Friday, December 17, 1971

David Bowie released Hunky Dory: December 17, 1971

Originally posted December 17, 2012.

image from popshifter.com


Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.) Changes (1/7/72, #41 US) / Oh! You Pretty Things / Eight Line Poem / Life on Mars? (6/22/73, #3 UK) / Kooks / Quicksand / Fill Your Heart / Andy Warhol / Song for Bob Dylan / Queen Bitch / The Bewlay Brothers

Sales (in millions): 4.0 US, 0.3 UK, 3.5 world

Peak: 93 US, 3 UK

Rating:


Review: “Bowie’s first great album was a visionary blend of gay camp, flashy rock guitar and saloon-piano balladry.” RS500 It “marks the beginning of the classic Bowie period.” AD “At a moment when no one knew whether David Bowie was a transvestite, provocateur, folk singer or space alien,” TL “the then 24-year-old released an album that slyly capitalized on the confusion.” TL His previous album, The Man Who Sold the World, had an “almost heavy-metal sound;” TB Hunky Dory saw Bowie return to “the acoustic guitar-based singer-songwriter sound of his earlier work.” TB

Life on Mars?

“What elevated the album…was Bowie’s newly developed and highly ambitious capacity for bridging the gap between highbrow and lowbrow art forms.” TB He “blends pop, dancehall, art-rock and folk for his most varied effort.” RV “Not only did the album boast more folky songs (‘Song for Bob Dylan,’ The Bewlay Brothers), but he again flirted with Anthony Newley-esque dancehall music (Kooks, Fill Your Heart).” AMG Bowie also crafted “the soaring Life on Mars?AMG which “placed him in deep space,” TL and “the dark acoustic rocker Andy Warhol.” AMG There’s also “the revamped Tin Pan Alley of Changes,” AMG which “proved he could write a great pop song about who he really (maybe) was.” TL

Changes

As for who Bowie really was, he’d “experimented with a number of personas” PR up to this point in his career and was now showcasing his ability to tackle “a kaleidoscopic array of pop styles” AMG as well. Hunky Dory mostly finds Bowie “in the guise of an early seventies singer-songwriter” PR who “wears his influences on his sleeve.” CS There’s his “Neil Young homage QuicksandAMG and Song for Bob Dylan, in which Bowie delivers “a powerful examination of the use of an alter ego to create art.” RV He also “inflects his words with a Lou Reed sensibility, as on Oh! You Pretty Things, a rallying cry for homosexuality,” RV and makes “a direct sound connection to the Velvet Underground with Queen Bitch.” CS Such songs “clarified his earthbound ambition to be a boho poet with prodigal style.” TL

Hunky Dory is a “quantum leap from his previous material.” AD “The playing and production and arrangements were all assured and professional.” AD “Mick Ronson came into his own…proving himself an adept arranger for strings as well as a fine guitar player. Keyboard superstar and then top session man Rick Wakeman provided fine piano and keyboard flourishes.” AD The latter’s “cabaret piano…dominate[s] the sound of the album.” AMG

Hunky Dory “is artistically the album that made the breakthrough for Bowie.” AD It “is not a concept album, but the concepts within would eventually solidify and manifest in the character of Bowie’s spaceman and perhaps even in his personal philosophies.” CS This album was also notable for being “the first to feature the line-up that would become the Spiders from Mars.” CS This is “suggestive of a dress rehearsal with Ziggy waiting impatiently in the wings for his understudy to vacate the stage.” PR “The themes and ideas scattered throughout the songs’ lyrics and arrangements set the stage for not only Ziggy Stardust, but for much of Bowie’s output in the ’70s.” CS

“On the surface, such a wide range of styles and sounds would make an album incoherent, but Bowie’s improved songwriting and determined sense of style” AMG give Bowie the distinction of “inventing – and perfecting – a new style of rock & roll glamour.” RS500 He created “a touchstone for reinterpreting pop’s traditions into fresh, postmodern pop music.” AMG


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Saturday, November 27, 1971

11/27/1971: Al Green charts with “Let’s Stay Together”

image from songsfromsodeep.com


Al Green “Let’s Stay Together”


