On May 30, 1978 The Stranglers' new single "Nice 'n' Sleazy" entered the U.K. Charts at #27. It would peak at #18. Its most notorious performance happened September 16 at Battersea Park in London. The band brought strippers onstage. When they disrobed , some of the young male fans got a bit carried away and joined them. The NSFW video is below.
By purist rules, it'a not even allowed to mention Plastic Bertrand. Yet this record was probably a lot better than a lot of the so-called punk records.
-Joe Strummer, 1978
On April 29 1978 Belgian singer Roger Jouret, better known as Plastic Bertrand, hit the US Hot 100 at #95 with "Ca Plane Pour Moi", an infectious and silly international hit that was actually sung by the record's producer, Lou Deprijck. That would explain why Bertrand only received 0.5% of the royalties.
This is not the only time a performer would find fame by lip syncing somebody else's vocals (Milli Vanilli anyone?), though it would be thirty years before Bertrand would admit it.
Here he is performing the song aboard a trampoline on the Dutch version of Top of the Pops.
My cat "Splash" rests on my bed
She’s swallowed her tongue
While drinking all my whisky.
As for me,
Not much sleep, worn out, bullied
I’ve had to sleep in the gutter
Where I've had a vision
Hou! Hou! Hou! Hou!
In four colours
A chick came to my place
A cellophane doll, chinese hair
A sticking plaster, a wooden face
She’s drunk my beer
from a a big rubber glass
Hou! Hou! Hou! Hou!
Like an Indian in his igloo
That’s cool with me
That’s cool with me
That’s cool with me, me, me,me, me
That’s cool with me
In April of 1978 The Vibrators released V2, their second album. It would peak at UK#33 thanks to the single "Automatic Lover". The Vibrators played four songs from the album on The Old Grey Whistle Test. Most critics felt the album paled in comparison to the 1977 classic debut Pure Mania. In the NewRolling Stone Record Guide Dave Marsh called V2 "a letdown, the energy dissipated with nothing but the cheap thrills of secondhand kinkiness to compensate" , and in Trouser Press Ira Robbins wrote "while some of the material is not that different from the debut LP, V2 is pretentious and overblown, following too many different cul-de-sacs to hang together."
On April 25, 1978 The Isley Brothers released Showdown, an album that would top the soul charts thanks to the #1 R and B hit "Take Me to the Next Phase (Part One)". For reasons that aren't apparent to anyone with ears, the song never crossed over to the pop charts.
Of the album which would peak at #4 on the pop charts, the critic Robert Christgau wrote:
Disco has been good for this band musically: the chic guitar-and-chant of the title tune, the slow, sensuous funk of "Groove With You," and the enigmatic air of "Ain't Givin' Up No Love" are refreshing variants on their basic moon-and-vroom, and both "Rockin' the Fire" and "Take Me to the Next Phase" are pure dance-peak ideology. Doesn't do much for their politics, though. B
On April 23, 1978 Ian Dury entered the UK singles chart at #48 with "What A Waste!". The single, a grooving consideration of life's many options, would peak at #9 and be sampled in " Can I Kick It?" by A Tribe Called Quest. NME critics named the single the third best of the year.
Dury and pianist/guitarist Chaz Jankel had assembled The Blockheads for the Live Stiffs Tour. The 1977 album New Boots and Panties!! was on its way to selling a million copies, staying on the British Charts for almost two years.
Sean O'Hagen of The Guardiansays of Dury and The Blockheads:
For a few exhilarating years, when the musicians he christened the Blockheads took their places on stage and he ambled wonkily on behind them, be-suited in best vintage, draped in polka-dot scarves and gypsy kerchiefs, with one of several exotic titfers perched on his head, you knew that something extraordinary was about to happen.
In 1978 New Boots would be released in the United States by Arista where it received more critical acclaim, finishing at #13 on the Village Voice critics poll between Brian Eno's Before and After Science and Patti Smith's Easter.
