A look back at . . . 1971

In many ways 1971 was a seminal year for rock and pop music, according to music journalist David Hepworth.

Hepworth contended in his 2016 book “Never a Dull Moment; 1971 The Year Rock Exploded”, it was a great year musically because record labels pressed new artists to produce back to back hits, capitalizing on their immediate popularity and creating an “explosion” of rock in a short period that wound up having a lasting impression.

“They had no reason to believe that these people were going to continue to be popular longer than a few years,” Hepworth told NPR in this 2016 interview on the books release “The most extreme case is David Bowie: He releases “The Man Who Sold the World, records and releasesHunky Dory”, and then records all but one track ofZiggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” in the year 1971. They were just racing to take advantage of the opportunity they suddenly got, and they didn’t waste an enormous amount of time, like they have done since, in polishing the thing afterwards. They worked on the principle of, “Your first thought is your best thought.” And they were their best thoughts.”

A quick look at the top hits of the year support’s Hepworth’s stance. Artists such as Janis Joplin and George Harrison were getting pop hit air play alongside teen idol Donny Osmond and acts that would continue to dominate record sales for decades.

Harrison, as a solo artist, had the number one hit “My Sweet Lord” as the year started, according to Billboard magazine which calculates its top 100 and 200 in any given year based on single and album sales. But Tony Orlando and Dawn’s “Knock Three Times” would overtake the spot in a few short weeks. The Osmonds, a family act that also spawned solo careers for Donny and their sister Marie, spent five weeks at the top of the charts with “One Bad Apple.”

They were ousted by the soulful Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee,” now considered a classic. Three Dog Night’s playful “Joy to the World,” spawning perhaps the most musically lauded amphibian in history “Jeremiah was a bullfrog . . .” dominated the charts for six weeks – longer than any other song that year including Carole King’s “I Feel the Earth Move” from her groundbreaking “Tapestry” album.

Runners up included Rod Stewart’s break out hit “Maggie May,” which largely launched his career and spent five weeks in the number one position and Cher’s “Gypsy, Tramps and Thieves, which signaled the start of her solo career without her Svengali-like husband, Sonny Bono.

The Rolling Stone’s “Brown Sugar” also made it to the top spot for two weeks while James Taylor’s “You’ve Got a Friend” spent one week in the number one position.

Indeed 1971 was a very good year for rock and roll. Check out for yourself which songs made the top 100 in sales according to Billboard magazine.