This Week’s Theme: 50th Anniversary – 1972 (Part One)
There are many candidates for Best Year in Music or Most Influential Year in Music. Arguments can be made for almost any year in the ‘60s or ‘70s, depending on what sort of music is being discussed. The early ‘80s are full of important years, and even the ‘90s have some contenders. If you are old school, there are arguments for years in the ’30s, ,40s, and ’50s, depending on the type of music. If you are REALLY old school, there are periods of the 18th and 19th centuries when you could argue modern music was born. No one can prove their choice is the absolute answer, but I personally have a short list I turn to if I find myself in a discussion of the topic. My top 10 are 1965, 1969, 1971, 1972, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1982, 1986, and 1991. Of all of these years, 1972 is my #1 answer.
Previous Faux Shows have covered 1971, 1996, 1997, 2011, and 2012. This week’s show is part one of a two-part series covering a wide variety of music from 1972, my choice for The Most Important Year In Music.
Welcome to Radio Faux Show volume 2, number twenty-seven.
First things first – click a link to start listening and then come back to read about this week’s songs.
Fifty years ago, the creative explosion of the ’60s (which saw the coalescence of R&B, soul, pop, rock, blues, classical, jazz, and all styles of international music into a global mix of music that redefined genres) led to the evolution of music in the early ’70s. In 1972, this rebirth was at its zenith. New artists were providing their unique vision of the music to come, older artists were working at their creative peak, and the quality of music being created had not been seen before in such quantity. This week’s shows covers Part One of this two-part series of music from 1972 and focuses on the rock and pop genres.
Glam rock is a broad spectrum of music, from British artists like Gary Glitter, early Queen and Elton John, and Slade to American artists like New York Dolls, Sparks, and Suzi Quatro. There is no single defining glam rock song or sound, but 1972 was a prime year for the genre, and some of the earliest classics were released that year.
T. Rex The Slider “Buick McCane: After many years of moderate success as psych-folk band Tyrannosaurus Rex, Marc Bolan’s evolution into the electronic glam boogie master behind T. Rex was perfected with The Slider. 1971 album Electric Warrior was one of the main albums that invented glam rock, but The Slider is the best glam rock album ever recorded and Bolan’s masterpiece. It was produced by Faux Show favorite, Tony Visconti, whose work with T. Rex and David Bowie shaped the future of music.
David Bowie The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars “Suffragette City”: Much like Marc Bolan, David Bowie worked on his sound for several years before helping invent glam rock in 1971 with Hunky Dory. However, his 1972 album Ziggy Stardust is the record that is still most associated with his brilliant career. The success of this album allowed him to take control of his sound for the next forty years.
Mott the Hoople All The Young Dudes “All The Young Dudes” and Lou Reed Transformer “Satellite of Love”: David Bowie was first and foremost a recording artist, and he found success relatively quickly after he started recording in the late ’60s. However, 1972 is clearly the year that Bowie sold his soul to the devil. Not only did he create his masterpiece, Ziggy Stardust, but he also co-produced and co-wrote the albums All The Young Dudes for Mott the Hoople and Transformer for Lou Reed. Add all of this to his groundbreaking live show for Ziggy Stardust, and David Bowie’s year of 1972 is one of the greatest years for any artist in history.
1972 was not the year that Prog Rock was invented. That happened at some point in the mid-late ’60s with the work of bands such as Moody Blues, King Crimson, The Who, The Nice, Jethro Tull, Genesis, and Yes. Instead, 1972 was the year that the popularity of Prog Rock peaked. Most classic albums of the genre were released in 1971-73, and some of the best were from this magical year.
Yes Close To The Edge “And You And I”: This third album in the band’s trilogy of masterpieces (The Yes Album, Fragile, Close To The Edge) was their final release before they broke off into extreme excess on the under-rated Tales From Topographic Oceans and Relayer. It was also the final album to feature drummer Bill Bruford before he left to join King Crimson for their incredible double-trio of albums in 1973-74 and 1981-84. In my opinion, it is the best Yes album. It is the album that pulls together all of the compositional techniques they had been mastering on previous albums, with the result being two perfect Prog Rock suites (“Close to the Edge” and “And You And I”) and a nice closer (“Siberian Khatru”). If you aren’t sure whether you like Prog Rock, this is a great album to listen to in order to find out.
