Tuesday, June 6, 1972

David Bowie released Ziggy Stardust: June 6, 1972

Originally posted 6/6/12. Updated 2/22/13.

image from houstonpress.com

Release date: 6 June 1972
Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.) Five Years / Soul Love / Moonage Daydream / Starman (4/28/72, #65 US, #10 UK) / It Ain’t Easy / Lady Stardust / Star / Hang on to Yourself / Ziggy Stardust / Suffragette City / Rock & Roll Suicide (4/11/74, #22 UK)

Sales (in millions): 0.5 US, 0.3 UK, 7.5 world (includes US and UK)

Peak: 75 US, 5 UK


Review: Ziggy Stardust was “constructed as a loose concept album about an androgynous alien rock star” AMG “whose mission is to offer sex and salvation to earthlings.” TL The character was inspired by British rock singer Vince Taylor, who, after a breakdown, believed he was “a cross between a god and an alien.” WK The persona allowed Bowie to to “explore and flaunt his own hunger for stardom.” JI As Bowie said, “I became Ziggy Stardust…David Bowie went totally out the window...I got hopelessly lost in the fantasy.’” TL

Ziggy Stardust

Of course, the over-the-top theatrics are part of the reason for the album’s success. This was the first time Bowie’s “vision and execution met in such a grand, sweeping fashion.” AMG He melded a “glitzy array of riffs, hooks, melodrama, and style” AMG into an “off-kilter metallic mix” AMG that, alongside his “arty, theatrical ambitions,” TL made for “the logical culmination of glam.” AMG While Bowie didn’t invent glam, his homage to idols like Marc Bolan and Iggy Pop could be credited for “setting in motion the glam rock movement that echoed from Alice Cooper to Marilyn Manson.” TL


The album’s first single, Starman, served up a heavy dose of Bowie’s “flamboyant imagery and hard-edged pop” JI via a Top of the Pops appearance in which “Bowie, vermilion-haired in a skintight jumpsuit and painted nails, camply slung a provocative arm around Mick Ronson during the guitarist’s solo.” JI Songs like that certainly “provided plenty of stage-worthy moments when Ziggy toured in the ‘70s, but years later they still thrill.” AZ Among other gems are radio favorites like the title cut and Suffragette City They “still serve as solid excursions into the future (then and now) of rock.” AZ

Suffragette City

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Friday, May 12, 1972

The Rolling Stones released Exile on Main Street: May 12, 1972

Originally posted May 12, 2012.

image from topics.nytimes.com

Release date: 12 May 1972
Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.) Rocks Off / Rip This Joint / Shake Your Hips / Casino Boogie / Tumbling Dice / Sweet Virginia / Torn and Frayed / Sweet Black Angel / Loving Cup / Happy / Turd on the Run / Ventilator Blues / I Just Want to See His Face / Let It Loose / All Down the Line / Stop Breaking Down / Shine a Light / Soul Survivor

Bonus Disc with 2010 Reissue: Pass the Wine/ Plundered My Soul / I’m Not Signifying / Following the River / Dancing in the Light / So Divine (Aladdin Story) / Loving Cup (alternate take)/ Soul Survivor (alternate take) / Good Time Women / Title 5

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, -- UK, 7.0 world

Peak: 14 US, 1 1 UK


Review: “Few other albums, let alone double albums, have been so rich and masterful as Exile on Main Street.” AMG “Raucous, boozy, weary, violent and sex-obsessed, this double album sounds like the work of heathen outlaws, which of course it was. On the run from Fleet street mobs, narcotics officers and the Inland Revenue, the Stones holed up at Keith Richards’ chateau in the south of France and composed an epic blues that went beyond tribute and beyond blue.” TL

“Greeted with decidedly mixed reviews upon its original release,” AMG this “sprawling, weary double album” AMG “allowed the band to relax a bit.” CD It is now “regarded as the Rolling Stones’ finest album. Part of the reason why the record was initially greeted with hesitant reviews is that it takes a while to assimilate.” AMG They don’t “leap into new worlds so much as master the old ones” AZ1 as they “speed through familiar neighborhoods of country, blues, and R&B.” AZ1 For example, “no longer does their country sound forced or kitschy – it’s lived-in and complex, just like the group’s forays into soul and gospel.” AMG

The songs take “the bleakness that underpinned Let It Bleed and Sticky Fingers to an extreme.” AMG “If the late ‘60s were the Rolling Stones’ road trip through rock’s American roots, then Exile on Main Street was the stop at the highway diner.” CDU Although recorded in Keith Richard’s basement in France, “the album is rich with some of the same rootsy Southern sprit” BN as theSticky Fingers recording sessions in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. “Much of it sounds as if it was recorded live at a gospel revival. In this rich assortment of gospel and blues Mick is by no means out of his element,” CDU but Exile “found the Stones sounding more like Keith Richards’ juke-joint band than ever before.” CDU

