Tuesday, May 26, 2009

That Wonderful Year in Music... 1979

If it's the last Tuesday of the month, it must be time for another salute to a particular year in music. By all accounts, 1979 is a personal all-time favorite; the final year of the '70s was watershed in that while disco was still a behemoth, the punk movement began to die out and the baton was passed to new wave. '79 was a year of uncertainty, triggered mostly by inflation and high unemployment in the US and political unrest in Iran. When the President of the United States is being attacked by a swamp rabbits, you know things are going badly. Strangely, malaise and ennui has a tendency to inspire great art, a trend that bodes well for 2009; of course, we won't know that for sure until the year's over. Nonetheless, here's my picks from '79:


1. London Calling, The Clash. The third album from Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, et al. is arguably the most overrated punk album of all time. In spite of that, Calling is also one of the greatst rock albums ever made. Only five or six tracks on this double-LP could be labeled as punk in the broadest sense, but it's the seemless fusion of the band's influences (especially rockabilly and ska) that gives this album its heart and soul.
2. Unknown Pleasures, Joy Division. The album that ushered in punk's no-frills, all-chills offspring, the demi-genre simply referred to as post-punk. The epilepsy anthem "She's Lost Control" and the menacing "Shadowplay" are the go-to tracks.
3. Look Sharp!, Joe Jackson. Compared to my first two selections, this album is a palette-cleanser. Where London Calling is too busy challenging itself and Unknown Pleasures mired in its own cathartic despair, Jackson's debut album is a hook-heavy power-pop romp. "Is She Really Going Out With Him?" is the obvious hit, and yet the rest of the album plays out like a best-of compilation.
4. Armed Forces, Elvis Costello & The Attractions
5. Entertainment!, Gang of Four
6. The Wall, Pink Floyd
7. Rust Never Sleeps, Neil Young & Crazy Horse
8. Breakfast in America, Supertramp
9. Damn the Torpedos, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
10. Highway To Hell, AC/DC. The Australian hard rock quintet's last LP with Bon Scott on vocals is a real humdinger. It's hard not to get pumped up from any of the tracks on this disc- "Girls Got Rhythm," "Touch Too Much," "Walk All Over You," and the title track all pack a big whallop.

Honorable Mentions: Broken English, Marianne Faithfull; Get The Knack, The Knack; In Through The Out Door, Led Zeppelin; Squeezing Out Sparks, Graham Parker; Regatta De Blanc, The Police; The Roches, The Roches; Fear of Music, Talking Heads.

OKAY ALBUM, AWESOME ALBUM COVER: Cut, The Slits. Those are the actual band members. I shit you not.

I broke my usual "best singles" list into two this month, one to honor all the great songs on the radio that year, the other to acknowledge the really awesome new wave/underground sound of the time period:


"Rock With You," Michael Jackson
"Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?," Rod Stewart
"Ring My Bell," Anita Ward
"Dreaming," Blondie
"Take It On The Run," REO Speedwagon
"It's All I Can Do," The Cars
"Chuck E's In Love," Rickie Lee Jones
"Gotta Serve Somebody," Bob Dylan
"Rock Lobster," The B-52s
"Tusk," Fleetwood Mac


"I Don't Like Mondays," Boomtown Rats
"Get Over You," The Undertones
"Schooldays," Starjets
"10:15 Saturday Night," The Cure
"Cruel To Be Kind," Nick Lowe
"Life Begins at the Hop," XTC
"Starry Eyes," The Records
"Time Goes By So Slow," The Distractions
"Where's The Boy For Me?," The Revillos
"White Mice," Mo Dettes

BEST VIDEOS OF 1979: Yes Virginia, they had music videos two-plus years before MTV launched. It was still a rudimentary art form, yet these three clips exist today to show us how much videos have evolved in the past thirty years.
"Brass In Pocket," The Pretenders

To read my other "Wonderful Year in Music" blogs, feel free to rummage through my archives.

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