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1972 ….”It was a very good year”

February 8, 2012

I thought it was about time for less serious (and less depressing) topics than our current monetary policy and fiscal policy which reminded me of my love of collecting and listening to music (rock and pop) from the 1960s and 1970s. Interestingly, this is the 40th year anniversary of an excellent year for rock music 1972 AND my graduation from prep school (Taft School) and freshman year at Brown. Not to diminish my high school graduation or my freshman year at Brown, but 1972 was a huge year for rock, one in which several new groups burst onto the scene and many existing groups had their musical “tour de force”.

In early 1972, the rock group YES , emerged from relative obscurity with their album “Fragile” and their first hit single “Roundabout” ( one of my all time favorites). (They later followed this up with the musically superb “Close to the Edge” late in 1972) Meanwhile, Led Zeppelin came out with their untitled Led Zeppelin IV which included perhaps the most famous song in rock history “Stairway to Heaven” ( which interestingly enough was NEVER released as a single). This was the first time in my opinion that Led Zeppelin had released a full album of excellent songs – ranging from outstanding rockers such “Black Dog” and “Rock’N’Roll” to more lengthy ballads like “Going to California” “Battle of Evermore” and of course “Stairway…”. Led Zeppelin IV remains one of the most popular rock albums of all time to this day.

Meanwhile, Neil Young released his “Harvest” album,  his greatest singular achievement and perhaps the greatest folk rock album ever with songs such as “Heart of Gold”, “Out on the Weekend”, “Alabama”, “Needle and the Damage Done” to name a few.

A new group America issued their first album (and what turned out to be their best album) with its iconic drug culture single “A Horse with No Name” which included ” I Need You” and one of my favorite folk-rock jam songs “Sandman”.

And that all happened by the spring of 1972!

In May of 1972, the Hollies ( minus Graham Nash ) released their best single ( and one of the best rock n roll songs ever) “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress” which was later followed up by a less popular but still compelling “Long Dark Road”.

In June, a new group Eagles released their first album with their first hit single “Take it Easy” a unique sounding Western folk rocker if there ever was one.

The fall of 1972 featured increased airplay and huge popularity of a Kenny Loggins with Jim Messina “Sittin’ In” album (which was originally released at the end of 1971). The album included  a wonderful merge of folk, rock, country sounds as well as elaborate instrumentation with flutes, violins and horns. Songs such as “Trilogy” “Nobody But You” ” House at Pooh Corner” “A Love Song” “Danny’s Song” “Back to Georgia” and “Vahevalla” were frequently played and later covered by several artists. Originally intended to be the first album for Kenny Loggins, with Messina as just a producer, this album launched a duo career of several years for the pair and the album became known as “Sittin’ In”.

I admit I am a bit biased when it comes to “Sittin’ In” (and their second album “Loggins and Messina” released at the end of 1972 which included “Your Mama Don’t Dance” ” Thinking of You” and a 10 minute version of “Angry Eyes”). However, Loggins and Messina was the first group I ever saw in concert.  It was in October 1972 in a University of Rhode Island gym (of all places) and included a virtual unknown then as the opening act: Jim Croce!

The fall of 1972 also featured the release of the Moody Blues seventh album fittingly titled “Seventh Sojourn” . This was technically the group’s 8th album if you count the “Magnificent Moodies” as their first. The “Magnificent Moodies” was released during future Wings member Denny Laine’s heyday with the group and BEFORE the arrival of Justin Hayward and John Lodge (in 1967).  Hayward/Lodge proved to be the most prolific singers and songwriters for the group to this day. Seventh Sojourn was an excellent album and was the Moodies first to top the US album charts. 1972  proved to be a big year for the Moody Blues and their music with substantial FM (and even AM) radio airplay of ALL their previous six albums and their biggest single ever “Nights in White Satin” which hit #2 in the US. Meanwhile, the rerelease of Nights in White Satin in the summer of 1972 spurred even greater popularity for the album “Days of Future Passed” which  seemed to be one of the staples among album collections that fall at Brown. “Days of Future Past” released in late 1967 was the second rock “concept” album in history (coming out after “Sgt.Peppers” summer 1967 release) . Though the album occasionally meandered and was unusually pretentious on Side One (which covered the sun rise, morning and lunch hour),  Side Two is one of the greatest album “sides” and features Justin Hayward singing/songwriter skills extraordinaire in “Tuesday Afternoon” and “Nights in White Satin”.