Writer(s): Al Green, Willie Mitchell, Al Jackson (see lyrics here)

First charted: 11/27/1971

Peak: 11 US, 36 AC, 19 RB, 7 UK (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, -- UK, 1.0 world (includes US and UK)

Radio Airplay (in millions): 2.0 Video Airplay (in millions): 128.6


Review: Al Green was booked at a Midland, Texas club on the same night as Willie Mitchell, who had just been named Hi Record’s vice president. BR1-306 Mitchell, enamored with “Green’s seductive voice,” NPR asked him to come to Memphis to record. Green responded that he didn’t care for Memphis, but Mitchell persisted. BR1-306

Green penned lyrics for a tune Mitchell had worked up with drummer Al Jackson. Still, it took Mitchell two more days to convince Green to record it. RS500 Recording finished late on a Friday night RS500 after over one hundred takes.” NPR The single was pressed the next Monday and by Thursday, Green learned that the song would enter the charts at number eight. RS500

Green and Mitchell would continue to make many more great records together, “but none quite so perfect as this.” AMG The song “radiates compassion and understanding… [and] tolerance and love with no strings attached.” AMG It is, understandably, a popular wedding song, SF but also holds a strong spiritual appeal, serving as “a Memphis soul sermon for a nation ripped apart by assassinations, riots, and betrayals.” AMG It doesn’t address any specific issues, it just offers “the heartfelt plea not to give up.” AMG

This song was Green’s only #1 on the pop charts and established Hi Records as “the new benchmark in soul.” TB-125 It also bears the distinction of revitalizing Tina Turner’s career. When she covered it in 1983, it took her back to the charts in the UK and US for the first time in more than a decade.


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Note: Footnotes (raised letter codes) refer to sources frequently cited on the blog. Numbers following the letter code indicate page numbers. If the raised letter code is a link, it will go directly to the correct page instead of the home page of a website. You can find the sources and corresponding footnotes on the “Lists” page in the “Song Resources” section.


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Friday, November 26, 1971

Yes released Fragile

First posted 11/24/2011; updated 10/17/2020.

Fragile

Yes


Released: November 26, 1971


Peak: 4 US, 7 UK, 6 CN, 29 AU


Sales (in millions): 2.0 US, 0.3 UK, 2.3 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: progressive rock


Tracks:

Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Roundabout (Anderson, Howe) [8:29] (2/12/72, 13 US, 1 CL)
  2. Cans and Brahms (instrumental: extracts from Brahms’ 4th Symphony in E Minor) (Johannes Brahms, arranged by Wakeman) [1:35]
  3. We Have Heaven (Anderson) [1:30]
  4. South Side of the Sky (Anderson, Squire) [8:04]
  5. Five Per Cent for Nothing (instrumental) (Bruford) [0:35]
  6. Long Distance Runaround (Anderson) [3:33]
  7. The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus) (Squire) [2:35]
  8. Mood for a Day (instrumental) (Howe) [2:57]
  9. Heart of the Sunrise (Anderson, Squire, Bruford) [10:34]


Total Running Time: 39:52


The Players:

  • Jon Anderson (vocals, percussion)
  • Chris Squire (bass, vocals)
  • Steve Howe (guitar)
  • Rick Wakeman (keyboards)
  • Bill Bruford (drums, percussion)

Rating:

4.511 out of 5.00 (average of 8 ratings)


Awards:

About the Album:

With Fragile, “the band’s breakthrough album,” BE “Yes established themselves as one of the most progressive rock bands on the scene.” PC “Dominated by science-fiction and fantasy elements,” BE the band “raised their innovative brand of music to even dizzier heights.” PC This was largely due to “the recent addition of towering, silver-caped Rick Wakeman,” PC whose “proficiency and classical leanings were the final piece in the jigsaw.” AD His “organ, synthesizers, Mellotrons, and other keyboard exotica added a larger-than-life element,” BE to the group and helping Yes toward “creating the kind of music they’d always had in their minds.” AD

