Never a Dull Moment: 1971, The Year That Rock Exploded by David Hepworth, Henry Holt, 307 pages, $30. Wait a minute here. Hadn’t the Woodstock Festival already happened in August of 1969, changing rock forever and, more importantly, the sociopolitics of it? So what’s this guy talking about?
Easy. It was, he reminds us, on New Year’s Eve 1970 – with 1971 mere hours away – that “Paul McCartney instructed his lawyers to issue a writ in the High Court in London to wind up the Beatles. The sixties ended that day, which was a year late, strictly speaking. You might say this was the last day of the pop era. The following day, which was a Friday, was 1971. You might say this was the first day of the rock era.”
“That year, 1971, would also turn out to be the most creative, most innovative, most interesting and longest-resounding year of that era.”
So that’s what he’s talking about. “Nobody dreamed the rock era would last as long as it has done. In those days, nobody expected any form of entertainment to last. Least of all rock music. In fact, people joined rock bands to get away from things that lasted. Many of those people who first experienced stardom in 1971 – David Bowie, Rod Stewart, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Elton John and Joni Mitchell – have since gone on to careers longer than their contemporaries who became novelists, politicians, captains of industry and actors, let alone old friends who remained at school when they first hit the road with a guitar over their shoulder.”
David Hepworth is a semi-ubiquitous rock and radio journalist in Britain in the British style (i.e. writer, editor, what Brits call a TV “presenter”). He gives us 1971 from month to month, from January when Pink Floyd went into Abbey Road studios with nothing written to December when Don McLean’s “American Pie” lamented the Buddy Holly/Richie Valens/Big Bopper plane crash on “The Day the Music Died” and George Harrison’s “Concert for Bangladesh” came out – and Elvis was invited into the White House as well. The records of 1971 were “Blue,” “Tapestry,” “Pearl,” “American Pie,” “L.A. Woman” and “Mud Slide Slim.” People still listen to them and talk about them. A cogent and readable book. – Jeff Simon