In April of 1978, Willie Nelson released Stardust, an album made up of ten of Willie's favorite standards all recorded in just ten days with the help of his neighbor Booker T Jones on arrangements. By 1978 my dad was buying one album a year. To his credit , he purchased Songs In the Key of Life in 1977 and Pink Floyd's The Wall in 1979. But 1978 was the year of Stardust. While attending my boarding school in the 1950's, he played a four string electric guitar in a jazz band that covered some of the same songs Willie chose. Thanks to a TDK cassette and a neighbor with a stereo, my dad passed his love for this album on to me where it remains cherished to his day. And not just by me. It has become a favorite album for generations.
Bill Gates selected Nelson's "Blue Skies" as his Desert Island disc.
From Ariel Swartley writing for Rolling Stone When country singers go back to their roots, the album's usually called Amazing Grace, but Willie Nelson's never been known for his orthodoxy. Instead of hymns, he's giving us ten of the best from popular classicists like George and Ira Gershwin, Duke Ellington and Irving Berlin. Still, Stardust traces Nelson's musical family tree more convincingly that The Troublemaker, his own white-gospel collection. In one sense, Stardust is a memory album: "On the Sunny Side of the Street," "Georgia on My Mind" and the rest were songs Nelson grew up playing in dives and dance halls across Texas. He and his band haven't reworked them much since then. You can still hear a hint of polka and the clippety-clop of singing cowboys in the bass like of "Blue Skies," and the black-tie-and-champagne bounce of "Someone to Watch Over Me" has been smoothed to a whiskey (straight up) trot. A harmonica does the duty of a horn section, and in between the verses Nelson picks out the melody on his guitar. The notes are as sweet and easy as the smiles of the women eyeing the bandstand over their partners' shoulders.
Stardust is also Nelson's tribute to his teachers -- as a songwriter, he learned a lot from these guys. Like how to open a song with a rush and a phrase that lands you in the middle of the situation: "All of me..." and "Hello, walls...." Or how to cover the two-by-fours of verse/verse/bridge with a seamless melody that glides over all the joints and angles. Willie Nelson, singer, learned his offbeat phrasing from urbane songs like these, where it still shows off best. Refusing to be hurried by the band, he strolls through "All of Me" and "Don't Get Around Much Anymore," as wry and debonair as the lyrics. But Stardust is more than a personal history or testimonial. It's a reminder. The songs Nelson has chosen are a part of Nashville's collective bloodlines too, as much as tent-show evangelism and barroom stomps are. The old standards' precise balance of artifice and sentiment stood as a pattern for the popular song that was never seriously challenged until the eruption of rock and roll. In Nashville, it persisted even then. In "Stardust" or "September Song," as in Nashville's most enduring creations (including many of Nelson's own), resignation, with its implied self-sufficiency, triumphs -- barely -- over whatever agony of emotion is at hand. Tears may slide into the beer, but the singer's dignity is preserved.
For all the sleek sophistication of the material, Stardust is as down-home as the Legion dance. Heard coast to coast in lounges and on elevator soundtracks, these tunes have become part of the folk music of exurban America. And that's the way Nelson plays them -- spare and simple, with a jump band's verve and a storyteller's love of a good tale. By offering these songs, he's displaying the tools of a journeyman musician's trade -- worn smooth and polished by constant use -- and when he lays them out this way, they kind of look like works of art. Willie Nelson may be acknowledging both his own and country music's debt to Broadway and Tin Pan Alley, but he's also showing these hallowed musical institutions how the country makes their music its own.
from Tom Moon's 1,000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die
Willie Nelson is one great fake-out artist. A few minutes with that craggy voice on the stereo, and the logical conclusion is that he's not much of a singer. And then a few more minutes go by, and you're captivated -- this grizzled dude knows how to get his voice into a zone where his intentions can't be misread, where the warts and the flaws work for him. He sings through what would be deal-breaking disadvantages for others; you follow along in part because you wanna see if the old coot can make it. Some in the Nashville Establishment hooked into Nelson's oddly compelling style early on. It took this album of standards to establish Nelson as a singer with a disarming, logic-defying knack for vocal persuasion.
