Music, Retro Rock

1978: The Greatest Year In Music?

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1978 albums I bought at Speakertree Record Shop in Lynchburg, VA.

When I first saw the title of an NPR article, “40 Years Later: Was 1978 The Greatest Year In Music?” I immediately thought that the writers of this commentary about music from 1978 were absolutely absurd. To even consider the possibility that 1978 was among the greatest years in modern music history sounded utterly ridiculous to this fellow.

As a student at James Madison University and having lived through the 1978 music scene, disco ruled as the most popular genre of music that year. Disco songs spent 30 out of the 52 weeks at the number 1 position of the Billboard Hot 100 during that year. Bees Gees, Andy Gibb, Bee Gees, Donna Summer (and did I mention Bee Gees?) all dominated popular music in America. Even the Rolling Stones hit number 1 with a disco record “Miss You” during 1978 for crying out loud!

For many music fans, the disco era was a low point in the recording industry and it was amazing that NPR (or anyone else) considered 1978 to be the greatest year in music. So I started thinking: Let me investigate the music released in 1978. Maybe I was missing something?

So I submit to you that there were actually some great albums and singles released during 1978. As the NPR article stated, “Kate Bush, The Cars, Devo, Dire Straits, The B-52’s, The Police, Buzzcocks and Van Halen released their debut albums” 40 years ago. Disco may have been king in 1978 but new rock artists emerged during this year.

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Speakertree Record Shop in Lynchburg, VA

So I have come up with a listing of worthy top albums and singles from 1978. There are no ranking with my lists and music is listed in a random order. Many of the singles I am listing were not big Top 40 hits but are significant songs by these artists (and much better than the all of the disco songs that were hits during 1978).

“This Year’s Model” album by Elvis Costello and the Attractions: One of the most critically acclaimed albums from 1978 features the single “Pump it Up” which has one of the best rhythm sections from the 70’s and helped to bring Costello into the forefront of the new wave genre of music.

“More Songs About Building and Foods” album by Talking Heads: Released during the fall of 1978, the band’s cover of Al Green’s “Take Me to the River” became the first Top 30 hit for the group. Also in early 1978, a song from the Talking Heads ‘77 debut album entitled “Psycho Killer” was released as a single. This signature debut hit has one of the best bass lines in rock history.

“Outlandos d’Amour” album by The Police: The debut album by the rock trio mixes reggae, punk and rock that many considered “new wave” and has the memorable single “Roxanne.” Also on the album are “Can’t Stand Losing You” and “So Lonely” that helped to define the music output by the English band.

“Easter” album by Patti Smith Group: One of the leaders of the punk rock movement, the “Easter” album became her most successful with religious imagery from the Christian faith. Smith’s song “Because the Night”, that was co-written by Bruce Springsteen, was the biggest hit single during her career.

“Darkness on the Edge of Town” album by Bruce Springsteen: Since I mentioned Springsteen above, this is the appropriate place to mention that the 1978 album was the follow up to the landmark signature album “Born To Run” from 1975. The Boss delivers three of his best songs ever on this album: “The Promised Land,” “Badlands” and “Prove It All Night.”

“The Last Waltz” album by The Band: Although The Band’s last concert was on Thanksgiving Day 1976, the soundtrack for “The Last Waltz” was not released until 1978. Joining The Band for this historic concert were Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Emmylou Harris, Neil Young, Eric Clapton, The Staple Singers and a few other artists. In my humble opinion, the best overall rock album released during 1978.

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Stardust by Wille Nelson, a record I purchased at Speakertree Record Shop in Lynchburg, VA

 “Stardust” album by Willie Nelson: The “Outlaw Country” music artist switched gears in 1978 and recorded an album of early 20th century American pop standards by famous composers such as Irving Berlin and George Gershwin. Nelson had lots of music variety with different genres on the album: jazz, pop, folk and country. Interpretations of “Georgia on My Mind”, “Blue Skies” and “Stardust” provided Nelson with new respect in the eyes of fans across multiple categories of music.

In the singles only category, there are 4 songs I want to highlight from 1978 that are memorable but were not hits in America: “I Wanna Be Sedated” by The Ramones, “Wuthering Heights” by Kate Bush, “Rock Lobster” by The B-52’s and “Surrender” by Cheap Trick. All four of those songs are more substantial than just about all of the top 10 disco hits that charted on the Billboard Hot 100 during 1978.

Although I do not agree with NPR and their hypothesis that 1978 was the greatest year for music, I also can’t totally dismiss the entire year as musically wasted. I do submit that 1978 had many albums and individual single songs that merit consideration as some of the best music to be released during the late 70’s. 1978 is not the greatest year in music history but it does have some excellent tunes that stand the test of time.

To subscribe to my blog via email, please click the “Follow” button in the menu above. I am looking forward reading your comments on the music from 1978. Rock on!

 

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Music

Gibson Guitars: End of an Era?

Gibson Guitars on display at Kelley’s Music in Roanoke, Virginia

Last Tuesday, Gibson guitars filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and announced that the company plans to continue guitar production in the foreseeable future while under bankruptcy protection. Gibson Guitars started in 1902 and continues to be one of the largest guitar makers in America.

According to an article by Jonathan Mattise of the Associated Press, “Gibson guitars have been such a fixture in music history that Chuck Berry was laid to rest with his, B.B. King affectionately named his “Lucille” and Eric Clapton borrowed one from George Harrison to play the solo on the Beatles’ ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps.’”

One of Gibson’s most famous guitars is the legendary “Les Paul” SG (Solid Guitar). Les Paul was one of the pioneers of the solid-body electric guitar and the guitar named after him became one of the most popular selling guitars during the 50’s and early 60’s.

According to the Gibson Guitars website, Les Paul withdrew the endorsement of his guitar in 1960 and the company renamed the “Les Paul SG” to “Gibson SG” in 1961.   Then in 1968, Les Paul partnered once again with Gibson and guitars with the Les Paul name are still being made here in 2018.

The Gibson SG remains the biggest selling guitar with the Gibson Guitar Company. The SG model has become a rock standard but it is also a favorite guitar of choice for other types of musical genres including jazz, blues, and country.

The list of rock musicians who have played Gibson guitars during their careers seems endless with many of the performers being members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Here are just a few of the many names that you may have heard of before: Chuck Berry, Jack Bruce, Eric Clapton, Sheryl Crow, Bob Dylan, The Edge, Dave Grohl, George Harrison, Joan Jett, BB King, John Lennon, Bob Marley, Paul McCartney, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, Carlos Santana, Pete Townshend, Eddie Van Halen, Joe Walsh, and Neil Young.

More Gibson Guitars on display at Kelley’s Music in Roanoke, Virginia

Many famous musicians play Gibson guitars, but I’m most curious about my readers’ experiences with these guitars.

If you own a Gibson guitar, who kind do you own? Are you satisfied with the Gibson guitar you own and would you buy another Gibson in the future?

For those that own other brands of guitars like Fender, Takamine or any other kind of guitar other than Gibson? Would you buy another guitar of the brand you currently own?

My final question for any guitar players: Do you have any stories about your guitar and how it has special meaning to you?

To subscribe to my blog via email, please click the “Follow” button in the menu above. I am looking forward reading your thoughts and stories on guitars. As always, rock on!

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