Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Best of 1979

1979 was a remarkable year for albums and singles. I don 't think we've witnessed a year like that since. In the same year we got The Clash's London Calling, Pink Floyd's The Wall, Gang of Four's Entertainment!, Talking Heads's Fear of Music, Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures and Armed Forces by Elvis Costello and the Attractions. Over the course of the year my admiration for some albums increased, especially Unknown Pleasures, Wire's 154, Pil's Metal Box, Fleetwood Mac's Tusk and The Beat's debut which I wasn't familiar with at the start of the year. Other great discoveries included Tangerine Dream's Force Majeure and Gary Numan's Pleasure Principle, Joe Egan's Out of Nowhere, and the Toms album. 

Fave Albums 1979

The Clash London Calling
Gang of Four Entertainment!
Talking Heads Fear of Music
Joy Division Unknown Pleasures
Elvis Costello Armed Forces

Wire 154
PiL Metal Box
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Damn the Torpedoes
Graham Parker Squeezing Out Sparks
Fleetwood Mac Tusk

XTC Drums and Wires
The Beat
Joe Jackson Look Sharp
The Specials
Sparks No 1 Song in Heaven

Tangerine Dream Force Majeure
Robert Fripp Exposure
The Cars Candy O
Gary Numan Pleasure Principle
The B 52's

Fave Singles

Joy Division Transmission
The Clash London Calling
Wire Outdoor Miner
The Cure Boys Don't Cry
Buzzcocks Everybody's Happy Nowadays/Why Can't I Touch It

XTC Making Plans for Nigel
The Specials Gangsters
Talking Heads Life During Wartime
The Pop Group She is Beyond Good and Evil
The Ruts Babylon's Burning

Undertones Teenage Kicks
Blondie Heart of Glass
Nick Lowe Cruel to be Kind
Prince I Wanna Be Your Lover
Squeeze Up the Junction

Gary Numan Cars
Michael Jackson Don't Stop Til You Get Enough
Chic Good Times
Sugarhill Gang Rappers Delight
Sparks The Number One Song in Heaven

    On Social Media

Promoting this page on Twitter has been fun this year with retweets, likes and responses from Graham Parker, Eric Idle, The Mekons, Gang of Four, Bebe Buell, Mark Stewart of The Pop Group and these two, from Cher and Feargal Sharkey.

Monday, December 30, 2019

In Through The Out Door Tops 1979 Creem Readers Poll

Led Zeppelin : Fool in the Rain


Creem Readers picked Led Zeppelin's In Through the Out Door as the best album from 1979 as Jimmy Page took top honors as Best Guitarist and Best Producer, Robert Plant as Best Male Singer and John Bonham as Best Drummer. Cheap Trick also made a strong showing with the #3 and #4 albums and #2 finishes for Robin Zander, Bun E Carlos and Rick Nielsen.


 1. In Through The Out Door (Led Zeppelin)
 2. Candy-O (The Cars)
 3. Dream Police (Cheap Trick)
 4. Live At Budokan (Cheap Trick)
 5. Rust Never Sleeps (Neil Young + Crazy Horse)
 6. Squeezing Out Sparks (Graham Parker + the Rumour)
 7. The Kids Are Alright (The Who)
 8. Van Halen II (Van Halen)
 9. Low Budget (The Kinks)
10. Get The Knack (The Knack)
11. The Clash
12. Dynasty (Kiss)
13. Fear Of Music (Talking Heads)
14. Armed Forces (Elvis Costello)
15. Labour Of Lust (Nick Lowe)
16. Highway To Hell (AC/DC)
17. B-52's
18. Breakfast In America (Supertramp)
19. Night In The Ruts (Aerosmith)
20. Look Sharp! (Joe Jackson)
21. Eat To The Beat (Blondie)
22. The Long Run (The Eagles)
23. Tusk (Fleetwood Mac)
24. Damn The Torpedoes (Tom Petty + the Heartbreakers)
25. You're Never Alone With A Schizophrenic (Ian Hunter)