Genesis Foxtrot “Time Table”: Genesis had been slowly evolving from their debut (an album the band has never recognized as an actual Genesis album) to the under-rated Trespass to Nursery Cryme (the first to feature Phil Collins on drums), when Foxtrot proved to be their breakthrough. 1970s era Genesis was never as popular as 1980s Genesis or Peter Gabriel solo, but this album was their first to chart, including hitting #1 in Italy (you can go read for yourself about how Italians loved prog rock and how that love made Van der Graaf Generator a success, thus giving Peter Hammill’s band many more years of success, including Hammill’s session work with Peter Gabriel and a great solo career).
1972 is the year that propelled Genesis into the success required to make Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel household names, MTV innovators in the ’80s, and members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. All of that started when Peter Gabriel put on the red dress and fox head from the cover of Foxtrot and created one of the most iconic costumes in the history of live rock concert performance.
Jethro Tull Thick As A Brick “Really Don’t Mind/See There A Son Is Born”: The follow-up to Aqualung is an album length concept song with full prog rock excess – gatefold sleeve complete with fictionalized newspaper story, no breaks in the tracks, and non-stop time changes, rhythm changes, and solos galore. If you don’t like prog rock, you won’t like this. If you don’t like Jethro Tull, you will despise this. If you don’t mind either, this is an example of the prog rock excess of the time that still holds up better than most Tull albums.
Gentle Giant Octopus “A Cry For Everyone”: Gentle Giant is lost to history for all but those who dive deep enough into prog rock’s history to discover groups like Van der Graaf Generator, Camel, and this band. The music of Gentle Giant is arguably the most complicated, adventurous, and difficult of all of their contemporaries. Their vision mixed rock, British folk, jazz, soul, and classical music and their compositions focused on the multi-instrumental virtuosity of the members. As such, their is no definitive sound within or across their discography, thus making them a true cult artist. If you don’t get them, you will not be amused. However, for those who consider themselves members of the cult of Gentle Giant, they are a unique oasis in the landscape of same old, same old classic rock. This album is considered by most to be their masterpiece.
The Moody Blues Seventh Sojourn “I’m Just A Singer (In A Rock And Roll Band)”: In many ways, The Moody Blues are the easiest of the original Prog Rock bands for casual listeners to enjoy. By the time Gentle Giant, Van der Graaf Generator, and Genesis were expanding the horizons of the genre, the Moody Blues were far removed from their psych-orchestral masterpiece Days of Future Passed. However, the seven albums of their classic run from 1967-72 are all fantastic examples of Prog Rock, albeit with a stronger emphasis on pop music. I am a huge fan of this band. Faux Jr. prefers the more musically explorative bands like Gentle Giant, Van Dergraaf Generator, and Genesis, but I am a sucker for the great hooks and harmonies of Justin Hayward and John Lodge. This is my favorite album by the band, and it is their last before they returned six years later with a sound that foreshadowed the British new wave explosion of the late ’70s/early ’80s.
Can Ege Bamyasi “Vitamin C”: Last week’s Faux Show of Rock Hall snubs (PUT LINK) included Can, so I’ll repeat an excerpt of what I wrote there.
