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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Retro Rock

Retro Rock

Friday night provided an interesting event for me as I attended a retro rock concert featuring Styx, Foreigner and Don Felder.  It was a surreal happening as the mostly baby boomer crowd seemed to enjoy all aspects of this retrograde concert.  I would guess that 50 would be the medium age of those who attended this blast from the past.

First up for the night was Don Felder and his band.  Felder was a member of the Eagles, started his set with “Already Gone” and then played other Eagles’ classics such as “One of These Nights”, “Those Shoes” and “Witchy Woman.”  For his last song, Felder invited Styx member Tommy Shaw to sing and play guitar for “Hotel California.”  Shaw and Felder’s guitar playing for the instrumental ending of “Hotel California” was superb.  After the completion of Felder’s set, I wondered why the Eagles and Felder couldn’t patch up their differences and play as a unified band once again?  I guess I can always dream.

Next up was Styx.  Of the three groups, Styx put on the best show and provided good entertainment along with sounding tight with their music and vocals. My favorite song of the night was “Renegade.”  Tommy Shaw and James Young are the only 2 original members of Styx still with the band but the other newer members compliment Shaw and Young in a positive way.  The one thing that is missing from Styx is original member Dennis De Young.  Apparently Shaw and De Young had a “falling out” and De Young will not have anything to do with Styx. It is a shame because Styx did not play any of their biggest hits  (“Best of Times”, “Babe” or Mr. Roboto”) during the concert because they are Dennis De Young’s songs.  It sure would be nice if Shaw and De Young could “bury the hatchet” and unite together again in Styx.  I guess I can always dream.

Last to hit the stage was Foreigner.  I am going to say right up front that this band misses Lou Gramm, the former lead vocalist for Foreigner.  The current lead vocalist has a nice voice but is no Lou Gramm.  Mick Jones is the only original member still with the band and he only played on the last four songs at the end of their set.  It felt like I was watching a Foreigner “tribute” band.  The highlights of their set included “Juke Box Hero”, the saxophone playing in “Urgent” and “I Want To Know What Love Is”, which featured a local choir to sing the chorus.  I sure do wish that Gramm and Jones could get back together for a Foreigner reunion tour.  I guess I can always dream.

My final observations on the crowd:   At a 1980 Styx concert, the smell of pot would have been in the air.  In 2014, the crowd gets high drinking 9 dollar cans of beer and all smoking is banned.

At a 1980 Foreigner concert, girls sat on their boyfriend’s shoulders dancing to the music.  In 2014,  drunk women dance by themselves, with horrible form, oblivious to anyone around, how bad they look……..and they just keep on dancing.

At a Don Felder/Eagles concert in 1980, people would use bic lighters to try and entice an encore performance.  In 2014, people  use their smart phone light to encourage an encore.

Old rockers don’t die, just just fade away.

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AT40, Radio, Retro Rock

Casey Kasem Memories

It was sad to hear the news today that legendary radio voice Casey Kasem passed away at age 82. Kasem was the voice of American Top 40 from the beginning with the first show aired on July 4th, 1970.  He continued to be the voice of AT40 until his last show on July 4th, 2009.

When WBLU Salem started running AT40, I used to try and listen to the show every week. Kasem would count down the 40 biggest songs on the Billboard Hot 100 and I would always hear how songs were charting nationally compared to the two Top 40 stations in the Roanoke area (WBLU and WROV Roanoke).  As a whole, WROV generally added songs earlier than TOP 40 powerhouse stations like WLS Chicago and WABC New York, so the AT40 countdown each week tended to be a little bit behind what the top ten songs were in Roanoke.

Here are the songs that Casey Kasem played on the first AT40 show on July 4th, 1970:

AMERICAN TOP 40 – JULY 4, 1970
40 Marvin Gaye – The End Of Our Road
39 Mark Lindsay – Silver Bird
38 Eric Burdon and War – Spill The Wine
37 Crabby Appleton – Go Back
36 B.J. Thomas – I Just Can’t Help Believing
35 Aretha Franklin – Spirit In The Dark
34 John Phillips – Mississippi
33 The Flaming Ember – Westbound #9
32 The Four Tops – It’s All In The Game
31 The 5th Dimension – Save The Country
30 Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young – Ohio
29 Ray Stevens – Everything Is Beautiful
28 The Impressions – Check Out Your Mind!
27 The Moody Blues – Question
26 Stevie Wonder – Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours
25 The Archies – Sugar, Sugar
24 Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young – Teach Your Children
23 The Poppy Family – Which Way You Goin’ Billy?
Oldie: Bill Cosby – Little Ole Man
22 The Moments – Love On A Two-Way Street
21 Mountain – Mississippi Queen
20 Bread – Make It With You
19 Pacific Gas and Electric – Are You Ready?
18 Charles Wright and The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band – Love Land
17 Alive ‘N Kickin’ – Tighter, Tighter
16 White Plains – My Baby Loves Lovin’
15 Miguel Rios – A Song Of Joy
Oldie: Louis Armstrong – Hello, Dolly!
14 Brotherhood Of Man – United We Stand
13 Rare Earth – Get Ready
12 The Five Stairsteps – O-o-h Child
11 The Pipkins – Gimme Dat Ding
10 Vanity Fair – Hitchin’ A Ride
Oldie: Blood, Sweat, and Tears – Spinning Wheel
09 Elvis Presley – The Wonder Of You
08 The Beatles – The Long And Winding Road
07 The Carpenters – (They Long To Be) Close To You
06 Melanie- Lay Down (Candles In The Rain)
05 Freda Payne – Band Of Gold
04 Blues Image – Ride Captain Ride
03 The Temptations – Ball Of Confusion (That’s What The World Is Today)
02 The Jackson 5 – The Love You Save
Oldie: The Rolling Stones – (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
01 Three Dog Night – Mama Told Me (Not To Come)  ** 1 week @ no. 1 **
Below is an aircheck of Casey Kasem’s audio with his first American Top 40 broadcast on July 3rd, 1970.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3FAdbl6LJ6o

 

As you can tell, Top 40 radio had a lot of variety during the summer of 1970.  Thank you Casey Kasem for bringing the top songs to us every week on American Top 40.  You will be missed!

What are your memories of Casey Kasem and American Top 40?  Were you a regular listener of AT40 at some point in your life?

Since this is my first blog, I am interested in hearing your comments in relation to my musical musings.   I welcome your thoughts and hope you will follow my blog as we explore musical history together.  As Casey Kasem once said, “And don’t forget: keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.

To subscribe to my blog via email, please click the “Follow” button in the menu above. I am looking forward reading your comments on my latest blog message.

 

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