Top 40 – A Retrospective – 1978

1978 holds some of my favourites of all time. The first Elvis Costello album to feature The Attractions — in college, I played most of this entire album at coffee houses and open mics. Everybody knows Werewolves of London and the Talking Heads’ classic cover of Take Me to the River. Then there’s the debut album by The Police, featuring Roxanne — a song that has been performed even recently as a Barbershop Quartet by Jimmy Fallon.

Enjoy this mix of songs — what a year!

Warren Zevon – Excitable Boy

Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner is such an epic tune. A friend and I once tried to write a play based on this surreal story.

Kate Bush – The Kick Inside

Kate Bush’s voice is so beautiful and strange. Wuthering Heights might be her best song.

Elvis Costello – This Year’s Model

Before he finally got a record contract, Elvis worked as a computer programmer for Elizabeth Arden — true story. This album is full of bitter edged, biting lyrics that are simply amazing: “Don’t say you love me if it’s just a rumour; don’t say a word if there is any doubt. Sometimes I think that love is just a tumour. You’ve got to cut it out.”

Bruce Springsteen – Darkness on the Edge of Town

To me, this is the ultimate blue collar poet album. Songs about cars, and the city, and girls, and growing up in the badlands, and working at the factory.

Check out the wail of young Bruce’s heart-cry on Something In the Night.

Talking Heads – More songs about buildings and food

From the first of three Brian Eno produced albums, a fantastic track. If they played this in church, I’d go to church.

Tom Waits – Blue Valentine

Even though the title track is probably my favourite Tom Waits tune — I’ve tried to learn it, but how could I sing it without a fifth of Jack and a pack of cigarettes — I’m going to go with “A Sweet Little Bullet from a Pretty Blue Gun”. Blue Valentines was my first exposure to Tom Waits, and this album is, in a word, perfect. “Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis” is another great track to check out.

The Police – Outlandos d’amour

Roxanne. Can’t Stand Losing You. Truth Hits Everybody.

The Police only made five albums, but they didn’t waste any time. Their first album is classic. I was hooked first by Roxanne, but then became a fan for life with this track:

The Jam – All Mod Cons

Down in the Tube Station at Midnight. Paul Weller is an underrated genius. That’s all I’m sayin’.

The Clash – Give Em Enough Rope

The Clash getting sentimental? Say it ain’t so? This is an awesome track. You’re going to have the rhythm guitar stuck in your head all day.

Siouxsie & The Banshees – The Scream

The story goes, Siouxsie wanted this to sound like the score to Psycho. Don’t know if that worked, but it’s a great tune, and the beginning of the post-punk movement (people were already tired of punk a year or two in, it seems. Even the Clash would begin moving into ska and rockabilly territory, but that’s coming up next…


7 responses to “Top 40 – A Retrospective – 1978

  1. Warren Zevon’s sense of humor just gets me. And I like to listen to Werewolves so I can time my bip perfectly.
    The Talking Heads cover is fabulous.

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