I would argue (and have in this blog before) that Can are one of the major architects of modern rock music. They are a direct influence on artists such as David Bowie, Robert Fripp, Brian Eno, Roxy Music, Talking Heads, The Fall, Kate Bush, Peter Gabriel, Stereolab, Radiohead, Wilco and most artists who have either been influenced by those artists, or by any other artist that can be classified as progressive, new wave, art-rock, indie-rock, post-punk, or post-rock over the last fifty years. Many of the artists they have influenced in the 21st century have never even heard of them, but their influence on the sound of rock in the seventies was so pervasive that it has crept out into every aspect of the modern rock sound. They only recorded about five to eight albums that you should listen to, depending on what you count as an album and how deep into their discography you want to delve, so it is not difficult to digest their work in a short amount of time. If you choose to do that, and then do it again, and then start to internalize their sound and style, you will begin to hear them in all of the rock music from the mid-70s and on. They were part of a progressive rock movement from the late-60s and ’70s that was labeled kraut rock. A more accurate sub-genre would German Progressive Music. Of all of these bands, I believe they are the most important, but the rest of their contemporaries, including Neu!, Popol Vuh, Faust, Cluster, and dozens of others helped build the foundations of indie-rock in the ’80s.
Neu! Neu! “Hallogallo”: The history of pop music contains a handful of iconic drum beats, such as the Bo Diddley beat and the four-to-the-floor beat of every disco song. The motorik beat is a trademark of kraut rock and was invented by Can drummer Jaki Liebezeit, but Liebezeit proudly never repeated his drum beats in more than one song. The motorik beat was perfected by Neu! and is now a part of the pop drumming canon. If you don’t know the motorik beat, go listen to any album by Stereolab. Although it was created before 1972, this is the year that Neu! released their groundbreaking debut and the first track on that album, “Hallogallo,” is the motorik beat in full effect. It is mesmerizing, transcendent, hypnotic, driving, and once you get into its groove it is hard to climb back out. Neu! did a lot of other important things in the world of German progressive music, but just this one song is enough to make them legendary.
Popol Vuh Hosianna Mantra “Abschied”: Popol Vuh are best known, and rightly so, for their soundtrack work on Werner Herzog’s films, including Aguirre (Wrath of God), Fitzcarraldo, and Nosferatu. Band leader Florian Fricke combined the progressive music of the kraut rock era with a variety of world music compositional techniques and helped to create the genre now called ambient music. Along with Cluster, they are the most important ambient artists to arise from the kraut rock era, and their work rivals that of Brian Eno as the creative force for this type of music. With regard to 1972, Hosianna Mantra is the third album for the band. Although their previous records also contained meditational compositions mixed with an electronic and rock influence, this album was their first to reject the use of electronic synthesizers in favor of acoustic instrumentation. The album demands headphone listening in order to fully appreciate all that is going on in the production. The compositions are transcendent and set the stage for their amazing soundtrack work to come.
1972 falls squarely in the middle of the classic early ’70s singer/songwriter period. This period was the creative zenith for songwriters like Carole King, James Taylor, Paul Simon (his solo debut was released in 1972), and several other artists who made 1972 a banner year for songwriting.
Jackson Browne Jackson Browne “Doctor My Eyes”: Jackson Browne began his songwriting career as a teenager hanging out in the creative wellspring of late ’60s California. He was writing songs, some of which are on his 1972 debut, before he was twenty, and playing them for future legends such as Linda Ronstadt, Joni Mitchell, and The Eagles. It is actually a blessing that he was allowed to wait until 1972 to record his debut because most young songwriters with the magazine cover good looks of Browne would have already been exploited and thrown away by the time they were in their twenties. Instead, he was allowed to perfect his voice to go with his songwriting talent before he recorded his incredible debut. It isn’t his best complete album (that is Late For The Sky), but this set of ten songs is as good as a debut can get as a showcase of a songwriter’s talents. The wisdom found in these songs feels like the wisdom born of a lifetime of struggle and not that of someone so young. “Song For Adam” is arguably the greatest song ever written about suicide. “Doctor My Eyes” foreshadows the lifetime of political activism that Browne would build from his professional success. This is simply an incredible debut by an amazing songwriter.
Joni Mitchell For The Roses “You Turn Me On, I’m A Radio”: This album is not as critically acclaimed as Mitchell’s 1971 album Blue. It was not as commercially successful as her 1974 album Court and Spark. However, 1972 was the year that Mitchell took the critical and commercial success of Blue and turned it into pop music success. The single “You Turn Me On, I’m A Radio” was sarcastically written when her label told her to “write a hit,” and the song actually became her first Top 40 hit. The album charted at #5, and set her up for world-wide success two years later. Listening to Mitchell’s albums now, For The Roses is clearly one of her best and shows a songwriter at the peak of her creativity.