1. My Sharona (The Knack) 2. Let's Go (The Cars) 3. Cruel To Be Kind (Nick Lowe) 4. I Want You To Want Me (Cheap Trick) 5. I Don't Like Mondays (Boomtown Rats) 6. Dream Police (Cheap Trick) 7. Pop Muzik (M) 8. I Was Made For Lovin' You (Kiss) 9. Long Live Rock (The Who) 10. Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy (Bad Co.) 11. My My Hey Hey (Neil Young) 12. I Fought The Law (The Clash) 13. Roxanne (The Police) 14. Superman (The Kinks) 15. Rock Lobster (The B-52's) TOP TEN R+B SINGLES

1. Bad Girls (Donna Summer) 2. You Gotta Serve Somebody (Bob Dylan) 3. Sail On (Commodores) 4. Hot Stuff (Donna Summer) 5. Boom, Boom (Pat Travers) 6. After The Love Is Gone (Earth, Wind + Fire) 7. Still (Commodores) 8. Pop Muzik (M) 9. Move It On Over (George Thorogood + the Destroyers) 10. I Will Survive (Gloria Gaynor) BEST GUITARIST

 1. Jimmy Page
 2. Rick Nielsen
 3. Mick Jones (Clash)
 4. Edward Van Halen
 5. Pete Townshend
 6. Ted Nugent
 7. Ace Frehley
 8. Keith Richards
9. Johnny Ramone
10. Joe Perry


 1. John Bonham
 2. Bun E. Carlos
 3. Neil Peart
 4. Peter Criss
 5. Charlie Watts
 6. Clem Burke
 7. Keith Moon
 8. Nicky Headon
 9. David Robinson
10. Carl Palmer

 1. Jimmy Page
 2. Nick Lowe
 3. Roy Thomas Baker
 4. Brian Eno
 5. Todd Rundgren
 6. Mike Chapman
 7. Tom Werman
 8. Glimmer Twins
 9. Eddie Kramer
10. Phil Spector

1. Robert Plant 2. Robin Zander 3. Roger Daltrey 4. Mick Jagger 5. David Lee Roth 6. Steven Tyler 7. Elvis Costello 8. Bruce Springsteen 9. Graham Parker 10. Bob Seger
1. The Kids Are Alright 2. Rock 'n' Roll High School 3. Life Of Brian 4. Quadrophenia 5. Rust Never Sleeps 6. Apocalypse Now 7. Alien 8. Hair 9. The Rocky Horror Picture Show 10. The Rose

 1. Roller Disco
 2. Disco
 3. Drugs
 4. Punk/New Wave Rock
 5. Anti-disco
 6. The Knack
 7. Sex
 8. No Nukes
 9. Mods
10. Designer jeans

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Most Popular Posts of 2019

You never know what post is going to connect with readers or why. The Top Ten posts were mostly about esoteric albums like A Can of Bees by The Soft Boys.

Top 5 Most Popular Posts

1. The Soft Boys A Can of Bees.

"As we learned to play electric music, we festooned it with harmonies and booby-trapped it with odd time signatures." - Robyn Hitchcock

2. The Raincoats self-titled.

The band lived as squatters, paying no rent and living on air and the occasional meal and bath.

 “It was a homemade, chaotic sound,” bassist and vocalist Gina Burch says. “The way we lived seeped in.”

3. Pil: Metal Box

How the boxes themselves turned out was awkward in the extreme...They were hard to prise apart, and it was impossible to get the records out. It was appropriate, though , because what you were about to listen to could've been construed as distinctly unpleasant--it was made for those consumers who were prepared to put in a bit of effort. - John Lydon

4. The Misfits : "Night of the Living Dead"

The punk band printed up 2000 copies to be sold at the door to their shows. In contrast, t-shirts sales featuring Misfit ghouls have sold well over a million by now. Even my daughter is wearing one today.

5. Godley and Creme : Freeze Frame

The idea was driven by a new piece of equipment called a harmoniser. It's used in studios all the time these days as a corrective device to get performances in tune, but this early version came with a keyboard. You could put a sound through a harmoniser and if you wanted an instrument or voice to hit a certain note that it hadn't, you could play that note on the keyboard. So we got to thinking, 'Let's forget about singing for the moment. What happens if I vocalize these words in a monotone - do an entire song on one note - and get Lol to play my vocal on the harmoniser keyboard?' That was the experiment. It worked pretty well. Predated Cher's digital gurglings by a few years. -Kevin Godley

Next 5:

The Shoes Present Tense
The Brains "Money Changes Everything"
The Pop Group Y
Marianne Faithfull Broken English
The Jam Setting Sons.

