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1971-best-music-year-header.jpg

Was This the Best Music Year of All Time?

By Petr Knava | Miscellaneous | August 27, 2021 |

By Petr Knava | Miscellaneous | August 27, 2021 |


1971-best-music-year-header.jpg

‘What’s the best music year of all time?’ is a question I’ve found myself returning to again and again over the years, discussing it animatedly with mates over many a pint and pondering it with headphones on during rainy weekend afternoons. Obviously we’re talking about album releases here, which straight away rules out the majority of human history, limiting us to the 20th century and beyond (or pretty much just the 20th century really, if we consider how the album’s status as the dominant form of musical expression has waned in the era of streaming—and basically only the second half of the 20th century if we’re really getting stuck into things).

But I digress. Best music year of all time? What do you reckon? In my mind it’s always come down to three years, with two of those being strong contenders but the front runner being such a mind-bogglingly impressive 12 months that it would take a lot for me to not be convinced that it has to take the top spot. Obviously judging something like this will always betray your own biases, so your mileage may vary. But for me, this is how it is. Alright I’m gonna stop beating around the bush now and just get stuck right in. Behold the absolutely insane procession of genius that was 1971:

1971
‘Master of Reality’ - Black Sabbath
‘Untitled’ - Led Zeppelin
‘What’s Going On’ - Marvin Gaye
‘Blue’ - Joni Mitchell
‘Songs Of Love And Hate’ - Leonard Cohen
‘L.A. Woman’ - The Doors
‘Fireball’ - Deep Purple
‘Sticky Fingers’ - The Rolling Stones
‘Meddle’ - Pink Floyd
‘Who’s Next’ - The Who
‘Just As I Am’ - Bill Withers
‘Pearl’ - Janis Joplin
‘Maggot Brain’ - Funkadelic
‘Hunky Dory’ - David Bowie
‘ZZ Top’s First Album’ - ZZ Top
‘Carly Simon’ - Carly Simon
‘Tapestry’ - Carole King
‘Earth, Wind & Fire’ - Earth, Wind & Fire
‘Jack Johnson’ - Miles Davis
‘Aqualung’ - Jethro Tull
‘Rory Gallagher’ - Rory Gallagher
‘At Fillmore East’ - The Allman Brothers Band
‘Gets Next To You’ - Al Green
‘Cahoots’ - The Band
‘Electic Warrior’ - T. Rex
‘Santana III’ - Santana
‘American Pie’ - Don McLean
‘Roots’ - Curtis Mayfield
‘Tupelo Honey’ - Van Morrison
‘The Yes Album’ - Yes
‘Fragile’ - Yes
‘Love It To Death’ - Alice Cooper
‘Killer’ - Alice Cooper

Aaaaand deep breath.

Ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous.

So ridiculous that anything could beat the two runners up that follow, and yet here we are.

So what are the other two years? Here, let’s see:

1976
‘Sad Wings of Destiny’ - Judas Priest
‘Jailbreak’ - Thin Lizzy
‘Johnny the Fox’ - Thin Lizzy
‘Presence’ - Led Zeppelin
‘Desire’ - Bob Dylan
Hard Rain’ - Bob Dylan
‘Warren Zevon’ - Warren Zevon
‘High Voltage’ - AC/DC
‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap’ - AC/DC
‘Rocks’ - Aerosmith
‘Rising’ - Rainbow
‘Boston’ - Boston
‘Songs in the Key of Life’ - Stevie Wonder
‘Station to Station’ - David Bowie
‘Gimme Back My Bullets’ - Lynyrd Skynyrd
‘Dreamboat Annie’ - Heart
‘Destroyer’ - Kiss
‘2112’ - Rush
‘Ramones’ - Ramones
‘Agents of Fortune’ - Blue Öyster Cult
‘Fly Like an Eagle’ - Steve Miller Band
‘Wired’ - Jeff Beck
‘Leftoverture’ - Kansas
‘Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
‘Hotel California’ - The Eagles
‘Blondie’ - Blondie

1980
‘Iron Maiden’ - Iron Maiden
Back in Black’ - AC/DC
‘Heaven and Hell’ - Black Sabbath
‘Ace of Spades - Motörhead
‘British Steel’ - Judas Priest
‘Blizzard of Ozz’ - Ozzy Osbourne
‘Hotter than July’ - Stevie Wonder
‘The River’ - Bruce Springsteen
‘Permanent Waves’ - Rush
‘Dirty Mind’ - Prince
‘Women and Children First’ - Van Halen
‘Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School’ - Warren Zevon
‘Angel Witch’ - Angel Witch
‘On Through the Night - Def Leppard
‘Sugarhill Gang’ - Sugarhill Gang
‘Peter Gabriel’ - Peter Gabriel
‘Lightning to the Nations’ - Diamond Head
‘Killing Joke’ - Killing Joke
‘Wheels of Steel’ - Saxon
‘Strong Arm of the Law’ - Saxon

Just in terms of sheer volume and variety of brilliance, I think 1971 has to clinch it. Aside from ‘76 and ‘80, a few additional ones that always come to mind are ‘67, ‘69, and ‘91. But overall? Man. It’s just gotta be 1971 right?

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Petr is a staff contributor. You can follow him on Twitter.



Header Image Source: Birmingham Post and Mail Archive/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images