Todd Rundgren Something/Anything? “I Saw The Light”: This was the first album credited to Todd Rundgren as a solo artist, although his first two albums (credited to the band Runt) were actually Rundgren recording the material himself. This was the breakthrough album for Rundgren, peaking at #29 on the album charts (still his highest chart position), and including the Top 20 hit “I Saw The Light.” It is a sprawling, double-album masterpiece for the songwriter/producer genius. Most importantly, his decision to expand the album into a double led him to join up with Moogy Klingman in order to record side four live in the studio, thus leading to the creation of Rundgren’s classic band Utopia. This is still one of the greatest double albums ever produced, and one of the best rock releases of this amazing year.
Randy Newman Sail Away “Sail Away”: People love to make fun of Randy Newman, especially Gen X’ers who remember the Mad TV sketches by Will Sasso. Anyone old enough to remember his hits probably only knows him for “Short People” and “I Love L.A,” along with his Pixar soundtrack work. If this is the limit to your Randy Newman knowledge then you would be surprised to listen to his albums from the ’70s, including 1977’s Little Criminals (which contains “Short People”), and discover the range of Newman’s songwriting. He certainly has a style, and he is one of the most bitterly sarcastic songwriters you’ll ever hear, but his love songs are beautiful and his material covers a wide range of human experience. In 1972, after two albums of great songs that no one listened to, Sail Away gave him his break. It wasn’t a huge seller, but it put him on the album charts. This is now considered one of the greatest albums ever recorded.
Townes Van Zandt The Late Great Townes Van Zandt “If I Needed You”: The most under-appreciated songwriter of his era was Townes Van Zandt. Originally marketed as a country artist and recorded with the Nashville sound of the late ’60s, it wasn’t until he was allowed to present his songs in his own unique style that his music showed its true self. His simple fingerpicked guitar, soulful Texas vocals, and introspective lyrics all worked together to create songs that cut to the depth of loss, longing, joy, and redemption. He was a true songwriters’ songwriter, and his music is still covered fifty years later by all variety of artists. 1972 saw him at his creative peak, and this album was his last before releasing one more in ’78 and a couple more over the next twenty years. As such, it is the bookend on his initial run of six albums. If you think that modern country songs like “Country Girl (Shake It For Me)” or “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off” are great country music, then you may not understand the songs of Townes Van Zandt. However, if you are a fan of Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Tom Waits, or Leonard Cohen, and you have yet to discover Townes Van Zandt, there is no better time than the present to give him a listen, and this record is a great place to start.
Cat Stevens Catch Bull At Four “18th Avenue (Kansas City Nightmare)”: This is the last great album by Cat Stevens and this song is a good example of the transition to his next phase which started with 1973’s Foreigner. The best known songs, “Sitting” and “Can’t Keep It In,” are two of his best, but it is the rest of the album that brings me back to listen. By 1972, Stevens had mastered his songwriting style that began with Mona Bone Jakon and continued with Tea For The Tillerman and Teaser and the Firecat. Those three records still stand as one of the best trio of albums ever released by a singer/songwriter. They present an artist with a completely unique voice who is in full control of his craft. Although it is not as well-known, I would argue that Catch Bull At Four is just as deserving of praise and belongs in that list. I would even argue that a better trio starts with Tillerman and ends with Catch Bull. After this record, Stevens changed his production team and style and released a series of albums that present a different artist struggling to find a different sound. That change was not as successful as Stevens had hoped, but in 1972 Cat Stevens sent his classic period off with one of the most under-appreciated albums of the singer/songwriter heyday of the early ’70s.
Nick Drake Pink Moon “Place To Be”: Last week’s Faux Show of Rock Hall snubs (PUT LINK) included Nick Drake, so I’ll repeat an excerpt of what I wrote there.
