A few years ago I bought a “vintage” copy of Esquire (September 1971) and much to my delight, tucked inside was a small insert of a dozen or so pages intended to guide the incoming collegiate freshperson on cultural matters such as books, movies, and music. I’ve taken the trouble to transcribe the contents of that insert into this here post, for your enjoyment.
The cover of the insert
It’s fascinating to see opinion on the ground, before posterity has a chance to congeal it. You’ll see names you don’t recognize treated with respect, and names you do recognize treated with great disrespect. The Esquire writers divided the list up into hits and misses, basically. On the “good” list are the Stones, Aretha Franklin, Chicago, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Kate Taylor, and Captain Beefheart, On the “bad” list are The Stooges, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Alice Cooper, The Steve Miller Band, and something called P-Nut Gallery.
The text is transcribed verbatim, down to every comma, colon, and ampersand. It’s reproduced exactly, as far as I can discern.
Barely legible scan of one of the pages
Where possible, I’ve tried to link to the albums that are being discussed—as I learned when I checked the albums, this is a highly imprecise endeavor, and in many cases I’m sure it’s not correct. Basically, consider it a guide at best, not an actual resource. The lesson here is that the journalists of the early 1970s were working in a veritable wasteland of information compared to what they have today, and also that Amazon and Allmusic.com are highly imperfect resources (CD information tends to trump original LP info, and so on). In many cases the artist in question didn’t release anything at all in 1971 or 1972! (At least according to popular online resources.) Please don’t write in pointing out that one of the links isn’t so super awesome; I already know that. Beyond that, your certainty is misplaced, or at least, your certainty as to what the Esquire people “must” have meant; all too often, it’s a puzzle. (Clarifications and explanations about puzzling entries are, of course, welcome.)
Having said that, do enjoy this: I’ve wanted for a while for this peculiar resource to live on the Internet, and now that’s happened.
Watch for [this means “good”]
Charlie Mingus: Better Git It In Your Soul (Columbia—fall). Any Mingus record deserves a listen, but beware a growing cultishness.
The Firesign Theatre: I Think We’re All Bozos on This Bus (Columbia—Aug.). Rapid-fire satire.
Big Brother & The Holding Company: How Hard It Is (Columbia—Aug.). True underground music. And they can play.
Chicago: Chicago Carnegie Hall Concert (Columbia—fall). If you don’t listen to jazz but would like to, here’s a way to start.
Billie Holiday (Columbia—Sept.). Reissue, sings jazz, rhythm and blues. Buy this record.
Boz Scaggs (Columbia). Blues and country rock. Two years ago, his Atlantic album died from lack of hype. Columbia is smarter and will recognize Boz’s great worth.
New Riders of the Purple Sage (Columbia). Country rock. The Grateful Dead’s spin-off group is now more vital than the parent band.
Vintage Apollo Theatre Performances (Columbia). The Apollo was the birthplace of Aretha, Bessie Smith, Pearl Bailey, Ida Cox and The Mills Bros., and the audiences are as tough as those in a Milan opera house. Therefore, what is recorded there should be good.
Move (Capitol—Aug./Sept.). Good English hard rock.
The Band (Capitol—Aug./Sept.). Their first two albums were classics; they created country rock. Their last album was a disaster. This may be better.
John Lee Hooker (ABC/Dunhill—fall). Still the most compelling blues singer around.
John Coltrane (ABC/Dunhill—fall). The late Mr. Coltrane was one of the master innovators of free-form jazz.
Ray Charles (ABC/Dunhill—fall). 25th anniversary album. Five-record set, containing the best of Ray’s stuff from Atlantic and ABC. If you don’t like the raw material, you’ll like his middle period best. We like raw material.
Harry Nilsson: When the Cat’s Away (RCA—Sept.). This is the guy who did the good version of the theme from Midnight Cowboy.
The Guess Who: So Long, Bannatyne (RCA—Sept.). Excellent commercial group.
Julian Bream: Villa Lobos Concertos (RCA—Aug.). Superb classical guitar.
Judy Collins (Elektra—fall). This will be a live album, recorded during a spring-summer tour. Judy has enormous taste and has matured into the country’s finest female folk singer.
Incredible String Band: Relics of the Incredible String Band (Elektra—fall). A very strange folk group. Somehow their gentle appeal was at its peak during the era of hard rock. Now, when softer sounds are back in, they seem to have waned. Some mysteries are inexplicable.
Carly Simon (Elektra—fall). A fresh new singer and Esquire movie critic Jacob Brackman writes some of her lyrics. What could be bad?
The Rolling Stones (Atlantic—Sept.). Always buy any Rolling Stones album immediately.
Aretha Franklin (Atlantic—Sept.). Little Sister is frequently uneven but there are usually a couple of memorable cuts per album.
Kate Taylor (Atlantic—Sept.). Kate is okay, particularly if you like what her brothers James, Livingston and Alex have been doing.
J. Geils Band (Atlantic-fall). Possibly the best white blues band around.
Jerry Lee Lewis (Mercury—Oct.). Country music; always great.
The Statler Bros. (Mercury—Nov.). Honest-to-God foot-stomping country music.
Rod Stewart (Mercury-Dec.). Very hard rock. A hoarse, grating voice that tries so hard you have to listen.
The Kinks (Warner Bros.—fall). One of the few groups left from the first English invasion. Dependable.
Tom Paxton (Warner Bros.—Aug.). Tom was always one of the best singers among early Sixties folkies, but his tendency to preach is irritating. Lately, he’s been trying to overcome that.
