I gotta admit that 1972 was the year I was excited to get to because we are now entering my wheelhouse. These albums truly represent the foundation of my musical life. Most of them are ingrained in my memory because of high school kids who rode my school bus or those at the swimming pool during the summer or older kids in the neighborhood blaring either 8-track tapes or the radio set on the legendary Indianapolis radio station WNAP 93.1 FM Indianapolis “The Buzzard,” perhaps the last of the “cool” radio stations.
This was also the year in which my straight-laced, no-nonsense history teacher of an uncle (perhaps the greatest uncle of all-time!) would poll his high school students to determine which 8-track tapes to buy me for my birthday or Christmas. So, I must include a huge thank you to those students at Southport High School on the southside of Indianapolis for convincing my uncle and aunt to purchase these tapes for me: School’s Out by Alice Cooper, Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and Goat’s Head Soup by The Rolling Stones that Christmas. You guys truly jump-started this whole music obsession of mine.
Let’s get the ball rolling!
Al Green – Call Me (1972). In 1972, I did not understand the power of a sexy slow song. Simply, I only knew what I liked and didn’t like. But, Al Green is the master of those groovin’ slow songs that still make women melt today. Or, at least, I’d like to think they still work today. Maybe, kids, his music will work if you turn up the bass?
Alice Cooper – School’s Out (1972). Nothing spoke to the tween version of me like Alice Cooper! He was our Marilyn Manson or our Ghost. Except, he was the original, if you ignore Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. Still, no one has written such an enduring anthem as the title school which STILL rings true to school kids today.
Aretha Franklin – Amazing Grace (1972). As a kid, church is just not cool (and sometimes, as an adult too). Then, you hear the Queen of Soul vocally ripping apart these hymns in a manner you wouldn’t have envisioned possible. Now, this IS church!
Big Star – #1 Record (1972). Like so many others my age, we did not discover this band until the Eighties, when tastemakers like R.E.M. began touting Big Star as a fantastic lost band. Then, my generation jumped all over the band’s three albums, and a new legend was established. Trying to re-establish the original British Invasion sound in the early-Seventies was definitely not considered “cool.” Then, the album was lost to time by incompetence of the label. Now, they are every bit as an influence to the whole alternative rock scene of the Eighties and Nineties as The Velvet Underground. Put them in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame this year!
Black Sabbath – Vol. 4 (1972). Here’s the last truly awesome Sabbath album of the first Ozzy-era before they took that Spinal Tap-like turn. The album is known for the song “Snowblind” and being recorded at the beginning of the band’s notoriously large consumption of drugs, which led to their downturn. Still, this album is peak-Sabbath. I gotta give a shout out to my friend Walt Ring who turned me on to this album in eighth grade.
Chicago – Chicago V (1972). After combing through Chicago’s legendary Seventies run of hit albums and songs, I began to notice a slight downward turn in the consistencies of the albums after this one. My belief is that Terry Kath’s drug and alcohol demons were beginning to cut into his creativity, as he is beginning to relinquish his leadership role to others, as evidenced by only one of his songs making the album. Yet, the album had two major hits in “Saturday in the Park” and the underappreciated “Dialogue.”
Curtis Mayfield – Super Fly (1972). So, Shaft was first in the blaxploitation film soundtrack race, but Mayfield had the ultimate statement with Super Fly. Mayfield was an inspired choice to chronicle the inner city tale of this film. Curtis was able to show the compassion and moral compass to make this music ring true. I cannot heap enough superlatives upon this album and how timeless it truly is. Much of the music is a perfect soundtrack to the Black Live Matter movement today.
Daryl Hall & John Oates – Abandoned Luncheonette (1972). This album was a slow-burner, as it took four long years to caught on. But, once it was discovered by my generation, we were quick to sing the praises of this legendary duo’s mix of rock, folk and soul. “She’s Gone” is not the only masterpiece on this album.
David Bowie – The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972). This album is a landmark album. Not many albums truly capture the zeitgeist of a moment, but this is one of them. And, it’s stature only continues to grow as time passes. This album is so much more than a glam rock record, as we continue to feel its ripple effects nearly a half-century later.
Deep Purple – Machine Head (1972). Ignore everything else about this album for a moment and focus solely on the opening guitar riff for “Smoke on the Water.” That’s all I have to say. Next!
Elton John – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1972). In Eighties parlance, Elton John was the shit at the time of this album. Ultimately, this album represents the Rocket Man’s greatest creative statement. It is my Sgt. Pepper.
Elton John – Honky Château (1972). I like to think of this album as Elton’s Hall & Oates album, only he released it first. This one has “Honky Cat,” “Rocket Man” and my personal fave “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters.” You just knew his next album was going to be huge. And, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was just that.
That concludes the first of three installments on 1972.