Indeed, while “Keith Richards and Mick Taylor [are] spinning off incredible riffs and solos,” AMG “Jagger’s vocals are buried in the mix” AMG leaving him “with something akin to pure singing, utilizing only his uncanny sense of style to carry him home…His performances [prove] that there’s no other vocalist who can touch him, note for garbled note.” RS He “manages to sound intently focused and deeply stoned.” TL

Meanwhile, drummer Charlie Watts “minds the store with impeccable rhythm.” TL He has “room not only to set the pace rhythmically but to also provide the bulk of the drive and magnetism” RS while Bill Wyman, whose “bass has never been recorded with an eye to clarity…fulfills his support role with a grace that is unfailingly admirable.” RS

“In the tradition of Phil Spector, they’ve constructed a wash of sound in which to frame their songs, yet where Spector always aimed to create an impression of space and airiness, the Stones group everything together in one solid mass.” RS

The noise fest kicks off with “the hyper Rocks Off.” AZ1 “Kicked off by one of Richards’ patented guitar scratchings” RS and Jagger’s “swaggering frustration [as he sings] ‘I only get my rocks off while I’m sleeping.” AZ1 This is “a proto-typical Stones’ opener…great choruses and well-judged horn bursts, painlessly running you through the motions.” RS

Rip This Joint is a stunner, getting down to the business at hand with the kind of music the Rolling Stones were born to play. It starts at a pace that yanks you into its locomotion full tilt, and never lets up from there; the sax solo is the purest of rock and roll.” RS

“Slim Harpo’s Shake Your Hips mounts up as another plus, with a mild boogie tempo and a fine mannered vocal from Jagger. The guitars are the focal point.” RS Later, the band rework Harpo’s “Hip Shake” “into a harp-and-piano steamroller…in Ventilator BluesAZ1 with Mick “spreading the guts of his voice all over the microphone.” RS “Keith claims [it] was inspired by a grate, while the song plays like an ode to a pistol.” AZ2 Another blues cover, of Stop Breaking Down by Robert Johnson, “shows their undeniable respect for American blues.” CDU

On “the luxurious Tumbling DiceCDU “the guitar figure slowly falls into Charlie’s inevitable smack [and] the song builds to the kind of majesty the Stones at their best have always provided…Keith’s simple guitar figure providing the nicest of bridges, the chorus touching the upper levels of heaven and spurring on Jagger, set up by an arrangement that is both unique and imaginative. It’s definitely the cut that deserved the single.” RS

Tumbling Dice

That song “and Loving Cup betray their Southern gospel leanings;” CDU as do Sweet Black Angel,’ I Just Want to See His Face, and Shine a Light. “‘Sweet Black Angel,’ with its vaguely West Indian rhythm and Jagger playing Desmond Dekker, comes off as a pleasant experiment that works” RS and on “Face” “Jagger and the chorus sinuously wavering around a grand collection of jungle drums.” RS

“Producer Jimmy Miller valued atmosphere over precision in his recording techniques, so Mick Jagger competes with a wooly sax and a juke joint piano and still his vocals make Sweet Virginia feel…like a bruise that’s fun to touch.” TL It “is a perfectly friendly lazy shuffle that gets hung on an overemphasized ‘shit’ in the chorus.” RS

"Torn and Frayed has trouble getting started, but as it inexorably rolls to its coda the Stones find their flow and relax back, allowing the tune to lovingly expand.” RS Meanwhile “Happy lives up to its title from start to finish. It’s a natural-born single” RS and “the closest thing to a pop number Mick and Keith have written on the album.” RS


Turd on the Run, even belying its gimmicky title, is a superb little hustler; if Keith can be said to have a showpiece on this album, this is it. Taking off from a jangly ‘Maybellene’ rhythm guitar, he misses not a flick of the wrist, sitting behind the force of the instrumental and shoveling it along.” RS

Let It Loose…is one beautiful song, both lyrically and melodically. Like on ‘Tumbling Dice,’ everything seems to work as a body here, the gospel chorus providing tension, the leslie’d guitar rounding the mysterious nature of the track, a great performance from Mick and just the right touch of backing instruments. Whoever that voice belongs to hanging off the fade in the end, I’d like to kiss her right now: she’s that lovely.” RS

With “its overall murky adrenaline,” AZ1 Exile “sets a remarkably high standard for all of hard rock” AMG as it “caps the Stones’ great 1968-‘72 run.” AZ2 Indeed, it is “one of the most essential rock records ever created.” BN

Plundered My Soul

Following the River

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Saturday, March 11, 1972

Neil Young’s Harvest hits #1 in the U.S. and U.K.: November 11, 1972

Originally posted 11/11/2012. Updated 3/8/2013.

