Looking back in the rearview, 1971 looks like more of a transitional year for the state of rock music. While we were still reeling from the '60s revolution not coming to pass, the next batch of rock bands that were coming around out of the Beatles' shadow got way more exposure than anyone may have thought previously. It was time to start testing the limits of what the radio could handle.
Though there are plenty of album-based rock bands that came out of this year, we will be focusing on the individual songs that shaped the future of rock and roll at this stage. While they might work great in the context of the record they are a part of, these are the songs that are meant to stand on their own as amazing pieces of art. As opposed to just selling a record, these are the songs that made you do a double take the first time you heard them blaring out of a stereo.
Since rock had grown a bit older as well, this is where you start to see the genesis of new ideas coming to the forefront, from the beginnings of metal music to the bits and pieces of hard rock and prog that were just on the horizon. After years of being the music of the Flower Children, this is where rock first started to reach the people.
10. Tiny Dancer - Elton John
Just because rock was growing up doesn't mean that we had lost our taste for the poppy side of the genre. Up until the late '70s, there were tons of power pop acts as well as people from the prog and hard rock worlds trying to dip their toes into more easy listening territory than what they were known for. Even though Elton John's wardrobe doesn't fall anywhere near 'easy,' Tiny Dancer goes down so much better with each repeated listen.
Before you even get to the proper song though, it's amazing to think that Elton was able to sneak this onto the radio. Standing at 6 full minutes, there has never been a single radio edit of this song, with most of the track sounding like a movie playing out in your mind as you listen to it. From the opening notes, you get a clear picture of this lonely lady working for a rock band and having to deal with life on the road.
Outside of Bernie Taupin's excellent wordplay, the greatest strength is just how much Elton sells it, with a vocal performance that was much more than the mild mannered little kid who used to practice Beethoven and Bach in school. At a time when rock was supposed to get nastier, this madman across the water made us all get in touch with our vulnerable side.