Least Popular:

For several weeks during the summer something strange happened in which I lost 95%-98% of the views I would regularly get. So the quality of the albums is not the blame here.

1. Dire Straits Communique
2. Japan Life in Tokyo
3. Swell Maps
4. Joni Mitchell Mingus
5. Sniff n The Tears " Drivers Seat"

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Fave Songs of 2019

Robert Forster : Life Has Turned A Page

Though I spent most of my musical life in 1979, I did peek outside every so often to take in the tunes of 2019. One could still live in the past with all of the reissues that came out. A super deluxe four CD edition of Abbey Road featured two discs of sessions, a Blu Ray with optimal audio and a hardback book. G Stands For Go-Betweens Volume 2 featured remastered versions of Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express, Tallulah and 16 Lovers Lane, a live album, outtakes and for some buyers a signed book that once belonged in the collection of Grant McLennan.  There were remastered and extended versions of R.E.M.'s Monster and The Replacements' Don't Tell A Soul. A three CD collection of tunes from Bob Dylan's Nashville Skyline era called Travelin' Thru drew my eyes and ears as did a three CD version of Prince's 1999 ( featuring a song called "Vagina")  and Welcome to the Vault, and the Steve Miller Band's career-spanning 3 CD + DVD Collection containing 52 audio tracks and 21 performances on DVD.

The first two songs I want to highlight are by artists noting the passage of time. Former Go-Between Robert Forster is completing a tour at the moment to support Inferno. His old friend and Warm Nights producer as well as Orange Juice frontman Edwyn Collins is 60 and walks with a cane after a stroke that originally stole his ability understand or speak languages. From Badbea, this is the standout track "I Guess We Were Young". 

Better Oblivion Community Center teams up Conor Oberst and Phoebe Bridgers on the catchy "Dylan Thomas" while "History Repeats" is just one track from a great solo album by Alabama Shakes frontwoman Brittany Howard, whose Jaime is dedicated to a sister who died young.

From the pop charts, where almost everything sounds like it's been manufactured by multiple producers on the same assembly line, I like the moody music of Billie Eilish and Post Malone.

"Ill Wind" is a special bonus track from A Moon Shaped Pool that became available for streaming in 2019 while Big Thief's "Not"  may be the alternative single of the year, thanks in part to the manic guitar solo that begins around the 2:30 mark.

Let's wrap this up with Lizzo's "Truth Hurts" which is the empowerment song we all need and FKA Twigs's "Cellophane", which may contain the most vulnerable performance of the year. 

Honorable Mention to Angel Olson, Weyes Blood,Tyler the Creator and Fontaines DC.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Fear of Music tops NME Critics Poll

Talking Heads : Life During Wartime

New Musical Express declared Fear of Music by Talking Heads as the best album of 1979, over such memorable efforts as London Calling, Entertainment!, Unknown Pleasures and Metal Box. In an article published weeks before the release of the album, David Byrne gave NME some hints about the songs on the new record:

"I've tried to write songs that are far from my usual point of view, about getting drunk and chasing after girls, but they're never successful. I don't think I can chase...See, if I use the third person it achieves distance. It's slightly humorous. It isn't always very nice...The songs 'Heaven" and "Mind" are set in parties and bars, places where people get together, except in one  of 'em the party is in someone's mind and they want it to stop. Eventually they decide they like it"

Earlier in the month Talking Heads performed at London's Electric Ballroom with opening acts Orchestral Manoeuvres In the Dark and, from Ireland, a band calling themselves U2. 

