Was 1971 the Year ‘Music Changed Everything’?

Everything modified with the music of 1971. No, wait. It was 1973. Check that — 1974 was the yr, besides it was music, movie and tv, however solely in Los Angeles.

If you’re writing a guide, or adapting one for tv, you would do worse than selecting a selected yr as your organizing precept. That’s very true while you’re coping with the tumultuous early ’70s, when popular culture appeared to go down in flames after which rise once more regularly.

The newest to take up the problem are the makers of “1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything,” primarily based on the David Hepworth guide “Never a Dull Moment: 1971 — The Year That Rock Exploded.” Released in full final week on Apple TV+, the eight-part docu-series affords loads of proof that its human topics are satisfied of the premise, as they usually are. “Music said something,” Chrissie Hynde says over the opening credit; “We were creating the 21st century in 1971,” says David Bowie.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Lennon’s “Imagine,” which he produced with Ono and Phil Spector, was launched in 1971; its title observe grew to become an anthem for peace amid the tumult of the Nixon period.Credit…Apple TV+

But nonetheless exhausting it might be to keep away from some boomer bias — a way of generational self-importance is, in any case, baked into the premise — it’s even perhaps more durable to restrict the scope of such endeavors to a single yr: Did the music of 1971 actually change issues greater than ’72? What would 1969 need to say about it? How to start even making the case?

“Sometimes you’ve got to make a bold statement,” mentioned Asif Kapadia, the sequence’s total director and one in all its govt producers, in a video name from London. “From our research, there was something amazing about that particular moment, where it comes after the ’60s, where it comes in terms of the ’70s, as a turning point.”

The sequence assembles so many charming clips and strings collectively a lot current historical past that it’s exhausting to disclaim the outcomes, whether or not you purchase the premise or not.

In 1971, Marvin Gaye was remodeling the protest tune with the elegant “What’s Going On”; the Rolling Stones had been hammering away on their uncooked basic “Exile on Main St.” (and doing copious quantities of heroin) in a rented villa in the South of France; Aretha Franklin was exhibiting her public solidarity with the incarcerated Black activist Angela Davis; and David Bowie was writing the guide on rock ’n’ roll androgyny.

The incarceration of the tutorial and activist Angela Davis, pictured, grew to become a rallying cry for musicians like Aretha Franklin of their pursuit of racial justice. Credit…Apple TV+

It was additionally a exceptional coming-out yr for feminine artists. Carole King, who cut up along with her husband and songwriting companion, Gerry Goffin, in 1968, launched “Tapestry” in 1971, and Joni Mitchell put out “Blue,” after the finish of her relationship with Graham Nash. These weren’t simply nice albums; they had been additionally private statements of independence, resonant cries of defiance and vulnerability in what was nonetheless typically a person’s world.

But life merely doesn’t manage itself in accordance with 12-month durations, even when books and TV sequence ask it to. No venture of this type may impart the correct context with out spending time, for instance, on the Manson Family bloodbath and the catastrophe in Altamont, Calif., wherein 4 folks died at a free live performance headlined by the Rolling Stones — two 1969 occasions that signaled the finish of the Flower Power period. The Kent State shootings of 1970 had been one other such bellwether, serving to set the desk for the temper and music to come back.

Even because it strays from 1971, that is first-rate cultural historical past with a killer beat. So generally, you bend the guidelines a bit of.

Consider Bowie, who finally ends up with the final phrase in the sequence. “The Man Who Sold the World” was launched in the United States in 1970, however in Bowie’s native England in 1971. He recorded the bulk of “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars,” which offers the sequence’s climax, in 1971, however the album was launched in 1972. Similarly, the Stones recorded most of “Exile” in that villa in ’71, however they completed it in ’72, the yr the album was launched.

