Like I said yesterday, I’m a huge fan of all types of music, and I’d like to thank my father for that. From the time I was a little fetus, my parents exposed me to classics like The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and The Who. Not that I can remember, of course, but I’ve been told that my Dad would slip headphones over my Mom’s babybump and blast Beatles tunes at me any chance he could.
And I’m glad he did. Music is a huge part of my life, especially classic rock. Whenever I hear songs from the 1960s or ’70s, there’s a feeling that comes along with it, a feeling that we can’t even imagine with music the way it is today. Back then, bands were big. People could connect over music because everybody knew the same bands. You could all sit there and jam to the newest Zeppelin single or head down to the record store with your friends and sift through milk crates for hours on end. This is something that we can’t relate to today.
When I was listening to NPR the other day, they were interviewing a man named David Hepworth, a music journalist from England. He was there to plug his latest book Never a Dull Moment: 1971 The Year That Rock Exploded. In this book, he was going to make the argument that 1971 was not only the greatest year for rock and roll, but the year that rock and roll changed everything. I was skeptical at first, obviously. That’s a pretty big claim to make. But as I listened more and more to his interview, I decided I’d pick up the book and give it a shot.
I was very surprised. Interestingly, the book is divided into months: January to December of 1971. Hepworth does an excellent job of separating each momentous occasion and explaining just why each event was such a big deal; however, there are more than a few instances where Hepworth gets ahead of himself, mentioning events and albums that he spends a few sentences on in the middle of a 4-pages long manifesto on Led Zeppelin IV, for example. But it’s forgivable. It’s easy to see how enthusiastic Hepworth is on this topic, so no wonder he gets ahead of himself.
Hepworth not only fills the book with (obviously) music, but with funny little anecdotes about rock stars of the day and the drama that surrounded them. A few of my favorites include:
- Paul McCartney approached George Harrison and informed George that he wanted to leave the Apple Records label. Harrison, known as the quietest and most soft spoken member of The Beatles, said, “Paul, you’re staying on the fucking label. Hari fucking Krishna,” and stormed out of the room.
- When David Bowie made his first trip to America, he went to New York to see a Velvet Underground show. He was so excited to meet Lou Reed that at the end of the show, he ran back stage and went up to him (or so he thought) and started shaking his hand, telling him how great he was. Little did Bowie know that Lou Reed had actually left the Velvet Underground 6 months earlier after recording Loaded, and he was in fact shaking hands with John Cale. Three months later, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, and David Bowie finally met. Lou had just left the Velvet Underground and was failing to kick off his solo career, Iggy Pop was in the same boat, and David Bowie was considered a one hit wonder in Britain thanks to the singular success of “Space Oddity”. But the funny thing is, none of them knew any of that about each other. When they all met, Lou and Iggy thought “Oh man here’s this big British star who’s going to take us back into the spotlight,” and Bowie thought the same about the two Americans. Sure enough, 40 years later, these three men are regarded as some of the biggest stars in the history of music.
But these two aspects are rather minute compared to what I think to be the best aspect of this book. In the prologue, Hepworth says something along the lines of “There have been so many books like this written about different years and different decades, but I figure now is the best time for my book. Especially since you can go online and get any music you want with the click of a mouse.” Sure enough, Hepworth has actually created a Spotify playlist for his book. At the end of each chapter, he goes through and picks what he believes to be the best songs of that month. So I’ll finish reading a couple chapters, come in to work, click open his playlist, and listen to what I just read about. It also gives you the option of just remembering artists you’ve never heard of before (or know little about) and checking out their discography.
This has got to be one of the coolest ideas for a book on music I’ve ever seen. I’ve been listening to music I didn’t know existed. I’ve been listening to artists I didn’t know I loved, or I did know I loved them but had no idea who they were. I’ve been discovering more reasons why 1971 was the greatest, most influential, and messed up year in rock and roll history, and, in Hepworth’s words, why “… each passing year proves that point more and more.”
The Verdict: If you’re a lover of music, get this book. It is a little difficult to follow at points, as Hepworth goes off on little stories or tangents every now and again in the middle of a larger plot, but he more than makes up for it with enthusiasm and passion for his topic. Hepworth gives us an insight into the rock ‘n’ roll era that can only be given by someone who lived it (and did a lot of research). The Spotify playlist that accompanies it is the icing on the cake, and is a very unique addition to any book on music.