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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Top 80 Songs of 1971

The era of smooth music begins.  Rock becomes smoother, and Al Green and Marvin Gaye want to make sweet love to you down by the fire.  Folk music is less rebellious and John Lennon is strung out on heroin.  Let's not forget either that this is the year Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison died.  The innocence of the summer of love is long ago and the "tripping" generation has turned into the strung out on coke and heroin generation.  Ahh, the early 70s …

80.  Jeepster – T-Rex (Glam Rock) – 1971

I’m not really a fan of T-Rex the entertainer (huge fan of the dinosaur).  This song is probably my favorite of his because it has a fun little groove, but like his other stuff, it’s repetitive and not too original. 

79.  Hello in There – John Prine (Country) – 1971
78.  Home Again – Carole King (Piano Ballad) – 1971
77.  Hot Pants – James Brown (Funk) – 1971

He's singing about hot pants … for real. 

76.  Hymn 43 – Jethro Tull (Hard Rock) – 1971
75.  Amos Moses – Jerry Reed (Country) – 1971

Here’s a rare part country part funk song.  Talk about trying to combine different demographics. 

74.  I Don’t Wanna Be a Soldier Mama (Slow Rock) – 1971

I can’t believe a studio-hand never told a strung out John Lennon that he’s letting his songs go on too long. 

73.  It Don’t Come Easy – Ringo Starr (Rock) – 1971

It’s kind of hokey, but what do you expect from Ringo?  Quite frankly, I’m impressed that his first solo release isn’t titled “Take that John and Paul” and it’s just five minutes of him wailing on the drums. 

72.  The Battle of Evermore – Led Zeppelin (Folk) – 1971
71.  A Case of You – Joni Mitchell (Folk) – 1971
70.  Behind Blue Eyes – The Who (Slow Rock) – 1971
69.  When the Levee Breaks – Led Zeppelin (Progressive Rock) – 1971

Yes the drum beat kicks ass, but this song doesn’t deserve to be 7+ minutes long.  They really run that beat into the ground. 

68.  Get It While You Can – Janis Joplin (Rhythm & Blues) – 1971
67.  Third Week in the ChelseaJefferson Airplane (Folk) – 1971
66.  Mercy, Mercy Me – Marvin Gaye (Rhythm & Blues) - 1971
65.  Mr. Big Stuff – Jean Knight (Funk) – 1971

Who do you think you are?

64.  Sister Morphine – The Rolling Stones (Rock) – 1971
63.  Bargain – The Who (Hard Rock) – 1971
62.  I Feel the Earth Move – Carole King (Pop) – 1971

Carole King had one helluva 1971.  She has 4 songs on my list and I had never listened to her before.  I’m not going to go out and buy any of her records or anything, but just as I never made fun of her in the past, I will continue to not make fun of her in the future.   

61.  Crippled Inside – John Lennon (Country) – 1971
60.  Carey – Joni Mitchell (Folk Rock) – 1971
59.  It’s Too Late – Carole King (Pop) – 1971
58.  What Have they Done to my Song Ma – Melanie (Pop) – 1971
57.  One’s on the Way – Loretta Lynn (Country) – 1971
56.  Sam Stone – John Pine (Folk) – 1971
55.  Strawberry Letter 23 – Shuggie Otis (Rhythm & Blues) – 1971

Who doesn’t love smoov sexy time music?  Who loves smoov sexy time music when you’re not being smoov and sexy? 

54.  Misty Mountain Hop – Led Zeppelin (Hard Rock) – 1971
53.  Love Ain’t For Keeping – The Who (Rock) – 1971

Outside of a couple of rock operas, The Who doesn’t really have that great album.  Who’s Next is probably the closest they ever get. 

52.  You've Got a Friend – James Taylor (Folk Rock) – 1971

I never would have brought this up if it wasn’t for Microsoft Word telling me that song title is improper English, but why isn't the song titled "You Got a Friend?"  It's even easier to sing because you don't have that "V" sound in there.  Ahh, the famous moments when songwriters make the English language their own …

51.  Inner City Blues – Marvin Gaye (Rhythm & Blues) – 1971 

Listening to this bass line makes me feel pimp cool.   I love when whatever music I’m listening to makes me feel cooler than I actually am (which isn’t as easy as it should be). 

50.  Wharf Rat – The Grateful Dead (Slow Rock) – 1971

The actual genre should be “lazy rock,” which is something the Dead perfected. 

49.  Pillow of Winds – Pink Floyd (Folk Rock) – 1971

In a time when ProgRock is becoming all the rage, leave it to Floyd to make ProgFolk. 