Marvin Gaye’s idea album “What Going On,” launched in 1971, signaled a shift for Gaye and for common music, exploring themes like the Vietnam War, drug abuse and inequality.Credit…Apple TV+

“We had a very basic rule that it had to have a very heavy footprint in ’71,” mentioned Danielle Peck, the sequence producer, who directed 4 of the episodes. “It might start in 1969, and it might finish two years later. But the bulk of the event had to be felt in ’71, because we needed to have some way of filtering out all these amazing stories.”

Of course, you may remove all ambiguity by embracing the subjectivity. Pointing out that he turned 21 in 1971 — and that all of us in all probability view that non-public milestone as particular — Hepworth, in his guide, doubles down: “There’s an important difference in the case of me and 1971,” he writes. “The difference is this. I’m right.”

At least he thinks he’s proper. When Ronald Brownstein, a senior editor at The Atlantic, determined to have fun a yr, he selected 1974, and he determined to incorporate music, movie and tv. He additionally narrowed his geographic focus to the hub of the leisure trade, Los Angeles, which was so much sleepier then than now.

The ensuing guide, “Rock Me on the Water: 1974 — The Year Los Angeles Transformed Movies, Music, Television and Politics,” makes a powerful case. Brownstein noticed ’74 as the finish of an period.

“The passing of L.A.’s cultural pre-eminence captured a much larger change in American life,” he writes. “The most memorable works of early 1970s Los Angeles — from ‘Chinatown’ to ‘All in the Family’ to Jackson Browne’s great album ‘Late for the Sky’ — emerged from the collision of ’60s optimism with the mounting cynicism and pessimism of the ’70s.”

But let’s play satan’s advocate with “1971” for a second. What if Hepworth’s certainty is justified? What if 1971 is in reality the be-all, end-all in rock and pop, and never only a yr when a bunch of cool music got here out? What if “I’m right” isn’t vanity, however accuracy?

Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, who for tax causes had in 1971 fled Britain for the South of France. “Exile on Main St.” was recorded in Richards’s rented villa.Credit…Apple TV+

A listing of 1971 releases is definitely daunting. Aside from these already talked about, there was Black Sabbath’s “Master of Reality”; Can’s “Tago Mago”; the Doors’ “L.A. Woman”; Aretha Franklin’s “Aretha Live at Fillmore West”; “Led Zeppelin IV”; John Lennon’s “Imagine”; Bill Withers’s “Just As I Am”; and Sly and the Family Stone’s “There’s a Riot Going On,” for starters.

Not unhealthy, says 1972. But verify this out: Nick Drake’s “Pink Moon”; Curtis Mayfield’s “Superfly”; Lou Reed’s “Transformer”; the Staple Singers’ “Be Altitude: Respect Yourself,” and on and on.

Quality is in the ear of the beholder — the author Andrew Grant Jackson alone has made book-length instances for the significance of 1965 and 1973 — and to its credit score, “1971” realizes this. At its greatest it steers away from the album guidelines recreation, which the supply guide embraces, in favor of incisive cultural historical past.

It zooms in on the Attica jail rebellion and what it mentioned about racial incarceration discrepancies and jail situations basically. It appears at the obscenity fees leveled by the British authorities towards Oz, an underground journal that provoked outrage when it had 20 youngsters edit a particular “School Kids Issue.” (Among the publication’s most vocal defenders: John Lennon and Yoko Ono.)

These had been occasions of social upheaval, not simply nice music. But they had been emboldened by the music, by the empowerment of girls and African Americans and gender-bending warriors. Was 1971 the gold customary for pop, rock and soul? Any reply could be drenched in subjectivity. But it was completely an exit level from the ’60s into a busy new period, exhausting to outline however wealthy in battle and risk.

“I’m sure different people have different arguments,” Kapadia mentioned, “but our point was there was something special going on in that moment with the end of the Beatles and the beginning of other artists, who then create what we can now see was the music of the future.”

When you watch “1971” it’s in all probability greatest to not fear if it was “the year music changed everything.” Maybe it’s sufficient to understand the period and its soundtrack with out fact-checking the title.

Now, let’s check out what albums got here out in 1975.