The Beach Boys (Warner Bros.—Aug.). Good, solid Los Angeles plastic has its charm.
Neil Young (Warner Bros.—Sept.). A good songwriter with a strange voice. Interesting.
Captain Beefheart (Warner Bros.—Sept.). This man may be a genius. He is trying to invent new sound patterns and a new language.
The Jackson Five (Motown—Sept.). The hottest soul act, at the moment.
Jr. Walker & The All-Stars (Motown—Sept.). Tough, gritty, bluesy.
Stevie Wonder (Motown—Sept.). Great singer and harmonica player.
Watch out for [this means “bad”]
Ian & Sylvia (Columbia). Commercial folk music. Mediocre.
Santana (Columbia—Sept.). Two-record set. Music to speed by.
Barbra Streisand (Columbia). Your folks and older siblings will like her vocals.
Ten Years After (Columbia). British rave-ups have had it.
Johnny Cash: Greatest Hits (Columbia). At least it wasn’t recorded live in a prison.
The Steve Miller Band (Capitol—Aug./Sept.). Without Boz Scaggs, the group has floundered.
Quicksilver Messenger Service (Capitol—Aug./Sept.). Was one of the finest San Francisco bands, but with the addition of loud, banal Dino Valente, it has plummeted.
B.B. King (ABC/Dunhill). B.B.’s success was long overdue, but now that it’s come, he’s begun to get sloppy.
Mamas and Papas (ABC/Dunhill). This group’s huge reputation was built on only two songs, Monday, Monday and California Dreamin’. Then they broke up. Their reunion is no cause for rejoicing.
Steppenwolf (ABC/Dunhill). Harmless schlock.
3 Dog Night (ABC/Dunhill). See above.
Pharoah Sanders (ABC/Dunhill). Pharoah performed with the Coltranes and put out some good sides with his own band a few years ago, but has become redundant.
Elvis Presley (RCA). El has been enjoying an undeserved revival of late. The Presley from which the myth derived ceased to exist as soon as he left Sun Records in Memphis, immediately before fame struck. What we got was a homogenized version. Why revive that?
Jefferson Airplane (RCA). The Airplane still has its hordes of loyal fanatics, but has been screaming for revolution for so long it has gone hoarse. Besides, there’s a paradox in screaming for revolution from the confines of a Bentley. This can no longer be ignored.
Sha Na Na (Buddah/Kama Sutra—Sept.). Specialize in Fifties rock. Never very good, but now that many of the original Fifties groups are actually playing again, worthless.
P-Nut Gallery (Buddah/Kama Sutra—Sept.). The second coming of Howdy Doody; the roots of the Acid Generation.
Brewer & Shipley (Buddah/Kama Sutra—Sept.). Mildly appealing soft sound, especially if you like mild appeal.
Curtis Mayfield: Roots (Buddah/Kama Sutra—Sept.). Curtis was okay when he sang with groups, but his recent Rod McKuen act has been silly.
Edwin Hawkins: Oh Children (Buddah/Kama Sutra—Sept.). Contrary to popular belief, the Edwin Hawkins Singers did not invent gospel rock.
Melanie (Buddah/Kama Sutra—Sept.). Undigested St. Joan, Edith Piaf, Ethel Merman and Buffy Ste.-Marie.
Buzzy Linhart (Buddah/Kama Sutra—Sept.). Buzzy has been around the Village folk scene for a long time without doing anything remarkable, and there’s no reason to expect him to do anything now.
The Stooges (Elektra). Lead singer Iggy Pop leaps into audiences, smears his half-naked body with peanut butter, tears his lips open by hitting his mouth with the microphone, and stabs himself viciously with shattered drumsticks.
Joan Baez: Blessed Are . . . (Vanguard—summer). It doesn’t matter that Joanie does songs by Little Stevie Wonder and Jagger/Richard on this LP because she still makes them sound like Silver Dagger. Damn all dying swans.
Buffy Ste.-Marie (Vanguard—Sept.). Buffy is a professional Indian. She also sings badly.
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (Atlantic—Sept.). The group has fragmented frequently, with each member doing his own solo albums.
Bee Gees (Atlantic—Sept.). Slick Beatles? Yes, slick Beatles.
Led Zeppelin (Atlantic—Sept.). The death of rock and roll.
Jerry Butler (Mercury—Nov.). Rhythm and blues. Good voice, but he’s been suffering from bad material and overproduction.
Jimi Hendrix (Warner Bros.—Aug.). Since his previous album, Cry of Love, was posthumous, this must be odds and ends from his last sessions or rejects from earlier albums. Unpromising.
The Grateful Dead (Warner Bros.—Aug.). The Dead have been making a conscious effort to come up with a salable product. Since their only appeal is extra-musical, this has proved disastrous.
Mothers of Invention (Warner Bros.—Aug.). Frank Zappa was always too smart for his audiences. His contempt is no longer entertaining.
Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood (Warner Bros.—Aug.). Phoney sexiness & phoney country.
Jerry Garcia (Warner Bros.—Sept.). The Dead’s leader has degenerated into a kind of acid Rod McKuen.
Tony Joe White (Warner Bros.—Sept.). Tony Joe does heavy, bluesy rock, but he only knows a couple of chords and runs.
Alice Cooper (Warner Bros.—Sept.). Posthumous rock by four guys in drag.
The Supremes (Motown—Sept.). Without Diana Ross, the vocals are merely pleasant.
The Temptations (Motown—Sept.). Waning.