The Year 1972

Posted: November 13, 2022 in MUSIC

1972… In movie news, The Godfather film premiered in New York City. The French Connection won five Academy Awards including Best Picture. The X-rated animated movie Fritz the Cat was released.

Five are arrested for breaking into the Watergate office complex. The first of 256 episodes of M*A*S*H aired on CBS.

So many classic original albums released during the calendar year of 1972. They are mostly studio recordings, although we did allow some vital live albums to sneak in. We did, however, draw the line at compilations, greatest hits collections, etc. None of those here. Brand new music that we heard for the first time that year and that is still worth hearing today.

Also 2022 is, of course, the 50th anniversary of 1972.

Recordings made by some of the biggest classic rock artists of the era dominated the list of 1972’s top-selling albums, all-time classics among the year’s Top 20 sellers, including legendary albums by Jethro Tull, the Rolling Stones, Yes and Neil Young.

Alice Cooper—”School’s Out” was the band’s fifth studio album was by far its biggest to date, delivering its biggest-ever single with the anthemic title track. They’d do even better with the next one, “Billion Dollar Babies“, but “School’s Out” established Alice Cooper as a superstar act.

The Allman Brothers Band“Eat a Peach”—How do you follow one of the greatest live albums ever recorded (“At Fillmore East“)? With a double, hybrid set—some live, mostly studio—packed with more classics. The album was released shortly after the untimely death of founding co-lead guitarist Duane Allman and actually outpaced the Fillmore set sales-wise. Several months after its release, the band would suffer another tragic loss when bassist Berry Oakley perished in the same manner Duane had

So you release a first single that vaguely sounds like Neil Young. Its chart-topping success pulls your self-titled debut album to the top sellers as well. Yeah, that would be America with “A Horse With No Name,”

The Band live double set “Rock of Ages” Despite their already extensive history as a performing entity, the Band had been known mainly as a studio group since they’d emerged in 1968 with “Music From Big Pink”. But by 1971 they’d solidified their reputation as a killer live act too, and it was time for an in-concert album, They came up with one of the great ones, captured during four Christmas-week shows at New York’s Academy of Music and released in the summer of ’72.

Big Star “No#1 Record” was the debut album by the Memphis band that included former Box Tops singer Alex Chilton did not make much of an impact in its own time: But in the decades that followed, it grew an audience of devoted followers who credit it for kick-starting a power-pop at a time when seemingly everyone else was making complex prog and jam music. Look in almost any list of all-time great rock albums and it will be there, usually accompanied by a five-star review.

David Bowie “The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars” The influence of this recording on the future of rock music cannot be denied. In the character Ziggy…Bowie created an indelible character and storyline that pushed back rock’s goal line. Its effect on the glam and, later, punk scenes was incalculable. But beyond that, it’s simply a great collection of songs and performances that is still seen today as a landmark achievement in rock.

Jackson Browne “Jackson Browne” A charter member of the burgeoning L.A. singer-songwriter club in the early ’70s, Jackson Browne was already an in-demand composer songwriter when he cut his eponymous debut (also known as “Saturate Before Using“. With songs like “Doctor My Eyes” and “Rock Me on the Water,” there was no denying that this was a talent to watch. Half a century later, he’s still in top form.

Deep Purple “Machine Head” If you were only going to buy one Deep Purple album, it should probably be the one that has the original “Smoke n the Water,” right? Well, this also has some other Deep Purple classics, like “Highway Star” and “Space Truckin,” and it was also the band’s biggest seller. They had enjoyed a top 10 single in America with “Hush” in 1968, but this album that truly put them on the map outside of the U.K. for good.

Dr. John “Dr. John’s Gumbo”—If you ever wanted to answer the question, “What does New Orleans sound like?” you could do worse than to play this album for the questioner. With his definitive interpretations of songs like “Iko Iko,” “Junko Partner” and “Tipitina,” Mac Rebennack established himself as the quintessential Big Easy artist.

