Friday, August 31, 2018

The Night The Jersey Shore Invaded Cleveland

Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes : I Played the Fool

On the last night of August 1978,  blending into the very early morning hours, Cleveland hosted Jersey Shore royalty at the Agora Ballroom. Members of the E Street band, including Clarence Clemons, Garry Tallent and the Boss himself, having just played the Richfield Coliseum, showed up with the guitarist the bands shared, Miami Steve, for a jam session with Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes that went on all night. 

In another month or so, Southside's best album, Hearts of Stone, packed with songs written by Springsteen, would be released.

According to a fan:

"We were at the Agora on August 31. We had tried desperately to get tickets for Bruce that night at the Coliseum but it got sold out. The Agora gig was actually a Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes gig that started about three hours late because, as Southside stated, they had to wait for their lead guitarist (Miami Steve) to get done with another gig across town. Bruce joined the band in the second set and they rocked into the wee hours of the night, neither the band nor the crowd wanted to leave... it was about 4am when we finally got home (with little, or no voice). Great intimate concert with Bruce and Southside."

Thursday, August 30, 2018

A Visit to Independence

RL Burnside : Jumper Hanging Out On the Line

In August of 1978 Alan Lomax filmed Mississippi bluesman RL Burnside at his home in Independence, performing with his family for a television documentary called The Land Where the Blues Began. Though he had performed at the Jazz and Heritage Festival in New Orleans in 1974, and was related to Muddy Waters, Burnside made his living working on farms until the mid-1980's.

In the 90's Burnside would start recording for Fat Possum Records. He'd open for Jon Spencer Blues and the Beastie Boys and win accolades like the W C Handy Award for Traditional Blues Male Artist of the Year in 2000. Burnside died in 2005 at the age of 78.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Good Morning, Mr. Driver, Drive

Klaatu : A Routine Day

A year after Rolling Stone named  Klaatu "Hype of the Year" following rumors they were the reunited Beatles in disguise, the Canadian band released Sir Army Suit. The cover revealed likenesses of the real band members, with their backs turned in an attempt to keep their anonymity. The video for the McCartneyish single was animated in a Yellow Submarine style.

Despite shorter, more commercial songs than the previous albums, Sir Army Suit never achieved better than cult status.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

That Really Gets My Goat

Devo : Gut Feeling/Slap Your Mammy

Raised on comic books and science fiction flicks, I was one of those teenagers who, upon hearing Devo's cover version of "Satisfaction", had to buy the debut album by the Akron quintet. I've already written about the band's interactions with producer Brian Eno.

It occurs to me today that the album is perfectly sequenced. Select "shuffle" and the entire thing sounds nerve racking jumble, anxious to a fault. 

But playing it loud in my dorm room in 1978 and 79 gave me "the ability to torment". 

Released when synthesizers were instruments reserved for disco and albums were reserved for thoughtful and emotional sharing by Californians, Q: Are We Not Men? confounded the critics below.

From Tom Carson, writing for Rolling Stone :

What's most impressive about Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! is its authority: Devo presents their dissociated, chillingly cerebral music as a definitive restatement of rock and roll's aims and boundaries in the Seventies. The band's cover version of "Satisfaction," for instance, with its melody line almost completely erased and the lyrics delivered in a yelping, droogy chant to mechanical rhythms, at first comes across as an intentional travesty, a typical New Wave rejection of the old-fart generation. But what Devo is really doing is reshaping the old message into their own terminology -- claiming one of the greatest anthems of the Sixties, with all its wealth of emotional associations, for their own time. It's a startling gesture, yet a surprisingly convincing one. 

 The same could be said for the whole album. The primitive guitar work and pulsing beat suggest a gamut of early Sixties borrowings, but the group is also reminiscent (the vocals especially) of some of the artier New Wave bands such as Wire or the B-52s. Yet all of these influences are flattened into an arid, deliberately fragmented science-fiction landscape. There's not an ounce of feeling anywhere, and the only commitment is to the distancing aesthetic of the put-on.

