, by Wilson Phillips. I listened to an old friend in a new version.

      Then I pulled out both the versions I had…and burst their bubble of a “new” song.

      Been married and divorced twice, and married a third time, only to have cancer take her a couple years back, and it seems that “Reason to Believe” has become an “our” song, one to listen to for the times of bittersweet loss, the kind you really want to return to, and know you never can.

      Yeah. If I listened long enough to you.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Just like David Hepworth it seems you were born at just the right time for all these great albums. Thanks for sharing the country version of Reason to Believe, although I think it’s still Rod for me. Didn’t know about a Wilson Phillips version at all!

        Sorry to hear of the recent sadness in your life – I can see how the song is important to you.

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    3. Rol,

      Thanks for the remarks about Bradbury’s book. I have read many of his Science Fiction books, and have always considered him to be one of the founding fathers of SF, but never considered him being a writer of prose. I will be ordering this one, and its companions, later today.

      One line caught my eye as I was reading a synopsis: “In Douglas’ words: “Dandelion wine. The words were summer on the tongue. The wine was summer caught and stoppered.” That reminded me of the song by Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood, “Summer Wine.” Even though the lyrics are “Strawberrys, cherries and an Angels kissing spree,” it, along with actual dandelion wine, have become a metaphor for my youths summers.

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      1. I liked Dandelion Wine until the crime came in. In that sense, it reminded me of Stephen King. I haven’t read anything by him, but saw Carrie once on television in Sweden and The Dead Zone on a ferry to Sweden. In both cases I thought that it was a really intriguing story until the supernatural stuff came in.

        ..

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  2. I’m more than happy with my year of birth..1963…it allowed me the pleasure of a truly golden pop era, 1970 – 79 fantastic, the age when pop music makes it’s greatest impression. It also allowed me and my mates to raid older brothers and sisters record collections and learn to appreciate ‘ serious rock music’….then plunge headfirst into punk all the while retaining a lifelong appreciation of the aforementioned genres…jeez that was all a bit serious and muso eh.
    During the lockdown(s) I’ve revisited some excellent authors..Haruki Murakami and David Mitchell specifically and lets not forget the fantastic Ray Celestin.
    I’ve also re-acquainted myself with some fantastic 1970’s heavy rock…take a bow Deep Purple…Ian Paice is a wonderful drummer.
    That’s enough havering for the noo.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, I’m just a little older than you so experienced that joyous time in the 1970s when our pop era was in bright colour – Apparently when colour telly came along it inspired many of the bands of the day to dress in bright, primary colours to really make an impact (think Slade, Sweet, Abba etc). I was a student around the time of new wave which was just right but I’d already had a bit of disco an a teenager at the local night spots.

      Thanks for the heads up about the authors you like – Some new to me so I’ll have to investigate.

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    1. I waver between paperbacks/hardbacks and the Kindle. There is something just so nice about about a brand new book, the smell of it and the unbroken spine but for portability and ease of purchase, the Kindle is hard to beat. I’m just about all up to date with my most recent acquisitions though but now have a few to investigate from the comments boxes above. We’ve had a lot of time these last 10 months but still SO many good books out there that need to be read.

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  3. I am a newcomer to this blog, but to quote Andrew Lincoln in Love Actually, I visit “..without hope or agenda..”. Well, maybe a little ‘hope’ but certainly no ‘agenda’. I love the concept of connecting our favourite songs to our life experiences. I also love to read and discuss the uses of popular music in films and literature. I guess witnessing a creative person inserting a song into a movie or a book validates every soundtrack that we have created in our own heads.
    Recently, I have been exploring Irish writers ( as a result of Sally Rooney’s exceptional launch) including Naoise Dolan, Nicole Flattery, and my old favourite Roddy Doyle. The first two describe post 2008 Ireland and the challenges for young people developing relationships and careers. Doyle is just a fun writer, probably the best at writing conversational profanity. One of his early writings “The Commitments” really combines r &b with the urban humour of Dublin.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d long thought it would be an idea to link our life experiences with an appropriate song and I’m happy that this blog idea seems to have worked out. If you look at my sidebar you will see that the most populated categories are Music from the Movies and Television Shows. It’s that neuronic command thing again isn’t it, you watch something and even before you work it out from the plot (or clothes/decor) you know exactly what period it’s set in because you are right back there with them. I thought Queen’s Gambit used some great music choices and I have a post I want to write soon about it.

      I’m wondering if you have an Irish heritage and you mentioned the Commitments film last time I think. Yes, I like Roddy Doyle too but haven’t read anything new by him for a while so might have to look for something. Normal People really affected me so thanks for the heads up about these other two Irish writers.