Produced by organist Booker T. Jones (of Booker T. and the MGs fame), Stardust catches Nelson in a chilled-out easygoing-grandpa mood. He's singing stuff that he grew up with -- old torch songs ("Someone to Watch Over Me"), tunes he heard Ray Charles sing ("Georgia on My Mind"), and hushed ballads including "Moonlight in Vermont," a marvel of nonrhyming prose imagery that Nelson names in the liner notes as his all-time favorite song. The small band follows his moves at close range, veering between country, soul-ballad tricks, and jazz turnarounds in a way that blurs genres while making perfect musical sense. One example: On the dramatic ending of "Blue Skies," after he and the band have sauntered through a few bouncy, optimistic choruses, he shifts gears into half time, and then, after a few bars, slows things even further. It's a rallentando that suggests the bittersweet feeling that sometimes descends at the end of a beautiful day. The blue sky is darkening. Dusk is approaching. And Nelson, in a rare turn as Mr. Softie, is wistful, not quite ready to let go of the light just yet.
In April of 1978, The Only Ones released their self titled debut album, one that has aged well by sounding like a cross between the band's punk rock influences and something the Stones might have cut in Keef's less lucid moments. Songwriter and languid vocalist Peter Perrett has spent far too many years chasing the dragon. The preceding single "Lovers of Today" is about heroin, an addiction that would be one of the factors is the band's short life. The Only Ones, recorded with a skilled band including former Spooky Tooth drummer Mike Kellie, includes one of the year's legendary singles , the often covered "Another Girl, Another Planet".
Around that time, I wrote Another Girl, Another Planet. I used to enjoy meeting lots of girls and always thought it was like visiting a different planet every time. Each girl was different, in different ways, so I assumed it was a worthwhile experience… The stupidity of youth! Once I matured, I realised that just being with one person was actually more beneficial.
The Only Ones was included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear where you'll read:
Perrett's flair for trembled lyrical gush, bolted onto the band's polished punk finesse, distinguished them in an era when most of their peers were scratching their heads over the whereabouts of the fourth chord.
The band would break up in 1981. Looking back, Perrett has a few regrets.
"In the 70s I just did things the way they came out and thought that they were perfect because I was always thought I was a genius, even when I was young. As you do when you’re young, you’re very arrogant. I used to think that the way it came out was perfect – nothing could improve it. But I’m a bit more self-critical and self-deprecating, obviously, as I’ve proved to myself that I’m not infallible.”
During the week of April 16, 1978 Television's new single "Foxhole" entered the U.K. charts at #36. The anti war song isn't the most obvious choice of a single from Adventure, an album that also contained the gorgeous "Days" and anthemic "Glory".
In fact the song dates back to the band's Marquee Moon tour and sounds like it may have come from the same sessions. The song would vanish from the charts by the following week and so would Adventure's chances to be a big seller, despite Television's appearances on the Old Grey Whistle Test in May.
In April of 1979 Mink DeVille released Return to Magenta, a follow-up to the critically acclaimed debut Cabretta. Thius time critics found fault in the album's similarity to its predecessor. Robert Christgau gave the album a C+ grade, writing "the main thing wrong with Willie DeVille is that he hasn't had a new idea since he decided he didn't like acid in 1970. Even as the songpoet of greaser nostalgia he's got nothing to say--the most interesting writing on this record is an old David Forman tune--and the romanticism of his vocal style makes me appreciate George Thorogood. "
But over time the album has been recognized as one of Willy DeVille's best. Recorded with producer and string arranging master Jack Nitsche (Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers, Harvest), Return to Magenta has that Ben E King swing and a pure romantic's view of New York City. Dr John makes a guest appearance.
