Sunday, September 14, 2014

In 1971 nobody kept a record of the records

I get a lot of enjoyment out of my 1971 playlist. It's a bit like having a garden. From time to time I visit and do a bit of weeding. I chuck out duplicates. I get new things from the garden centre. For instance, when I started it Spotify didn't have Led Zeppelin. Now they do.

There's the odd album which is probably so locked up in legals that it may never appear. You can't get Badfinger's 1971 album "Straight Up" so I had to get a track from it via a film soundtrack. Sometimes Spotify has things mixed up. They've confused Paul Williams, the composer of the soundtrack of "Bugsy Malone", with an Evangelical Christian singer and anyway his 1971 album "Just An Old Fashioned Love Song" isn't represented.

Sometimes I'm quite relieved to see albums aren't there. Donovan's stuff can be infantile at the best of times and I can get by without hearing his 1971 children's album "HMS Donovan" again. Other times it's a shame. You can't get the first J. Geils Band album, which came out in the UK in 1971, but you can get the follow-up "The Morning After", which came out the same year.

Lots of acts put out two albums in 1971 and most of them were also on tour for most of the year: Alice Cooper, Yes, Carole King, Paul McCartney (one on his own and one with Wings) and The Faces (you can't get "A Nod..." on Spotify for some reason).

In 1971 nobody seemed to have worried about "saturating the market". Crosby, Stills and Nash each put out solo albums in the year and the group was further represented by the live album "4 Way Street". At the same time Neil Young was touring with the songs that would come out on "Harvest" the following year.

Some albums, such as Nick Drake's "Bryter Later", which is marked as a 1970 release, don't appear to have actually come out until March 1971.

I was talking to a youngster the other day (they come up and ask questions when I'm mending my nets at the harbour) and trying to explain that in those days release dates were approximate, particularly where the smaller labels and the less well-known artists were concerned. In the 70s if you went into a record shop and asked them to look something up they would have to either consult a Gramophone guide, which would always be a year out of date, or their own card index. If you knew what record company it was they might order it and if they were lucky they might receive it. If not they would keep on putting in the order and getting "not available" in reply. It might take months to find out they were trying the wrong distributor.

In those days shopping was like a treasure hunt. Affording the records was one thing. Hunting them down was another thing altogether.


  1. I'm a willing recipient of your 1971 thesis, David - looking forward to the book. That's a compelling playlist - from Neil Diamond to Link Wray via Mountain, Lindisfarne and all the rest.

    I would suggest two add-ons: something from the Mahavishnu Orchestra's hugely influential debut 'The Inner Mounting Flame' and something from Bert Jansch's masterpiece 'Rosemary Lane'.

  2. I've always had a soft spot for Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep. In 1971 it shifted over 10 million copies; these days a song can go to Number One if three or four hundred people stream more than the opening few bars of it on their phone.

  3. Three or four hundred people!?
    Now that's what I call chirpy, chirpy, cheep, cheep.

  4. Great playlist, hats off. The year I was born.

  5. "I was talking to a youngster the other day (they come up and ask questions when I'm mending my nets at the harbour)..."

    Thank you for that.

  6. I was born in 1971. Benny Hill was number one at the time which proves something I suppose.