Nick Drake only recorded three albums in his short life. Most casual music listeners have never heard of him. He did not sell many albums in his lifetime, and certainly didn’t have any hits. The closest he came to any sort of popularity in the U.S. was the use of his song “Pink Moon” in a Volkswagen commercial about twenty years ago. However, sometimes the importance of an artist is not how many people have listened to them but who has listened to them. The last thirty years have shown that the music of Nick Drake has influenced a wide variety of musicians and styles. The lo-fi movement, hundreds of folk-rock artists, Belle & Sebastian (and all of their imitators), Iron and Wine, and anyone who plays what is nowadays called indie folk most likely love Nick Drake and should name him as a primary influence. He may be the most important artist that you’ve never listened to.
The third and final Drake album, Pink Moon, was released in 1972. All three of his albums present a different sound, but the songwriting was always the same, whether presented as lush arrangements, folk rock grooves, or simple guitar/vocal songs. Pink Moon is his best album. It is Drake as his simplest, most honest self, and still holds up fifty years later as one of the most important collections of songs ever recorded by a singer/songwriter. It is arguably the best album released that year, and although it was ignored at the time, it is certainly now one of the most critically acclaimed.
Some of these are the most influential debut albums of all time. R.E.M. needed Big Star. Punk bands around the world needed The Modern Lovers. Stereolab needed Neu!. Talking Heads needed Roxy Music. Bruce Springsteen, Linda Ronstadt, and The Eagles needed Jackson Browne. The entire world needed Steely Dan, even if you haven’t realized it yet. The future of music needed 1972.
The Modern Lovers The Modern Lovers “Roadrunner”: I’m cheating a little bit by including this album in a show about 1972. Although it was recorded in ’72, it wasn’t officially released until 1976. For this reason, some people include this album on their Best of 1976 list, and that is an entirely acceptable thing to do. I’m including it here for the simple reason that by 1976 there was no more Modern Lovers (at least not as existed here) and Jonathan Richman had moved on to create his unique version of goofy, Americana, folk rock material. To me, this album belongs in 1972 as a slice of rock and roll magic that never should have existed, but thank god it did. The John Cale production would never have been the same four years later. Richman didn’t even want to record the songs in this way since he had already moved on to his new vision of how to present himself by the time this was recorded. And if Jerry Harrison had been working with Richman in 1976, Talking Heads may have never been more than an unknown New York coffeehouse band. But, sometimes stuff happens, even against the wishes of those who are making it happen, and the world is changed forever. In a year full of incredibly influential and important recordings, this album, especially the song “Roadrunner,” is the most important of them all. This is one of the definitive punk rock albums, not only for its sound but for its lyrical content. Richman’s deadpan, “I’m a nerd, but you should still love me,” New England-loving persona showed that you don’t have to destroy the world in order to be a true punk rocker. Iggy Pop put the blood in punk. The Ramones put three chords and the truth in punk. The Sex Pistols but annihilation in punk. But Jonathan Richman proved that anyone can be a punk rocker and opened that door for thousands of musicians to follow.
Big Star #1 Record “Thirteen”: True Confession time – I am not a “Big Star is the greatest band ever” devotee. I don’t think Alex Chilton invented alternative rock. I don’t think the music of the ’80s would have been drastically different if the band had not existed. I don’t ever listen to any of their music beyond a few songs on this album. However, I was there in the ’80s when Big Star was “discovered” as the great lost band, and I saw how important everyone thought they were, so who am I to say it is not true. From the perspective of music in 1972, this is a pretty good album. I could listen to “Ballad of El Goodo” every day, so Alex Chilton must have been doing something right that year.
Steely Dan Can’t Buy A Thrill “Do It Again”: This is the first song on the first album by Steely Dan. It is one of their best known songs. I love Steely Dan, but the truth is that this is not their best album and not one of the best albums of 1972. However, every band has to start somewhere and this collection of Becker/Fagen tunes is the best example for showcasing their songwriting talent before their incredible musicianship turned the band into a juggernaut of rock and roll perfection. If you don’t know Steely Dan, that is a shame. If you want to get to know them, don’t start here. However, if you just want to hear some great songs, “Brooklyn,” “Do It Again,” and “Reelin’ In The Years” are pretty good options.
