Revisited

1977 Revisited

The Ramones’ debut album and the Sex Pistols’ debut single both poked through in 1976, but 1977 is the real year when punk broke, with the Clash and Sex Pistols in the Top 5 of both my albums and singles lists, the Ramones doubling up in both Top 10s, Poly Styrene making sure “lit’ul gurls” are heard, and Television, Talking Heads, and Richard Hell arting up the New York scene.

Oddly, the top two 1977 singles for me were both first recorded in 1972, but became singles in 1977. There are (at least) three versions of “Roadrunner” and I love them all, but “Twice,” the B side of the 1977 single, is the best, I think. It’s the 1972 Modern Lovers version, the one that leads off their eponymous album. (“Once” is a 1975 version re-recorded by Jonathan Richman with a different backing band. “Thrice” is a live version.)

“Love and Happiness” was on Al Green’s 1972 album I’m Still in Love With You but not released as a single at the time. It appeared in 1977 because Green’s then-contemporary music was (deemed) less commercial.

They are both Statement of Principles records. If we ever decided to come up with a new national anthem, I would make a case for either of them.

I didn’t do a movies list for 1977. My viewing is too spotty or too distant to feel like it was worth it.

1977 grid 2

ALBUMS

  1. The Clash – The Clash: The 1979 American version, which switches out a few lesser cuts for a few mammoth singles, is better song for song but packs less gestalt, is less of a fierce moment in time. This version is as urgent and of the moment an album as there is, and hasn’t lost any of its power.  Best 1977 lyric of 2018: “And if I close my eyes/They will not go away/You have to deal with it/It is the currency.”
  2. Marquee Moon – Television: Dual guitar jams as pure poetry.  
  3. Rumours – Fleetwood Mac: Commercial juggernaut remains knotty pop masterpiece.
  4. Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols – Sex Pistols: It feels weird to even place this on a list — one spot lower than Rumours! — since it feels apart from the rest even as it was the record that defined the year. It doesn’t cohere front-to-back the way The Clash, its obvious companion piece, does, but I find that it retains its disquieting power. It was a different time, a different place, but its sense of utter revulsion feels pretty right now.  
  5. Rocket to Russia – The Ramones: All of the first four albums in three years are of a piece, but this third one pokes its head up a little higher. Opens on an impossible double high with “Cretin Hop” and “Rockaway Beach” and then settles in without settling down. Still to come: Their best single (“Sheena is a Punk Rocker”) and best cover (“Surfin’ Bird”). New York circa ’77 bona fides: Both self-penned singles mention disco.
  6. The Belle Album – Al Green: His self-produced first album without Willie Mitchell is an anomaly in Green’s catalog, with his own acoustic guitar prominent in the mix, lending it a pastoral feel unique in his work. On the blessed, brilliantly layered title track he personifies the secular muse as he pushes her away.
  7. Two Sevens Clash – Culture: Apocalyptic Rastafarian gospel. The best non-Marley/non-Toots studio reggae album? Just the best studio reggae album?
  8. My Aim is True – Elvis Costello: His debut was his best batch of songs, to be followed right after by his best record.
  9. Dancer with Bruised Knees – Kate & Anna McGarrigle: Not folk … parlor music, and sometimes too close to musical theater for me, even if it’s the kind of impromptu thing you’d (ok, not me) work up after Thanksgiving dinner with and for the family. And then sometimes it strikes as just deeply charming. Always charming: “Walking Song.” Always inspirational, from “Hommage A Grungie”: “I want to get a little drunk/Fatten up my head/Find a good book/And take that book to bed.”
  10. Leave Home — The Ramones: Second verse, (mostly) same as the first.
  11. Hard Again – Muddy Waters: Not quite the last great blues album, but maybe both the first and last great studio blues album by a pre-rock blues great.
  12. Funkentelechy vs. the Placebo Syndrome – Parliament
  13. Street Survivors – Lynyrd Skynyrd
  14. Dancing in Your Head – Ornette Coleman
  15. Rough Mix – Pete Townshend & Ronnie Lane
  16. Talking Heads 77 – Talking Heads
  17. Wanna Meet the Scruffs? – The Scruffs
  18. Joe Ely – Joe Ely
  19. Exodus – Bob Marley & the Wailers
  20. To Lefty from Willie – Willie Nelson
  21. The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl — The Beatles
  22. Blank Generation – Richard Hell & the Voidoids
  23. Sweet Forgiveness – Bonnie Raitt
  24. American Stars n Bars – Neil Young
  25. Lust for Life – Iggy Pop

Singles

  1. “Roadrunner (Twice)” – The Modern Lovers
  2. “Love and Happiness” – Al Green
  3. “Complete Control” – The Clash
  4. “God Save the Queen’ – The Sex Pistols
  5. “Belle” — Al Green
  6. “Sheena is a Punk Rocker” – The Ramones
  7. “Rockaway Beach” – The Ramones
  8. “Go Your Own Way” — Fleetwood Mac
  9. “Oh Bondage Up Yours/I Am a Cliche” – X-Ray Spex
  10. “Heroes” – David Bowie
  11. “Alison” — Elvis Costello
  12. “Holidays in the Sun” — The Sex Pistols
  13. “Police and Thieves” – Junior Murvin
  14. “Best of My Love” – The Emotions
  15. “White Riot” – The Clash
  16. “Love → Building on Fire” — Talking Heads
  17. “Sir Duke” – Stevie Wonder
  18. “Marquee Moon” – Television
  19. “If You’re Not Back in Love By Monday” — Millie Jackson
  20. “Uptown Top Ranking” – Althea and Donna
  21. “Stayin’ Alive” — The Bee Gees
  22. “You Make Loving Fun” — Fleetwood Mac
  23. “Psycho Killer” – Talking Heads
  24. “Disco Inferno” — The Trammps
  25. “Lust for Life” – Iggy Pop
  26. “Waiting in Vain” — Bob Marley & the Wailers
  27. “Blank Generation” – Richard Hell & the Voidoids
  28. “Don’t Stop” — Fleetwood Mac
  29. “The Angels Wanna Wear My Red Shoes” – Elvis Costello
  30. “Whispering/Cherchez La Femme” – Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band
  31. “What’s Your Name” – Lynyrd Skynyrd
  32. “Less Than Zero” — Elvis Costello
  33. “Way Down” — Elvis Presley
  34. “Got to Give It Up” — Marvin Gaye
  35. “Rip Her to Shreds” — Blondie
  36. “I Feel Love” – Donna Summer
  37. “Peg” — Steely Dan
  38. “Margaritaville” — Jimmy Buffett
  39. “Take This Job and Shove It” – Johnny Paycheck
  40. “Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll” – Ian Dury & the Blockheads

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