In the liner notes the legendary songwriter Doc Pomus said of DeVille:
Mink DeVille knows the truth of a city street and the courage in a ghetto love song. And the harsh reality in his voice and phrasing is yesterday, today, and tomorrow — timeless in the same way that loneliness, no money, and troubles find each other and never quit for a minute. But the fighters always have a shot at turning a corner, and if you holler loud enough, sometimes somebody hears you. And truth and love always separate the greats from the neverwases and neverwillbes.
The album peaked at 126 on the Billboard album charts and can be purchased as a two-fer with Cabretta.
In April of 1978 Jilted John, a.k.a. actor Graham Fellows, released a novelty record in the punk rock vein called "Jilted John" which would peak at U.K. #4 by late Summer, selling half a million copies. It's the story of a fellow who gets dumped by a girl named Judy who says she fancies the better looking and more stylish Gordon, leading to the singalong line "Gordon Is A Moron" . That's followed by a series of insults one could only fantasize broadcasting on the radio: She's a slag and he's a creep /She's a tart, he's very cheap /She is a slut, he thinks he's tough /She is a bitch, he is a puff".
On April 9, 1978 The Boomtown Rats's latest single, "She's So Modern", entered the U.K. charts at #23. It would be the first single released from the Rats's second album, A Tonic For the Troops, which also featured a future UK#1 hit in "Rat Trap". The song's lyrics contain the album title : "And Charlie ain't no Nazi/ she likes to wear her leather boots/ 'cuz it's exciting for the veterans/ and it's a tonic for the troops."
Below, you can see Bob Geldorf's Jagger inspired hyper kinetic stage presence which helped get him him cast as Pink in The Wall.
On April 8, 1978 Japan released its debut album, Adolescent Sex. The band may have looked like an 80's hair band but, like Ultravox, they drew their inspiration from harder rocking David Bowie and Roxy Music. If you're a fan of the bands's sophisticated, Eastern-influenced later works, Tin Drum and Gentlemen Take Polaroids, this may come as quite the surprise. Here is the birth of the New Romantic sound. that would be dominated by Duran Duran, Visage and Spandau Ballet.
Ripe for rediscovery, Adolescent Sex has received rave reviews from some of the band's biggest fans and was recently discussed in a Quietus article in which Chris Roberts tried to get singer/songwriter David Sylvain to discuss an album the band would eventually dismiss.
I was interviewing David Sylvian for a career overview in 2004 and suggested we work though album by album, beginning with Adolescent Sex and Obscure Alternatives. “You can,” he shrugged politely. “I mean, I haven’t heard them since 1982 or whatever. I have no interest.” He wasn’t being rude or affected. He genuinely doesn’t see what he perceives as juvenilia being relevant to his body of work. On another occasion I asked him if he hated them as much as is generally made out. Can he not even hear them as youthful, buoyant “fun”? “I don’t cringe as much as I laugh,” he said, smiling. “I don’t take it so seriously as to worry about it. I understand the train of thought. It doesn’t bother me.”
Check out "Television" and "Suburban Love" for some of the more oustanding moments on the album.
The follow-up, Obscure Alternatives, is just six months away. The band's recording career would only last four short years.
On April 9, Elvis Costello's first single from This Year's Model, "(I Don't Want to Go to) Chelsea", peaked at UK #16.
Costello has worked as a white coated computer technician at Elizabeth Arden, next door to the cosmetics factory when he wrote the song taking a contrary view on fashion. He writes about the song in Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink:
Early one morning, I snuck my guitar into the office, as I knew I’d be working late into the night. Once everyone else had gone home and I was alone in the otherwise darkened building, with just the hum and chatter of the computer terminal and the far-off light of a coffee machine next to the stairwell where murderers lurked, I wrote “(I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea.”
My initial guitar riff was one I borrowed from The Who’s “I Can’t Explain,” but I was glad that Pete Thomas and Bruce Thomas later came up with a more syncopated way to play it, especially after I found out that The Clash had pinched the same riff for “Clash City Rockers.