I suspect, though, that in adopting this style, Devo would argue that they're simply being good journalists -- that the futuristic deadpan comedy of their stance reflects the current pop-culture reality. "Too Much Paranoias," for example, starts out as a mocking, jarring little ode to dread that's genuinely frightening, then turns into an overt joke in which the chief villain is apparently a McDonald's hamburger ("Hold the pickles hold the lettuce," in a spasmodic shriek), but the joke is equally scary. And the group's attitude remains poker-faced throughout. In the lobotomized anthems that end side one, "Mongoloid" (a sort of bastard cousin to the Ramones' "Pinhead," with a great, stuttering guitar line) and "Jocko Homo," it's impossible to tell whether these guys are satirizing robotlike regimentation or glorifying it. The answer seems to be that there isn't any difference. 

 Brian Eno's production is the perfect complement to Devo's music. Eno thickens the band's stop-and-go rhythms with crisp, sharp layers of percussive sound, full of jagged edges and eerie effects that whip in and out of phase at dizzying speeds. On every cut, Devo seems to know exactly what they want and how to achieve it almost effortlessly. Such apparently random strategies as "What Goes On"-style organ in "Mongoloid" or the near-Byrds-like guitar intro to "Gut Feeling" coalesce into a barbed, dislocated texture that draws you in even while it sets your nerves on edge.

Though the group's abstract-expressionistic patterns of sound are closely related to Eno's own brand of experimentation (not to mention the recent work of David Bowie, who one once slated to produce this LP) and to a host of other art rockers, Devo lacks most of Eno's warmth and much of Bowie's flair for mechanized melodrama. For all its idiosyncrasies, the music here is utterly impersonal. This Ohio band either treats humanity as just another junky, mass-cult artifact to be summarily disposed of, or else ignores it completely. Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! is a brittle, small masterpiece of Seventies pop irony, but its shriveling, ice-cold absurdism might not define the Seventies as much as jump the gun on the Eighties.

From Robert Christgau's B+ graded review:

If this isn't Kiss for college kids, then it's Meat Loaf for college kids who are too sophisticated to like Meat Loaf. Aside from music per se, the Kiss connection is in their cartoonishness--Devo's robot moves create distance, a margin of safety, the way Kiss's makeup does. But the Meat Loaf connection is deeper, because this is real midnight-movie stuff--the antihumanist sci-fi silliness, the reveling in decay, the thrill of being in a cult that could attract millions and still seem like a cult, since 200 million others will never even get curious. (It's no surprise to be told that a lot of their ideas come from Eraserhead, but who wants to go see Eraserhead to make sure?) What makes this group worthy of attention at all--and now we're back with Kiss, though at a more complex level--is the catchy, comical, herky-jerky rock and roll they've devised out of the same old basic materials. In small doses it's as good as novelty music ever gets, and there isn't a really bad cut on this album. But it leads nowhere.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Rich and Romantic

The Romantics : Tell It to Carrie

In August of 1978 Detroit power poppers The Romantics released "Tell It to Carrie", their second single. The band would soon change into red leather suits with skinny ties and re-record the song for their 1980 self-titled debut, featuring "What I Like About You".

Not quite the punkiest title to a single from Glen Matlock's new band, but by the time of its release the Rich Kids had pretty much broken up. No thanks to the music press who labeled the band a super group. Or to the fact that singer Midge Ure had bought a synthesizer and was determined to use it ( he would in Ultravox). Still, I can hear a blueprint for Manic Street Preachers in this sound, produced by Mick Ronson. 

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Listen to the Bass Man

The Brothers Johnson : Ain't We Funkin Now

On August 26, 1078 The Brothers Johnson entered the U.K. charts at #71 with the by-the-numbers funk single, "Ain't We Funkin Now".  The single from the Rand B #1 album Blam!! would fail to make the Top 40 in both the UK and the US R + B charts. The follow-up, "Stomp!", would bring the brothers back to #1, but their winning streak would end in 1981,  with the release of an album called Winners.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Down at the Doctors

Mankind : Dr. Who

You probaby didn't know you needed a disco version of the Dr Who theme, but 240,000 copies of Mankind's version were sold in late 1978. The single spent 12 weeks in the U.K. charts, peaking at #25.

Dr. Alimantado : I Killed the Barber

Rastafarian toaster Dr. Alimantado's debut album, Best Dressed Chicken in Town, is a collection of singles from 1972-1977. Considering the amount of work that went into 1970's album covers, this one stands out in part because Alimantado didn't even bother to zip up his shorts.

Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band : Mister Love

The follow-up to the masterful Top 40 debut is more of the same and a bit harder to take. Good thing August Darnell would retire this sound and form Kid Creole and the Coconuts.

Dr. Feelgood : Night Time


Wilko Johnson's departure means everything Dr Feelgood did after 1977 is less relevant, but Private Practice had sone decent tunes and the Nick Lowe-co-write,  "Milk and Alcohol",  would reach the UK Top 10 in 1979.


Thursday, August 23, 2018

Big Break Ups

Television : Ain't That Nothin' (Run-Through)


Me and Lloyd and Fred were walking somewhere one day and I just said, 'God, I really just want to do something else.' And Lloyd said something that really surprised me, 'Yeah, maybe we should have a change.' And that was sort of it. Fred was scratching his head and I think he told Billy.
-Tom Verlaine, From the Velvets to the Voidoids

There were three soundtracks in the US Top 10: Grease, Sgt Pepper and Saturday Night Fever in August of 1978. 

No wonder so many bands just gave up. 

With one masterpiece and one near masterpiece in their discography, Television amicably broke up following three sensational nights playing at The Bottom Line. Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd would pursue solo careers while drummer Billy Ficca managed to get a job with The Waitresses.

Be Bop Deluxe : Jet Silver and the Dolls of Venus

Failing to find an audience in the country that produced all of his favorite science magazines, Bill Nelson disbanded Be Bop Deluxe, jettisoning all but Andy Clark on keyboards,  to form Bill Nelson's Red Noise.  The new band may not have achieved mass success but Clark would perform on David Bowie's "Ashes to Ashes" and Peter Gabriel's "Big Time".

Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers : Ice Cream Man


Jonathan Richman also broke up the latest incarnation of The Modern Lovers to go solo. He would vanish into obscurity for the next couple of years.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Foolish Pride

The Stranglers : Walk On By

In the Summer of 1978, The Stranglers gave "Walk On By",  the Burt Bacharach song,  the "Light My Fire" treatment. More than six minutes long, it has an organ solo that would make Ray Manzarek green with envy. Originally given away as a freebie with the Black and White album, the tune peaked at U.K. #21. Sublime!

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Motion in the Ocean

The B-52's : Rock Lobster/ 52 Girls (DB Records version)

In 1978 The B-52's released two thousand copies of  "Rock Lobster" b/w "52 Girls" upon the world. Self-produced and recorded for DB Records, an independent label out of Atlanta, the 7 inch single sold out almost instantly. 

"The first version is crisper and pokier," Fred Schneider told People Magazine. " Commercial radio wouldn’t touch it, but the independent single turned out to be, I think, the biggest selling independent single that year."

Schneider got the idea for the song on a visit to an Atlanta disco club that could only afford to put up slides of animals. The slideshow obviously included a lobster. "Rock Lobster" sounded like a good song title to Schneider. Keith Strickland came up with the guitar line.

Kate Pierson remembers:

Keith would play instrumentation and Fred would do a poem. And Ricky had that riff, so we put it together. Then we jammed. Cindy and I added the fish sounds that sound Cindy does at the end. But we also incorporated some Yoko Ono-isms in our fish sound. She was really an inspiration to us. We listened to Elephant’s Memory and we were into Yoko, genuinely. So that was like an homage to Yoko. It was just all out of jamming, because nobody would sit down and go, “Hey, let’s add Yoko Ono fish sounds.”

Monday, August 20, 2018

Get a Pocket Computer

Blondie : Picture This

On August 20, 1978 Blondie entered the U.K. charts with "Picture This", the first single from their breakthrough album Parallel Lines. Australian producer Mike Chapman had a reputation for mass success. One of his productions, Nick Gilder's "Hot Child in the City", was climbing the U.S. charts in August on its way to #1. 

Chapman wanted everything to sound perfect. Of Parallel Lines  he said "There's loads of hits, it's a great album, but who gives a fuck. It's easy, you see. When we go into the studio, we go in and make hit records, and it just happens. We don't think about it. If you're going to be in the music business, you gotta make hit records. If you can't make hit records, you should fuck off and go chop meat somewhere". 

