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December 1971








Contemporary bluesman Taj Mahal plays for the men on death row at Wilmington State Penitentiary.
An outspoken and indiosyncratic avante-garde artist, Frank Zappa is known for attracting a devoted cult following whilst confounding the masses. A best-selling black-and-white poster of the early '70s shows the longhaired freak perched on the toilet, with a simple label: "Phi Zappa Krappa." Tonight the Montreaux Casino in Switzerland burns to the ground during a show by Zappa and and his band The Mothers of Invention after a fan fires a flare that sets the roof ablaze. Though no one is hurt, Zappa's band loses $50,000 of equipment. Deep Purple, recording nearby, appropriates the event for their hit "Smoke on the Water," and one of the most recognizeable guitar licks in rock history is born. Their live version of the song, taken from their Made in Japan album, will become a major U.S. hit (No. 4) in 1973.
Sly and the Family Stone's "Family Affair" begins a three-week reign in the Number One spot atop the pop chart. It is their third and last Number One record, and their last to make the Top Ten. They will have two more minor hits in 1972, "Runnin' Away," which will reach #23, and "Smilin'," which will reach #42. "Family Affair," like the album from which it came, There's a Riot Goin' On. There's a Riot Goin' On stood in stark, dark contrast to the optimistic racial-unity themes of the band's earlier work. Fittingly, it was around this time that Sly's behavior would become increasingly erratic, precipitating the imminent departure band's original bassist, Larry Graham, and original drummer, Greg Errico, in 1972. For now, though, "Family Affair" is also Number One on the soul singles chart, and There's a Riot Goin' On is the #2 soul LP and #2 on the Top 100 LPs chart. In two weeks, it will reach Number One on both charts.

Island Records releases
Traffic's album The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys. The twelve-minute-long title track will become a big favorite of FM radio, and will help make the album one of the group's best sellers.

The Top Five
1. "Family Affair" - Sly & the Family Stone
2. "Theme from 'Shaft'" - Isaac Hayes
3. "Baby I'm-A Want You" - Bread
4. "Have You Seen Her" - Chi-Lites
5. "Gypsys, Tramps and Thieves" - Cher

Ten Years After has a gold album with A Space in Time, the last big LP for the blues-rock quartet. "I'd Love to Change the World" becomes TYA's only U.S. Top Forty hit.
Godfather of Soul James Brown has his thirty-second album released this week. Revolution of the Mind, subtitled Live at the Apollo, Volume 3 and released by Polydor Records, opens with a song whose title only James Brown could have come up with: "It's a Brand New Day So Open Up the Door and Let a Man Come In to Do the Popcorn."

Blood, Sweat and Tears lead singer David Clayton Thomas is among the performers making public service announcements and press statements in support of the Canadian "Save the Seals" campaign, which will try to prevent the annual slaughter of baby seals in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in the spring of 1972. Other performers contributing to "Save the Seals" included Canadian blues-rock band Crowbar, and Canadian folk-singers Murray McLauchlan and Luke Gibson.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono perform at a benefit in Ann Arbor, Michigan, for left-wing activist John Sinclair, ex-manager of Detroit's legendary guerilla-rock band the MC5, who was arrested for possession of marijuana in 1969 and was sentenced to ten years in prison. After being told about Sinclair's plight by radical politico Jerry Rubin, Lennon composed "John Sinclair."
The historical drama Nicholas and Alexandra, a film adaptation based on Robert K. Massie's best-seller, premieres in New York City, and eight days later in Los Angeles.
NYPD detective Frank Serpico stirs up a hornet's nest while testifying about police corruption in New York City. Serpico, who earlier in the year had been shot in the face during a botched drug raid but ignored by his fellow officers (only a 911 call by a neighbor saved his life), delivers a speech before the Knapp Commission about "how dishonest officers should fear the honest ones and not the other way around and how corruption can't survive unless it is at least tolerated at the highest levels." Stonewalled and ostracized, Serpico recounts one police captain's warning that he keep quiet or "before it was all over I might be found floating in the river." His damning charges will make sensational front-page headlines nationwide. Author Peter Mass, no stranger to cops and robbers thanks to his book about a mobster informant, The Valachi Papers, will write another best-seller about Frank Serpico's saga that is immediately snapped up by Hollywood. Director Sidney Lumet's Serpico will open two years later with Al Pacino as the idealistic, alienating cop.
Deal Records, a subsidiary of Mercury, releases Joe Tex' bawdy funk disc "I Gotcha." In late January of 1972 the song will reach #2 on the pop chart, becoming Tex's biggest hit since his 1964 #5 hit "Hold What You've Got." A big factor is the success of "I Gotcha" is Tex' slurred delivery of the line "Told you not to play with my affection," which causes millions of teenage girls to mistake the last word for erection.

