These 50 year anniversaries are a bit depressing, how can so much time has passed? I was a teenager then, but not quite age legal to drive. The early 1970s was one of the most eclectic periods in music. The phrase, anything goes, could apply to what you heard in 1972. I am known as a classic rock guy, but I am going to include soul, R&B and others on this list because the year was so rich in incredible sounds.
The Sounds of 1972
Here are some popular songs, either appearing on non-1972 albums, or from albums much less memorable.
“Baby Don’t Get Hooked On Me” Mac Davis rode this crossover hit.
“The Candy Man” Sammy Davis, Jr. had a number one hit.
“Without You” Harry Nilsson recorded this Badfinger song in 1971, but it didn’t become a huge hit till early 1972.
“Brandy” Looking Glass’ number one hit.
“American Pie” Don McLean’s epic did not top the charts until 1972.
“I’ll Take You There” The Staple Singers had a number one hit.
“Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress” The Hollies were having fewer hits but this one was an international hit.
“Everybody Plays the Fool” The Main Ingredient’s biggest song, rising to number three.
“The Happiest Girl in the Whole USA” Donna Fargo had a number one crossover hit and took home a Grammy.
“Kiss an Angel Good Mornin'” Charley Pride enjoyed his only charting crossover hit.
“I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony)” recorded by The Hilltop Singers and featured in a soft drink commercial.
“Never Been to Spain” Three Dog Night. One of several hits by the group during the year.
“Hold Your Head Up” Argent. Top five hit and their biggest song.
“Burning Love” Elvis Presley’s last top 10 hit.
“Dancing in the Moonlight” King Harvest. Top 20 hit, their only modest hit, but a good one.
“It Never Rains in Southern California” Albert Hammond’s top five hit. He had much more success writing songs for other artists.
“Precious and Few” Climax. Enough said.
“Love Theme from The Godfather” Andy Williams. Yes, the movie theme was fitted with words. A modest charting single for Andy.
“Will It Go Round in Circles” Billy Preston had several R&B-funk hits in the early 1970s after his work with the Beatles
“Oh Babe, What Would You Say?” Hurricane Smith scored a top five hit. In his previous life, Norman Smith was a producer/engineer who worked with the Beatles and Pink Floyd.
This album list is in no particular order, so consider them all important.
Exile on Main Street – The Rolling Stones were tax exiles and recorded in France. Drugs and too much unsupervised time. The result was their version of the Beatles’ White Album.
Can’t Buy a Thrill – Steely Dan’s debut album. “Do it Again” and “Reelin’ in the Years” were the hits, but the album is pretty solid.
Harvest – Neil Young. His most MOR album, “Heart of Gold” is still his biggest hit to date. A great blend of soulful ballads, country and rockers.
Superfly – Curtis Mayfield. The film soundtrack and a good one. The title song and “Freddie’s Dead” are classic Mayfield.
Let’s Stay Together – Al Green. This album began a string of hits and highly successful albums. The title song went to number one and became Green’s signature song.
Eat a Peach – Allman Brothers. Recorded in the wake of Duane Allman’s death. New songs included “Ain’t Wasting No More Time,” “Melissa” and “Blue Sky.”
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars – David Bowie’s concept, rock opera about a space alien fit his slipping in and out of various personas. “Starman,” “Ziggy Stardust,” Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide,” and “Suffagrette City” are among the best, but it’s a solid album and preview of what would come later.
Music of My Mind / Talking Book – Stevie Wonder. Two albums that moved him toward a new, career defining sound, use of new synthesizers that gave Wonder the freedom to experiment with sounds and rhythms.
“Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You),” “You are the Sunshine of My Life,” “Superstition” and “I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever)” were some of the more notable songs from these albums.
Still Bill – Bill Withers. “Lean On Me” rose to number one and “Use Me” reached number two on the charts. Still Bill reached number four on the Top 200 album chart.
Sail Away – Randy Newman. Hailed as one of Newman’s greatest works. Sail Away contains numerous songs covered by other artists, though Newman’s recording is appreciated by his core group of fans, but sales were modest.
