Thursday, November 01, 2012

If there had been a Mercury Music Prize in 1971, this would have been the shortlist

I'm going to the Mercury Music Prize tonight. The shortlisted acts are alt-J, Ben Howard, Django Django, Field Music, Jessie Ware, Lianne La Havas, The Macabees, Michael Kiwanuka, Plan B and Richard Hawley.

When I was compiling my Spotify playlist 1971- the Annus Mirabilis of the Rock Album, it struck me that if you'd been doing a similar exercise in that year, your Mercury shortlist would have been:

The Who's "Who's Next"
Rod Stewart's "Every Picture Tells A Story"
The Rolling Stones' "Sticky Fingers"
David Bowie's "Hunky Dory"
Paul McCartney's "Ram"
T. Rex's "Electric Warrior"
Yes's "The Yes Album"
"Led Zeppelin IV"
Pink Floyd's "Meddle"

Better? I couldn't possibly say. But one thing I promise you is that some radio station somewhere will be playing every single one of those records today.


  1. I know I'm in the minority but I find the notion of giving prizes for artistic endeavours inequitable, wrongheaded, and just plan daft.

    How could anyone measure the Floyd's ambitious, promising but terribly patchy Meddle against Bolan's hard-rocking apogee? And which of them has the more lasting legacy? And why would anyone try?

    Besides, making a good record (or book, or painting) is its own reward - both artistically and financially.

    This morning 6 Music was carrying a story on people betting on the Mercury result. Betting.

    You can all enjoy your Oranges, your Costas and your Mercurys (Mercuries?) if you want.

    They're not for me.

  2. ...but if the Mercury Prize shortlisting committee used the same eclectic/slightly tokenistic (delete as cynicism dictates) approach in 1971, wouldn't there also need to be a (then) unknown folky like Nick Drake (Bryter Layter was a late 1970 release, I'm reliably informed, so might've qualified?), a jazzer, a pop act, and a modern classical act?

    As a 30-year-old, I don't even pretend to have the depth of knowledge of 1971 that I suspect you do, but I'd love to know what was going out outside of white rock music in that year of such brilliant white rock music...

  3. In answer to your first questions, the mainstream was so rich they would have had very little need to step outside it. If you want to know what was going on "outside white rock music", have a look at my Spotify list where you'll find records by Marvin Gaye, Sly, Al Green and others, all of which resound down the years every bit as much as the ones in my Mercury list.

  4. Aha, but the Mercury is a prize for British music, so I'm not sure if the American funk and soul scene would've got much of a look-in!

    How were British bands/musicians reacting to Gaye/Mayfield/Wonder/Sly etc? Was there any good British soul and funk?

  5. Astonishing list from 1971. I must adopt Danny baker's philosophy of only exploring 'old' stuff, instead of keep switching on BBC6Music all the time...

  6. What a cracking list! Could it be though that back then there was only one route to getting your music out there, whereas nowadays some bands self-publish their music on the net, thus reducing the numbers who make it via the old record company way (presumably only these are entered for the Mercury prize?)

  7. Ram? Don't think so.

  8. McCartney's 'Wild Life' was also released in 1971 and just as good as Ram IMHO.

  9. Not that Ram's isn't good, but I've never heard it on the radio.

  10. And if there had been one for 1969?

    Abbey Road
    Let It Bleed
    In the Court of the Crimson King
    Family Entertainment
    Liege & Lief
    Mike Westbrook's Marching Song
    An Old Raincoat
    Howard Riley's Angle
    Alone Together
    Changing Horses
    Vintage Violence
    Songs for a Tailor

    Better perhaps?