Was 1971 the Greatest Year for Music?
This is the year of Hunky Dory, Sticky Fingers, Every Picture Tells A Story, Pink Floyd's Meddle, Elton John's Madman Across the Water, Who's Next and Led Zeppelin IV. Those are just the British ones. Think about it. If there had been a Mercury Music Prize in 1971 these would have been on the shortlist.
In California Joni Mitchell was putting out Blue, The Doors LA Woman, James Taylor Mud Slide Slim, David Crosby If I Could Only Remember My Name, Graham Nash Songs For Beginners and Carole King Tapestry. It was the year of California.
King was one of a number of artists to put out more than one album in 1971: she released Music later the same year, McCartney followed Ram with the first Wings album Wildlife while Yes followed The Yes Album with Fragile - all in the same twelve months. Jeff Lynne and Roy Wood had enough songs for The Move's Message From The Country and the first Electric Light Orchestra album. Rod Stewart recorded one solo album and two albums with the Faces in that same time.
Most of the music on this list was made by people under the age of thirty-two. The exceptions are Leonard Cohen, Bill Withers, Isaac Hayes, Albert King, Elvis Presley, Tom T. Hall and, Freddie King. There's a huge preponderance of war babies. Most of them were twenty-six. I was listening to Who's Next yesterday and marveling at how this bunch of yobs from Shepherd's Bush could possibly have become so good so quickly. Hardly anyone who made the music on this list spent any time in further education. They were on the road as teenagers.
They were almost all releasing the records that would come to define them. If any of them were on stage tonight - as quite a few of them will be - the songs the audience would want them to play are the songs on these albums that they released in 1971.
From the blog post "1971 was the annus mirabilis of the rock album -- and here's the proof" by David Hepworth, 2012. The post turned into a book that Hepworth just released called 1971: Never a Dull Moment. Album cover for Led Zeppelin's IV, 1971.