Top 40 – A Retrospective – 1977

1977. The year punk broke? Perhaps. But so much else was still going on — David Bowie and Brian Eno and sometimes Iggy Pop had camped out in Berlin, at Hansa Studios, and made some of the most important music of their respective careers. Peter Gabriel found his own voice outside of Genesis, and something that people would soon call New Wave was born, both in New York City and across the pond, where an angry young man with the unlikely name of Elvis Costello (better than Declan Patrick McManus, I suppose) would inspire angels to wear red shoes and teach us to sneer while watching the detectives.

Prog rock was having its death throes (it would never die, but it would be challenged in the public consciousness by young punks who thought it bloated and bourgeois, instead picking up electric guitars and banging out three chord masterpieces like Janie Jones) and disco was unfortunately huge.

Behold, 1977:

Talking Heads – ’77

The birth of the strange. New York City was haunted by a man named David Berkowitz in the summer of 1977. Son of Sam. The Psycho Killer.

David Bowie – Low

The first of the Berlin Trilogy, where David Bowie & Eno collaborated, exploring both strange pop and ambient music. I love both the pop stuff AND the ambient stuff, but I love the sound of Breaking Glass. And I’m not alone. Nick Lowe wrote a song called I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass about this Bowie tune.

Fleetwood Mac – Rumours

Of course, you think I’m going to but Dreams here, and yeah, what a tune. I mean, the whole album is perfect. Perfect. The story behind the album is fascinating, and it’s a wonder it got made at all, considering the emotional turmoil involved. But Lyndsey Buckingham doesn’t get enough credit for how amazing his fingerpicking is. Check out Never Going Back Again for the first time or the thousandth time.

Peter Gabriel – I (car)

Some of you may already know this, but I want this song played at my funeral. ‘Nuff said.

Iggy Pop – The Idiot

This was the first of two albums Bowie collaborated with Iggy on, and you can really hear it. Check out Nightclubbing.

The Clash – self-titled

Janie Jones, darlings. Best opening track of an album? Perhaps.

Supertramp – Even in the Quietest Moments

Remember how I talked about the bloated excess of prog? Yeah, well, fuck that noise. This song blows my mind, and the lyrics of it were scrawled across many a desk in my graffiti days.

Elvis Costello – My Aim is True

My favourite album ever? Perhaps. Maybe even my favourite song ever. The first of five perfect albums by one of my favourites. Turn it up loud. Play it repeatedly.

Iggy Pop – Lust for Life

Obviously this is a video from the Trainspotting days, but Iggy is just so ridiculous, I couldn’t help but pick this one, which is NOT “Are you Gonna Be My Girl”, by the way.

Klaatu – Hope

You may have never heard of this Canadian band, but I love this album. It’s so strange and science fiction-like, a concept album about the last survivor of a violent race who is trying to warn us of his civilization’s downfall. Excellent and Beatles-esque at times.

Bowie – Heroes

Okay, so everyone knows Heroes. Everyone. That fantastic Robert Fripp floating guitar riff. When Blondie covered this tune, they insisted that Fripp be on the recording. When the Wallflowers covered it… um… not so much.

So I’m not picking the title track. Instead, here’s Joe the Lion — Bowie’s vocals are off the charts on this. Too much cocaine, perhaps.

Genesis – Seconds Out

I’m not a huge fan of live albums, but this is the exception to the rule. This is a document of the band before they became a trio and changed musical direction. There are a lot of Peter Gabriel era songs represented on here, including the 20 minute Supper’s Ready, which had never been released live before. I, personally, love the medley of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, finishing off with part of The Musical Box. The video here is sketchy, but enjoy the tunes.

Never Mind the Bollocks, it’s the Sex Pistols

Okay, the Sex Pistols were a gimmick band. A boy band, if you will. They were manufactured by Malcolm McLaren (who would later go on to create Culture Club and Adam Ant in the 80s, go figure) because they projected a certain attitude. Sid Vicious couldn’t play, but he was scary. Unless you count The Great Rock ‘N’ Roll Swindle (which I don’t) this was their only studio album, and yet they’ll never be forgotten. Punk may have gotten louder, but it never sounded so dirty and vacant as it does here.



25 responses to “Top 40 – A Retrospective – 1977

    • I once slipped this into a setlist at a bar I was playing at, and the whole room started singing along. Here I thought I was going to lose them. Sometimes you never know what’s going to go over well.

  1. What a year for music! Rumours was the first album I ever owned, my aunt bought it for me. I’ve been listening to Destiny Rules a LOT lately– just in my head, and I think everyone has grown sick of hearing me wax poetic about Lindsay’s picking. This post has some of my favorites: couldn’t live without Peter Gabriel, period; my kids were raised on Talking Heads. Good stuff, Helena.

    • I actually just picked up an original on Stiff Records — not even opened — and learned that on the original UK release, Watching the Detectives isn’t on there! It was released as a single and then only included on the US release. So i hit eBay and found that 45! Now I’ve got a nice set.

  2. I don’t know why I love 1977 so much. I was awkward. I peed my pants in front of my entire second grade class. I couldn’t listen to Talking Heads or Bowie, but I must’ve known they were there. I like them now, and I associate them with my culottes and sandals and too-tan pantyhose the day I performed a book for the first time and left a puddle on the floor.

  3. I know almost nothing about David Bowie. I wasn’t listening to this music in the house in which I grew up — think Willie Nelson and Emmylou Harris and lots and lots of classical. But I’ve filled in my knowledge a little with say, Rumours.

    • David Bowie has a little bit for everyone. He dabbles in everything like a certain dilettante, and so while some may say he’s hit and miss, he’s more hit than miss in my books. My house had a lot of old country, too, but while I have an appreciation of it, it’s not something I listen to on a regular basis. I certainly prefer it to what passes for New Country, though, I will say that.

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