48.  Hidden Treasure – Traffic (Folk Rock) – 1971
47.  How Do You Sleep – John Lennon (Rock) – 1971

Long before LL Cool J went at it with Kool Moe Dee, the battle of John Lennon vs. Paul McCartney was a good one.  Thank god for all of us they weren’t rapping but instead writing slanderous mambos. 

46.  San Tropez – Pink Floyd (Pop Rock) – 1971

This sounds like a mid-60s Paul McCartney written Beatles song, which is a compliment in this case. 

45.  You’ve Got a Friend – Carole King (Piano Ballad) – 1971 

She’s the writer of the tune, so I imagine hers is better, but everyone knows its James Taylor’s song, well everyone except for the people who don’t. 

44.  Harlem – Bill Withers (Rhythm & Blues) – 1971
43.  Life on Mars? – David Bowie (Glam Rock) – 1971
42.  Love Her Madly – The Doors (Pop Rock) – 1971

I don’t know what kind effect they’re putting on Jim’s voice on this one, but whatever it is, it’s working. 

41.  Moonlight Mile – The Rolling Stones (Slow Rock) - 1971
40.  Move Over – Janis Joplin (Rock) – 1971

How tragic is it that when I wiki-searched this song, a Spice Girls song came up first? 

39.  Light Up or Leave Me Alone – Traffic (Rock) – 1971

Here's a song that’d be a good “burn-out” theme song.  I'd definitely include it on my "Van Down By River" soundtrack. 

38.  Aqualung – Jethro Tull (Progressive Rock) – 1971

The best way for me to get over the silly “proclaiming” of a ProgRock song is power rock riffs and a flashy guitar solo. 

37.  Motel Blues – Loudon Wainwright III (Folk) - 1971
36.  Clean Up Woman – Betty Wright (Rhythm & Blues) – 1971

I had never heard this song before and it’s a very pleasant surprise now that I have. 

35.  Roundabout – Yes (Progressive Rock) – 1971

I can’t believe this song slipped through the cracks of my music adolescence.  The bass in this is on a new level, but it’s only bass. 

34.  Low Spark of High Heeled Boys – Traffic (Jam Rock) – 1971

Sure it’s way too long, but they’re jamming man! 

33.  I’m Eighteen – Alice Cooper (Hard Rock) – 1971

Alice Cooper seems like one of those guys that appealed to America’s first burnouts, whom were a by-product of the drugged up late 60s.  Whereas many of the love generation went on to have very productive lives, others became the precursor to the burn-out subculture that would drench themselves with denim and patches of heavy metal bands. 

32.  One of these Days – Pink Floyd (Progressive Rock) – 1971
31.  Brown Sugar – The Rolling Stones (Rock) – 1971
30.  Bertha – The Grateful Dead (Rock) – 1971

The live dead skull and bones or whatever you wanna call it did indeed have a few new tracks on it, and this was the greatest of them … or at least the most listener-friendly. 

29.  Theme from Shaft – Isaac Hayes (Funk) – 1971

Damn right. 

28.  Famous Blue Raincoat – Leonard Cohen (Folk) – 1971

This guy is on a separate playing field.  Listening to him amongst other performers is like watching Daniel Day Lewis act amongst other actors.  Some people are so good at what they do, they create their own world. 

27.  Statesboro Blues – The Allman Brothers (Rock) – 1971

This is all about Duane Allman playing a bad guitar.  Very few live recordings are making my list, but this is one of the best of them. 

26.  Rock and Roll – Led Zeppelin (Hard Rock) – 1971
25.  The Changeling – The Doors (Rock) – 1971

This song deserves some credit for being the beginning of disco.  The verse part of this song is the most disco-y thing I’ve heard thus far.  You can tell its disco if you can do the John Travolta dance move to it, and you can to most of this song. 

24.  Wild Horses – The Rolling Stones (Slow Rock) – 1971

It's business as usual for the Stones in ’71 with their brand of beautifully sad country rock songs. 

23.  Gimme Some Truth – John Lennon (Rock) – 1971

Lennon continues his anti-government tirade he started with “Working Class Hero” with this one. 

22.  Going to California – Led Zeppelin (Folk) – 1971

Led Zeppelin IV … where would be as a species without it? 

21.  Family Affair – Sly & The Family Stone (Funk) – 1971

Here’s my favorite Sly song.  It’s not as poppy as most their rest and it definitely is closer to funk than disco.  Its 1971, I know disco is coming and there’s nothing I can do to avoid it. 