“Ironically, the album was a patchwork job, hastily assembled in order to cover the cost of Wakeman’s array of instruments.” BE In a truly prog-rock kind of move, much of the album served as solo showcases for the band. “A repeating vocal refrain with beautiful harmonies to back it up” AD makes We Have Heaven both a songwriting and vocal showcase for Jon Anderson. AD “It’s a one and a half minute moment of sheer beauty.” AD

“Rick Wakeman fiddles around with a classical theme” AD on Cans and Brahms while drummer Bill Bruford offers his solo writing contribution with Five Per Cent for Nothing. Bassist Chris Squire gets his spotlight with The Fish, an instrumental showcase backed by Anderson’s “nonsense vocal refrains in the background.” AD Finally, Steve Howe gets a solo spot with Mood for a Day, a piece which offers “an exotic and lovely guitar section.” AD

However, the group also “built effectively on the groundwork left by The Yes Album.” BE Heart of the Sunrise featured “varied constituents molded together perfectly.” PC It has “a lengthy introduction that builds up with keyboards and bass guitar with Bill Bruford providing solid support underneath. Close to the two minute mark, the guitar starts to prowl over the top of all of this before we enter an impossibly quickly taken section of instrumental music with everyone going full tilt…Three and a half minutes pass before we hear anything from Jon Anderson!...The song switches several times through it’s remaining half but always retains the listener’s interest.” AD

Other group collaborations include the oft-played Long Distance Runaround, “another fine piece of work.” AD On South Side of the Sky, “the bass is groovy as hell [and] the guitar [is] full of inventive riffing…The piano section in the middle with added vocal harmonies provides the beauty…before we go back to the rocking bass and guitar to close.” AD

The album highlight came with the opening Roundabout. It served up “an AM-radio sucker-punch, aimed at all of those other progressive bands who eschewed the notion of hit singles.” BE “Still a standard on classic rock playlists,” PC “the single clicked” BE and “pulled in millions of young kids who’d never heard them before.” BE “and the band was made.” BE “If you are wondering how to introduce Yes to a friend…then just play them this song.” AD

The album also marked Yes’ notable association with artist Roger Dean. He would provide the group with “some of the most famous album artwork of all time.” AD


Notes: A 2003 reissue added the band’s cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “America” and an early mix of “Roundabout.” A 2005 reissue added alternate versions of “Roundabout,” “We Have Heaven,” “South Side of the Sky,” “Mood for a Day,” and the song “All Fighters Past.”

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Monday, November 8, 1971

Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” released on Led Zeppelin IV

Updated 4/7/2020.

Stairway to Heaven

Led Zeppelin

Writer(s): Jimmy Page, Robert Plant (see lyrics here)


Released: November 8, 1971 (as an album cut)


First Charted: November 24, 2007


Peak: 30 US *, 1 CL, 37 UK, 17 CN * (* digital song chart) (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 1.7 US, 0.6 UK, 10.0 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 3.0 radio, 166.0 video, 370.0 streaming

Awards:

About the Song:

“Dazed and Confused” was the centerpiece of Led Zeppelin’s early live performances SJ but when they tired of it, the group set about creating another anthem. Little did they know that they would birth the song against which “all epic anthems must measure themselves.” RS500 The song consistently tops classic rock radio best-of lists and with over three million spins, no song has received more airplay in the history of FM radio. KN It has also sold over a million copies of sheet music, averaging 15,000 a year. WK

For all its accomplishments, “Heaven” was never released as a single. Its only chart appearance came in 2007 when it hit #37 on the UK charts, prompted by downloads of the song in conjunction with the release of the Led Zeppelin Mothership compilation. WK Atlantic Records certainly pushed for a single, but the band refused to edit the song down from its eight-minute running time. WK

The song kicks off with “an acoustic intro that sounds positively Elizabethan.” RS500 Robert Plant then vocally leads the listener through a “quasi-medieval story” CR “full of allusions that go nowhere,” CR although he says it is “about a woman who gets everything she wants without reciprocating.” CR It doesn’t matter much wat the song is about when it’s “couched in such a stately tune and performance.” CR Besides, “the song’s enigma is part of its charm.” CR

Guitarist Jimmy Page says the song “crystallized the essence of the band…Every musician wants to do something of lasting quality, something which will hold up for a long time, and I guess we did it with ‘Stairway.’” RS500


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