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

Rod Stewart, Decade by Decade #2 – “Maggie May”

Well, the Scarlet Pimpernel he is not – Since last Friday, just about every time I switch on the telly or tune into the radio, up pops Rod Stewart. This new album of his is getting a serious amount of promotion but considering he is back living in this country with his young family, and considering he seems to be really enjoying making new music at the moment, why not?

This is the second post in the series and this time I’m going to be concentrating on his 1970s career, which was definitely his most successful decade, if you judge success in terms of record sales and No. 1 hits that is. For most fans however the decade was a game of two halves (Rod would no doubt appreciate the football analogy) as in 1975 he left Old Blighty behind and made his way across the Atlantic to the place we used to call, America.

everyBut before that momentous journey across the pond, Mr Stewart had already carved out a very successful career for himself here in Britain. Right at the start of the ’70s he was simultaneously acting as lead singer for the Faces but also releasing critically acclaimed albums as a solo artist. His third solo album “Every Picture Tells a Story” contained the wonderful Tim Hardin song Reason To Believe, which was subsequently released as a single. It wasn’t long however before the single’s B-side was receiving more airplay, and the rest as they say, is history. Maggie May has since been named as one of the “500 songs that shaped rock ‘n’ roll”, and watching this clip below brings back so many memories.

Maggie May by Rod Stewart:

First of all, I know for a fact I would have watched this episode of TOTP with my parents, because that’s just what families did back then on a Thursday night at 7.30pm. They would have called him “Rod the Mod”, a little play on words for my amusement I always thought, not realising he had been a part of the whole Mod phenomenon during the previous decade.

Secondly, although this is ostensibly a Rod Stewart solo effort, it seems the Faces still acted as his backing band, and what a rollicking good time they seem to be having here. As we all know there was very little actual live singing done on the set of TOTP in those days, the artists always being asked to mime. For these guys that just meant there was more time for “havin’ a larf” which they always did in bucketloads. A bit of a kickabout with a football (became a bit of a trademark for Rod), a few circus tricks with the mike-stand, Ronnie Wood and Ronnie Lane showboating with their guitars, and last but not least, a bit of John Peel on mandolin (what?). Yes, they certainly knew how to have a good time those boys and many a trashed hotel room was testament to that fact.

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The Faces (Ronnie Lane here looking awfully like a Hobbit!)

My third observation is this. When you watch old episodes of telly shows and pop performances, especially from over 40 years ago like this one, you really notice how people have changed, physically, during that time. These were guys who grew up with rationing for goodness sake so the protein rich diets available to young men today were just a pipe dream. The result of course, was that they always had snake hips, spindly legs and not a six pack in sight. (Think early Bowie, and the Beatles in their mohair suits and cuban heels.) Also, the hair was always darkish and the skin very, very pale. Back in those days Rod himself had classic Anglo-Saxon dirty blonde hair and fair skin. Over the years, his glamorous life-stye and the advent of hair colouring techniques led to the hair becoming lighter and the skin becoming perma-tanned, as it still is today. Not criticising, as to be honest, we females born with the same colouring have gone down the same route. My dirty blonde hair has not seen the light of day for a good thirty plus years (and probably never will again).

Finally, although I remember this particular performance well and still love the song Maggie May, for me at that time Rod Stewart was not someone who would have appeared in pin-up form on my bedroom wall. No, even at age 11, I understood that bands like these had a certain aura about them (they actually sang about sex), which meant they were not really aimed at the pre-teen market. Rod would have to wait another few years for that to happen.

Rod made another couple of albums after “Every Picture…” for Mercury Records, “Never A Dull Moment” and then “Smiler” but in 1975 a few massive changes took place – He switched to Warner Bros Records, the Faces broke up (Ronnie Wood had already joined the Rolling Stones on tour) and he made the move to LA.

Too much Rod Stewart 1970s goodness for one post I’ve decided, so I’m going to leave the second half of the decade for the next post in this series. Also I have a fair few anecdotes to get through that will have to be sensitively dealt with, so whilst I ponder on how I’m going to do that, I shall leave you with the lyrics to Maggie May. Inspired by a real life encounter experienced by the 16-year-old Rod, the song expressed the contradictory emotions felt by a young lad after getting into a relationship with an older woman.

rod s

There aren’t that many songs out there where just about everyone can sing along, seemingly word perfect. That happened when we went to see Rod at our local stadium – He didn’t have to do much at all when it was time for this song to make an appearance on the bill as we pretty much sang it for him, albeit a nano-second behind in timing, which is all it seems to take to prompt the next line from the memory banks. The stage overlooked the Moray Firth, the sun was setting and it was a warm summer night – Most definitely, a “pinch me” moment.

Until next time….

Maggie May Lyrics
(Song by Rod Stewart/Martin Quittenton)

Wake up Maggie I think I got something to say to you
It’s late September and I really should be back at school
I know I keep you amused but I feel I’m being used
Oh Maggie I couldn’t have tried any more
You lured me away from home just to save you from being alone
You stole my heart and that’s what really hurt

The morning sun when it’s in your face really shows your age
But that don’t worry me none in my eyes you’re everything
I laughed at all of your jokes my love you didn’t need to coax
Oh, Maggie I couldn’t have tried any more
You lured me away from home, just to save you from being alone
You stole my soul and that’s a pain I can do without

All I needed was a friend to lend a guiding hand
But you turned into a lover and
mother what a lover, you wore me out
All you did was wreck my bed
and in the morning kick me in the head
Oh Maggie I couldn’t have tried anymore
You lured me away from home ’cause you didn’t want to be alone
You stole my heart I couldn’t leave you if I tried

I suppose I could collect my books and get on back to school
Or steal my daddy’s cue and make a living out of playing pool
Or find myself a rock and roll band that needs a helpin’ hand
Oh Maggie I wish I’d never seen your face
You made a first-class fool out of me
But I’m as blind as a fool can be
You stole my heart but I love you anyway

Maggie I wish I’d never seen your face
I’ll get on back home one of these days