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

Student Life, Carole King and “It’s Too Late”

Following on from my last post, I mentioned that 1979 was my last disco-dancing year as around that time I met a boy and morphed into a full late-70s student. We dressed in interesting clothes from charity shops (they weren’t called vintage in those days), hung around dingy bars and listened to “The Songs of Leonard Cohen” (in between attending lectures of course). Looking back, the tracks of my years had up until then, revolved around what was on Top of The Pops, what was played on BBC Radio 1 and the music from film soundtracks so this was a whole new branch of music that I hadn’t really experienced before. Artists like Cohen didn’t release singles that would appear in a chart show run-down, but whole albums of songs to be listened to late at night, in a soporific condition with preferably, a significant other.

leonard

Also, the great thing about meeting a boy who flat-shared with an older brother, was that you immediately had access to their record collection as well. Being of the opposite sex and having a few more years’ worth of vinyl, his collection was vastly different to my own and so it came about, that in late 1979 I discovered and formed a relationship with Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Mr Cohen mentioned above, and last but not least, Carole King.

One of the albums we listened to a lot at that time was “Tapestry” which had been Album of the Year in 1972 and went on to sell over 15 million copies. I wasn’t that familiar with Carole King until this time but a lot of the tracks on the album were indeed familiar, as she had been part of that amazing team of Brill Building songwriters who prolifically churned out songs for ’60s artists such as Aretha Franklin and The Shirelles. She wrote, or co-wrote, all of the songs on Tapestry and in doing so created a truly amazing body of work, most of the songs becoming standards in their own right. I think my favourite is It’s Too Late, a really sad song about the end of a relationship and of course by this time King’s marriage to Gerry Goffin, her songwriting partner and high school sweetheart was over, so bittersweet. Interesting also that during this intensely successful period of her career, Carole King had moved to Laurel Canyon, Los Angeles and was hanging out with the likes of James Taylor and Joni Mitchell. I have mentioned Laurel Canyon before in relation to The Eagles, Jackson Brown and Linda Ronstadt – Must have been quite a place back in the day.

It’s Too Late by Carole King:

Not really a coincidence that it’s Tapestry I’m writing about today however – I noticed earlier on social media that it’s the 45th Anniversary of its release. Any artist releasing an album today will have to wait until the year 2061 to celebrate the same anniversary. What will our world be like then? Who knows but I am optimistic that good music will still be around and perhaps we may still enjoy listening to the dulcet tones of Carole King, and Tapestry!

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It’s Too Late Lyrics
(Song by Carole King/Toni Stern)

Stayed in bed all morning just to pass the time
There’s something wrong here, there can be no denying
One of us is changing, or maybe we’ve just stopped trying

And it’s too late baby, it’s too late
Though we really did try to make it
Something inside has died and I can’t hide
And I just can’t fake it

It used to be so easy living here with you
You were light and breezy and I knew just what to do
Now you look so unhappy and I feel like a fool

There’ll be good times again for me and you
But we just can’t stay together, don’t you feel it too
Still I’m glad for what we had, and how I once loved you