 1. Fear Of Music - Talking Heads
 2. Metal Box - Public Image Ltd.
 3. Unknown Pleasures - Joy Division
 4. Setting Sons - The Jam
 5. Entertainment - Gang Of Four

 6. Armed Forces - Elvis Costello
 7. Do It Yourself - Ian Dury
 8. London Calling - The Clash
 9. Squeezing Out The Sparks - Graham Parker
 10. The Specials - The Specials

 11. Forces Of Victory - Linton Kwesi Johnson
 12. The B52's - The B52's
 13. Bop Till You Drop - Ry Cooder
 14. The Raincoats - The Raincoats
 15. Tom Verlaine - Tom Verlaine
 16. I Am - Earth, Wind + Fire

 17. The Undertones - The Undertones
 18. 154 - Wire
 19. Repeat When Necessary - Dave Edmunds
 20. Drums + Wires - Xtc
 21. New Picnic Time - Pere Ubu

 22. Cut - The Slits
 23. Risque - Chic
 24. Regatta De Blank - Police
 25. Humanity - The Royle Rasses

 26. Same Song - Israel Vibration
 27. Katzenmusic - Michael Rother
 28. Rust Never Sleeps - Neil Young
 29. Bruder Des Schattens, Sohne Des.. - Popol Vuh

 30. Dragnet - The Fall
 31. Even Serpents Shine - The Only Ones
 32. Eskimo - The Residents
 33. Slow Train Coming - Bob Dylan
 34. Blue Valentine - Tom Waits

 35. This Heat - This Heat
 36. A Train To Marineville - Swell Maps
 37. I’m The Man - Joe Jackson
 38. Soldier Talk - The Red Crayola

 39. Reproduction - The Human League
 40. Lodger - David Bowie

Thursday, December 26, 2019

The Concerts for Kampuchea

Rockpile ( with Robert Plant) : Little Sister

For four nights, from December 26-29 of 1979, some of the biggest names in rock and roll performed at the Hammersmith Odeon in London to raise money for the victims of war-torn Cambodia. The shows, billed as the Concerts for the People of Kampuchea, featured Queen, The Clash, The Who, Elvis Costello, The Pretenders, and the last show by Wings. A double album recorded during those evenings would finally be released in March of 1981. My high school band The Geeks performed our own version of the single from that album, "Little Sister",  with lyrics changed to make fun of teachers.

The first night, on Boxing Day, featured a 28-song set by Queen just as their  UK#2 single "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" began dropping out of the Top 30. They were the only band playing that night.

Ian Dury and The Blockheads performed 11 songs on the second night, followed by the British reggae band Matumbi.

Then came The Clash, just weeks after releasing London Calling in the U.K. Seven of the 16 songs they played came from the new album. Here they are playing "Armagideon Time", the B side of their single "London Calling" which had just entered the U.K.  Top 30 at #29.

The Pretenders kicked off night three followed by The Specials and The Who. Their debut album was still a week of two away.

The Who's set featured 25 songs and their new drummer, Kenney Jones. 

Elvis Costello and the Attractions opened up the final night. Rockpile came on next with a short set highlighted by the surprise appearance of Robert Plant. Finally Wings took the stage , playing 20 songs including Beatles numbers "Fool On The Hill" "Yesterday" and "Got To Get You Into My Life". 

It all ended with a four song set by Rockestra, a thirty musician supergroup.

In January of 1980 some American bands, The Beach Boys, Grateful Dead, and Jefferson Starship ,  would perform at a benefit concert at Oakland Coliseum for the people of Kampuchea.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Merry Christmas from the 40 Year Itch!

Yes Andy Kauffman appears on the 1979 Johnny and June Carter Cash Christmas special. 

Program Listing: 
Opening - Andy Kaufman Comedy Sketch 
(Ghost) Riders In The Sky - Johnny Cash 
Five Feet High And Rising - Johnny Cash 
You Needed Me - Anne Murray 
That Christmasy Feeling - Johnny Cash and Anne Murray 
The Ballad Of The Harp Weaver - Johnny Cash 
That's Why You Have To Be You - Tom T. Hall 
Tom T. Hall Medley: Country Is - Johnny Cash and  Tom T. Hall 
Old Dogs, Children And Watermelon Wine - Tom T. Hall 
The Year That Clayton Delaney Died - Johnny Cash and  Tom T. Hall 
I Love - Johnny Cash and Tom T. Hall 
Country Is - Johnny Cash and  Tom T. Hall 
If I Were A Carpenter - Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash 
That's When Your Heartaches Begin - Andy Kaufman 
Christmas Is - Tom T. Hall 
Back Up And Push - June Carter Cash 
Christmas Wishes - Anne Murray 
Let There Be Peace On Earth - Johnny Cash 