And no, I haven’t forgotten about the Rolling Stones who released a double album “Exile on Main Street” in 1972 which many fans and critics consider the best among Stones albums and that Rolling Stone Magazine ranked as the #3 rock album between 1967 and 1987.  My own opinion is that it doesn’t compare with either “Let it Bleed” and “Sticky Fingers” which are both outstanding single albums BUT I will grant that there are 10-12 very good songs on the album including most notably “Rocks Off”, “Happy”, “Tumbling Dice” “All Down the Line” “Soul Survivor” “Ventilator Blues” “Rip This Joint” and “Sweet Black Angel”.

There were many other new additions in 1972. Jethro Tull released the first truly rock concept album “Thick as a Brick” which really was one continuous song. (This album was panned by most critics, but still is one of my favorites). Elton John released a very good album “Honky Chateau” which included several good songs and one outstanding song “Rocket Man” which spoke as much about isolation and loneliness on earth as it did in space. (“Rocket Man” harkened back to David Bowie’s well crafted “Space Oddity” released in the UK in 1969 but popularized in the US in 1972 at about the same time).

1972 also featured a lot of good songs/singles. Don McLean’s “American Pie” (released in December 1971) was not only a great song, but its lyrics and their interpretation was the source of considerable entertainment for several of us during much of early 1972. (Hey there wasn’t that much to do at prep school!). Interestingly, Don McLean was the first artist my daughter Kathleen ever saw “officially” (she was all of 6 months old and in a baby carriage at the time) as Anne and I saw him performing at the Montgomery County Fair in 1989.

“Taxi’ by Harry Chapin was a lyrical masterpiece that spoke to the awkwardness and indignities of a brief reunion of former lovers. ( No one who knows this song can ever forget the lines “So she handed me $20 for a two fifty fare and said “Harry keep the change” .Another man might have been angry, another man might have been hurt, but another man would’ve never let her go, I stuffed the bill in my shirt”). Carly Simon’s “Anticipation” and “That’s the Way I Always Heard it Should Be” were beautiful songs , though the latter was depressing to say the least. Jackson Browne launched his popular career with “Doctor My Eyes” from his first album which included another great song “Rock Me on the Water”. Todd Rundgren launched his popular career with “I Saw the Light” as did the Raspberries with the rock classic “Go All the Way”. Billy Preston showed off his keyboard talents in his first solo hit “Going Out of Space”.  Rick Nelson had his comeback hit with “Garden Party” , his best song ever and a wonderful lyrical song about how he was booed at a Madison Square Garden concert for ,ironically enough, playing new songs instead of his old early 60s standards.

1972 wasn’t all good. While there was much that was new and exciting, there was some big gaps left behind as many top 1960s and early 1970s artists faded into oblivion (e.g. Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Rascals, The Beach Boys, Blood Sweat and Tears to name a few)  or died before they got old. The Who took a year off from recording after the great success of “Who’s Next” in 1971 and before their critically acclaimed “Quadrophenia” in 1973.  The Doors were no more after Jim Morrison died in June 1971 and their last album hit it big that fall. The Beatles solo incarnations proved a woeful substitute in 1972. John Lennon and George Harrison recorded nothing new in 1972 after very good albums during 1970-71. Paul McCartney sank to his career low with ” Wild Life” (December 1971) and  “Red Rose Speedway” in 1972.

In addition, there were several very annoying singles that made it to the top of the charts and thus were played constantly. For example , who can forget “Brand New Key” by Melanie or “The Candy Man” by Sammy Davis Jr. or Michael Jackson’s homage to a rat “Ben” or the thoroughly ridiculous “Popcorn” by Hot Butter? And shouldn’t Chuck Berry have just rereleased one of his many outstanding 1950s and early 60s singles, instead of subjecting us to “My Ding-a-Ling”.