20.  Fearless – Pink Floyd (Progressive Rock) – 1971
19.  Me and Bobby McGee – Janis Joplin (Folk Rock) – 1971

You have to love those songs that get popular after their singer dies tragically.  Janis wasn’t known for writing her own songs (she obviously didn’t write this one), but this will always be hers simply because it became a hit after she died.  If you ever want a hit, cover someone else's song than die immediately afterward.   

18.  Black Dog – Led Zeppelin (Hard Rock) – 1971
17.  Riders on the Storm – The Doors (Slow Rock) – 1971

This is a great way for the Doors to go out.  Morrison’s voice on this already sounds like the voice of a ghost so his transition to the other side shouldn't have been too hard. 

16.  Won’t Get Fooled Again – The Who (Hard Rock) – 1971

Though it doesn’t need to be 8 minutes long, The Who rock the shit out of this song.  It was obvious that writing a rock song in 1971 meant you had to make it really long. 

15.  What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye (Rhythm & Blues) – 1971
14.  Tired of Being Alone – Al Green (Rhythm & Blues) – 1971

With Al Green and Marvin Gaye being so smooth and successful, I wonder how many babies were born in 1972. 

13.  Lively Up Yourself – Bob Marley (Reggae) – 1971

This was a great break-thru song for reggae.  The genre would explode some years down the road, and this song is a big reason why. 

12.  Dead Flowers – The Rolling Stones (Alt-Country) – 1971

I used to not like this song because some annoying middle aged Sam Malone wanna-be played it at the bar I worked at all the time.  Soon I can be that annoying middle aged guy!

11.  Let’s Stay Together – Al Green (Rhythm & Blues) – 1971

I’ll be honest.  I did not know this song before Pulp Fiction. 

10.  Shouldn’t Have Took More Than You Gave – Traffic (Rock) – 1971

I’m not sure why this song never made it, but likely because it barely has a hook.  Dave Mason wrote and sang this one which is rare for Traffic but he does a bang up job.

9.  The Revolution Will Not Be Televised – Gil-Scott Heron (Spoken Word) – 1971

I’m not sure if this is technically a song or not, but this is kind of the first rap song.  It’s as if a black panther got high, put on some funk music and started talking about black power.  It’s incredible poetry. 

8.  Tiny Dancer – Elton John (Rock) – 1971

This is one of those songs that seems like it’s perfect for everyone. 

7.  Ain’t No Sunshine – Bill Withers (Rhythm & Blues) – 1971

Bill Withers never gets mentioned in the same breath as Al Green or Marvin Gaye.  I’m not sure he needs to be, but this song is as good as anything either of them has ever done. 

6.  Can’t You Hear Me Knocking – The Rolling Stones (Jam Rock) – 1971

Many of these 70s rock songs top 7 minutes, but rarely do they pay homage to Carlos Santana like this one does.  It’s an homage when you sound like another guitar player but you’ve already established yourself as a great guitar player, right? 

5.  One Way Out – The Allman Brothers (Rock) – 1971

You bring this song into any jam room and the musicians will all know it.  The Allman Brothers rarely reinvented the wheel, but the wheels they made were really round and gave you a very smooth ride. 

4.  L.A. Woman – The Doors (Rock) – 1971

The Doors sure when out with a bang, that is if you don’t count the post Jim Morrison albums.  Some of their finest songs are on the L.A. Woman album and the title track is the best of them all. 

3.  Imagine – John Lennon (Piano Ballad) – 1971

It’s a little sappy, but the dream … one has to get points for dreaming.  It’s just too bad all the agents of change died early, and they didn’t pass the torch to anyone. 

2.  Stairway to Heaven – Led Zeppelin (Progressive Rock) – 1971

This is probably the most awkward song to slow dance to.  They used to play it at the end of our middle school dances and its 8 freegin minutes long.  At first, it’s great, the girl says yes and you begin to dance.  Eventually the two of you are just holding each other uncomfortably and you start to wonder if the song will ever end.  From there it turns into a hard rock song so slow dancing seems pointless and you feel you have to end the dance prematurely, but you don’t know what your partner is going to think if you do that, so you’re stuck with your arms around a girl's shoulders trying to have a memorable moment to a hard rock song. 

1.  Baba O’Reilly – The Who (Hard Rock) – 1971

This is The Who’s finest hour.  At a time when rock is fading into progrock or smooth rock, The Who churn out an anthem for angsty teens everywhere, and in the end, isn’t that what rock is all about?  

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