Close to the Edge – Yes. Maybe the best progressive-rock album ever, certainly the best of Yes’ long career. “And You and I.”
Paul Simon – Paul Simon’s first solo album after splitting with Garfunkel. Finally, he could write for his own voice, and deepen his use of blues, jazz and World music. “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard,” “Duncan” and “Mother and Child Reunion” are the best known.
Jackson Browne – Jackson Browne. The kid had kicked around the music industry awhile before his debut album appeared. Reflective ballads and mature slices of life told listeners there was something special here. “Doctor My Eyes,” “Jamaica Say You Will” and “Rock Me On the Water” are the best known.
Something/Anything? – Todd Rundgren. The boy wizard recorded three of four album sides by himself. “Hello It’s Me,” “I Saw the Light,” “It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference” and “Marlene” are the best known, but there are many more nuggets on this two LP set.
Good Hearted Woman / Ladies Love Outlaws – Waylon Jennings. Two albums that helped change his image. Dissatisfied with the Nashville sound and direction he was being steered, Jennings was pushing his songs and career in a different direction.
Heads & Tales – Harry Chapin’s debut album. A singer-songwriter, but also a master storyteller. “Taxi” was the big hit from this million selling album.
Thick as a Brick – Jethro Tull. While very much a progressive rock, concept album, this was exactly Ian Anderson’s sarcastic intent. One long song split over two LP sides.
Machine Head / Made in Japan – Deep Purple. Two incredible albums in one year. The first, a studio album with “Smoke on the Water” and the second, a classic live album.
Smokin’ – Humble Pie. The band’s best seller and it happened after Peter Frampton left. “30 Days in the Hole” was the big single from the album.
Graham Nash David Crosby – Graham Nash & David Crosby. The first of their many duo recordings. Their harmonies are so rich. “Immigration Man,” “Page 43” and “Southbound Train” are the best.
Raspberries – Raspberries. A power-pop band with tight harmonies and dripping melodies. “Don’t Want to Say Goodbye” and “Go All the Way” defined this debut album. Eric Carmen was the lead singer.
Manassas – Stephen Stills & Manassas. The supergroup assembled by Stills who sought to combine Latin, folk, country and rock into a big group. The album has great musicianship with the top players Stills recruited.
Dr. John’s Gumbo – Dr. John recorded covers of songs associated with his city of New Orleans. He puts his unique stamp on the songs. Included as one of Rolling Stone’s top 500 albums of all time.
Argus – Wishbone Ash’s most successful career, blending folk, hard-rock and progressive-rock.one of the first band’s to feature twin harmony lead guitars.
You Don’t Mess Around with Jim – Jim Croce’s most successful album, his debut, topping the Billboard top 200 album chart. Best known songs include the title track, “Operator” and “Photographs and Memories.”
Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway – Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway. Flack and Hathaway both recorded for the same label and were paired as a duo. They released “You’ve Got a Friend” before James Taylor. The big hit from the album was “Where is the Love.”
Honky Château – Elton John’s number one album with “Honky Cat,” “Rocketman” and “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters.”
Sailin’ Shoes – Little Feat. The sophomore effort, more focused than their debut. Their unique, funky rock sound emerged here.
Amazing Grace – Aretha Franklin. A gospel album, a Grammy winner and a double platinum selling one. The biggest album of Aretha’s career.
School’s Out – Alice Cooper Group, maybe the best of the ACG’s albums. Punks meet West Side Story. A jazzy, blistering rock album.
Let Me Tell You About a Song / It’s Not Love (But It’s Not Bad)– Merle Haggard released two country albums and charted several songs.
Eagles – Eagles debut album. “Take it Easy,” “Witchy Woman” and “Peaceful Easy Feeling” were the hits, but the entire album is solid.
A Song for You – Carpenters’ fourth album, reaching number four on the charts and selling three million copies. “Hurting Each Other”, “It’s Going to Take Some Time”, “Goodbye to Love”, “Top of the World”, “I Won’t Last a Day Without You”, and “Bless the Beasts and Children.”
