Aretha Franklin and Dr. John, 1971, via Dr. John’s Facebook page.
The Doctor guested on a couple of Aretha’s 1971 singles, notably playing percussion on “Rock Steady” (released in February; I wrote about that here), and playing keyboards on Aretha’s cover of “Spanish Harlem”, a July 1971 single that became the opening track of Aretha’s Greatest Hits, released that September. It
spent three weeks at #1 on the US soul charts and two weeks at #2 on the Pop chart on the way to selling over 1 million copies.
(btw, the b-side referenced here, “Lean On Me”, isn’t a cover of the song that Bill Withers hadn’t written yet, of course, but rather the 1970 Vivian Reed original, a fantastic track, one of Aretha’s most powerful performances – but no Dr. John means that I’ll save it for another day.)
George Harrison’s demo for Ringo’s 1971 hit “It Don’t Come Easy”
Ringo co-wrote the song with George, who also produced this, added background vocals, and played bass and the wonderful guitar that’s so integral to this song’s success.
It’s quite ragged, but this version is AWESOME. There are no horns, and with fewer layers of overdubs, you can really hear backup vocals. George’s guitar is also truly sweet in this version – easily the equal of anything he played on All Things Must Pass. There’s even a bonus “Hare Krishna” chant in the middle!
“I sold my first strap to the amazing ROBERT PLANT 1971!” by Jan Nicolas. “I had been working in leather for a while before I started making straps. I had a few beautiful ones hanging in my studio/office. Led Zeppelin were in town at the Continental Hyatt ‘riot’ House Hotel. My friend Linda and I used to spend weekends hanging out in the coffee shop to star gaze. In the evening, they had a line winding through the lobby to accommodate all the people who wanted to meet Rock Stars.
“This was a pretty quiet Saturday afternoon, and I grabbed a strap that I thought would suit RP and we found him hanging out in the lobby with body guards, groupies and photographers.
“I was so shy, that my girlfriend had to call him over to look at the strap. He loved it, he paid $100 for it and gladly posed for a photo. Happily, one of the magazine photographers was a friend, and took this picture for me. I was still in high school, and I was completely overwhelmed when Mr. Plant cuddled right up to me for the picture. Now, it is my all time favorite.”
More here. My edits to the pictures she posted, but do click through for more of her amazing story.
You’ve heard the 1976 hit version from The Electric Light Orchestra, a pop classic by any measure – but this stripped-down 1971 version by The Move SLAMS! It’s obviously the same song of course, but it really sounds beamed in from another dimension as peeling back all the layers reveals the downright weirdness at its heart.
(Seriously, one of the weirdest songs ever to become a hit.)
Presumably you’ve already hit play and heard the biggest difference between this and the 1976 ELO version: that one had an orchestra and choir, and this one is just composer Jeff Lynne, Roy Wood, and drummer Bev Bevan BANGING. Although Jeff wrote it, the song’s original title was named for a spontaneous outburst of Roy Wood’s at the end of the song, “Look Out Baby There’s A Plane A-Comin’”. (Yes, that was the original title! I think “Do Ya” works better tho.)
(Tom Petty later told Jeff that he thought “Look out baby there’s a planet coming” was one of the coolest lyrics he’d ever heard, and was disappointed to learn the proper words.)
Although the song had been a staple in ELO’s live sets, they didn’t get around to recording it until 1976, after Todd Rundgren’s cover on Another Live became something of a hit itself in 1975 (with Todd repaying a favor to Jeff, who’d regularly been performing Todd’s early Nazz track “Open Your Eyes”).
In fact, it was this original version’s complete lack of orchestration that landed the song with The Move rather than ELO. (Both Message From The Country and ELO’s debut were recorded more or less simultaneously, with the more orchestral tracks naturally landing with ELO.)
Recorded December 19, 1971, and released as the B-side to “California Man”, it failed to chart in the UK, and in 1972, barely cracked the US Top 100, landing at #98. Its days as a chart-topper were yet to come.
I do love ELO’s 1976 version, and the 1975 version by Todd Rundgren’s Utopia (which I’ll discuss in full another day) might even be my favorite, but there’s something special and irreplaceable about the original “Do Ya” from 1971.
Turn this tf up, play it again, and let me know what you think!
James Taylor & Carly Simon, “You Can Close Your Eyes” (1977)
Originally released on James’ 1971 album Mud Slide Slim & The Blue Horizon, “You Can Close Your Eyes” has been covered dozens of times, most notably by Linda Ronstadt in 1974. James has also performed it with Carole King and Bonnie Raitt among others over the years, and one of his 3 live duets with Joni Mitchell (a 1970 John Peel session) has rightly become virtually canonical.
But this is the one that’s been missing from your life. Recorded at James and Carly’s Martha’s Vineyard home in 1977, the best part of this performance may be the privilege of watching Carly Simon’s face light up when she sings. You’ve never seen anything quite like it. Even though they’ve invited us into their home to witness it, it still feels almost too intimate to bear.
There are no bad versions of this song by anyone, but this one is something special.
In 1971, Don and Glenn and the rest of Linda’s backup band (Randy Meisner and Bernie Leadon) left to form the Eagles. They were together on six of the ten tracks on Linda’s third solo LP, Linda Ronstadt, released in January 1972, including three live tracks recorded at the Troubadour in March 1971.
Her name is Mademoiselle Nobs, and she belonged to
Madonna Bouglione. This was recorded in Paris, December 13-20 during sessions for Live At Pompeii, and was a playful recreation of the song “Seamus” from Pink Floyd’s Meddle, released in October 1971.