On April 7, 1978 The Police released "Roxanne", their first single on A/M Records. The love song written by Sting to a fictional Parisian prostitute failed to chart ...for nearly a year. Becoming the biggest rock group on earth would have to wait.
Said Sting of the song: We went into Surrey Sound Studios and it was working pretty well. We recorded a few tracks, one of which I wrote more or less as a throwaway. That was 'Roxanne', I didn't think much more about it until we played the album to Miles Copeland who is, of course, Stewart's brother and a bit of an entrepreneur, though he'd never been particularly interested in The Police. In fact, he'd kept away from it to say the least. He did come along to the sessions while we were putting the first album together but more or less just to offer brotherly advice to Stewart. He heard the album and quite liked it. When we got to Roxanne, we were a bit embarrassed because the song was a bit of an anachronism, because compared with our usual material it was slow, quiet and melodic. Far from saying he thought it was a piece of shit, he said it was amazing. I thought, 'He likes this song. This is fantastic!
It was almost like when a tribal elder in some culture says "You have to go out there to this far desert and take this drug, and just be stuck with yourself for awhile. And if you can survive being stuck with yourself then you can live with the rest of us.
On April 7, 1978 Todd Rundgren released Hermit of Mink Hollow, which signaled a return to the pop music form that made Something/Anything? a favorite album for fans. We're not heading off into some kind of Utopia-n jazz fusion land here. Rundgren repeats his Something/Anything? trick by writing, producing and playing every instrument in a 24 track studio on Mink Hollow Road in Lake Hill, NY.
Rundgren had broken up with Bebe Buell and come to the realization that it was very possible Liv, his presumptive daughter was actually fathered by someone else. He spent this time in isolation, with a 24/7 studio in his home, wondering why his life had turned out the way it had and what changes he needed to make.
While many fans believe his top 30 hit "Can We Still Be Friends" is a message to Buell, Rundgren says it's a formulaic Tin Pan Alley song written to convey an emotion of sadness.
Six years displaced in time, here is the follow-up to Something/Anything? Todd Rundgren's unalloyed pop craft motivates every moment of Hermit of Mink Hollow. While there are some concessions to modernity -- the synthesizers that thicken a few Phil Spector-like productions, a lavish use of the shivery suspended chords Rundgren's always loved (but that Steely Dan made commercial) -- Hermit of Mink Hollow's dozen songs all stem from the universal library of luminous pop enjoyment that this curious artist carries around in his head. They condense the whole world into a three-minute capsule and promise eternal youth. They know the rules so well that it's almost a joy to conform.
Rundgren understands pop as a vehicle of genuine communication perhaps better than anyone: he never trifles and rarely gets silly. Hardly the "gloriously cheap displays of human emotion" that rock writer Cameron Crowe once claimed of Something/Anything?, these pieces are concise but careful observations of anything Rundgren confronts. He offers a couple of conventional love songs, but be careful: "All the Children Sing," which begins as such, soon expands into an analysis of Rundgren's reputation as a utopian philosopher and guru. "Too Far Gone" sympathetically depicts his family and friends passing judgement on his quirky career.
These examples are all on "The Easy Side," where the pitches tend to be higher and the subjects less severe. "The Difficult Side" is difficult only because the emotions are purer and more wrenching. "Bread" is a protest song, but it doesn't preach. The protagonists -- people in this country who are starving -- tell their own story and bite their own bullets as the energetic, minor-key music builds from Byrds-like angularity to full roar. "Bag Lady" is quite subtle and absolutely chilling: sprung rhythms and inconclusive, airy chords paint the portrait of an old, tattered subway denizen until "One day it gets a bit too cold/ Maybe a bit too wet, maybe a little too lonely/ Lifelessly she lies amidst her bag world/ But maybe she's only sleeping." Neither simple nor always pleasant, Todd Rundgren is still an artist to be taken seriously.