But overall it still is one of my favorite years and I haven’t even mentioned many other artists and songs. How about you?

From → Music 60s70s

  1. From a different perspective I would have to add:

    Clear Spot – Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band’s most visible and accessible offering, including the classic Big Eyed Beans From Venus.

    Pink Moon by Nick Drake (“none of you stand so tall, pink moon gonna get you all”)

    Eat a Peach – Allman Brothers (Blue Sky stands out in my memory)

    The Kink Kronikles – not new material, but one of the greatest compilations of all time

    Just Another Band From L.A. – while kind of rough, I think this is the best of the Mothers/Turtles collaborations

    Sailin Shoes – Still my favorite Little Feat album

    Ziggy Stardust – Possibly Bowie’s best pure rock album with the tightest backing band in history

    The Harder They Come – various artists – not the first reggae album to come to this country, but along with the movie it is really what brought reggae into the mainstream view

    The Slider – T Rex Not sure what to say about it, but I love this album.

    Greetings From L.A. – Tim Buckley This is pretty far from Buckley’s best, but the vocal performance on Sweet Surrender hasn’t been matched by anything in rock that I know of.

    I am pretty sure all of these were released in 72. Please correct me if I am wrong.

  2. Excellent additions. Had meant to note “bang a gong” by TRex as one of my favorite songs of the year. Not a huge Allman Brothers fan but love “Blue sky” though my favorite album by them is “Brothers and Sisters” a year later. Like Bowie and “Ziggy Stardust” is a good album. I am a huge fan of The Kinks but I excluded Greatest Hits from consideration. True enough about “The Harder They Come” though you might remember that the first reggae hit in the US was ” The Israelites” by Desmond Decker & The Aces in 1968, but Jimmy Cliff was the certainly the start of mainstream for reggae. Think you are right about the others ( at least based on my recollection.

  3. JohnQL permalink

    Let’s not forget Steely Dan’s “Can’t Buy a Thrill”, which was the debut album for a band that went on to huge success. I guess the problem with listing this album is that it was released late in the year and the big hit singles (“Do It Again” and “Reeling’ in the Years”) did not become popular until 1973.

    How about Randy Newman’s “Sail Away”, which was cited in 2003 by Rolling Stone as number 321 on their list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time?

    Paul Simon’s first (well, second really, but I don’t count his UK solo album from 1965) solo album is a standout for me, with excellent singles in “Mother and Child Reunion”, “Duncan” and “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard”.

    Rod Stewart’s “Never a Dull Moment” with “You Wear It Well” and his cover of the classic Sam Cooke tune “Twistin’ the Night Away” warrants mention.

    Other notable albums: Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out”, Emerson Lake & Palmer’s “Trilogy”, Sandy Denny’s “Sandy”. And even though it doesn’t really qualify because it was released in 1971, Carole King’s “Tapestry” continued to dominate the charts in 1972 and reminiscing about 1972 wouldn’t be complete without mentioning this album.

    Notable singles for me include: Roberta Flack’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”, Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me”, and Cat Stevens’ “Morning Has Broken”. Arlo Guthrie did his father proud with “The City of New Orleans”.

    For the record, even though Sammy Davis’ “The Candy Man” was not exactly one of my favorite songs of the year, I do recall having fun singing to the song with my sister, Delores, who (for some inexplicable reason) loved that song.

  4. Great comments. Somehow “Can’t Buy a Thrill” was missed in my post ( though I swear I must advertendly deleted that portion of the post) . To this day it is still my favorite Steely Dan album. I liked “Never a dull moment” as well but it’s hard to top Rod’s solo debut “Every picture tells a story” during the previous year. And sorry Carole King’s “Tapestry” really counts in 1971 not 1972. I liked Paul Simon’s first solo album, but his subsequent albums most notably ” There Goes Rhymin Simon” and best of all “Graceland” were much better in my opinion.
    And yes there is no accounting for taste, my roommate in prep school loved “The Candy Man” too.

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