Rock 'n' Roll: Nostalgic for the summer of 1971
One rock and roll lover reminisces about the songs a twelve year-old loved in 1971 as much as a man does in 2011.
While sitting at the Jethro Tull concert in mid-June, I gazed out at the moonlit and strobe-lit hills behind the stage at Harrah’s Rincon Casino’s Open Sky Theater in San Diego, CA … and passed 40 years back in time.Skip to next paragraph
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That was the point of the night, anyway: Ian Anderson, Martin Barre and gang were commemorating the 40th anniversary of their epochal album, Aqualung, turning back the clock with their magical blend of flute and guitar, a worthy signature to a great era in rock history.
Since I’m prone to fits of nostalgia (I serviced my ‘60s music jones so well during the 40th anniversary of Woodstock in August 2009 that I watched the movie on my 50th birthday [literally the 40th anniversary of Woodstock’s opening day], and ended up forming a friendship with one of the stars of the concert and movie, Santana drummer Michael Shrieve), I spent the rest of the night recalling some songs that populated my then 12-year-old brain in the Summer of 1971.
Here it is, mid-summer, and I’m still at it, officially embarked on yet another 40th anniversary tour. Just got done listening to Grand Funk Live and Ten Years After’s A Space In Time, as a matter of fact. Summer is always a great time to reminisce about, well, those perfect lazy summers of playing baseball, catching waves, frying the skin and listening to great music on crackly radios. However, those albums of ’71 fly in on the breeze and roast in the sun, never getting old, every song a stitch in the experience, thrilling the soul and heart all over again … Who’s Next, A Space In Time, Grand Funk Live, Allman Brothers At Fillmore East, Aqualung, Electric Warrior, Fireball, Santana III, Roundabout.
There were, of course, the Robert Plant lyrics that kicked off the greatest album of that year:
Hey, hey mama
Said the way you move
Gonna make you sweat
Gonna make you groove
And the Plant lyrics that filled every AM and FM station:
And she’s buying a stairway to heaven…
And the Marc Bolan lyrics that also became everyday fodder:
Get it on, bang a gong,
Get it on
And, not to be outdone, Alvin Lee’s anthem:
I’d love to change the world,
But I really don’t know…
Riders on the storm,
Like a dog without a bone
And an actor out on loan,
Riders on the storm…
Yes, 1971 was the summer the electric guitar ascended the mountain upon its young maestros and became the instrument of the rock gods. While the Summer of 1972 will always be remembered as one of the greatest live concert summers the U.S. has ever seen, 1971 brought out the axes and their genius owners through a never-ending assortment of expressions and unforgettable albums. Of course, a great guitarist becomes further emblazoned in lights with a great band, and these guys had it all — great vocalists, bass guitarists who held down the bottom and ran bass lines like soloists (Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones and Uriah Heep’s Gary Thain come to mind), magnificent drummers (John Bonham, Bill Ward, Chick Churchill, Ian Paice, Clive Dunbar, Keith Moon, Michael Shrieve, etc. etc.) and, in some cases, fabulous keyboard players … (tell me you don’t stop, feel the sweetness and pay homage every time you hear a sumptuous Hammond B3 organ).
It also was the first big summer of the live album, with George Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh triple album, The James Gang, the Allman Brothers Band and Grand Funk Railroad leading the way. Criss-crossing the skies of the U.S. and England were Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin), Ritchie Blackmore (Deep Purple), Alvin Lee (Ten Years After), Pete Townshend (The Who), Eric Clapton (Derek & The Dominoes), Duane Allman (The Allman Brothers), Carlos Santana, Mark Farner (Grand Funk Railroad),Mick Taylor and Keith Richards (Rolling Stones), Steve Howe (Yes), John Fogerty (Creedence Clearwater Revival), Marc Bolan (T. Rex), Martin Barre (Jethro Tull), Robby Krieger (The Doors), David Gilmour (Pink Floyd), Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath), Joe Walsh (The James Gang) …