The best of 1972 mix tape
Not that I engage in hyperbole a lot, but I think I may have described 1983 as the greatest year in music history. Maybe that was a bit much, so I’d like to amend that statement to “1983 is my favorite year in music, and the best of the 1980s.” That seems a bit more reasonable than blanket-ly proclaiming a year the best in music history, except I’m going to do it again when describing 1972. There may not be the ridiculous depth of great music that 1983 had, but the year boasts the best (or close to the best) albums from The Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder, David Bowie, Big Star, and Lou Reed. In baseball terms 1972 is the 1927 Yankees of music.
Lots of good stuff went by the wayside here to get this mix under the 60-minute time limit, so keep Jackson Browne’s Doctor My Eyes, Jimmy Smith’s Root Down (excluded only because of the no live album rule), and Edgar Winter’s Frankenstein, among others, in your thoughts and prayers tonight. I mean, Brandy by Looking Glass missed out for the love of Pete. I kind of hate myself for not including that (Winner of the “random song that comes on the radio that EVERYBODY unselfconsciously belts out” award. Or is that just me?)
The Ballad of El Goodo – Big Star
Big Star’s glorious #1 Record (a title that reflects staggering levels of both irony and pretense) is the first of three nearly flawless records produced by the band. You could blindly point to a song title and pick a great song, but I’m going with personal favorite The Ballad of El Goodo.
Let’s Stay Together – Al Green
If Al Green’s Tired of Being Alone is best described as “baby making music,” I don’t think I can continue to apply that metaphor here without violating local obscenity laws.
Heart of Gold – Neil Young
Another year, another brilliant Neil Young album.
Shine a Light – The Rolling Stones
Exile on Main Street is a true tour de force, easily the best Rolling Stones record, and maybe the best rock and roll album ever. Nothing highlights the inherent duality of the Stones and their country/blues roots better than this track. Plus it crushes the “Mick Jagger sings in an affected accent” requirement.
Suffragette City – David Bowie
Bowie at his very best, most outrageous, and hardest rocking self. Who else could pull off including the phrase “wham bam, thank you ma’am” and make it sound cool?
Use Me – Bill Withers
This song shatters the “soulfulness to minute of recorded music” ratio world record.
School’s Out – Alice Cooper
I missed out on including AC on an earlier 1970s list, so I wasn’t about to let this opportunity slip by.
The Night They Drive Old Dixie Down – The Band I had to make room for this one, a stone cold classic.
Papa Was a Rolling Stone – The Temptations
Great catch in the comments. Not sure why I dropped The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down in two different years, but it most definitely belongs in 1969. Happy to replace it with this slice of fried gold from The Temps. Plus …
Mother and Child Reunion – Paul Simon
…it gave me room for another song, so happy to call up Paul Simon from the honorable mention list and add him to the mix.
All the Young Dudes – Mott the Hoople
The parade of classics continues with this epic Bowie-penned tune.
You’re So Vain – Carly Simon
Another classic suitable for belting out in the car, especially after Mick’s backing vocal turn kicks in.
Trouble Man – Marvin Gaye
If it’s good enough for Sam Wilson and Steve Rogers, it’s good enough for you. Trust me.
Cletus Awreetus-Awrightous – Frank Zappa
Is this Zappa’s best work? No, not by a long shot. It is, however, one of my favorite Zappa tracks and one that I could work into a mix, so I had to include at least one as a sort of “lifetime achievement” award.
Perfect Day – Lou Reed
Transformer has just a ridiculous number of great songs on it, none more so than Perfect Day.
I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever) – Stevie Wonder
Not only did Stevie Wonder manage to put out a song this epic and layered in 1972, he put the stunning album that houses it (Talking Book) AND Music of My Mind, which track for track is every bit as good as Talking Book and maybe slightly better. We don’t talk about this enough.
I’m going to stop here and hit publish before I change my mind and add Brandy back into this list. Here’s the Spotify playlist for your listening pleasure.
Which one of your favorites did I leave out?