Sunday, August 19, 2018

In Silent Bars, In Silent Rooms

Tubeway Army : Bombers

By August of 1978 it was evident that Gary Numan's Tubeway Army would not be entering the UK charts with its punky, guitar-driven "Bombers", released a month earlier. At least MTV could cop the guitar line for its theme music. Numan would leave punk rock behind , keep the robotic vocals and attempt to seduce the listening public with synthesizers. The 1979 Tubeway Army album, Replicas, would be a ground breaker, featuring a UK #1 hit in "Are 'Friends' Electric?"

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Harmful Elements in the Air

Siouxsie and the Banshees : Hong Kong Garden

On October 18, 1978 Siouxsie and the Banshees released their debut single, "Hong Kong Garden". The UK#7 hit was written from the point of view of a racist punk visiting a Chinese restaurant by that name. Siouxsie Sioux often visited a London take away by that name.

"I'll never forget, there was a Chinese restaurant in Chislehurst called the 'Hong Kong Garden'," she said. " Me and my friend were really upset that we used to go there and like, occasionally when the skinheads would turn up it would really turn really ugly. These gits would just go in en masse and just terrorise these Chinese people who were working there. We'd try and say 'Leave them alone', you know. It was a kind of tribute"

It's a subtle thing, writing lyrics from the point of view of racists. Just ask Randy Newman. And lines like "Slanted eyes meet a new sunrise/ A race of bodies small in size" might startle those who aren't paying full attention.

The critics loved the single.It was selected as "Single of the Week" by NME, Melody Maker, Sounds and Record Mirror. The song was described by Paul Rambali of NME as "a bright, vivid narrative, something like snapshots from the window of a speeding Japanese train, power charged by the most original, intoxicating guitar playing heard in a long, long time" 

Friday, August 17, 2018

Woke up in a Soho Doorway

The Who : Who are You

On August 18, 1978 The Who released Who Are You, their eighth and final album with drummer Keith Moon. The recording of the album was difficult to say the least. Moon was erratic in temperament and tempo. He was unable to play the 6/8 time on the track "Music Must Change", so the drums were completely removed. Roger Daltrey underwent throat surgery, causing more delays. Then, Pete Townshend sliced his hand in a window. All incidents pale in comparison to the loss of Moon who died three weeks after the album's release. As noted many times, on the cover of Who Are You, he sits in a chair marked "Not To Be Taken Away".

I've always found the album overwrought and a little dull. A lethargic response to punk rock. Townshend's Empty Glass, featuring the title cut, written in 1978, is far superior to this album. 

The Rolling Stone review:

This is by no means a great record, but despite the doubt, guilt, worry and self-laceration in almost every song, it's a strangely confident one. Again and again, the persona is that of the cripple, the victim of disaster, but Who Are You is not the work of cripples, no matter how many breakdowns and bottles the Who have left on their fourteen-year-old trail.

 Certainly, the album kicks in slowly. The tunes lack a natural, kinetic groover (John Entwistle's "905" and Pete Townshend's "Who Are You" are exceptions). The drive we expect from the Who is replaced by chunky, sometimes clunky orchestration: strings, horns, synthesizer music. This gives one the feeling that the Who aren't moving, that they aren't gearing up for a great rock and roll shoot-out with the competition, heading off for better times, claiming the future -- rather, they're face to face with limbo, and trying to think their way out of it. They make the limbo real, but their resistance to it is just as convincing.

 At least four songs -- all Pete Townshend's -- begin with the premise that the band's (and its audience's) future can't be taken for granted: with doors slamming all around, Townshend feels his weakness, his obsolescence. "New Song," the first cut, rams home the guilt of having taken a free ride: "I write the same old song, with a few new lines/And everybody wants to cheer me." "Music Must Change" might be announcing the need for a New Wave, but it's quite consciously two years out of date, and, what's more, the music itself sounds old and stiff -- there's not a single musical concession to punk, reggae or even hard-nosed rock. In "Guitar and Pen," Townshend clings to his vocation as the man who has something to say, something worth the time others will take to listen, but very intentionally, he protests too much, and subverts his own affirmation.