Rather than a female Borzoi, Seamus was a male collie belonging to Steve Marriott, who’d gone off with Humble Pie on a US tour in May 1971, leaving Seamus in David Gilmour’s care. (Humble Pie recorded Performance Rockin’ The Fillmore on that trip, one of the year’s best and most overlooked live LPs – one of the best ever, imo.)
David discovered that Seamus enjoyed singing along to the blues, brought him into the studio during the Meddle sessions, and the rest is history.
btw, you’ll see lots of pictures on the web claiming to be of Seamus, but I haven’t been able to confirm any of them. (Most of them are of a German Shepherd, clearly not a collie, and a female at that.) Steve had at least 4 dogs, though, and 3 cats, so it’s easy to imagine that Seamus might have someone missed being photographed, or at least properly identified.
Dave Mason & Cass Elliot, “Something to Make You Happy” (1971)
Something to make YOU happy! One of the most incandescent singles of 1971, featuring Traffic’s Dave Mason and The Mamas and The Papas’ Cass Elliot embarking on an all-too-brief duo excursion.
A rare co-writing credit for Cass adds another touch of magic to this career highlight for her, its soaring chorus highlighting the ways that she and Dave Mason brought the very best out of each other in this hidden gem from 1971.
They’d been introduced by mutual friend Gram Parsons soon after Dave’s arrival in LA. As she had for so many other artists before (including another recently solo Englishman, Graham Nash), Cass took Dave under her wing, and it didn’t take long for them to realize that they sounded amazing together. As Cass told Rolling Stone, “I sing better with David because he’s so good. You want to do better. I’m singing notes I never sang with The Mamas & the Papas.”
Released in March 1971, Dave Mason & Cass Elliot had in fact begun as a Dave solo album, his second after leaving Traffic (to whom he’d return for a brief summer 1971 tour and live album).
He’d written all the songs and recorded all the lead vocals up to the point that Cass came on, but it was immediately obvious that they had something special together, so Dave reshaped the album more collaboratively from there: adding a couple of songs Cass wrote (indeed, the last time in her career she’d record her own compositions), more lead vocals, lots of harmonies on Dave’s earlier tracks, and joint billing as both performer and producer.
They played a few shows together (Santa Monica Civic and Fillmore East, where the photo above was taken by Amalie R. Rothschild) as well as a couple of TV appearances (The Andy Williams Show, The Tonight Show), and while they remained close and spoke about recording a proper collaboration someday, Cass’ untimely passing came first.
In any case, 100% magic for fans of both artists, and one of 1971′s hidden gems.
George Harrison and Bob Dylan rehearsing “If Not For You” before the Sunday afternoon show of the Concerts for Bangladesh, Sunday, August 1, 1971. It’s messy, but adorable.
Like The Beatles, Bob Dylan had quit touring in 1966. Unlike The Beatles, and apart from a 1969 TV performance with Johnny Cash, and an appearance with The Band at the Isle of Wight, Bob had all but disappeared. While he was generally up for lending a hand to George’s effort, he wasn’t sure what to sing, and was even less sure if he was going to be able to pull himself together to even show up at the appointed hour. When George introduced him that afternoon, he was by no means certain that Bob would actually walk out.
While they were working out which songs to perform together, “If Not For You” was an obvious place to start. A lovely tune that Bob introduced on New Morning almost exactly a year earlier (August 12, 1970), George covered it on his own album All Things Must Pass, which was the #1 album in the US for the first 7 weeks of 1971, and for the months of February and March 1971 in the UK.
Neither Bob nor George released “If Not For You” as a single, but in May 1971, it was the debut single for 22 year old Olivia Newton-John. Based on George’s arrangement rather than Bob’s, it reached #7 in the UK, and in the US, #25 on the Billboard Hot 200, and eight weeks straight at #1 on Billboard’s Easy Listening chart!
(Yes, I bought it. Yes, I still love it. Yes, I will post it later.)
Our boys passed on performing this for the big show(s), but this rehearsal is an enduring reminder that beyond being two of the all-time giants of popular music, and rock gods, they were also both just so incredibly fucking adorable.
Iggy Pop at New York’s Electric Circus, May 14, 1971, by Lisa Gottlieb. (Sources here and here.)
You’ll see references to these pics as from October 1970 (including the second source above), when the Stooges had indeed played Electric Circus, but nope, it was the May 14 show. This was the second of 2 nights, which the New York Times described as “triumphant” after a ragged first night. (Dig the Gerard Malanga pix as further documentation!)
Paul Trynka’s remarkable Iggy bio Iggy Pop: Open Up And Bleed adds some additional stories from legendary photographer, scenester denizen and Warhol/Bowie associate Leee Black Childers (p. 119). “Leee savored the infamous performance at New York’s Electric Circus in May 1971, where Iggy looked particularly psychotic covered in baby oil and glitter. Gerry Miller, onetime topless dancer and star of several Warhol movies, shouted, ‘Let’s see you puke!’ at Iggy, in her squeaky, Mickey Mouse voice. ‘So he did!’ laughs Lee. ‘Right on her!’”
btw, the source of that NYT clipping above is a YouTube post of a recording from that night. The vocals are nearly inaudible, but you can definitely get the gist of the more-melodic direction that The Stooges were taking that the Times described.“More melodic” for The Stooges is a relative term of course. This is still pretty damn hard core…
…so the next time you hear anyone talk about ANYTHING important about punk starting in 1977, you can laugh and laugh as you recall this wild night of stage-diving and puking on the crowd from 1971.
I ain’t even saying anything important about punk started in 1971. Of course not. Punk was well underway by this point, and merely presented here in its full 1971 flowering for your glitter-soaked delectation.