Time Tunnel

Time Tunnel: Rick Pilkington’s 1971 Mixtape

During 2021, we’re doffing our caps to the glory of 1971…50 years on. We rounded up some of the great records that saw the light of day that year here.

We welcome Rick Pilkington of The Blackheart Orchestra back to the website to help us celebrate 1971 a little bit more! He couldn’t pick just one album to write about, so he went for a mixtape full of love.

The Blackheart Orchestra have another Big Armchair concert which takes place on Friday March 12th at 8pm on Facebook live. The band also have an instrumental album slated for a summer release. Keep your eyes peeled for Mute, in early summer, 2021.

blackheart orchestra manchester albert hall 15.11.19 by mike ainscoe 7
The Blackheart Orchestra’s Rick Pilkington onstage with bandmate Chrissy Mostyn; Manchester Albert Hall, 2019.

Picture: Mike Ainscoe

1971 was a huge year for me. It was the year of my O levels, my first band, and my infatuation with a girl who worked on Bolton fruit and veg market. It was a year of algebra, amplifiers and apples.

It was also the year when I fell into a never ending love affair with music.

When we were invited to write about an album from 1971, one of the most wonderful years in the history of music, my first reaction was terrific, can’t wait to get started, but now, after a day of pacing around the house listening to youtubes of all my favourite albums of that glorious year, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s impossible. There’s simply too much good stuff. And to choose Fragile and not The Yes Album, or to choose Tarkus and not Pictures would be unthinkable. So, in keeping with the 70’s tradition of ‘Sampler Albums’ I’ve decided to sidestep the problem by creating my own sampler of the tracks of that year that mean the most to me. Let’s call it ‘Now That’s What I Call 1971’ or something awful like that.

1971 seemed to me to be a pivotal year somehow. The year in which music finally waved goodbye to the beloved 60’s and started to look forwards to the future. It also seemed to be the year that some of the bands who had started their careers in the late 60’s really came on song with second or third albums that would change everything and live forever.

So here goes. 12 tracks from 50 years ago that I still get huge pleasure from 50 years later including a couple of tracks from people who were heroes then who have now become beautiful friends.

Track 1

Led Zeppelin – IV : The Battle of Evermore

The best rock band of the 70’s or the best folk band? Both. The best ________ band of the 70’s? Just put whatever adjective you prefer in the gap and you’ll be right. Apparently the song was made up on the spot by The Two. “I just picked up John Paul Jones’ mandolin never having played a mandolin before and wrote the whole thing in one sitting.”
Yeah, thanks for that Jimmy.

Track 2 

Joni Mitchell – Blue : A Case of You

Beautiful Joni. Fragile Joni. Knowing Joni. Seeing Joni.

Joni please don’t ever go away.

Track 3

Jethro Tull – Aqualung : Wond’ring Aloud

The best love song ever written. I don’t even have to hear it to burst into tears. Just the thought of that first line has me dashing to peel an onion in a vain attempt to conceal my emotion. A perfect song from a perfect genius. Unfortunately the internet is currently full of cruel criticism about Ian’s voice. Please shut up and be grateful that
you can go and buy a ticket and still watch him deliver all those wonderful songs. And while you’re at it, ask your wife tonight, if you’re still as good as you were fifty years ago.

Track 4

Yes – Fragile : Mood For a Day

Is it prog? Is it rock? Is it classical? Is it flamenco? It’s freedom to do whatever you like and are proud of. At the Progressive Music Awards we were lucky to get out of our cab just as Steve H was getting out of his limo and we walked in trying to look like we knew him. Guilty revelation No.2…When I was 16 I just about copied the album
cover for my A level art. Got a B. Sorry Roger. Sorry Steve.

Track 5

Cat Stevens – Teaser and the Firecat : How Can I Tell You

The best love song ever written. Oh no, did I say that before? But love has so many different colours. Such incredible words that we can all somehow just slip on and wear like a coat and they’ll be exactly what we wanted to say but couldn’t. A beautiful song by a beautiful soul. A couple of years ago I was offered his old black Gibson for five grand. I should have sold the house. Biggest guitar regret of my life.

Track 6

ELP – Tarkus : Tarkus

In a world dominated by guitarists along came an ‘organist’ who thought even bigger. This is such a masterpiece and in my opinion is still unequalled fifty years on. Decades from now he will be remembered alongside the greatest composers of all time.

Track 7

Yes – The Yes Album : Yours Is No Disgrace

Two albums of this majesty in one year? I’m exhausted just thinking about it. Was this a band just reaching their peak or just about to reach their peak?

Track 8

Focus – Moving Waves : Janis

Whoever Janis was, this is as good as a photograph. Utterly beautiful.

Track 9

Hawkwind – In Search of Space : We Took The Wrong Step Years Ago

In Search of Space will always have a sacred place in my heart for what it represented in my growing up. It taught me how to rebel and how not to give a ****. I saw them at a Bolton college gig in 1971 and then 47 years later we were touring with them.

I nearly picked Master of the Universe but had to go for We Took the Wrong Step. A totally exquisite song from a band that even today continues to get better and better. Thanks Dave.

Track 10

The Groundhogs – Split : Split Part 2

Tony McPhee has given me some great memories. Split was probably my most listened to album of 1971. I didn’t even own a copy but everyone had it and it was everywhere. The album sounds like three guys in a room having the time of their lives, it’s just so real and full of incredible blues energy, out of this world guitar playing and ideas that were way ahead of their time. We spent most of 2006 on the road opening for Tony and his wife Jo when they were doing their blues show. Our camper parked behind theirs. It was a beautiful year never to be forgotten.

Track 11

John Renbourn – Faro Annie : The Cuckoo

I loved him from the first time I heard him. Ironically it was a sampler called So Clear I bought from W H Smith’s record department for 99p. I wasn’t into acoustic guitars at the time because they weren’t loud enough and if you plugged them into a Marshall stack they just fed back, but this guy was different. It was somehow like what Bach might have done if he had been a guitar player. Harmonically sublime and with the precision of a musical mathematician. But then
drenched in the blues which made it all ok. My son was his sound engineer at one of his very last gigs. He gave me the glass he used on stage that night. Treasure.

Track 12

James Taylor – Mud Slide Slim : You Can Close Your Eyes

The best love song ever written. Oh noooo. But it is, this time it really is.

Dear 1971. Did the government put something in the water? Did Apollo 13 bump into something in the heavens? Did decimalisation alter something in our brains? 1971 for all your many troubles you really were the most wonderfully creative year for music. Or was it simply us, and that in those free-thinking days we were able to put rock, blues, prog, folk, all next to each other on our shelves and in our heads, tear off the labels and just enjoy great great music. I’m just
really glad I was there to enjoy it.

The question is, what will they be still listening to in 2071?

Many thanks to Rick for taking the time to look back with us. The Blackheart Orchestra have another Big Armchair concert which takes place on Friday March 12th at 8pm on Facebook live. The band also have an instrumental album slated for a summer release. Keep your eyes peeled for Mute, in early summer, 2021.

Check out Rick’s piece for At The Barrier on Eric Clapton here.

The Blackheart Orchestra: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Bandcamp / Instagram 

You can follow At The Barrier on Twitter here, and like us on Facebook here. We really appreciate your support.

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