And then there is "Who Are You," a far stronger single than "Squeeze Box," the hit from 1975's The Who By Numbers, and a song that, stretched out over more than six minutes on the LP version, is far more moving than "Won't Get Fooled Again," the band's certified Seventies masterpiece. The dynamics are much more subtle this time -- and all the smugness is gone.

 "Who Are You" was spun out of the night that Townshend, already drunk after hours of financial haggling, half-recognized two members of the Sex Pistols in a bar: that is, he thought either Steve Jones or Paul Cook was Johnny Rotten. Corrected, he felt even more confused: Why can't I see straight? Cook and Jones, supposedly arrogant young punks working out their rock and roll Oedipal complex, were thrilled to meet Townshend and horrified at what he had to tell them: the Who were finished, used up, wasted. The incident left Townshend passed out in a Soho street, which is where the song begins. Townsend (in the voice of Roger Daltrey) wakes up with one enormous question: Who are you? It's addressed to Cook and Jones (Who are these upstarts, who would never have played a not had not Townshend picked up a guitar more than a decade back?); to the cop who, recognizing Townshend, sends him home without a bust (Who are the fans?); to himself (What does it mean to be a rocker? What kind of wreck has the life made him?); and, finally, to anyone who's listening. "Whooooooo/Are you?" hums the chorus. "I really want to know!" Daltrey shouts back, echoing Donovan's "What Goes On," but while Donovan communicated hippie certainty that all things would come, Daltrey is desperate, sure of nothing.

 ATTENTION, reads a sticker on the album cover: "'Who Are You' (Side 2, Track 4) contains lyrics that may offend." We can thank the Supreme Court -- which in its ultimate wisdom recently granted the FCC the power to censor radio -- for that one, but what might these offensive lyrics be? There's a lot of emotion in this song -- is that now illegal? I had to listen over and over before I caught what the sticker was referring to: Daltrey's most expressive singing on the LP -- a blasted, tired, buried wail of "Who the fuck are you!" just before the record ends. Nobody answers: the doo-wop chorus simply goes on taunting. The neat double meaning of the album title -- the Who are you -- does not outlast the title song.

The other numbers on the LP, those that don't posit rock as a metaphor for life, connect directly with those that do: they too are about fear, emptiness, failure. John Entwistle's "905" is surely the finest cut here, a return to the form of "Boris the Spider," "Whiskey Man" and "My Wife." The timeliness of the song is uncanny: it's about a test-tube baby. The music, led on by an eerie, climbing riff, sets a science-fiction mood -- a mood that's all the more unsettling since the story is no longer quite science fiction. Entwistle's vocal is perfect: lost, damned, accepting. "In suspended animation," he says quietly, "My childhood passed me by/If I speak without emotion/Then you know the reason why." His hardest lines, "Every sentence in my head/Someone else has said," bounce off Townshend's admission in "New Song" that he has nothing to say that he hasn't said before: cloning may be the promise of the future, but the Who are afraid they can enter the future are afraid they can enter the future (i.e., this year) only by cloning themselves.

The boozy stumblebum of "Who Are You" turns up again in Entwistle's "Trick of the Light": this time it's sex that has pulled the rug out from under the singer, as he begs the prostitute he's hired for the night to reassure him about his performance in bed. In "Had Enough," the singer tries to get mad -- "I've had enough of being nice," he chants at the beginning; "Here comes the end of the world," he yells as the tune ends -- but he can't do it. The song limps, the singer fades. If this is anger, if this is the end of the world, no one has anything to be afraid of.

 Who Are You is an LP the Who have been working toward all through the Seventies. The fears of aging, irrelevancy and the dissolution of one's self, one's band or one's audience that peeked out of Who's Next and The Who by Numbers have finally surfaced whole. The album cover emphasizes the story. Keith Moon, unstable, unreliable, sits in a chair marked "Not to Be Taken Away." Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend look very old. Townshend, in fact, looks much older han he is: in this picture, he could pass for fifty. And yet there is nothing pathetic about the record he and his band have made. Time seems to be a challenge that's left them invigorated, eager to get on with their lives -- which is to say, eager to get on with rock and  roll. Townshend's wit, his intelligence, is still running wild, in the many interviews that have appeared recently as well as on this LP. Entwistle's work is his best in years. Daltrey's voice has hardened -- there are whole realms of feeling no longer accessible to him -- but he's learning how to use that hardness to convey troubles the earlier songs couldn't reach. Only Moon truly seems to have lost most of what he had: his last great moment came on "Behind Blue Eyes," and since then he has done little more than keep the beat.*

