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1972 – Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone

February 5th, 2019 · Posted by Skuds in Music · No Comments · Music

I have been looking forward to reaching 1972 for two reasons: it is when there staarted to be so much good (to me) music that choosing one track starts to get harder, and one of those track is possibly the greatest song ever.

A strong assertion thre, but listen properly to Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone and then tell me what is better. Most days I will say that Green Onions is my favourite track but on other days I am more likely to say it is this. Some days I will think it is maybe Street Life by the Crusaders, Moondance by Van Morrison or Pendent Que Les Champs Brulent by Niagara but hearing this will sway me, and hearing the magnificent full 12-minute version will convince me.I will hold my hands up and admit that I wasn’t obsessed with this track in 1972. Maybe I didn’t even come across it then, but I don’t care. It is such a fine tune that I could not justify anything else in its place for this year, even though there are a raft of first-class, firm favourites I could have picked.

Here are just a few of the other highlights from this year:

  • Roundabout (Yes)
    still a favourite and one I routinely use to test out the quality of new speakers or headphones.
  • School’s Out (Alice Cooper)
    this struck a chord at the time because I was at school. Hearing it now I am amazed by just how heavy it is for a chart single. I’m actually a little impressed that I was into it at 10 years old.
  • Blockbuster (Sweet)
    Another surprisingly heavy song, as a lot of the glam rock singles were.
  • Rock & Roll part 1 + 2 (Gary Glitter)
    Tainted now, but a favourite at the time and still a belter
  • You’re So Vain (Carly Simon)
  • The Jean Genie, Changes, Starman, John I’m Only Dancing (David Bowie)
    So many good tracks in one year by one artist, and he wasn’t the only one knocking out the hits
  • Crocodile Rock, Honky Cat, Rocket Man, Tiny Dancer (Elton John)
    The 70s was a good time for prolific artists. The only person to come close to Bowie, Elton and Stevie Wonder’s 70s output was probably Prince.

And that is just some of the singles of 1972. Albums released included Caravanserai, Foxtrot, Close to the Edge, Machine Head, Harvest, and Ziggy Stardust!

It is probably best to gloss over the fact that during 1972 the songs I would have been singing most would have been Brand New Key by Melanie, Crazy Horses by the Osmonds (which I still think is a great single), Eye Level by the Simon Park Orchestra, Mouldy Old Dough and My Ding-a-Ling, much as I would like to say I was grooving to Back Stabbers, Reelin’ In The Years, Family Affair, Highway Star, Black Dog and Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone.

Do yourself a favour and drop everything and listen to the full-length version of it. The way it starts with the pulsing bass and then has hints of organ, harp and strings coming in, with some choppy guitar popping up. The whole build up is completely cinematic, even more so than the them from Shaft which actually was for the cinema. It is nearly 4 minutes before the vocals start. The icing on the cake is when the horns kick in after about 5 and a half minutes. I got into this song via the various versions that Was (Not Was) had on their albums, but discovering the original was one of the best things I ever did.

Everyone will have their own personal favourite song, but how can anybody not have this in their top 5 at least?


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