1971 – Never A Dull Moment
Rock’s Golden Year
By David Hepworth
Bantam Press – £20.00
It was the best of times because in many respects it seemed to be the first of times.
What an utterly inviting, engaging and rather revelatory read 1971 – Never A Dull Moment has turned out to be.
As a regular reviewer of books, it can become relatively easy to slip into the subliminal slipstream of literary nonchalance, whereby the many inexorable words on the page are no longer punctuated by any form of inspired attraction. Although such is most certainly not the case with regards this glittering testimonial to the year 1971 – the year David Hepworth has described as ”rock’s best year.”
To be honest, it’s hard to disagree.
One need only randomly refer to any of the book’s twelve chapters (one for each month of the year along with a Prologue and an Epilogue) to ascertain just how idiosyncratic, how invigorating, how very, very valuable and important, popular music once was. A time when the music industry, and dare I say it, society at large, wasn’t so (kn)obsessed with a plethora of boy-bands and/or wailing tarts – for whom the parameters of music continues to entail nothing other than a cloying cleavage and all the vocal finesse of Benito Mussolini.
Reason being, 1971 was still a regal time of unquestioned innocence; which Hepworth is (unsurprisingly) keen to already alert us to in the very first chapter ‘January,’ wherein he writes: ”Smokers every where. On tube trains, in pubs, in offices, even in hospitals. No joggers, no health shops, no gyms, no leisurewear, no trainers, no mineral water, no Lycra, no fast food, no obesity. Wiry people […]. The only people with tattoos got them in the services […]. No security industry. No gates on Downing Street, no full body scans, no surveillance cameras, no speed bumps. Football fans pay two bob at the turnstile and then shove […]. no political correctness.”
No political correctness, yet there was still such a thing as society.
There again, Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet of Einsatzgruppen hadn’t yet arrived to evoke such sullen economic mockery amid the myopic naivety of the working class. No wonder rock’n’roll meant precisely that: rock and fucking roll.
Four blokes like The Who, making a great B-I-G colossal noise that actually meant something. That actually endeavoured to at least traverse such opium dullness as that of today’s grey, dull, barren, not to mention seismically redundant excuse of a pathetic music industry.
Indeed, from The Who’s Who’s Next to David Bowie’s Hunky Dory, from Carole King’s Tapestry to Led Zeppelin’s IV, from The Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers to Rod Stewart’s Every Picture Tells A Story, from Pink Floyd’s Relics and Meddle to John Lennon’s Imagine; in 1971, there really wasn’t, as this book’s title more than aptly suggests, a dull moment.
As Hepworth states in the book’s Epilogue: ”The middle of the road was the only place to be. Underground was over ground, anything could be a hit. It was into this moment of panic and opportunity that all these 1971 masterpieces were hurled […]. If my twenty-one year old self could have been transported from 1971 to 2016 he would be struck dumb by the laptops, the phones, the affluence, the foreign tongues on the street, the idea that music could be accessed as if from a tap, the fact that three out of five stories in the news were about the sex lives of famous people and the puzzling realization that he couldn’t just go out on Saturday evening and buy a ticket on the door for any show in town.”
The high-octane realization ought to surely be the fact that there are no shows in town actually worth going to, while those that are, cost somewhere in the region of almost a hundred pounds per ticket…
To be sure, one could conclude that for those of a certain age, 1971 – Never A Dull Moment is a truly terrific book; but to be perfectly honest, for anyone remotely interested in the truth and what the sanctity of music once meant (and perhaps, could once again), this book will and ought to appeal to those of any age.