John Lydon apparently did not spend the day watching the Johnny Cash Christmas special.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Squeezing Out Sparks Tops 1979 Pazz and Jop Poll

Graham Parker: Protection

Graham Parker and The Rumour win the annual Village Voice Pazz and Jop critics poll. Robert Christgau sums up the results in this way :

Especially if allowances are made for Nashville and Denver and Omaha and New Orleans, it's hard to imagine any other album cracking this year's top five: Armed Forces, by last year's overpowering winner, Elvis Costello; Fear of Music, by Talking Heads, up from fifth in 1978; the confusing American version of The Clash, which in its 1977 English edition showed up on a lot of best-of-the-decade lists; Rust Never Sleeps, generally regarded as Neil Young's best album since Tonight's the Night; and this year's model, Squeezing Out Sparks, by Graham Parker and the Rumour, who placed their first two albums at two and four in the 1976 poll but haven't made much noise among the voters since.

By clicking a link on the albums you can find my own reviews from this year.

The 1979 Pazz +Jop Critics Poll Albums

1. Graham Parker: Squeezing Out Sparks (Arista) 767 (63)
2. Neil Young: Rust Never Sleeps (Reprise) 652 (50) 
3. The Clash: The Clash (Epic) 638 (50)
4. Talking Heads : Fear of Music (Sire) 620 (51)

5. Elvis Costello: Armed Forces (Columbia) 619 (55)
6. Van Morrison: Into the Music (Warner Bros.) 474 (41)
7. The B-52s: The B-52s (Warner Bros.) 371 (37) 
8. Tom Petty Heartbreakers: Damn the Torpedoes (Backstreet/MCA) 340 (31)
9. Pere Ubu: Dub Housing (Chrysalis) 334 (28)
10. Donna Summer: Bad Girls (Casablanca) 330 (30)

11. The Roches: The Roches (Warner Bros.) 292 (30)
12. Dave Edmunds: Repeat When Necessary (Swan Song) 222 (21) 
13. Nick Lowe: Labour of Lust (Columbia) 201 (24)
14. Tom Verlaine: Tom Verlaine (Elektra)
15. Iggy Pop: New Values (Arista) 190 (20)

16. Marianne Faithfull: Broken English (Island) 185 (20)
17. Blondie: Eat to the Beat (Chrysalis) 184 (20)
18. Michael Jackson: Off the Wall (Epic) 179 (16)
19. Rickie Lee Jones: Rickie Lee Jones (Warner Bros.) 176 (20)
20. Buzzcocks: Singles Going Steady (I.R.S.) 172 (18)
21. Fleetwood Mac: Tusk (Warner Bros.) 160 (17)

22. Neil Young with Crazy Horse: Live Rust (Reprise) 158 (15)
23. Ry Cooder: Bop 'Til You Drop (Warner Bros.) 155 (18)
24. David Johansen: In Style (Blue Sky) 136 (15)
25. Lene Lovich: Stateless (Stiff/Epic) 125 (13)
26. Linton Kwesi Johnson: Forces of Victory (Mango) 122 (13) 

27. Chic: Risque (Atlantic) 112 (11) 
28. Joe Jackson: Look Sharp! (A+M) 111 (11) 
29. Art Ensemble of Chicago: Nice Guys (ECM)
30. Roxy Music: Manifesto (Atlantic) 107 (11) 
31. David Bowie: Lodger (RCA Victor) 104 (12)
32. The Slits: Cut (Antilles) 99 (10)

33. Philip Glass/Robert Wilson: Einstein on the Beach (Tomato) 98 (9)
34. Bob Marley the Wailers: Survival (Island) 94 (9)
35. The Police: Regatta de Blanc (A+M) 92 (10)
36. The Shoes: Present Tense (Elektra) 90 (12)
37. The Jam: All Mod Cons (Polydor) 89 (9)

38. Bob Dylan: Slow Train Coming (Columbia) 88 (11)
39. Stevie Wonder: Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants (Tamla) 88 (9)
40. The Kinks: Low Budget (Arista) 85 (9)

Monday, December 23, 2019

The Worst Albums of 1979

Elton John : Victim of Love


Victim of Love, Elton John's disco album, is the runaway winner as the worst album of 1979. In year two of his retirement from performing and writing songs with Bernie Taupin, a coked-up Elton John let disco producer Peter Bellotte handle the songwriting and the sessions. Elton didn't even play any of the instrumentation. 

