1971 - Never a Dull Moment: Rock's Golden Year by David Hepworth
It was the year that David Bowie headlined the Glastonbury Festival, that The Rolling Stones released Sticky Fingers, and that Led Zeppelin and The Who made the “heaviest rock music ever heard”, said Neil McCormick in The Daily Telegraph. But was 1971 really “the greatest and most profoundly influential year” in the history of pop music? That’s the claim made by David Hepworth in this “clever and entertaining book”. He’s certainly identified some “seismic” shifts. This was when – thanks to the release of Carole King’s record-breaking album Tapestry – the music business woke up to the “purchasing power of women”; when audience-researched radio playlists began to replace the “idiosyncratic” DJs of the 1960s; and when the Stones began living, in Hepworth’s words, the “life of a hippy on the budget of a banker”. After 1971, he says, the industry would be “funky on the outside, fiscal as hell below”.
Hepworth turned 21 in 1971, so he could be accused of acting out the old cliché “that everybody thinks music was at its best when they were young”, said James Walton in The Spectator. But he has a point: this was the year when Joni Mitchell’s Blue, Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On and John Lennon’s Imagine were all released. Hepworth also has an “unfailingly sharp eye” for a story, such as Eric Clapton agreeing to play at George Harrison’s concert for the starving of Bangladesh only on the condition that he was supplied with his favourite New York heroin. Appropriately, the book ends with the release of Don McLean’s American Pie, a “hymn to lost innocence”, said Graeme Thomson in the Daily Mail. Even if Hepworth “overplays” his thesis, this is a “deeply felt love note to the days when rock was still busy inventing itself”.