Book review: Never A Dull Moment

Jimmy Page explained, “The audiences were becoming bigger and bigger but moving further and further away.”

I received the David Hepworth book Never a Dull Moment – 1971: The Year That Rock Exploded two days before Christmas. I finished the 286-page book before New Years Day.

The premise is that the pop period ended with the Beatles signing essentially their divorce papers from each other on 31 December 1970. Hepworth, who turned 21 in 1971, says that year saw “an unrepeatable surge of musical creativity, technological innovation, naked ambition, and outrageous good fortune that combined to produce music that still crackles today.” The era of rock was born.

Sometimes, he would make references to other cultural events of the time that seemed random, but eventually, it would somehow connect. Hepworth used a few Britishisms that I did not initially pick up on, but I figured out most of them in context.

The book is arranged by month. The albums referred to in that period might have been recorded then, or released then, or the artist was on tour. And not all would become internationally famous. In March, Led Zeppelin was doing tours in small clubs, because as Jimmy Page explained, “The audiences were becoming bigger and bigger but moving further and further away.” Meanwhile, Nick Drake was well-regarded but lacked the stage charisma to become the success his talent might have suggested.

The May chapter details the Rolling Stones’ move to France. “Sex and drugs and rock n’ roll” were never more true. The year Mick Jagger got married did not seem to alter his omnivorous appetites. Meanwhile, Carly Simon was linked romantically to Cat Stevens and others. Later chapters touch on unlikely pairings, such as Leonard Cohen sleeping with Janis Joplin, though he later regretted writing a song about it.

Many things we now take for granted were born in this era. The benefit concert was born with George Harrison’s efforts on behalf of the people in Bangladesh. Since it had never been done before, certainly on that massive scale, mistakes were made, and George became a resource for those planning similar ventures.

Greatest hits albums became much more lucrative, from the Stones and the Who, for instance, presaging the unlikely resurgence of the Beach Boys’ catalog a couple of years later.

I’d write more, but I’ve decided instead to write about some of the albums of the period, and my reaction to them, once a month – I’m already behind!

If you enjoy the albums of the period, and it’s likely that you probably do, even if you were born years after ’71, you’ll enjoy Never A Dull Moment, which has been positively reviewed everywhere I checked, after reading it, of course. I lived through the period and I learned quite a bit.

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