      Ah yes, the urban humour of Dublin. When everyone on the estate was queuing up to audition for the band a young lad saw it and joined the end. When he got to the front door there was a moment of confusion and when he was put right he said, ‘Well, I saw everyone else lining up, so, uh – I thought you were selling drugs’. Works better on the screen but thought that was a really funny line.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Ah that explains your fondness for Irish writers. After watching Normal People I have a hankering to visit Sligo once we’re able to travel again. The beaches look beautiful.

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    1. Ha ha, thanks for bigging me up in front of Sara! As mentioned one of the best books I’ve read in a long time was Pete’s Broken Greek so thanks for recommending it. I think everyone in the blogging circle would enjoy it. I enjoyed Magnus Mill’s book too but think it was just a tad too clever for me – It was a political metaphor wasn’t it? Made me never want to set up a Sunday afternoon music appreciation group! (Oh those were the days.)

      Why the Dutch are Different was excellent and explained a lot. By a chap who met a Dutch girl, married her and moved there – Pertinent?

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  4. Another lovely post and inspiring too. I really must get back into reading more again, I go through phases but it always helps if it’s warm enough for me to sit up in bed late at night with a good book and without the need for mittens so it’s not a great time for that at the moment (the snow is coming down as I type… burying myself under a duvet is the only option). But so many good recommendations here (and I still have notes of those from elsewhere) so one day I hope to catch up. I WILL catch up! Pete Paphides is definitely on my list.
    Great tunes too and although only 8 in ’71, having a sister six years my senior meant I was exposed to her record collection early on too which was a good influence. In fact being born in ’63 and getting into punk I could insert the first paragraph from softshoebanana’s comment above here without changing a single word!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. For the second week in a row I’m feeling guilty about having had the time for all these pastimes others can only dream of, but part of my course, and with my little holiday business in cold storage at the moment I’ve had a bit more time than usual. I always read before I go to sleep though, wherever I am, and whatever the time, even if only for half an hour, so just part of my routine. (Also I might have over-egged the pudding as I think some of the books listed above might have been started prior to the first lockdown!) I think you’d love the Pete Paphides book – I knew him from various BBC4 music-related shows, but he writes so beautifully about growing up as part of a Greek family in Birmingham – A story of chip shops and pop songs as he says in his tag-line.

      You’ve hit the nail on the head C, most of us who were born in the early 60s had older siblings or friends with older siblings who had all these great albums from 1971. In 1971 I’m afraid the only albums I had were those awful compilations of hits my the ‘unoriginal artists’ (plus my precious ‘first album’ by Elvis). Our era was quite different what with punk and new wave coming along at just the right time. I ended up with quite a few of the albums listed above in cassette tape format as I bought them as an adult but they just don’t last and I have nothing to play them on now anyway. I’m not sure if it’ll be able to stay open post-covid, but our local HMV was stocking all the reissues of classic vinyl latterly and long shelving units were stocked with all those great covers. I went through a stage of being a bit embarrassed about going into HMV as everyone was always so young in there, but now I think it’s mainly for people of my demographic nowadays. Cross fingers it stays open.

      Oh and yes, tricky reading in winter as your hands get so cold, but Kindles quite easy to manage – even in mittens!

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  5. It’s a source of great personal shame to admit that I haven’t read a book in over 18 months. When my world got turned upside down in 2019, my powers of concentration followed Mrs S out the door. Blogging slowed to a crawl, reading stopped altogether and even listening to music took a supreme effort. Hell, getting out of bed in the morning took a supreme effort. In the last couple of months though, I’ve really been enjoying listening to music again (and coincidentally I’m keeping a record of all the albums I listen to in full, from beginning to end), so perhaps things are beginning to click back into place. After lugging all my books from there to here during my recent move, I realised that I really should try to knuckle down and read some of them or donate them. So I’ve tentatively started one – let’s see how I get on. Having said all that, I’ve previously read the Hepworth books on your list and The Forensic Record Society. Also, Broken Greek is one I really do want to devour when I’m up to speed.

    1971 was where it all began for me musically, the year I started buying singles with my own pocket money. I was 11 years old – my black and white world turned to colour.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sounds as if you’re getting there TS, and it seems the recent house move has been a good thing in terms of ‘clicking things back into place’ as you say. As for my telly watching and reading, all done in the evening but yes, I am still feeling a bit guilty when I compare myself to those of you who have been working so hard on the frontline since all this started, keeping things ticking over. Our plans have been thrown into disarray over the last 10 months, that’s for sure, but can’t complain at all – Very, very grateful to people like yourself and I do thank our local workers often.

      As I said to C above, I think it was another few years until I had enough money to buy albums (they were really expensive back then relative to our disposable income and tended to be the ‘main present’ at Christmas and Birthdays). Also mentioned above was that television changed to colour, so our musical heroes were no longer in B&W but in an array of vivid hues. Think that really changed things too.

      Thanks for dropping by and good luck with getting round to Pete’s book – Think you’d love it. I also think I can guess who recommended The Forensic Record Society. Another fine read.

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