Eagles “Eagles” It’s difficult to fathom in retrospect, but the debut album by Eagles did not make even hit the top 20—it landed . Retrospect is a funny thing though, because once the Eagles who were Linda Ronstadt’s former backup band took off, and songs like “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” “Witchy Woman” and “Take It Easy” entered rock’s permanent lexicon, it’s just been assumed that this recording by the new country-rock band out of L.A. was a runaway smash success.

Emerson Lake and Palmer “Trilogy” As the prog genre blossomed and its adherents tried to cook up new ideas to out-prog each other, ELP spent 1971 releasing “Pictures at an Exhibition” from a classical piece by Modest Mussorgsky and touring far and wide. For their follow-up, they came up with “Trilogy”, relatively modest in comparison but still rather ambitious. It became their most popular release to date.

Rory Gallagher “Live in Europe” for Guitar fanatics who still say today that the Irish artist never really got his due in the States. This live set is proof it’s got some killer playing, showing off Gallagher’s blues-rooted virtuosity to its full extent.

Jerry Garcia—”Garcia” The debut solo album by the head Grateful Dead, everything on “Garcia” was played entirely by the guitarist/singer/songwriter, except for the drums, which were filled in by the band’s Bill Kreutzmann. Several of the songs on the album—including Bird Song,” “Deal,” “Sugaree” and “Loser”—remained in the Grateful Dead’s live repertoire till the end of their days. The same year gave fans Bob Weir’s “Ace” (which featured all of the Dead) not to mention the band’s triple-live “Europe ’72”—quite a year for the faithful Dead Head’s.

Genesis “Foxtrot” They were still deep into the Peter Gabriel period and the idea of having hit records was far from their mindsthe album didn’t chart in America and there were no hit singles from it. Still, the band’s fourth album, with its big closing extravaganza “Supper’s Ready,” expanded Genesis‘ audience outside of the U.K., broadening the audience for the prog band . Bigger things would soon come their way.

The Grateful Dead“Europe ’72”—At the same time that their personnel was in turmoil—keyboardist/harpist Ron “Pigpen” McKernan was increasingly seriously ill, drummer Mickey Hart had bolted, they were breaking in new members—the Dead were rapidly becoming a phenomenon in America, their audiences among rock’s most fervent. They decided to give Europe a try that spring and went over well, enough so to get a triple live album out of it, arguably some of the most potent music they ever recorded. Many fans consider it their best album.

Humble Pie “Smokin’—The Steve Marriott-fronted British band just couldn’t catch a break in America for its first few years. Then, in 1971, they released a live set from NYC’s Fillmore East and suddenly people started to get it. The question of whether that newfound recognition would carry over to their studio efforts was answered with “Smokin’ the following year. Although one key member, guitarist Peter Frampton, had departed to try his luck with a solo career, Humble Pie’s bluesy, boogieing proto-pub-rock was a great listen.

Jethro Tull “Thick As a Brick” With 1971’s “Aqualung” having elevated them into a serious commercial enterprise, Ian Anderson and comapany took a further leap into mainstream rock with their fifth LP. “Thick As a Brick” hit number #1 in the States and the U.K and suddenly they were ready for the arena circuit. While some of their early, jazz- and blues-influenced subtlety was lost, the charm  and the uniqueness were mostly still intact. A new Jethro Tull studio album was an annual event. Their fifth, “Thick as a Brick”, Ian Anderson’s satire of a concept album, remains a favourite for many. The LP came in an elaborate (and expensive) gatefold cover resembling a British newspaper. The follow-up to “Aqualung” was also among the year’s best seller’s.

Elton John “Honky Chateau”  was a star in America almost from the moment he first came to the attention of the listening pubic, but he had yet to attain the coveted #1 position with any of his albums. “Honky Chateau” took care of that, and would be followed by six more chart-toppers by the middle of the decade. The most prominent songs on “Honky Chateau” were its almost-title track,

Elton John scored with his first of six consecutive #1 albums with “Honky Chateau”. The album included the singles “Rocket Man” and “Honky Cat” of what ultimately became Top 10 singles.

But it was the general tone and excitement of the collection (the first to feature his road band) that helped give it that extra push.