Roxy Music Roxy Music “Ladytron”: Roxy Music fans can argue about their favorite album by the band; perhaps it is the later period beauty of Avalon or the consistent quality of Country Life. Any of their albums are good choices, but I am a fan of their debut for the simple fact that it was like nothing that came before it. The songwriting of Bryan Ferry, art rock genius of the entire group, and electronic wizardry of Brian Eno was a once-in-a-lifetime combination that was born on this album in 1972. This album was the catalyst for everything Eno was to accomplish, everything David Byrne was to accomplish, and the development of a musical landscape that allowed MTV to flourish by exploiting the new wave movement of the late ’70s and early ’80s. And the songs are really good too.
Neu!: See Kraut Rock.
Jackson Browne: See Singer/Songwriter.
1972 was just before Lynyrd Skynyrd released their debut and made Southern Rock a marketable product that went on to influence rock throughout the ’70s and flooded classic rock radio in the ’80s. Bands such as Molly Hatchet, Nazareth, and Lynyrd Skynyrd were preceded by several 1972 artists whose blend of country music with rock gave birth to a new sound that swept across the soundscape of the ’70s. Most notably, from a 1972 perspective, The Allman Brothers released their classic album Eat A Peach and Lowell George’s Little Feat released their second album Sailin’ Shoes. These two records defined the sound that would become known to everyone as Southern Rock. In addition, The Eagles took the country rock work of their contemporaries Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, and Gram Parsons/The Byrds and released their debut. Those records deserve mention, but there isn’t enough room to include every album on this playlist. Therefore, I included a few of my personal favorites.
Special Note – I love Linda Ronstadt and Jackson Browne, but I don’t like The Eagles (I think they were terrible songwriters, although they were great musicians and vocalists, and none of their albums are consistent enough to listen to in their entirety). I don’t like The Allman Brothers or Lynyrd Skynyrd beyond a few songs (Skynyrd’s “The Ballad Of Curtis Loew” is one of my favorite songs and I could listen to Duane Allman play guitar all day). I love Little Feat and think Lowell George is one of the most under-rated songwriters of his era. I tolerate The Doobie Brothers, although I don’t think any of their albums are consistent enough to listen to in their entirety. Bottom line – I included this section because it is such an important influence on the music of the ’70s, whether it is my favorite music or not. That is one of the guiding points of the Radio Faux Show – all songwriters, all genres, across all decades have something to give any listener who is willing to open their ears to the music. As for Southern rock and country rock, 1972 is the year that it all came together into a marketable product that influenced generations to come.
The Doobie Brothers Toulouse Street “Listen To The Music”: As I said, I am not a big Doobies fan, but they have a handful of songs, this one included, that I believe are highlights of the era. Others include “Black Water” and their great cover of The Byrds’ “Jesus Is Just Alright.” And the guitar riff for “China Grove” is a classic. As I’ve said in previous shows, the ability to write a great guitar riff is the most under-rated quality of a great guitarist.
Linda Ronstadt Linda Ronstadt “Rock Me On The Water” and Jackson Browne Jackson Browne “Doctor My Eyes”: Ronstadt’s third album is one of the first country rock albums. It includes The Eagles as her backing band and, along with the debuts by The Eagles and Jackson Browne, makes up the trio of albums that defined the sound that was being developed in California in the late ’60s and early ’70s. That sound was perfected with those three albums. Although all three of these artists were on the verge of evolving their sounds in three different directions and producing some of the classic albums of the ’70s, 1972 marks the period at which all of them broke out from obscurity. Trivia note: Jackson Browne wrote “Rock Me On The Water,” “Doctor My Eyes,” and “Take It Easy.”