 It will be a real disappointment if another three years pass before the next Who album: this one seems to have left them ready for the new music they claim they can't make -- a claim that's obviated by what is new and, more importantly, compelling on Who Are You. I said this was, despite its claims to oblivion, a confident record: what makes it so is the Who's refusal to settle for mere "survival," for automatic applause and meaningless pro forma hits. Pete Townshend recognizes the fact that, after a decade which seemed happy with its own dead end, bands like the Clash hae broken through limits he had half-accepted. In this case, the child really is father to the man, and that means the chance to start all over again is at Townshend's finger tips.

* This piece was set in type before Keith Moon died on September 7th. The reviewer stands by its optimism, and by its ironies.

From the self appointed dean of rock critics, Robert Christgau a B+ rating:

Every time I concentrate on some new detail in Daltrey's singing or Townshend's lyrics or Entwistle's bass parts -- though not in Moon's drumming, and I still don't relate to the synthesizer. But I never learn anything new, and this is not my idea of fun rock and roll. It ought to be one or the other, if not both.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Amazing Aretha

Aretha Franklin : I Never Loved a Man ( The Way I Love You) (demo)

Spent the morning train ride listening to Aretha Franklin. I bought Aretha's Gold when I was 17 and have been a fan ever since. This demo version of "I Never Loved a Man ( The Way I Love You)", with Aretha on piano and accompanied only by a drummer, is one of the reasons she will always be the Queen of Soul.


Aretha Franklin was the daughter of a preacher. On Amazing Grace, she took us to her roots and showed us where that amazing voice came from - the church.“Being a singer is a natural gift. It means I'm using to the highest degree possible the gift that God gave me to use," she said. "I'm happy with that.”

 Aretha could make a song you've heard a million times sounds brand new. There will only be one Queen of Soul. As long as there is a planet Earth, we will be listening to her.

The Moon It Don't Shine

The Saints : All Times Through Paradise

In the Summer of 1978, The Saints released "Security" b/w "All Times Through Paradise", their last single before the band broke up due to creative differences. The A side is a punky take on the Otis Redding classic, complete with a Stax-style horn section. The B side is a better indicatation of the forthcoming album, the great, but mostly forgotten Prehistoric Sounds.

"All Times Through Paradise " is a smart, moody and ponderous. Somehow Bailey's monotonous voice perfectly fits this late night walk through a dark city. But Bailey wanted three chord crowd pleasers and Kuepper wanted out. By the time Prehistoric Sounds was released, Kuepper was out of the picture,

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Life in a Bedsitter Bedlam

Tom Robinson Band : Too Good To Be True


The new Tom Robinson Band single, "Too Good To Be True",  is released in August of 1978.  It almost sounds like something off an Alan Parsons Project album. Not that that is a bad thing. It comes from Power in the Darkness, TRB"s debut album.

Also on August 15, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band played another epic concert. The venue was the Capitol Center in Landover, MD. Among the highlights that night, captured on video, is the performance of "Prove It All Night" with a nearly 6 minute long guitar solo by Springsteen. As one fan wrote, THIS is what we called him "The Boss".

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Call It Cowardice

The Police : I Can't Stand Losing You

On August 14, 1978 The Police released "Can't Stand Losing You", their first U.K. single to chart although it originally peaked at #42. Originally the song was banned by the BBC because of the cover, a photograph depicting drummer Stewart Copeleand standing on a block of melting ice with a noose around his neck. The song might have performed better, but the band was touring the American East Coast for two months in the fall. 

Reissued in 1979, the single would peak at U.K. #2.

The B side was "Dead End Job". Sting gives his most punk-like vocal delivery while Andy Summers reads from the want ads. 