Saint Dominic’s Preview – Van Morrison’s album fuses commercial fare with more philosophical excursions into his Celtic heritage. “Jackie Wilson Said (I’m in Heaven When You Smile),” opens the album and remains one of his brightest and most endearing songs.
I Can See Clearly Now – Johnny Nash. With Island influences, Nash wrote and produced this album. The title track rose to number one on the chart and was covered by many artists. “Stir it Up” was also a chart success, written by Bob Marley.
The Slider – T. Rex. The band’s most commercial success, with “Telegram Sam” and “Metal Guru.” Not as big as other hits, but a solid power-rock album with catchy tunes. Marc Bolan was in fine form.
Never a Dull Moment – Rod Stewart. “Twistin’ the Night Away,” “You Wear it Well” and “Angel” pushed this album to number two on Billboard and Gold status.
Son of Schmilsson – Harry Nilsson. A sort of sequel to “Nilsson Schmilsson,” but weirder. “Remember (Christmas)” and “Spaceman” were the more normal songs. Weird or not, Nilsson was a gifted songwriter.
Chicago V – Chicago. “Saturday in the Park” and “Dialogue (Part I & II)” were the radio hits from Chicago’s first album to hit number one.
Trilogy – Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s third album. The first side is almost a suite of songs. “From the Beginning” was the commercial hit. Trilogy may be the band’s most accessible album, a top five hit in the U.S. and a Gold album.
Toulouse Street – The Doobie Brothers’ second album and first with the double drummers. “Jesus is Just Alright” and “Listen to the Music” were the radio hits, but the famous Doobies’ guitar riff sound was taking hold.
Back Stabbers – The O’Jays. The title track and “Love Train” were big hits and made The O’Jays one of the top R&B groups of the 1970s.
Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes – Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes. “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” became a million seller as a single from their first album, featuring the voice of Teddy Pendergass. Another killer group with the Philly soul sound.
Summer Breeze – Seals & Crofts. The title track and “Hummingbird” continued the soulful harmonies and tight pop arrangements for this duo.
All the Young Dudes – Mott the Hoople. Produced by Bowie who wrote the title track.
Rocky Mountain High – John Denver. The title song for a top 10 hit and unofficial song for the state of Colorado. This was Denver’s sixth album.
Vol. 4 – Black Sabbath. Obviously the band’s fourth album. “Changes” and “Snowblind” are the strongest songs, the latter titled in observance of the avalanche of cocaine consumed during recording.
Catch Bull at Four – Cat Stevens. His sixth album, this time more lush and intricately crafted songs, although lacking a huge breakout single.
Foxtrot – Genesis. Their fourth album and the band was coming into its own. “Watcher of the Sky” was the single, but the best song is the classic “Supper’s Ready” which would stay in their concert set for fifty years.
Caravanserai – Santana. The band’s fourth album and shifted away from the Latin-rock sound to jazz-fusion. It showed the band’s versatility and musicianship.
Barnstorm – Joe Walsh & Barnstorm. “Turn to Stone,” “Mother Says” and “Here We Go” were among the standout tracks. This was Walsh’s first album after leaving James Gang and it shows his maturity as a songwriter and arranger.
Bustin’ Out – Pure Prairie League. “Falling In and Out of Love”/”Amie” received much airplay as cool, country-rockers.
Guitar Man – Bread. The title track and “Aubrey” continued the band’s soft rock string of hits.
Lady Sings the Blues – Diana Ross. The soundtrack from the film.
Loggins & Messina – Loggins & Messina. “Thinking of You,” “Your Mama Don’t Dance” and “Angry Eyes” got a lot of airplay on their second album.
Rhymes & Reasons – Carole King. Her second album after Tapestry. More personal, introspective songs.
Round 2 – The Stylistics. More aching Philly R&B from this talented group. “Break Up to Make Up” and “I’m Stone in Love With You” were top 10 hits.
Stealers Wheel – Stealers Wheel. “You Put Something Better Inside Me” and “Stuck in the Middle With You” hits from their debut album.