The reviews were harsh including this one in Rolling Stone.

In his very enjoyable memoir Me, which I'm currently reading , Elton concedes he made the album to fulfill an obligation to his American label:

Not everything on Victim of Love was terrible--if the title track had come on at Studio 54, I'd have danced to it--but making an album in bad faith like that is never a good idea. No matter how you do it, it somehow gets into the music: you can just tell it's not coming from an honest place.


Beach Boys : Here Comes the Night


The Beach Boys flirted with disco on L.A. (Light Album),  their first album for CBS Records. Rolling Stone critic Dave Marsh called it "worse than awful. It is irrelevant".  

Aretha Franklin :  Ladies Only


In which the Queen of Soul gets blind-sided by the lights of the disco club. (Note the trend here?) Produced by Van McCoy, La Diva is the lowest charting and poorest selling album of Aretha's entire Atlantic Records catalogue.

Zon : Circus


Alright here's an album that doesn't involve a well known band trying to make a disco record one year late. The Canadian rock group Zon was too busy trying to sounds like a mediocre version of Styx. So you can imagine...

Neil Diamond : I'm a Believer


Tossed in this particular bin because of the reggae version of "I'm a Believer". Sacrilege! 

The Alan Parson Project : Damned If I Do


I was a big fan of I Robot but Eve is horrible. Robert Christgau gave the album a grade of D writing: 

Musically, this is a step toward schlock that knows its name--a few smarmy melodies mixed in with the production values and synthesizer furbelows. Thematically, it's both sophomoric and disgusting--programmatic misogyny rooted in sexual rejections that were clearly deserved. Visually, it's sadistic--the three women on the Hipgnosis cover wear black veils that only partly conceal their scars, warts and blotches. What is it they stencil on street corners? Castrate art rockers?

More horrible disco albums:

Tina Turner's Love Explosion

Cher 's Take Me Home

And Various Artists Mickey Mouse Disco

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Just Like Fishing in the Ocean

The Whispers : And the Beat Goes On

In December of 1979, the LA-based R+B band The Whispers released "And the Beat Goes On", one of the last great singles of the decade. The single would peak at R+B#2 , UK#2 and US#19 and provide a blueprint for early 80's boogie down rhythm and blues. It's got the synthetic (?) handclaps, that busy bass line,  a ton of "chorus" on the funky guitar lines, and tasteful keyboards. Sampled by Will Smith in "Miami".

Friday, December 20, 2019

Here We Are Stranded

Japan : Quiet Life

On December 20, 1979 Japan released their third album Quiet Life, produced by John Punter of Roxy Music fame. Quiet Life is like listening to Duran Duran without the guilt or Roxy Music without the wrinkles. In liner notes for a reissue, David Sylvain says "I still feel very attached to it – unusual for me. We reached a peak with this album – we knew what we were doing." 

The album wouldn't get released in the U.K. until January and it has all the sounds of 80's style New Romantic classic.  Gone for the most part are the Glam rock stylings of the first two albums. This is the future. Sylvain may get the spotlight but Mick Karn's fretless bass steals the show, especially on the B side. I wonder how many wild haired boys and girls first heard of the Velvet Underground thanks to this album's cover of "All Tomorrow's Parties".

Sez Sounds Magazine in early January of 1980":
You never know quite what to expect from Japan. In a seeming ceaseless quest for success, their short career had to date spanned at least four markedly different musical styles. And yet,  despite the often calculated, contrived nature of these moves, the band has never become victims of the changes...Quiet Life is already an album of the year. And this with the current twelve months barely 4 days old. Believe it.

Let's hear it for the pale boys!

