Saturday, December 18, 1971

Sly & the Family Stone hit #1 with There’s a Riot Goin’ On

First posted 3/28/2008; updated 12/1/2020.

There’s a Riot Goin’ On

Sly & the Family Stone

Charted: November 13, 1971

Peak: 12 US, 12 RB, 31 UK, 4 CN, -- AU

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

Genre: R&B/funk


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

  1. Luv N’ Haight
  2. Just Like a Baby
  3. Poet
  4. Family Affair (11/6/71, 1 US, 15 UK, 1 RB, gold single)
  5. Africa Talks to You “The Asphalt Jungle”
  6. Brave and Strong
  7. You Caught Me Smilin’ (4/22/72, 42 US, 21 RB)
  8. Time
  9. Spaced Cowboy
  10. Runnin’ Away (2/5/72, 23 US, 17 UK, 15 RB)
  11. Thank You for Talkin’ to Me Africa

Total Running Time: 47:15

The Players:

  • Sly Stone (vocals, multiple instruments)
  • Rose Stone (vocals, keyboards)
  • Billy Preston (keyboards)
  • Jerry Martini (tenor saxophone)
  • Cynthia Robinson (trumpet) Freddie Stone, Ike Turner, Bobby Womack (guitar)
  • Lary Graham (bass, backing vocals)
  • Greg Errico, Gerry Gibson (drums)
  • Little Sister (backing vocals)


4.115 out of 5.00 (average of 17 ratings)

Quotable: “One of the great radical albums, and definitely the funkiest.” – Blender Magazine

Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

“It’s easy to write off There’s a Riot Goin’ On as one of two things – Sly Stone’s disgusted social commentary or the beginning of his slow descent into addiction. It’s both of these things, of course.” STERiotis one of the great radical albums, and definitely the funkiest” BL even as “Stone was teetering on the brink of self-destruction.” BL “His music never sounded more eclectic and expressive” BL and “civil disobedience never sounded like so much fun.” BL

“Pigeonholing it as either winds up dismissing the album as a whole, since it is so bloody hard to categorize. What’s certain is that Riot is unlike any of Sly & the Family Stone’s other albums, stripped of the effervescence that flowed through even such politically aware records as Stand!. This is idealism soured, as hope is slowly replaced by cynicism, joy by skepticism, enthusiasm by weariness, sex by pornography, thrills by narcotics.” STE

“Joy isn’t entirely gone – it creeps through the cracks every once and awhile and, more disturbing, Sly revels in his stoned decadence. What makes Riot so remarkable is that it’s hard not to get drawn in with him, as you’re seduced by the narcotic grooves, seductive vocals slurs, leering electric pianos, and crawling guitars. As the themes surface, it’s hard not to nod in agreement, but it’s a junkie nod, induced by the comforting coma of the music. And damn if this music isn’t funk at its deepest and most impenetrable.” STE “Every subsequent beat revolutionary, from De La Soul to Beck, owes him.” BL “This is dense music, nearly impenetrable, but not from its deep grooves, but its utter weariness.” STE

“Sly’s songwriting remains remarkably sharp, but only when he wants to write – the foreboding opener Luv N’ Haight, the scarily resigned Family Affair, the cracked cynical blues Time, and You Caught Me Smilin’. Ultimately, the music is the message and while it’s dark music, it’s not alienating – it’s seductive despair, and that’s the scariest thing about it.” STE

Resources and Related Links:

Friday, December 17, 1971

John Lennon “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” charted

Happy Xmas (War Is Over)

John Lennon & Yoko Ono

Writer(s): John Lennon, Yoko Ono (see lyrics here)

Released: December 1, 1971

First Charted: December 17, 1971

Peak: 38 BB, 36 CB, 22 GR, 28 HR, 32 AC, 6 CL, 2 UK, 24 CN, 13 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): -- US, 1.2 UK, 2.22 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 63.55 video, 534.78 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

While John Lennon was still with the Beatles, he recorded three experimental studio albums with his wife, Yoko Ono. After he left the Beatles, he recorded the two most acclaimed albums of his solo career with Plastic Ono Band in 1970 and Imagine in 1971. That period included the title cut from the latter album (a #3 BB, 1 UK, 1971) plus a series of non-album singles, including “Instant Karma!” (#3 BB, 5 UK, 1970), “Power to the People (#11 BB, 6 UK, 1970), and “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” (#38 BB, 2 UK, 1971).

The song was recorded in October 1971, first with John & Yoko and the session musicians who had performed with the Plastic Ono Band. Then they added the Harlem Community Choir, which consisted of thirty children, mostly between the ages of four and twelve. WK It was produced by the legendary Phil Spector, who also oversaw the previously mentioned Lennon albums as well as the Beatles’ final album, Let It Be.

