Ok so this is all about a particular year.  But why 1971?  Well in January 1971 I was 13, I'd finished my first year at my secondary school and had made a new circle of friends, I was going out to local discos and hangouts, I was starting to feel like a teenager at last.  Something else happened.  I bought my first record.  I can still remember travelling back from my Mum's caravan in windy Essex on a Sunday night listening to the top 40 run down on a scatchy transistor radio - having to hold it away from whatever was interfering with the signal.  Carole King's "It's Too Late" was the one - you know that feeling I HAVE TO GET THIS! My vinyl playing experience to that point was playing my brother's (rock, blues, pop) and sister's (motown, pop) and even my mother's (show tunes, soundtracks, MOR) records.  All a good grounding I like to think. I liked music but didn't have the means to have my own.

I bought that shiny plastic prize at The Record Centre in Highams Park for 39p, I was served by another pupil at my school, Ian B.  He would become my good friend in the next few months and the Record Centre my home from home.  I had a succession of evening and Saturday jobs (greengrocers, stall help in Walthamstow High Street) and with the meagre earnings started to build a steady collection of singles. Many of these remain my favourites.  Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine" and "Lean On Me"; "Simple Game" by the Four Tops; "Move On Up" by Curtis; Bowie's "Changes".  Then the three that delivered my man Marvin "Mercy Mercy Me, "What's Going On" and "Inner City Blues" To name a few stand-outs. 

But what a year in general.  So let's give this some context.  The Beatles were gone and the solo stuff was eagerly awaited by my brother's generation.  The kings and queens of the sixties musical revolution were on the wane, albums were now the stock in trade as the record companies now knew how to make the best of new stars - singles were the promos of the day.  Have a hit single and people will buy the album.  Rock was in full swing with The Who releasing "Who's Next" Led Zep 4 arriving and Deep Purple, Jethro Tull, Uriah Heep, Floyd and Black Sabbath all starting to dominate the album charts.

Outside of music, the world was seemingly in a mess.  The Troubles and the deployment of troops to Northern Ireland in '69 had continued and escalated; The Vietnam war was raging still.  The massacre of  My Lai in '68 was still big news as the full details emerged at the trial of those responsible; terrorism was in the news with the Baader Meinhoff gang in Germany; the Red Brigade across Europe, The PLO in the Middle East; The Angry Brigade and the IRA in Britain.  Pornography and violence depicted in the media resulted in a heated debate about censorship.

Some landmark films also reflected violent times with "Straw Dogs" and Kubrick's "Clockwork Orange".  Underground magazine Oz had published a comic strip depicting Rupert the Bear having sex - the shock factor started to be debated in the mainstream if only via the news. 

SO ALL BAD THEN? well no actually.

It doesn't matter when you are a teenager as the changes that go on are momentous in your short life.  It's an important time.   I got to earn money for the first time (and spend it) which gave me choices, I had more freedom from a trusting parent - I travelled further afield - started to investigate the West End which was only a 20 minute journey on the recently opened Victoria Line (another fixture in my life) - I discovered girls.

Most of the above can be connected by music.  I spent my money on records, I became politically aware through the civil rights movement in the US via the late sixties and current soul records that I collected, fashion was dictated by which clan you were in ( I suppose I was a latter day soul mod rather than a long haired rock fan).  The places I went to - the Tottenham Royal and the St Anne's Disco nights at Chingford Hatch all driven by the music they played.  The radio shows i listened to, the magazines I bought - all connected.

My record collection grew - I soon realised that I was buying successive singles by artists that would all appear on their latest album (first album bought - Motown Chartbusters Vol 6) so my buying habits changed when I could afford it; I spent a great deal of time in the Record Centre and got to know the owners (two real characters, Mick and Brian) well enough for them to offer me a job running a stall in Green Street east London during the run up to Christmas that year.  I was supposed to save the money but always ended up taing my pay in vinyl. 

Mick was really knowledgable about all genres of music and didn't flinch when people asked for "Grandad" and "Chirpy Cheep Cheep" whilst he played "Extension Of A Man" by Donny Hathaway.  But we also had a great time getting the old uns to singalongamax! I'm sure that stall didn't make any money. It did give me confidence and I had a ball.  On return on the final Saturday prior to Christmas I was told they needed further help in the shop and I had the job.  I would get £6 per week - a fortune.

As time moved on through that year I had become known as the person in my group who knew music.  It helped me a great deal as I wasn't good at sports (or interested) or much at all really; and pretty shy - but here was something I knew and was passionate about. I helped out Ian at the school discos; became the one to bring the records to parties, to get hold of records for school friends, even for my older sister's friends. Most importantly I had something to talk about - even to girls.

So you see ... that year is important to me personally but as the years have gone by i've realised what a fantastic period it was for music, films, design and the media in general.  I post about these in the main blog and highlight 1971.

Here's some great musical reasons why it was a special time:-

Aretha - "Spanish Harlem" and "Day Dreaming"
Beach Boys - "Surf's Up" - forget "Smile" this is a great album by a band (not just Brian)
Betty Wright - " Clean Up Woman"
Beginning Of The End - "Funky Nassau"
Bar-Kays - "Son Of Shaft" - a different take but magic repeated
Burundi Black "Burundi Black"
Booker T And The MGs - "Melting Pot"
Carla Thomas - "Love Means Never Having To Say You're Sorry"
Carole King - "Tapestry"
Carpenters - "Superstar"
Chi-Lites - (For God's Sake) Give The Power To The People" (Album) - Eugene Record = Genius
Curtis - Curtis
Faces - "Stay With Me"
Dave And Ansil Collins - "Double Barrel"
David Bowie - "Hunky Dory" - the record that really opened my ears
Doors - "Riders On The Storm"
Eddie Kendricks -"Keep On Truckin'"
Nilsson - "Without You"/"Gotta Get Up"/"One"
Isaac Hayes - "Shaft Soundtrack" and "Black Moses"
Isleys - "Ohio/Machine Gun"
Jackson 5 - "Never Can Say Goodbye"
Jerry Butler - "One Night Affair" - after this I sought out the names Gamble and Huff on anything
Undisputed Truth - S/T and "Face To Face"
Paul Simon - "Mother And Child Reunion" - i've been a fan ever since
Joni Mitchell "Blue" - converted by "Carey" revisited regularly ever since
Pink Floyd - "Dark Side Of The Moon" - bliss
Stones - "Brown Sugar"
Rod Stewart - "Every Picture Tells A Story" - a great album - undervalued today.
Sly and Family Stone - " Family Affair"
Staples - "Respect Yourself"

and last but by no mean least  - the ones for my desert island

Marvin Gaye "What's Going On"
Stevie Wonder "Where I'm Coming From"
Bill Withers - "Still Bill"

there are many more...

added July 2016
For further insight into the music, fashion and trends as well as the news and events context of the year and the whole period, i'd recommend two books:  David Hepworth's recent "1971: Never A Dull Moment" and, "Not Abba" by Dave Haslam.

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