One-hit wonder Beverly Bremers's "Don't Say You Don't Remember" ascends the singles survey on its way to #15. When her recording career wanes, the Chicago-born singer-actress will go on to win numerous song festivals, including the Korean Song Festival and the American Song Festival with co-writer Jackie English.

Director Stanley Kubrick's film version of A Clockwork Orange, based on Anthony Burgess's novel of scathing satire and ritualistic violence, explodes onscreen tonight and immediately triggers controversy and condemnation. Set in a bleak futuristic world, it catapults mesmerizing lead Malcolm McDowell to stardom. Kubrick cut thirty seconds to achieve an "R" instead of "X" rating, but later approved the film's ban in England after several real-life copycat assaults that mimic the attacks of Alex (McDowell) and his "droogs" (mates).
Gloria Steinem's feminist magazine Ms. premieres in preview form, featuring such articles as "The Housewife's Moment of Truth," "Why Women Fear Success" and "I Want a Wife," which satirically explains why women need a wife as much as men do.

A generationally- challenged black comedy, Harold and Maude, opens to withering reviews. "He begins the film in a gross and macabre manner, and never once deviates from that concept," says Variety of director Hal Ashby's new movie. But audiences warm to its unusual couple, an 80-ish swinger (Ruth Gordon) and a death-obsessed teen (But Cort), and his hilarous phony suicide attempts. Over the years Harold and Maude, with its Cat Stevens soundtrack, will reach cult status, a sweet sleeper "in which the laughs stick in your throat," writes Rolling Stone film critic Peter Travers.

Dirty Harry, with spaghetti western actor Clint Eastwood in the title role as an iconclastic cop prowling the alleys and streets of San Francisco in search of a serial killer, opens. Law and order filmmaking of the first order, Dirty Harry touches a nerve in a nation anxious about urban crime and presages a torrent of tough-cop flicks. Eastwood later reprises the role in four sequels, and his Dirty Harry character creates some of the most oft-quoted lines in movie history: "Do I feel lucky?... Well do ya, punk?" in Dirty Harry, and "Go ahead, make my day" in Sudden Impact.
Critics aren't the only music-industry people who hate Grand Funk Railroad. In today's Billboard, Grand Funk's manager, Terry Knight, claims that "we are virtually devoid of radio play in major markets. Our only airplay comes from the ordinary stations that the major markets snicker at." This, Knight adds, despite the band's string of gold records and sell-out tours and a recent platinum LP, E Pluribus Funk.

Melanie's "Brand New Key" reaches #1 and stays there for three weeks. She originally wrote the song as a simple ditty for use in between songs at concerts. It took her all of 15 minutes to write it.

The Top Five
1. "Brand New Key" - Melanie
2. "Family Affair" - Sly & the Family Stone
3. "American Pie" - Don McLean
4. "An Old Fashioned Love Song" - Three Dog Night
5. "Got to be There" - Michael Jackson

In an antiwar protest, 17 Vietnam veterans lock themselves inside the Statue of Liberty. Two days later, they are ordered to leave and do so.
Keith Moon emcees a concert for one of his favorite acts, Fifties revivalists Sha Na Na.
In an effort to move government policy out from under the veil of "national security interests," columnist Jack Anderson begins a weeklong series of articles publishing classified government memoranda.
The Band performs at New York City's Academy of Music, recording their New Year's Eve concert for later release as Rock of Ages.

Most popular music, books and film - 1971: Three Dog Night's "Joy to the World" (pop single); Carole King's Tapestry (pop album); Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On," Jean Knight's "Mr. Big Stuff" and Sly & the Family Stone's "Family Affair" (three-way tie for R&B single); Charley Pride's "Kiss an Angel Good Mornin'" (C&W single); Erich Segal's Love Story (fiction); David Reuben's Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (nonfiction); Fiddler on the Roof (film).


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