From Robert Christgau who gave the album a C+ rating:
Only a weight as willfully light as Todd can be trusted to put his smartest song ("Onomatopeia") on "the easy side" and his dumbest ("Bag Lady") on "the difficult side."
On April 7, 1978 Prince released For You, his debut album featuring songs composed, arranged, produced and performed by Prince. Much of it at the Record Plant in Sausalito where Fleetwood Mac had recorded Rumours.
Even as a 19 year old, Prince wouldn't take direction. He plays acoustic and electric guitars, acoustic piano and Fender Rhodes piano, synth bass, various keyboard synths by Oberheim, Moog and Arp, orchestra bells, drums, percussion and bass guitar. When it came to shooting his album cover, Prince passed on the studio's choice and booked his own photographer.
I actually like these unreleased demos better than the album which were overworked. The vocals on the title cut featured more than 40 tracks.
Early reviews were lukewarm. Robert Chrisgtau scoring For You a B- , writing:
Like most in-studio one-man bands, the nineteen-year-old kid who pieced this disco-rock-pop-funk concoction together has a weakness for the programmatic--lots of chops, not much challenge. But I like "Baby," about making one, and "Soft and Wet," ditto only he doesn't know it yet. And his falsetto beats Stevie Wonder's, not to mention Emitt Rhodes's
In April of 1978, The Cramps released 6000 copies of "Surfin' Bird/ The Way I Walk", their Alex Chilton produced debut single on their own Vengence label.
The band had been frustrated by lack of major label interest.
"Putting that single out was like our big flying fuck you," said guitarist Poison Ivy. "The Way I Walk is representative of our sound but Surfin' Bird? The attitude is, but the music isn't."
The Ramones has covered Surfin'Bird on their 1977 Rocket to Russia album. More recently, Robert Gordon had covered The Way I Walk on an album released in March.
The singles were recorded in Memphis at Ardent Studios where Chilton had made his Big Star albums.
"He's done the most reckless suicidal things and gotten clean away," vocalist Lux Interior said. "He's probably fucked every chick in the state. Literally. And this chicks' boyfriends are out to get him".
With Chilton at the board, The Cramps also recorded TV Set, Domino and Lonesome Town, all available on the 1979 EP Gravest Hits.
In April of 1978 Television released Adventure, their follow-up to the critically acclaimed debut Marquee Moon. As every single critic who has ever written about Adventure points out, it suffers in comparison to the great debut. But, if like me, you know every note of Marquee Moon by heart, at least Adventure offers surprises.
Among the surprises is that Tom Verlaine insisted on writing new songs for the album rather than relying on the concert set lists of the past. Only "Foxhole" and "Careful" would have been familiar to long time fans of the band.
Adventure is less jagged, less nervy. "Days" is beautiful. There are many who will tell you Marquee Moon is the only Television album you need, but Adventure is very good all on its own.
Those scandalized by Marquee Moon's wimpoid tendencies are gonna try to read this one out of the movement. I agree that it's not as urgent, or as satisfying, but that's only to say that Marquee Moon was a great album while Adventure is a very good one. The difference is more a function of material than of the new album's relatively clean, calm, reflective mood. The lyrics on Marquee Moon were shot through with visionary surprises that never let up. These are comparatively songlike, their apercus concentrated in hook lines that are surrounded by more quotidian stuff. The first side is funnier, faster, more accessible, but the second side gets there--the guitar on "The Fire" is Verlaine's most gorgeous ever.
By daring to be different, Adventure lives up to its title, but it also comes as something of a disappointment because it lacks the jagged tension and mysterious drama that imbued last year's Marquee Moon with such dark but lucid power. Marquee Moon celebrated friction, and Richard Lloyd's rhythm guitar fairly grated against Tom Verlaine's more lyrical lead playing. The music is dreamier and much more benign here, more apt to charm than to challenge. Instead of baying at the moon, Verlaine often yelps like a puppy. On "Carried Away," his vocal veers uncomfortably close to something you'd expect from Keith Carradine.