I am now reading David Hepworth’s rock history “Never A Dull Moment – 1971”. It has just been released on Amazon Kindle. I must admit that I have a strong connection to the subject matter, for 1971 was my introduction, at the tender age of fifteen, to the world of the live rock concert. Unlike Mr. Hepworth’s experience in the UK, the audiences I was acquainted with were high, on at least marijuana and booze, and were not so much respectful listeners as participants in the performance.
My memories of the occasion are vivid. I was partying with some recent acquaintances (what might now be termed “pre-gaming”) when someone mentioned that Black Sabbath was playing that night at the Capitol Theater. I was not a huge Sabbath fan at the time but I had never been to a rock concert before, so, “Why not?” While on the ticket line we heard that Sabbath had been booed off the stage the night before and therefore the headliner was now Humble Pie and the opening act was Yes. I knew that Humble Pie was Steve Marriott’s (ex Small Faces) group, but, I had never actually heard anything by Yes. I did remember a friend of mine, who was always stoned, holding the Yes album and blathering on about how incredible it was, but I had never heard their music.
As I walked into the theater, a former Art Deco, gilded age movie palace of the 1920’s designed by renowned architect Thomas Lamb, I saw a girl from school whom I thought was way above my social status and she greeted me like an old friend. Surprisingly, there was an easy camaraderie in the air. Humble Pie provided a testosterone fueled set sufficient to thrill any fifteen year old male and Peter Frampton’s intelligent guitar lines kept my interest when the sexual innuendo got boring.
Nevertheless, the biggest surprise of the night was the opening act Yes. No one was prepared for their virtuosity and their entirely new and fresh approach to rock music. Yet they were not intimidating at all. Jon Anderson was so comfortable and down to earth that he quickly won over the crowd ( a crowd that had driven Ozzy Osborne and company away the night before). I remember when someone in the crowd gave him a bottle of beer, he drank it and proceeded to sing the praises of Budweiser! We all left being more interested in Yes than in either Black Sabbath or Humble Pie.
So far, I am really enjoying the book. I can get past the conceit the author has that the year of 1971 was the best year in rock as I could easily make the same argument for any number of years. I am only partly into the third chapter so it would be hard for me to comment on the entire book. That being said, it seems to me that rather than 1971 being the defining year in rock music it was the year that rock radio changed from that great experiment of the late 1960’s in free form, underground music to the tightly formatted radio of today where the most popular songs of the masses are played ad infinitum until you are sick of them. Nevertheless, there really was in that year an intersection of truly talented artists with equally talented producers, engineers, etc., leaving us with an important recorded legacy. I will let you know how the rest of the book is.