The Kinks “Everybody’s in Show-Biz”The Kinks had gotten a raw deal when the American Federation of Musicians banned them from touring the U.S. in the last few years of the ’60s. They made some great albums in the interim “Arthur, Village Green Preservation Society“) but had a lot of catching up to do. “Lola” and” Muswell Hillbillies” continued that trend but it wasn’t till the release of the double-LP “Everybody’s in Show-Biz” one studio record, one live—that they truly began finding an audience that would stick with them till the end of the day.

Talk about longevity! Though Led Zeppelin‘s fourth studio album and overall their best seller, its cumulative numbers have outsold any others on the list by far.

Little Feat “Sailin’ Shoes”—Although guitarist/singer Lowell George was pretty well known as a songwriter and from his work with Frank Zappa, Little Feat got off to a slow start—their self-titled debut didn’t even chart. “Sailin’ Shoes” several of its songs—the title track, “Tripe Face Boogie,” “Cold, Cold, Cold” and their own version of George’s “Willin’”—found sympathetic radio programmers and soon Little Feat had a small but very dedicated audience.

All-time classic from that year would be Don McLean‘s “American Pie,” one of the most talked-about songs in pop music history. The 1971 album of the same name was an immediate smash and became the year’s 2nd biggest-seller.

ManassasManassas” If you’re Stephen Stills and you’ve been in two massive bands—Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills and Nash—and you’ve already turned out two top 10 solo albums, you deserve a break. Along with ex-Byrd/Burrito Brother Chris Hillman and a crew of phenomenal players, Stills put together this low-key, country-rock flavoured band and made this fine debut album, which also sold handsomely. There’d be one more, which wouldn’t do quite as well, and then it was time for Stills to move on again.

Joni Mitchell “For the Roses”—Her fifth studio album, and highest-charting to that point, only produced one radio hit, “You Turn Me On, I’m a Radio,” but like everything else she’d done (including the preceding set, “Blue“), the album was loved by the critics and a growing number of singer-songwriter enthusiasts. With a nod toward jazz, “For the Roses” provided a signpost of what was to come from this brilliant artist.

Van Morrison “Saint Dominic’s Preview” It’s hard to believe in retrospect that this recording, his sixth album, actually charted higher in America than either “Moondance” or “Tupelo Honey“, both considered classics of the era. But it did, largely on the strength of such gems as the title track and the rousing “Jackie Wilson Said.” It also helped that the songs were less esoteric than usual, many of them simple romantic anthems, which enabled radio to air them without hesitation and bring in many new fans.

Mott the Hoople “All the Young Dudes” Try as they might, the British band led by the charismatic Ian Hunter just couldn’t catch a break in the U.S. Their first four albums largely stiffed and audiences weren’t warming up to them. To the rescue came David Bowie, who produced their new one (the first for Columbia Records) and penned the title track, as great a ’70s anthem as any. It still didn’t sell in great quantities but it brought Mott into the spotlight.

We could argue that Harry Nilsson‘s Nilsson Schmilsson still holds up as well as any album on this list. The acclaimed songwriter actually scored his only #1 single… with a song he didn’t even write, “Without You,” which was written by Pete Ham and Tom Evans of the band Badfinger. The LP also includes the novelty song, “Coconut,” and the amazing “Jump Into the Fire.” .

Raspberries “Raspberries” At a time when most rock bands were looking for an expansive sound—jamming endlessly, unleashing flashy solos, writing complex, multi-tiered compositions—this unpretentious Cleveland-based quartet, led by singer Eric Carmen, came out of nowhere with a reminder: simple, harmonic, melodic pop-rock will always catch on. The lead track, “Go All the Way,” was unlike anything else on the radio at the time. A classic album of it’s time.

Lou Reed “Transformer” Having left the Velvet Underground behind—more influential than commercially successful—that band’s primary singer and songwriter struck out on his own. His self-titled debut, released earlier in the year, didn’t find much of an audience, but by the summer, Reed found his groove on his sophomore release, with songs like “Satellite of Love,” “Perfect Day” and, especially, “Walk on the Wild Side,” a song that summed up the prevailing state of things as succinctly as anything David Bowie (who co-produced it) was cooking up.

