George Harrison, “Here Comes the Sun”, August 1, 1971
From the Concert for Bangladesh of course. You can see at the beginning how nervous George was! Not only his first solo performance, his first concert appearance at all since 1966, featuring his first performances of his own compositions ever – but here, also for the first time on stage, vulnerable and stripped down to an acoustic guitar. George’s little smile as the audience reaches out to him is priceless.
His duet partner, Badfinger’s Pete Ham,later revealed that they hadn’t even rehearsed! “George just wanted to keep it simple,” he said. After George told him the chord changes, Pete ducked into his hotel room to listen to the version on Abbey Road a couple of times, and that’s all there was time for!
The result: magic. And beauty and joy and, yes, sun, sun, sun! Here it comes!
(Mi pequeña, está toda bien!)
(Note that by the time you come across this post, the video may have been taken down. It happens. Here’s the YouTube search for you to find another version. Worth the extra clicks!)
Just Janis Joplin and a guitar: Me and Bobby McGee demo, July 28, 1970.
What a gem this is! Janis playfully lamenting that her Texas accent is back, to the delight of producer Paul Rothschild and the fellas in the booth, followed by an achingly intimate first take on “Me and Bobby McGee” that reveals the searing pain that you believe would make her willing to trade all of her tomorrows for a single yesterday.
She never sounded more vulnerable, more melodic, and not-so-ironically when you think about it, more powerful. Set yourself at the feet of a master storyteller and prepare to be amazed by a song you only thought you knew.
The familiar (perhaps now even too-familiar) Full Tilt Boogie Band version of the single was released on January 11, 1971, and would spend 9 weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. It’s surely been played somewhere on earth every hour of the day since then.
The album Pearl was released the same day and also spent 9 weeks at #1 (the last week of February, and all of March and April), winding up as the 4th best-selling album of 1971.
Janis hadn’t quite completed work on Pearl before she passed, but this was hardly the work of bone-picking scavengers capitalizing on her tragedy. On the contrary, this was the celebration of an artist entering a peak whose height we’ll never know. As you’ll hear here, even Janis had no idea what she was about to unleash.
Unleash she did, nevertheless.
(Tip o’ the hat to the fantastic Barry Feinstein photos in this clip, and the strongest possible recommendation to check out the rest of the gems on the Pearl Legacy Edition, available at your favorite retailer and streaming at Spotify.)
I LOVE JAMES TAYLOR!!!Here’s my tag for him. I mostly blog harder rock, so there’s not many posts, but you’ve reminded me that I need to do more. (Although that said, you’re right to assume that there’s not necessarily a relationship between what I enjoy most and what I blog most. Sometimes yes, sometimes no.)
There’s so so much great music in 1971 beyond classic rock, and James is a perfect example. He had a huge impact on me in the early 70s, and I’ve been a fan for coming up on 50 years by now.
It happens that there are some fantastic clips of James specifically in 1971 floating around. Here my three favorites:
1) You Can Close Your Eyes, from an episode of the BBC show In Concert. This is my favorite track on his 1971 album, Mud Slide Slim & The Blue Horizon. One of my favorite tracks of 1971, or ever, by anyone, tbh. This one comes and goes (I’ve redone this embed a couple of times already), and if it’s not here when you see this post, I promise it’s worth the effort to track it down.
2) Love Has Brought Me Around, also from 1971’s Mud Slide Slim, a lesser-known gem in James’ catalog, well overshadowed by his biggest 1971 track from Mud Slide Slim, “You’ve Got A Friend.” That song was written by Carole King, who’d have her own hit with it later in 1971. I mention this because Carole is playing piano here (she and James frequently played together live and in the studio in 1971 – she’s even described Tapestry and Mud Slide Slim as two parts of the same album recorded at the same time, with the same band), and she has a very nice solo here.
While this particular embed has distorted audio, it’s worth the noise, and worth tracking down the whole album. I play this song a lot.
3) Sweet Baby James was a 1970 album of course, but was an even bigger hit in 1971: the #7 bestselling album of the year! One of the albums I’ve played most often in my life, too.
The link here is to his performance on the Johnny Cash Show in February 1971 (a special episode called “Cash On Campus” that I’ve written about before). It was James’s American TV debut, and he slayed. Even though it’s just James and a guitar, the audience explodes at the end of this. It’s really something special.
Note that Johnny had introduced it as the only lullaby he knew with the word “turnpike” in it, so when James gets to that line in the second verse, he turns and beams at John. Priceless!
So…flipping through my blog, you’d think that the biggest and most important artists of 1971 are people like Led Zeppelin. The Who, David Bowie, Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones — and you’d be right, but James Taylor sold more than any of them in 1971.
