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John van der Kiste - 1970: A Year In Rock. The Year Rock Became Mainstream

  by Fiona Hutchings

published: 23 / 5 / 2022

John van der Kiste  - 1970: A Year In Rock. The Year Rock Became Mainstream


Will a book about twelve months in music work or will there be too much waffle? Fiona Hutchings finds out.

Taking a look at a year in music history rather than a specific genre, band or even decade is a novel approach to music writing. I’d not come across it before and a quick look at the promised contents had me hooked. From the same publishing house as the many and varied On Track books, this compact volume takes us through track by track of the twenty-five key albums of the year. That there are so many to include - and none felt like filler - is proof positive that the year has been chosen well. The book opens with a copy of the ‘Melody Maker’ Top 30 from January 1970 and ends with a run-down of ‘NMEs’ December Top 30. Both these charts encapsulate the sheer breadth of music making it big at the opening of the decade. It tickles me that at numbers two and three in the ‘Melody Maker’ chart, we have ‘Blue Mink’ and ‘Cuff Links’ respectively. Elvis’s ‘Suspicious Mind’ sits next to The Archies’ ‘Sugar, Sugar’. Kenny Rogers and the 1st Edition plead with ‘Ruby’ not to ‘Take Her Love To Town’ while Badfinger challenge you to ‘Come And Get It’. By the end of this momentous year Jimi Hendrix and Neil Diamond occupy the second and third places of the chart behind Dave Edwards. It’s a countdown that also includes Glen Campbell, Jimmy Ruffin and Status Quo. In two pages it proves Van Der Kiste’s claim that 1970 was a momentous year. Divisions between genres were blurring but more than that, the British public’s record buying preferences were becoming more eclectic and less narrow. The book opens with an overview of the year to give us some context before taking a deep dive into those promised Twenty-Five Albums. Nineteen Seventy saw The Beatles break up and guitar god Jimi Hendrix collect membership of the ghoulish ‘27 Club’. The year also saw live LPs start to come into their own - in part to try and tackle bootlegs. Sheffield’s Joe Cocker with memorably named ‘Mad Dogs and Englishmen’ and the equally unforgettable ‘Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out!’ by the Rolling Stones to name just two. If the tragedy at the Stones’ Altamont Festival at the end of ’69 had looked like it might be the end of huge music events, 1970 saw the last of three consecutive annual Isle of Wight shows and the very first Glastonbury. The albums explored in more depth include Van Morrison, Joni Mitchel and Simon and Garfunkel along with Pink Floyd, Crosby, Stills and Nash and Jethro Tull. Deep Purple, Fairport Convention, Elton John and The Kinks also feature. With so much to explore and draw you in, even the bands you’re not so fond of become an interesting read. Van der Kiste is a more than capable pair of hands for this task. In addition to publishing more than seventy books including titles focused on some of the bands included here, he co-founded and edited the ‘70s fanzine ‘Keep On Rocking’ among others. He has lived and loved the music and the history, and the book has a very assured lightness of touch. What could have been a very weighty tome clocks in at well under two hundred pages but it doesn’t feel like anything in this important year has been missed.

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