The Rolling Stones “Exile on Main Street”, The double LP gave us 18 new favourites including “Tumbling Dice,” “Sweet Virginia,” “Happy,” “All Down the Line” and on and on, and was the year’s 10th biggest seller.

The Rolling Stones “Exile on Main St.”—Millions of words have probably been written on the Stones’ 1972 double LP and the tour that they undertook to promote it. Many consider it the Stones’ pinnacle, as well as the best album of the year. It’s raw and gritty, more than a little decadent, and man, does it rock. Songs include “Tumbling Dice,” “Rocks Off,” “All Down the Line,” Keith Richards’ “Happy,” “Rip This Joint,” the acoustic “Sweet Virginia,” “Shine a Light”—hell, the whole thing is brilliant.

Roxy Music “Roxy Music” They were successful immediately in the U.K. but in America no one seemed to know quite what to make of them in the USA. Their sound and look were unlike anything else around, and while the musicians and singer Bryan Ferry were obviously very talented and unique, they might have been ahead of their time by just a bit too much. Once they caught on —much later in the decade—folks were able to revisit this debut and understand that Roxy Music was truly on to something from the start.

Todd Rundgren “Something/Anything?” His third album revealed him to be an amazing multi-tasker: Rundgren not only self-produced this double set but played all of the instruments and sang all the vocals throughout most of it. The opening track, “I Saw the Light,” would be his first real hit single and would come to be considered a pop classic of the early ’70s, while “Hello, It’s Me” (which he’d recorded originally with his earlier band the Nazz) would leap into the top 5. Pretty soon, everyone was calling him up for help.

The much-sought-after musician Leon Russell had by far the biggest solo hit of his career in 1972 with “Tight Rope”, from that year’s “Carney” album.

Santana “Caravanserai” Columbia Records chief Clive Davis reportedly heard the new Santana album, the band’s fourth, and called it “career suicide.” It was so different than anything they’d done before, bordering on Miles Davis-inspired jazz fusion, and the boss didn’t hear a single. The band released it anyway, it did go top 10 (although Davis was correct that there was no standout single). Today, many fans consider the album one of Santana’s most brilliant recordings.

Paul Simon “Paul Simon” The news that Simon and Garfunkel had split in 1970 didn’t quite rival that of the Beatles’ same-year breakup, but it was still a big deal. Paul Simon began a hugely successful solo career following his split with long time partner Art Garfunkel, with his 1972 self-titled album.Simon took a year off (actually teaching songwriting) before putting a new solo album out there to see if there was still interest (it was his second; his first had preceded the S&G days). Well, of course, with songs like “Mother and Child Reunion” and “Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard” he had nothing to worry about. He ended up doing OK for himself even without that other guy. 

Steely Dan “Can’t Buy a Thrill” What was their deal? The band was basically led by a couple of guys, keyboardist/lead vocalist Donald Fagen and bassist (for the time being) Walter Becker, who wrote rather heady, oblique tunes that were produced to perfection. Rock music for intellectuals. Steely Dan caught on among the FM radio crowd but also had no trouble scoring hits—“Do It Again” and “Reelin’ in the Years,” from this album, remain radio standards today. They were off to a good start with Can’t Buy a Thrill, and they’d have a lot more to say throughout the rest of the decade.

Rod Stewart “Never a Dull Moment”Rod Stewart didn’t have time for a dull moment at this stage of his career! Having apprenticed with the Jeff Beck Group in the late ’60s, the singer (along with that band’s guitarist, Ronnie Wood) then co-formed The Faces with members of the Small Faces and proceeded to find quick success. Stewart’s solo career ran parallel to the band’s, and he hit pay dirt with 1971’s “Every Picture Tells a Story”, then followed it with this gem. With standout tracks like “You Wear It Well” and his cover of Sam Cooke’s “Twistin’ the Night Away,” the album ensuring that Stewart was now a bona fide rock star.

Another classic rock legend now who was dominating the 1970s charts was Rod Stewart, who followed up 1971’s “Every Picture Tells a Story” along with “Never a Dull Moment”. The album, featuring Faces pals Ronnie Wood, Ronnie Lane, Ian McLagan and Kenney Jones .