There were a lot of pop albums released in 1972. Most of them, as happens with albums by pop artists, are more or less forgettable fifty years later, although some of the biggest hits of the year (“American Pie,” “A Horse With No Name,” and Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl)”) are still part of pop culture in the 21st century. This week’s show is focused on albums and not songs, and one of the defining qualities of pop artists has always been that a great song does not a great album make. The best example of this may be that Elton John’s signature song “Rocket Man” is from 1972 on an album called Honky Chateau. Although that song and “Honky Cat” are John standards, I’ve never been a big fan of the album. Still, there are two pop music icons who released great albums in 1972.
The Carpenters A Song For You “It’s Going To Take Some Time”: At the time it was released, this album was not the group’s biggest hit. Fifty years later, it is their second best-selling album, having sold over three million copies. Side one is the best album side the group ever released, and the filler on side two works well to create a complete album experience, even if the material isn’t quite as strong. This album completes the group’s classic trilogy (Close to You, Carpenters, A Song For You) and ruled the AM airwaves in 1972.
Chicago Chicago V “Saturday In The Park”: Before 1972, all of Chicago’s albums were doubles, except for their four-disc(!) live album. It is hard to believe now that at the time Chicago V was released it wasn’t a sure thing that they would make it as a pop act. They had charted a nice string of singles by this point in their career, but pop music was changing and they needed to change along with it to ensure their staying power. Turning to founding member Robert Lamm for main songwriting duties, this fifth album was their first single album and their first to offer up a collection of more pop-based material. That is not to say that older songs like “25 or 6 to 4” and “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” weren’t clearly pop hits, but this album dropped the excess of their suite-based compositions for nine standalone songs. Only the song “Dialogue” had two parts, and it is really just a long pop hit broken out as two tracks. The horn section is in full effect, the shared vocals work perfectly, and the song “Saturday In The Park” was their biggest hit, peaking at #3, until they hit #1 four years later with “If You Leave Me Now.” Chicago purists often start to ignore Chicago albums after 1972, but from a pop music perspective this album marks the beginning of the band. The singles from this album laid the foundation for the band to become one of the most successful pop artists of the next fifteen years, including thirteen of their next fourteen singles (from 1973 to 1982) hitting the top twenty. The first four of those singles hit the top ten, starting with “Feelin’ Stronger Every Day” in 1973 and culminating with their most successful single “Hard To Say I’m Sorry” in 1982. Very few people remember Blood, Sweat, and Tears, much less Ides of March, but Chicago avoided becoming a forgotten horn-based band with this 1972 album and are now one of the most successful pop artists in Billboard history.
These aren’t only albums by rock icons, they are albums that many of their fans would select as their favorite album.
The Rolling Stones Exile On Main St. “Torn and Frayed”: It is impossible to determine the best Stones album. Anything they recorded in the ’60s is a good answer, depending on what version of the Stones you prefer. 1971’s Sticky Fingers is a very popular choice, and hard to argue against. Some may even argue for other albums that came after Exile, such as Some Girls. In my opinion, the band reached their peak in 1972, and Exile On Main St. is the most consistent and creative of their albums. Unlike many double-albums that either provide a sprawling collection of disconnected songs, or a bunch of album filler that probably didn’t need to be released, Exile has a natural progression from the old school rock and boogie of side one (“Rocks Off,” “Rip This Joint,” “Shake Your Hips,” etc.) to the anthemic closing tracks of side four (“Shine A Light” and “Soul Survivor”). In between, there is one of their greatest singles (“Tumbling Dice”), several of their best songs (“Loving Cup,” “Happy,” “All Down The Line”), and a wide variety of blues, rock, and country. Fifty years later, Exile stands as one of the greatest double albums, along with The White Album, Songs In The Key of Life, The Wall, London Calling, and Sign o’ The Times).