One Dog Man – James Taylor. His third Warner Bros. album is mostly a series of short songs. “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight” was the charting single.
The Divine Miss M – Bette Midler. “Do You Want to Dance,?”“Chapel of Love,” “Hello In There”, “Friends” and “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” made this a very satisfying debut.
Transformer – Lou Reed. His second album and recognized as a rock classic. “Walk on the Wild Side’ and “Satellite of Love” were classics. Produced by David Bowie and Mick Ronson.
Homecoming – America. “Ventura Highway” and “Only in Your Heart” were solid hits.
Seventh Sojourn – Moody Blues. The seventh album by the classic lineup and the last for awhile as the band took a break. “Isn’t Life Strange” and “I’m Just a Singer in the Rock and Roll band” were hits, but every song is great.
Get On the Good Foot – James Brown. “I’ve Got a Bag of My Own,” “Get On the Good Foot,” “Cold Sweat” and “Please, Please” were some of the hits from this album.
Garden Party – Rick Nelson and the Stone Canyon Band. The title track became a classic and symbolic of the emergence of the country-rock genre.
Jesus Was a Capricorn – Kris Kristofferson. His fourth album and included the hit “Why Me.” Not his best album, more commercially focus, rather than the raw, gritty newcomer.
No Secrets – Carly Simon. Her number one album, with the hits “You’re So Vain” and “I Haven’t Got Time For the Pain.”
They Only Come Out at Night – The Edgar Winter Group. A stylish, hip and hard rocking album. “Frankenstein” and “Free Ride” were the biggest hits.
The World Is a Ghetto – War. The title track and “Cisco Kid” are classic songs on this album, which saw the band incorporate more jazz and funk into their Latin-rock sound.
Trouble Man – Marvin Gaye. The film soundtrack and a fine album on its own.
Hot August Night – Neil Diamond. The live album that sold over 10 million copies. The pop, heat and hormones of the Diamond concert experience.
Back to Front – Gilbert O’Sullivan. “Clair” was the big hit. O’Sullivan was a cross between Herman’s Hermits and Elton John.
Home Free – Dan Fogelberg’s first album. Big, orchestrated ballads, but you can see that he is going to become a star.
I Am Woman – Helen Reddy won a Grammy for the title song.
Will the Circle be Unbroken – Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. A roots album of notable country performers with the Dirt Band.
Sloppy Seconds – Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show. The most famous song was “The Cover of the Rolling Stone.”
Return to Forever – Return to Forever. Chick Corea’s jazz-fusion band.
Prologue – Renaissance. Progressive rock.
O’Keefe – Danny O’Keefe. Singer-songwriter, best known for his songs being recorded by others.
Procol Harum Live: In Concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra – Procol Harum live album, featuring the release of “Conquistador.”
360 Degrees of Billy Paul – Billy Paul. “Me and Mrs Jones” was the hit off of this Philly sound album. Lush and soulful arrangement.
4 thoughts on “1972: The Year in Music (50 Years Ago)”
1972 was definitely an amazing year in music.
Some of my favorite albums from that year include “Harvest” (Neil Young), “Machine Head” (Deep Purple), “Exile on Main Street” (Rolling Stones), “Ziggy Stardust” (David Bowie), “Superfly” (Curtis Mayfield) and “Caravanserai” (Santana) – all on your list!
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Nice to see Wishbone Ash listed. I’ll add Roxy Music’s debut album and Pink Moon by the late great Nick Drake.
Would agree with Roxy Music, I overlooked that one. Not familiar with Drake’s album but know the name.
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He was an English singer-songwriter, loosely associated with Richard Thompson/Fairport Convention, who only made three albums, plus four harrowing songs at the tail end of his life. Chart success and radio play were absolutely zilch, but his stature has grown over the decades, to where he’s now a major cult figure on both sides of the Atlantic, with more than a few pale imitators. If you’re interested, I recommend starting with his 2nd LP, Bryter Layter and going from there.
(And that’ll be ten farthings, thank you.)
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