T. Rex “The Slider”—The Marc Bolan-fronted glam band it wasn’t until the previous year’s “Electric Warrior” (actually their sixth album in all but only the second since shortening their name from Tyrannosaurus Rex)—aided by the tracks “Get It On” and “Jeepster”—that they found a significant footing here. “The Slider” also offered a couple of pop classics—“Metal Guru” and “Telegram Sam”—and became their biggest success in the States.

Pete Townshend “Who Came First”—It was inevitable that the Who’s de facto leader would eventually step out to try his hand at a solo LP, and he used the occasion to offer a tribute to his guru, Meher Baba. Townshend had already made a couple of collaborative recordings to honour his spiritual master, but “Who Came First” is considered his true debut on his own. Although it was warmly received by most critics, it was not a huge hit, despite some excellent tracks, among them the “Lifehouse” project demos of “Pure and Easy” and “Let’s See Action,” both of which received significant airplay.

Stevie Wonder “Talking Book”—Just how important was this album? It’s undeniably one of Wonder’s crowning achievements, but beyond that, it’s considered a game-changer in the development of Black music by many. In late 2022 the New York Times devoted several pages to a reassessment of the recording, with commentary by everyone from Motown giants Berry Gordy Jr. and Smokey Robinson to jazz and pop stars like Robert Glasper, David Sanborn and Macy Gray. Released during a year when Wonder served as the opening act for the Rolling Stones’ tour, it broadened his appeal greatly, aided by the success of the singles “Superstition” and “You Are the Sunshine of My Life.” 

Yes released their “Fragile” album in the U.K. in November 1971, just three months after recording began. The LP delivered the prog rock great’s first real taste of Top 40 success with “Roundabout,” “Fragile” also features a great album track, “Heart of the Sunrise,” from the lineup that many consider the group’s finest: Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Chris Squire, Rick Wakeman and Bill Bruford.

Yes “Close to the Edge”—The fifth album by the prog giants (and last to feature drummer Bill Bruford), the album was nothing if not ambitious. With the entire first side devoted to the 19-minute title suite, and the second half split between two other lengthy excursions, “And You and I” and “Siberian Khatru,” the album was all about the band flexing and obliterating boundaries. Audiences responded on both sides of the Atlantic by pushing the album into the top 5, ensuring that this classic lineup of Yes would go down as prog immortals.

Neil Young “Harvest”—Neil Young made it clear from the time he departed Buffalo Springfield in the ’60s that he would be an iconoclast, and damn the skeptics. That meant he would briefly join up with CSN, spend time with the hard-rocking Crazy Horse, and, as the whim hit him, toss out both acoustic-based and rocking solo albums. For “Harvest”, he hooked up with a country-informed band he called the Stray Gators, and cut some of the most durable songs of his career, among them his first and only #1 single, “Heart of Gold.” For many fans, “Harvest” is the most enjoyable album Young ever made, and it’s hard to argue that.

 Neil Young whose “Harvest” album became the top seller of his solo career,

Released just four months after the August 1971 concerts, “The Concert for Bangladesh” live triple album featuring performances by George Harrison & Friends (including Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Leon Russell, Billy Preston, Ravi Shankar, and many more.

20. Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway (Atlantic)

19. Joplin in Concert – Janis Joplin (Columbia)

18. Baby I’m a Want You – Bread (Elektra)

17. Thick as a Brick – Jethro Tull (Reprise)

16. Honky Chateau – Elton John (Uni)

15. Never a Dull Moment – Rod Stewart (Mercury)

14. The Concert For Bangladesh – George Harrison & Friends (Apple)

13. Led Zeppelin IV (Atlantic)

12. Carney – Leon Russell (Shelter)

11. Chicago V (Columbia)

10. Exile on Main Street – Rolling Stones (Rolling Stones)

9. Nilsson Schmilsson – Harry Nilsson (RCA)

8. Paul Simon (Columbia)

7. Big Bambu – Cheech & Chong (A&M)

6. First Take – Roberta Flack (Atlantic)

5. America (Warner Bros.)

4. Carole King Music (Ode)

3. Fragile – Yes (Atlantic)

2. American Pie – Don McLean (United Artists)

1. Harvest – Neil Young (Reprise)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.