Dave Thompson called the song “the Lennons’ sweetest melody and most hopeful sentiment, dropped with scathing irony into the last years of Vietnam, and still powerful whenever a new war looms.” DT It was written as a protest song that evolved out of the couple’s peace activism and bed-ins starting in March 1969 during their honeymoon. In December of that year they launched a protest against the Vietnam War with a series of black-and-white posters in twelve major cities around the world declaring “War Is Over! If You Want It – Happy Christmas from John & Yoko.” WK

“John Lennon was always rock’s most Dickensian character, and here, he emulates A Christmas Carol to a tee, stopping just short of pronouncing ‘God bless us, every one!’” DMA Christmas Carol is the best-loved of all his stories not only because it fits the season’s hopes, but because, like the best records of the Beatles and Phil Spector, the love it inspires is equal to the love it creates.” DM

“Happy Xmas” has since become a Christmas classic. Other chart versions have been recorded by Idols (#5 UK, 2003), Sarah McLachlan (#5 AC, 2006), the Fray (#50 BB, 2006), and Josh Groban (#4 AC, 2017). The Alarm, Melissa Etheridge, and REO Speedwagon have also recorded the song.


Related Links:

First posted 12/22/2023.

David Bowie Hunky Dory released

Hunky Dory

David Bowie

Released: December 17, 1971

Peak: 57 US, 3 UK, 43 CN, 39 AU

Sales (in millions): -- US, 0.3 UK, 3.5 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: glam rock/classic rock


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

  1. Changes [3:33] (1/7/72, 41 US, 38 CB, 28 HR, 1 CL, 2 CO, 49 UK, 32 CN, 80 AU)
  2. Oh! You Pretty Things [3:12] (34 CO)
  3. Eight Line Poem [2:53]
  4. Life on Mars? [3:48] (6/22/73, 2 CL, 2 CO, 3 UK, 67 AU)
  5. Kooks [2:49] (35 CO)
  6. Quicksand [5:03] (4/11/74, 43 CL, 33 CO)
  7. Fill Your Heart (Rose/ Williams) [3:07]
  8. Andy Warhol [3:53] (32 CO)
  9. Song for Bob Dylan [4:12]
  10. Queen Bitch [3:13] (2/16/74, 34 CL, 32 CO)
  11. The Bewlay Brothers [5:21]

Songs written by David Bowie unless indicated otherwise.

Total Running Time: 41:50

The Players:

  • David Bowie (vocals, guitar, saxophone, piano)
  • Mick Ronson (guitar, backing vocals, Mellotron, arrangements)
  • Trevor Bolder (bass, trumpet)
  • Mick Woodmansey (drums)
  • Rick Wakeman (piano)


4.475 out of 5.00 (average of 29 ratings)

Quotable: “The beginning of the classic Bowie period” – Adrian Denning

Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

“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

“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

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

Notes: The 1990 Rykodisc reissue added the unreleased 1971 recording “Bombers,” and alternate versions of “The Bewlay Brothers,” “Quicksand,” and “The Supermen” (the latter originally on The Man Who Sold the World).

Resources and Related Links:

  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for David Bowie
  • AMG All Music Guide review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
  • CS Consequence of Sound (9/15/2010). “Top 100 Albums Ever
  • AD Adrian Denning
  • RV The Review “100 Greatest Albums of All Time” by Clarke Speicher (October – November 2001; Vol. 128: numbers 12-23).
  • PR Paul Roland (2001). CD Guide to Pop & Rock. B.T. Batsford LTD: London. Page 34.
  • RS500 Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums of All Time
  • TB Thunder Bay (2005). Albums: The Stories Behind 50 Years of Great Recordings. Thunder Bay Press; San Diego, CA. Page 147.
  • TL Time Magazine (11/13/2006). All-TIME 100 Albums by Josh Tyrangiel and Alan Light

First posted 2/20/2008; last updated 7/28/2021.

Thursday, December 2, 1971

Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog” released as a single

Black Dog

Led Zeppelin

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

Released: December 2, 1971

First Charted: December 18, 1971

Peak: 15 US, 9 CB, 10 HR, 1 CL, 11 CN, 9 AU, 2 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 0.2 UK

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 105.54 video, 226.63 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

In 2007, Q magazine rated “Black Dog,” the opening track of Led Zeppelin’s fourth album, the greatest guitar track of all time. WK Music sociologist Deena Weinstein says the song is “one of the most instantly recognizable Zeppelin tracks.” WK Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash said “It was the biggest, baddest, sexiest riff out there.” BL

Bassist/keyboardist John Paul Jones wrote the main riff. He was inspired by Muddy Waters’ 1968 album Electric Mud. He said, “I wanted to try electric blues with a rolling bass part.” BL Guitarist Jimmy Page then “turned it into a chain-saw ballet on his Les Paul over Bonzo’s stealth groove, with snarling multitracked rhythm guitar tearing up the midsection.” RS Of the intro, Page said, “That’s the guitar army waking up: Rise and shine.” BL

The song is built around a call and response between singer Robert Plant and the rest of the band. WK Page suggested the start-and-stop a cappella verse, inspired by Fleetwood Mac’s 1969 song “Oh Well.” BL Lyrically, it was “essentially an essay on relationships that could’ve been written by a caveman – the author bemoans a long-legged girl who’s good at sex but otherwise unreliable.” BL

Fans familiar with Page’s interest in the occult figured “black dog” had some Satanic meaning. BL Instead, it was named after a black Labrador retriever wandering the grounds of Headley Grange, the Hampshire, England mansion where the band recorded most of the Led Zeppelin IV album. SF


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First posted 11/5/2021; last updated 8/4/2022.