Release date: 14 February 1972
Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.) 1. Out on the Weekend 2. Harvest 3. A Man Needs a Maid 4. Heart of Gold (2/5/72, #1 US, #10 UK, #8 AC, sales: 1.0 m) 5. Are You Ready for the Country? 6. Old Man (4/29/72, #31 US) 7. There’s a World 8. Alabama 9. The Needle and the Damage Done (7/17/93, #75 UK) 10. Words (Between the Lines of Age)

Sales (in millions): 4.3 US, -- UK, 16.1 world (includes US and UK)

Peak: 12 US, 11 UK


Review: Young’s previous two solo efforts, “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere and After the Gold Rush, mined gritty rock anthems and folky love songs to perfection.” SY He followed that with Harvest, which featured “the solitary troubadour…at his most elegiac.” ZS The overall “sound was Americana…stripped down and rebuilt with every jagged edge exposed,” RS500 but Young also “employ[ed] a number of jarringly different styles.” AMG “But the album does have an overall mood and an overall lyric content, and they conflict with each other: the mood is melancholic, but the songs mostly describe the longing for and fulfillment of new love.” AMG

“His usual dissonant touches, like the otherworldly guitar in Out on the Weekend, are less spooky in this new context.” AZ Songs like “the hypnotic rocker” AZ Words (Between the Lines of Age), with “a little distorted guitar along the way,” AD “predict Tonight’s the Night, Young’s haunted 1975 classic.” AZ

“The singer’s acquired-taste voice comes across smooth and beautiful” AZ in songs like the aforementioned “Out on the Weekend” and “rolling laments like Old ManSY which “are unusually melodic and accessible.” AMG Nowhere is this more apparent than Heart of Gold, “by far Young’s most commercial-sounding song,” AZ complete with “steel guitars and Linda Ronstadt’s backup vocals.” AZ The latter “helped set the stage for the Seventies soft-rock explosion.” RS500

On the controversial A Man Needs a Maid, Young “contrasts the fears of committing to a relationship with simply living alone and hiring help.” AMG On the “country-tinged” AMG Are You Ready for the Country “Young detoured briefly to the Nashville mainstream.” AZ “The harrowing portrait of a friend’s descent into heroin addiction” AMG on “the deceptively gentle” AZ The Needle and the Damage Done is “one of the most poignant songs about drug addiction ever recorded.” ZS

In reference to the album’s “simple arrangements, simple songs” AD some “critics accused him of dumbing down at the time.” JI Although Harvest “lacked the through-the-night-until-the-morning-after crush of its predecessors” SY it “can now be seen as simply another facet of Young’s musical personality, representing the acoustic, pastoral idyll that usually preceded another barrage of electric howl.” JI In any event, it was Young’s “most popular album” AMG and sealed his “voice-of-a-generation fate.” SY

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Saturday, January 15, 1972

Don McLean’s “American Pie” hit #1: January 15, 1972

Originally posted January 15, 2012.

February 3, 1959, is often called “the day the music died” because of a plane crash that killed early rockers Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper. Although singer/songwriter Don McLean doesn’t mention any of them by name, he immortalized the legendary trio with his epic song “American Pie.”

McLean has stated that Holly “was the first and last person I ever really idolized as a kid.” BR1 Holly was, in fact, McLean’s inspiration for taking up the guitar in the first place. TB

McLean learned of the tragedy while folding newspapers for his paper route. WK McLean lamented that by 1964 Holly had been largely forgotten, but as McLean said, “I didn’t forget him.” TB In fact, he acknowledged that in writing the song’s first verse, he “exorcised his long-running grief over Holly’s death.” WK

The song expresses a general theme about the death of idealism in the 1960s, BBC but its lyrics maintained enough ambiguity to inspire radio stations to devote entire shows to analyzing “American Pie.” HL It has been amusingly suggested that one could “obtain a doctorate by writing on its hidden meaning.” HL

McLean has done little to help in the interpretations, saying merely that it was an “attempt at an epic song about America and I used the imagery of music and politics to do that.” KN

“American Pie” was an epic in more than just theme; its nearly eight-and-a-half minute running time meant that the song was split into two parts to fit on the 45 RPM single format of the day. Initially, some stations played only the first side, but as the song grew in popularity, stations succumbed to playing it in its entirety. WK

This song is featured in the DMDB book The Top 100 Songs of the Rock Era, 1954-1999.


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