And hey, even if he wasn’t selling more records than they did, he was, and remains, one of the artists who’s made the biggest impact on my life. These are a couple of highlights, but I think you’ll be greatly rewarded as you dig even deeper into his discography.
The first time that most people had ever seen or heard Richie
Havens wasn’t at Woodstock. It was when they saw Woodstock the movie. That’s the thing about Woodstock.
Only a relative handful of people knew much about what happened there – and there
was nothing resembling a consensus on even the basics – until long after the
So not in 1969. Not even necessarily 1970. For a lot of people, it wasn’t
even until well into 1971, when Woodstock was awarded the Best Documentary
Oscar in April and the film was subsequently re-released into theaters with a much, much
higher profile than before.
As a result, quite a few of the performers featured in the
film had their chart peaks and released their best-selling albums not in 1969,
not in 1970, but in 1971. These included performers as varied as Joan Baez, The
Who, and Melanie, among others – like Richie Havens.
Richie been kicking around Greenwich Village since the 50s, when Beatnik poets were still the biggest draws in the local clubs. He wasn’t the first act scheduled to appear at Woodstock. He was simply the only one there at allby the time the crowds were
starting to get restless, and promoters were already afraid that the whole thing
was about to get away from them.
The legend is that he played the better part of three hours
as staff kept pushing him back on stage to keep the crowd occupied, and
that having sung every song he knew (including “Handsome Johnny”, already on
its way to becoming a standard), he was left to make something up on the spot,
riffing on “Freedom” over the base of “Motherless Child”.
While the reality is somewhat less dramatic than the legend,
what we saw in the film was jaw-dropping. It translated into chart success in 1971,
with by far his highest charting album, Alarm Clock (peaking at #29; his next album
peaked at just #55, with no others after that breaking into the Top 100), and the
one and only charting single of his long and distinguished career in the spring
of 1971, a glorious cover of“Here Comes The Sun”.
Richie’s version is so different from The Beatles that there’s
really no point in arguing which is better. They barely seem like even the same song, but I’m glad we live in a world where we have both. I think it’s also safe to say that even if we’d never had The
Beatles version, Richie’s version would have been a hit on its own. He packed an incredible amount of music into
his 72 years, and this one is one of the true gems.
This live version has an even shaggier charm than the
version on Alarm Clock, and if Woodstock the movie taught us anything, it’s that
the best part of any Richie Havens performance isn’t his soothingly ragged
voice, or the relentless innovation and drive of his open-chord strumming, but
the pleasure of watching him play and sing.
“Here Comes The Sun” spent 14 weeks on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart,
peaking at #16 on May 21, 1971, just about a month after Woodstock won its
Oscar. Even more than that one, this is the version you need to hear…and see.
Together, they co-wrote all nine songs on Stevie’s 1971 album Where I’m Coming From, including the Billboard #8 hit “If You Really Love Me”, which also features Syreeta’s strong harmony vocals. Photo by Terry O’Neill.
The album they wrote together, Where I’m Coming From, was released in April 1971, and here’s the mono single mix of their song, “If You Really Love Me” released in August 1971.
Tom Petty sings “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and Prince burns it down to the ground, 2004.
This video from 2004′s Rock Hall induction festivities made the rounds when Prince passed away, because Prince’s final solo (and tossing his guitar in the air when it ends) is rightly remembered as legendary.
Before then, though, the song is borne aloft by Tom Petty’s heartfelt lead vocal and acoustic 12-string (supported by George’s son Dhani). Tom and George’s brother Wilbury Jeff Lynne takes the vocal on the bridge, Jeff’s guitarist Marc Mann takes the first solo, Steve Winwood (there to be inducted with Traffic) on organ, and yeah, that insane solo from Prince at the end – but this is also a great time to remember Tom’s gifts as a bandleader who knows when to step back and let his mates take the spotlight.
“You see me nodding at [Prince], to say, ‘Go on, go on,’” Petty says. “I remember I leaned out at him at one point and gave him a ‘This is going great!’ kind of look.
“He just burned it up. You could feel the electricity of ‘something really big’s going down here.’”
But what about that disappearing guitar? Once it leaves Prince’s hands, it never reappears, and the video shows no one catching it. Even Petty’s drummer, Steve Ferrone, remains confused about it—and he was onstage.
“I didn’t even see who caught it,” he says. “I just saw it go up, and I was astonished that it didn’t come back down again.
“Everybody wonders where that guitar went, and I gotta tell you, I was on the stage, and I wonder where it went, too.”
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!
Prince on piano, riffing on Gershwin’s “Summertime” during a soundcheck in Osaka, 1990. Originally uploaded by Steve Purcell.Read the story here (which I wrote for my day job, and quite epic if I say so myself), but for now, watch, listen, and be amazed.
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.