Van Morrison Saint Dominic’s Preview “Jackie Wilson Said (I’m In Heaven When You Smile)”: There was a time in my life when Van Morrison was my favorite artist. I was obsessed with his music, and own all of his recordings on vinyl from his work with Them through his ’80s releases. I am still a huge fan, but I have moved beyond listening to only Van Morrison on a daily basis. My favorite Van album now is 1974’s Veedon Fleece (an under-rated masterpiece that only Van fans usually know about). My favorite Van album when I first started listening to him was the obvious choice – Astral Weeks. But for about two years in the middle of my Van obsession, my favorite album was Saint Dominic’s Preview. It is a relatively short album in terms of songs, but that is because it contains two lengthy Morrison masterpieces that both come in at over ten minutes long (“Listen To The Lion” and “Almost Independence Day”). Throw in the amazing single “Jackie Wilson Said,” the “should have been a hit” song “Redwood Tree,” and the amazing title track and you have an album that doesn’t need more than seven tracks. Now that I am a self-described Van Morrison expert, I don’t believe that the route I took (“Brown Eyed Girl” to Astral Weeks to “Domino” to Veedon Fleece) is a good way to introduce someone to Morrison’s music. The best place to start is with this 1972 classic. “Listen to the Lion” is the best early example of his meditational songwriting style that led to his ’80s output, and “Jackie Wilson Said” is a great single that will make a fan of anyone who likes good pop music.
Lou Reed Transformer “Satellite of Love”: This is not Lou Reed’s first solo album after leaving Velvet Underground, but it is the first that most people listened to. It features his classic song “Walk On The Wild Side” and a set of other great songs that showed his vision as a solo performer. His debut, Lou Reed, presented a collection of un-recorded VU songs and a band that didn’t fit his style, but Transformer provides the formula that he would follow for the rest of his career – great riffs, gritty character studies, and a mix of straight ahead rockers with more experimental pop songs. For this reason, 1972 is the year where Lou Reed became his own unique solo performer, left his old VU days behind him, and became an icon for generations of those who feel ignored, misunderstood, and disaffected.
David Bowie The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars “Suffragette City”: Much like The Stones and Van Morrison, naming the best Bowie album is a subjective choice for any fan, and that choice often changes depending on when one is asked. However, Ziggy Stardust is definitely on the short list for most fans. My personal choice is Hunky Dory, but Ziggy is in my top five, and my second favorite of this period of Bowie albums. With regard to 1972, the most important thing to note is that Ziggy Stardust is the album that defines this period for Bowie. It is the persona that most people associate with him, and is one of the most recognizable images in rock history. The live shows, the costumes, the music – everything from this period influenced so much music to come that it is impossible to quantify – and it all went world-wide for Bowie in 1972.
That wraps up the music on this week’s show, and reading back through what I have written I feel that I have presented a solid argument for 1972 as The Most Important Year In Music. This is, of course, a subjective opinion, but I think that the music speaks for itself, especially since this is only Part One of this two-part Faux Show. Next week’s show presents another amazing set of albums from the worlds of jazz, soul, funk, and a variety of global artists, further strengthening the argument that 1972 was an incredible year.
Thanks for listening (and reading)!
|1||Modern Lovers, The||Roadrunner|
|2||Van Morrison||Jackie Wilson Said (I’m In Heaven When You Smile)|
|3||David Bowie||Suffragette City|
|4||T. Rex||Buick McKane|
|5||Mott the Hoople||All The Young Dudes|
|6||Randy Newman||Sail Away|
|7||Nick Drake||Place To Be|
|8||Townes Van Zandt||If I Needed You|
|9||Joni Mitchell||You Turn Me On, I’m A Radio|
|10||Linda Ronstadt||Rock Me On The Water|
|11||Jackson Browne||Doctor My Eyes|
|12||Doobie Brothers, The||Listen To The Music|
|13||Rolling Stones, The||Torn and Frayed|
|18||Moody Blues, The||I’m Just A Singer (In A Rock And Roll Band)|
|19||Cat Stevens||18th Avenue (Kansas City Nightmare)|
|20||Yes||And You And I|
|21||Jethro Tull||Really Don’t Mind/See There A Son Is Born|
|23||Gentle Giant||A Time For Everyone|
|24||Todd Rundgren||I Saw The Light|
|25||Chicago||Saturday in the Park|
|26||Carpenters, The||It’s Going To Take Some Time|
|28||Steely Dan||Do It Again|
|29||Lou Reed||Satellite Of Love|