We got the message

If you ask me (and I know, you didn't), the greatest year in the history of rock was 1972. The Beatles were over as a group, but the Fab Four were still going strong as solo acts. And the singer-songwriter model they created had had a few years to germinate, leading to an absolute bumper crop of excellent artists pumping out great music. Not to mention the soul labels still running full tilt.

Now, you could argue that 1971 or 1973 was better. There was a wealth of great sound during those years, too. But for me, '72 was the sweet spot. Maybe it's because I was a sophomore and junior in college that year. You know how that goes. Kids nowadays, what do they have, Justin Bieber and Kanye West? Sad.

Anyway, for all the great records of '72, it's the 50th anniversary now. And last week the New York Times ran a nifty retrospective on Stevie Wonder's classic album Talking Book. In fact, it was the second album he cranked out that year, the first being the enigmatic Music of My Mind. Both showed that he was blossoming as a songwriter and a grand master of many instruments, including the still-pretty-new synthesizers that would dominate the radio a decade later.

I still have my vinyl copy of Talking Book. It is well-worn from the decades before streaming sucked up everything. And what I like best about the LP, as I did 50 years ago, is that Stevie got Motown to put his name and the album title on the cover in Braille as well as in ink.

And there was a Braille message inside the gatefold, too.

I am told that it says, "Here is my music. It is all I have to tell you how I feel. Know that your love keeps my love strong."

The days when buying an album meant getting all of that stuff are over. Too bad. Anyway, happy anniversary to a remarkable work.


  1. Paul McCartney then had a message in Braille to Stevie imprinted on Red Rose Speedway

  2. Dude, no accounting for taste, everyone looks back to their own ages 18-25 if they were in good physical & metal health & and material conditions take precedence over culture?

    I dunno, I can’t really stand whiny British music & I can get thru the middle of Abbey road if I really try?
    I like paperback writer ok & for no one, but don’t like anything happy & like that the white album was mixed around weird in the studio?

    I mean, I’m guilty of kinda not staying relevant with new musical trends after turning 25-30ish and un-ironically liking some fairly terrible 80s music? Whatever, but I’m not saying it’s the ‘peak year in rock history’ I dunno?

    That’s just a weird way to conceive of it & there’s just so much music I and so many others haven’t listened to of all years, even people with crazy insightful music critique, skill & massive participatory experience?

  3. I would say that the first few years of the 1970’s were some of the most productive in the history of pop music. Even if The Beatles were out of the picture, there was a real professionalism that was being applied in the studios.

    Not going to name all of the acts because it would fill a page or more. But I do have to say that is when (1972) when The Moody Blues put out Seventh Sojourn. C’mon now....with stuff like “Isn’t Life Strange” and New Horizons, that whole album has more ‘art’ enclosed in there than any pop music put out in the last decade.

    1. Lulz rock & ‘productive’ in the same sentence.

      I’m gonna agree with Tom Lehrer on this one ‘Rock ‘n Roll & other such children’s music…’

      More just decadent late peak post war years & indulgence?

      Doesn’t mean I don’t listen to it, but idk that, considering the all of fee time people had, # of British bands on the dole/welfare in the midlands who could go to America to perform, advances in recording & broadcasting tech with military industrial subsidy that the output is really all that impressive or involves all that much raw talent or accomplished much if anything ‘productive’ other than a wide spread shared experience that had/has maybe some resonance?

      Tho if I’m honest, idk that it’ll last once the boomers die, nor should it or what it was, but I’m sure the same will be said or me & my contemporaries haha.

    2. Thanks Debbie Downer. You either feel it or you don’t. Go to a dead and Company or other great band that made their bones in that era, and you’ll see lots of kids there feeling it the same way we boomers did back when it was fresh. Hail hail rock ‘n’ roll!

  4. I like Stevie Wonder a lot.
    He’s right up there with Ray Charles.

  5. I guess I kinda have the opposite reaction, but ‘I wasn’t there man’ with the context backstory but I find 70-72 w/big arena bands / big acts broadly decadent and gross like a Roman orgy & colosseum sorta deal?

    But in the fragments that come thru now, I actually like experimental slightly pre big arena bands or shorts to be played on the radio, so I like stuff like the Pink Floyd live at Pompeii now on video that was bordering from expiramental to earlier breakthrough that comes together, I like The Wall as a concept album backwards and forwards if not the actual content or songs musically totally and like The Final Cut in its darkness & don’t care for the band, Roger Waters snd how much of s pain in the ass he seems to be nor dark side or the moon everyone else likes?

    Go figure? But I was born later…
    But that’s just what the fragments and fans look like to me now?

    1. So do acts like Carole King, James Taylor, Harry Chapin, and Todd Rundgren all fit into your view of 1970’s arena “circus” acts? These were just a few of the singer-songwriter acts that found massive success in the early 1970’s.

      I think that you are viewing that era as nothing but bands like Yes and ELP that were indeed in their element inside of big coliseums, playing to zonked-out teenagers. But unlike the current state of music, there was a little bit of everything, for just about anyone. Regardless of taste. Heck, even Todd Rundgren’s “Something/Anything?” had any number of styles on it. And that is an understatement!

  6. Just to be clear, for all you boomers, I don’t hate you guys or even cultural tastes at your coming of age…
    …just a product of your time/space/circumstance just like anyone else..

    I can criticize behavior or struggling to come to terms with irrelevance, death & looking backward to better times instead of forward soberly or being selfish and indulgent, but had I been alive then I doubt I’d have been any better, and maybe snd very probably worse haha?


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