Monday, August 13, 2018

Make Me Feel Mighty Real

Sylvester : You Make Me Feel Mighty Real

On August 13, 1978 Sylvester's "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)" debuted on the U.K. charts at #38. Born in Watts, Sylvester James pushed social boundaries with gender-bending performances, his openly gay lifestyle, and his belief that gender was a choice. He had sung with a group of black cross dressers and trans women in L.A. before moving to San Francisco. He became the "Queen of Disco" thanks to this early electronic dance music classic, produced by Patrick Cowley, which peaked at U.K. #8 and in the U.S. the following year at #36. 

Sunday, August 12, 2018

All Alone in My Bed at Night

Chic : I Want Your Love

On August 11, 1978 Chic released its sophomore album, C'est Chic, their most popular album . And for good reason. It's home to "Le Freak", the biggest single in the history of Atlantic Records. And "I Want Your Love" is another huge hit.  Listen carefully to just one instrument at a time and you'll learn a lot about what mad the best disco music irresistible. The guitar of Niles Rodgers, the Bernie Edwards bass and the drums of Tony Thompson could pack any disco floor in the world. The band would get one more album on the charts before the "Disco Sucks" backlash ran them out of the city.

In 1978 Robert Christgau, the self-appointed dean of rock critics, gave the album a B, writing :

The hooky cuts are more jingles than songs, the interludes more vamps than breaks, and I won't dance, so don't ask me. Well, maybe if you're really nice.

And from Billboard Magazine ( missing the obvious appeal of "I Want Your Love") :

Although "Le Freak," already a disco, soul and Top 40 hit, is the standout cut of the eight songs offered, the band proves it is able to work in styles other than disco. "Savoir Faire" features some nimble guitar work reminiscent of George Benson, and "At Last I'm Free" is a straightforward soul ballad. The rest is disco saved from being run-of-the-mill by the vocals of Alfa Anderson, Bernard Edwards, Diva Gray, Luci Martin, David Lasley and Luther Vandross. Best cuts: "Le Freak," "Happy Man," "Chic Cheer," "Savoir Faire."

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Wasting Time in Numbers and Rhymes

The Fall : Bingo Master's Break Out

On August 11, 1978, The Fall released its debut EP, Bingo Master's Break Out, introducing the world to Mark E. Smith , a Manchester dockworker who would become one of rock's most tireless and most prolific wordsmiths. Already present here : the singing/shouting, the ending of phrases with a nasal "ah", and an amphetamine amped race through the song.

The title track is about a bingo hall caller who, after wasting time in numbers and rhymes, has lost his will to live. The third track, "Repetition", offers Smith's introduction to what would be coming : "Repetition in the music and we're never gonna lose it", 

Friday, August 10, 2018

Absolute Trust

Taking Heads : The Good Thing ( live at the Agora)

On August 10, 1978  Warner Brothers shot a promotional video about Talking Heads, talking to fans before the concert, and then shooting the band running through one song from Talking Heads '77 ( "Uh-Oh Loves Comes to Town)" and four more from the just released More Songs About Buildings And Food. ("The Girls want To Be With The Girls", "The Good Thing", "Take Me To The River" and "Thank You For Sending Me Angel")  

It seems the band is still a few years away from being a dynamic presence onstage. But they do indeed look "well scrubbed" as the New York Post described them.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Dominus Vobiscum

Dead Boys : (I Don't Want To Be No) Catholic Boy

In August of 1978 The Dead Boys released their follow-up to their classic debut,  Young Loud and Snotty. Former Mountaineer Felix Pappalardi gives the Dead Boys a professional sheen on We Have Come For Your Children, and that doesn't seem to help their cause.  The highlight might be "(I Don't Want To Be No) Catholic Boy" which has both a double negative in its title and backing vocals from Dee and Joey Ramone. 

Robert Christgau gave the album a grade of B-, writing :

Because they're lovable little scumbags deep down, and sincere to boot, Hilly's punk purists have dropped the heavy misogyny and recorded five cuts that laid end to end would make a listenable side. But not even the rousing "3rd Generation Nation" has the power of sexist spew like "I Need Lunch" and "Caught With the Meat in Your Mouth." Makes you wonder what 3rd generation nihilists believe deep down.

August 9, 1978 is also the date of Bruce Springsteen and the E street Band's legendary three hour concert at the Agora in Cleveland. A popular bootleg for decades, it is now an official release sold as a three CD set.