Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The Year's Top 10 Posts

These were the ten most popular posts about the music of 1977. Feelgood and Klaatu fans caught wind of the posts and helped make them go viral ( at least by my standards, more than 7700 people viewed the first story). The rest of the stories are about bands with giant fan bases so I can't take much in the way of credit. 

1. On April 9, 1977 NME published an article with the headline "WILKO EXITS FEELGOODS". The band's songwriter, guitarist and main focal point busted up the band following a disagreement about what songs should be on the Sneakin' Suspicion album. The title track of the Top 10 album, released in May of 1977, reached number 47 in the UK charts. 

2. In September of 1977 Klaatu released their second and, many fans say, best album, Hope. Revealed to be a bunch of Canadian studio musicians and not the reunited Beatles as their record label suggested a year earlier, the trio had to record something astonishing or go down in history as a hoax. Fans say they recorded something astonishing, out-engineering almost every prog rock album released in 1977.They point to the George Harrison sound a like title track and the Bohemian Rhapsodic "Loneliest of Creatures. Even so, radio refused to fall for Klaatu a second time.  Definitely worth a listen.

3. On April 26, 1977, three days before the release of their first single, The Jam performed four songs for John Peel's BBC sessions .They led with the new single, the future UK Top  40 hit "In The City", followed by a song many in the band believed would be the next single, "Art School". The next tune is "I Changed My Address". All three came from the debut album. They rounded up the set with "The Modern World", another UK Top 40 hit, from their second album. ( The Jam had 18 straight UK Top 40 hits so this is not a surprise.)

4.  Even The Beatles said there would never be a live album because they couldn't play well among the 17-thousand screaming fans and abysmal stage monitors. Eventually the band learned to play both their instruments and the fans, knowing the slightest smile or rocking head could set off waves of shrieks throughout the crowds. Thanks to a clean up job by producer George Martin, Capitol Records finally believed it has something worth releasing and on May 4, 1977 The Beatles Live at The Hollywood Bowl hit record shops. One side is from The Beatles 1964 show. The other from the '65 show.

Interesting to note that by 1976 The Beatles no longer had any say in what could or could not be released by the record label. So in 1976 we got Rock n Roll Music ( featuring the hit "Got To Get You Into My Life"), this live album and a compilation called Love Songs, both in 1977.

5. When visiting my cousins on the Upper East side, I liked to head off on my own, speed walking downtown checking my progress by the street signs. 62nd. 56th. 49th. 42nd. I had all the nervous, frenetic energy that came with being thirteen and taking ones life in one's hands, venturing into the dangerous city alone in search of cheap secondhand record stores and bookshops.

 Marquee Moon would have been the perfect soundtrack to such ramblings, but the Walkman was still a few years away and I, like most of America, completely missed Television's debut album. The album actually did chart in the UK, reaching 28 with both an abbreviated title track and "Prove It" entering the UK Top 30.

6. In 1977 former Neu guitarist Michael Rother released his debut solo album, Flammende Herzen (Flaming Hearts). Rother is joined by Can drummer Jaki Liebezeit with former Neu producer Conny Plank at the helm. I should think Neu fans would love this album: soaring guitars and motorik beats to keep you between the fog lines as you race down the autobahn in your mind.

The U.K. version of The Clash is the greatest rock and roll album ever manufactured anywhere partly because of its innocence is of a piece -- it never stops snarling, it's always threatening to blow up in your face. 

-Robert Christgau

On April 8, 1977 The Clash released their debut album in the UK, considered by many to be the greatest punk album ever released. American audiences had to wait until 1979 before CBS Records released a modified version of the album which exchanged some album cuts for mostly singles.

8. March 25, 1977 is kind of an inauspicious date for Elvis Costello and his fans. It's the date Stiff released his first single, "Less Than Zero", a song that has the prescient line "Let's talk about the future now/ We'll put the past away". Though produced by Nick Lowe, and considered by many to be a classic in the  Costello song catalog, this mix of "Less Than Zero", with a slightly more prominent organ,  was not the breakthrough single.

It has often been cited that on January 3, 1977 George Gill, Wire's main songwriter and lead guitarist, left the band to form The Bears. But Wilson Neate's definitive 331/3 book, Pink Flag, states that Gill was still with the band until the end of February. In any case, Gill's departure helped the band strip down its sound to its core: no guitar solos, shorter songs, no rock and roll theatrics. Dropping all Gill songs but "Mary is a Dyke" from their setlist, Wire immediately set to work writing the songs that would make Pink Flag one of the greatest debut albums of all time.

In April of 1977, a true curiosity entered UK record stores, a track by track easy listening remake of Paul and Linda McCartney's Ram as performed by a big band orchestra. Why would anyone make such an album? The answer lies in who made the album. Paul McCartney himself.

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