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Lester Bangs Top 10 Albums of 1979

Lester Bangs : Let It Blurt

In 1979 rock critic Lester Bangs released a single he recorded in 1977 with Jay Dee Daugherty of the Patti Smith Group, Robert Quine of Richard Hell and the Voidoids and two members of the Contortions. It's too derivative of the Richard Hell sound for me to take too seriously.

Here are his Top 10 albums of 1979 according to a list he made for the Village Voice Pazz and Jop Critics Poll. It's odd to see Wavelength top his list because his Rolling Stone review for the Van Morrison album was hardly a rave :

Wavelength is a very nice record. I’m sure all the people at Warner Bros. are pleased with it. Ditto the DJs. It probably would also be really groovy for somebody’s idea of a wine-and-joints, Renaissance-fair garden party. It makes a lovely sound, breaks no rules and keeps its grimy snout (or, rather, that of its maker) out of the dark places that mainstreams step correctly over. Rigid. The singer has a nifty little band here, what with Bobby Tench, Peter Bardens from the original Them and even great googamoogah Garth Hudson sittin’ in on various instruments. Well, take me back to Orpheus!

Van Morrison: Into the Music (Warner Bros.) 25; 
Marianne Faithfull: Broken English (Island) 20;
 The Clash (Epic) 20;
 Talking Heads: Fear of Music (Sire) 5;

"The closer you get to whatever it is you’re terrified of, the more it and the dread of it begin to seem like old friends, ergo you become progressively less terrified. As a second Dark Ages seems to loom over us, David Byrne strolls right down its maw, placid and bemused, humming little tunes to himself. Sometimes I think Fear of Music is one of the best comedy albums I’ve ever heard. Which doesn’t mean he makes you forget the fear is real. He just reminds you that it’s something you’re going to have to live with, so you might as well get a kick out of it while you can."

 Lou Reed: The Bells (Arista) 5;

Lou Reed is a prick and a jerkoff who regularly commits the ultimate sin of treating his audience with contempt. He’s also a person with deep compassion for a great many other people about whom almost nobody else gives a shit. I won’t say who they are, because I don’t want to get too schmaltzy, except to emphasize that there’s always been more to this than drugs and fashionable kinks, and to point out that suffering, loneliness and psychic/spiritual exile are great levelers. The Bells isn’t merely Lou Reed’s best solo LP, it’s great art.

 Neil Young + Crazy Horse: Live Rust (Warner Bros.) 5;
 Charles Mingus: Mingus at Antibes (Atlantic) 5; 

Miles Davis: Circle in the Round (Columbia) 5;
 Heartbreakers: Live at Max's Kansas City (Max's Kansas City) 5;
 Patti Smith Group: Wave (Arista) 5.

Sez one fan:
 My one enduring memory of (Lester Bangs) is from a New York Rocker Christmas party (1979) that took place in some squat on the lower, lower east side. I heard PIL's Metal Box blasting from one of the rooms, and there was Lester, doing some insane bat dance to the music. Everyone was just watching as he spun around with whatever girlfriend he was with at the time. I mean, how in the hell do you dance to a song like "Poptones"?

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Watch DeNiro Break Another's Head

The Mekons : Watch The Film

In December of 1979 The Mekons released their debut album The Quality of Mercy is Not Strnen, the title a play on the infinite monkey theorem that says give enough monkeys enough time in front a typewriter and one will write a Shakespeare play like The Merchant of Venice. I believe the album was recorded at The Manor Studio, a residential studio in Oxfordshire where Mike Oldfield had recorded Tubular Bells, Van Morrison had recorded both Wavelength and A Period of Transition and Tangerine Dream had recorded three albums.

"I look back on it now and see what fools we were," Jon Langford tells Gambit.  The Leeds-based band was made up of members on the dole. They had to borrow Gang of Four's instruments to record the album and they suddenly found themselves recording in a 16th Century Manor House. 

"It was recorded two years too late...and there were very nice hippie ladies bringing us food any time of night...(The album) demonstrates us losing our grip. We were trying to please someone else."

(The back of the album cover was made up of photos of Gang Of Four, not The Mekons.)

Even so, this is an album packed with potential. John Peel was already a big fan, having already featured The Mekons in a Peel Session in November of '79.  Still, I would start with The Mekons Rock + Roll from 1989 and work my way backwards.