Music documentary

1971: Asif Kapadia’s Apple Music Documentary Is Ambitious

Alongside music supervisor Iain Cooke, directors Asif Kapadia and Danielle Peck discuss what it took to capture a lively and tumultuous year and the music that came from it.

When read as one list, the sheer number of musical titans that “1971: The Year In Which Music Changed Everything” addresses is staggering to consider.

But over the course of the eight-episode season – all of which are available now on Apple TV + – one thing that stands out even more than ambitions of scale is how the world of 50 years ago absorbed some of the enduring songs and albums that still resonate through the present. Anchored by a solid collection of live performances, “1971” is an archival treasure, much of it coming in the form of television spots where bands and artists presented their latest hits to a captive audience. .

“Other than The Concert for Bangladesh, which was a technical nightmare for them to film, concert footage was actually very rare at that time,” said producer and director Danielle Peck.

“It’s also more intimate, I think, than seeing someone perform in front of 50,000 or 120,000 people,” said director Asif Kapadia. “There’s something about seeing them up close that works almost better for this format. And often they are interviewed before, during or after, which is part of it. It is an essential way for people to learn more about artists.

In turn, this also gives viewers of “1971” a chance to embrace a new way of hearing tracks that have been etched as classics over decades of living room and radio rotations.

“You see the images and you really step into their psyche and where they were at the time,” said music supervisor Iain Cooke. “The studio versions have generally been heard a lot. It’s really important as a documentary series to maybe give people a different perspective on it. If they’re used to hearing the full studio version, only being able to hear a clean acoustic version, that fragility and brutal honesty shines through.

The ambition of “1971” has proved useful in the long run. Using David Hepworth’s book “1971 – Never a Dull Moment: Rock’s Golden Year” as a guide, the series tracks major developments in the careers of gigantic musical figures on opposite sides of their heyday. Having access to these large catalogs of recordings and takes from rehearsals and concerts was obviously crucial in order to tell as complete a story as possible. Working early on in the process, Cooke found that bringing all of these areas into the process helped prove that the scope was broad enough that anyone could be a part of it.

George Harrison and Ravi Shankar in “1971: The Year Music Changed Everything”

Apple TV +

“We were fortunate enough to have the blessing of the Stones and estates of John Lennon and Marvin Gaye quite early in the process,” Cooke said. “It was just this giant puzzle that had to be put together little by little. One piece came out and another came in. There were sleepless nights and times of waking up at 4 a.m. Fortunately and fortunately, they have come together, and it is a testament to everyone involved. “

This interconnected nature reflects how all this music permeated the cultural consciousness of the time.

“One of the things we wanted to do is give an impression of all of this happening at the same time,” said Peck. “A lot of people make films about individual artists. But artists do not work in isolation. They work within the context of culture and the social landscape. Once you start to think of them as a group of people, you can think of the world they live and work in.

The other important piece of connective tissue for “1971” is a wide variety of new and archival audio interviews with those closest to the creation of this music and the ripple effects it had in it. international scale. Peck said the focus was on gaining the perspective of people who had experienced it on their own, since the show opened: Pretenders lead singer Chrissie Hynde reflecting on her memories to be in Kent State on the day that National Guard soldiers shot and killed four students during an anti-war rally.

All of this is woven in a style reminiscent of Kapadia’s previous projects including “Senna” and “Amy”. The effort of several years to bring all these inputs together ends up being a process of following ever more links in a growing chain.

“You have to trust your gut and the process of figuring out how much time and money you need to put into finding and building a great team and giving them the time to find stuff. The directors, in order to be able to travel the world to interview people, speak to as many people as possible. When you talk to one person, they can connect you to five other people. Someone somewhere is going to have a cabinet full of material that no one has seen, ”Kapadia said.

Keith Richards in "1971: the year music changed everything"

Keith Richards in “1971: The Year Music Changed Everything”

Apple TV +

This spirit of discovery also shines through in the documentary’s abundant media coverage throughout the calendar year. Radio shows, newspaper clippings, and local news highlights all focus on capturing the spirit of the moment rather than just filtering it through people’s memories.

It comes out perhaps most strongly in the fifth episode of the series, which ends up focusing its gaze on the Attica prison uprising. In the wake of the state police action that led to senseless bloodshed, a journalist’s response to new information is emotional and reckless. Peck said this particular streak was a late entry into the episode, an example of the constant and ongoing search for new entry points this year.

While this particular sequence is just one in the sprawling canvas of “1971,” it’s a vivid example of how past and present rhyme. Even with half a century of distance, the parallels between 1971 and 2021 were inescapable.

“You have Gil Scott-Heron with ‘No Knock.’ Marvin Gaye in episode 1 of ‘Inner City Blues’ talks about’ Rockets, moonshots / Spend it on the destitute …. It’s not alive ‘.’ He’s about “police departments triggering action / Panic spreads / God knows where we’re going,” Cooke said. “Jimmy Iovine talks about that in Episode 1: These albums are Trojans. C ‘were highly political pieces wrapped in beautiful music.

“James Gay-Rees, the producer who found the book, started the project in 2016,” Kapadia said. “We were doing the show and while it was being edited and we were meeting and talking to people, everything that was going on in the world seemed absolutely relevant to the show that was originally put together. in the past. This is when you realize you are on to something. This is when you come to terms with magic. Your instincts as to why this is relevant are becoming clearer every day. “

“1971: The Year Music Changed Everything” is now available to stream on Apple TV +.

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