“1977,” first released as the b-side to the “White Riot” single on March 18, 1977, later included on the Clash On Broadway compilation in 1991.
I chose this song because earlier today, rock ’n roll deejay extraordinaire and Your Best Friend In The Whole World Lin Brehmer of WXRT – who’s obviously a glutton for punishment – chose to answer The World’s Most Confounding Musical Question on today’s installment of his “Lin’s Bin” feature. (Note: today’s installment has not yet been posted on WXRT’s website. I’ll update with a link when it’s available.)
No, The World’s Most Confounding Musical Question isn’t Is Dave right about Led Zeppelin? The World’s Most Confounding Musical Question is: What was THE year in Rock ’n Roll History?
Impossible to say, right? Unpossible, even. As the kids say.
But Mr. Brehmer is nothing if not a
brave soul, and so he came up with four – count ’em, four –
years that qualify: 1964, 1969, 1977 and 1993. Actually, I could just leave it
at that, because I think a pretty strong argument could be made for any of
those years … and because they
all occurred in my lifetime; ergo,
they must be important.
But I don’t get paid to say “good enough for me,” so I have to explain why I think of those four, 1977 was THE year.
First of all, take a look at a partial list of albums released in 1977:
The Ramones, Leave Home
The Buzzcocks, Spiral Scratch
The Damned, Damned, Damned, Damned
Cheap Trick, Cheap Trick
Iggy Pop, The Idiot
The Clash, The Clash (UK version)
Dave Edmunds, Get It
The Jam, In the City
Parliament, Live: P-Funk Earth Tour
The Tubes, Now
Little Feat, Time Loves A Hero
Bob Marley, Exodus
Neil Young, American Stars ’n Bars
Elvis Costello, My Aim Is True
Iggy Pop, Lust For Life
Cheap Trick, In Color
Talking Heads, Talking Heads: 77
Pete Townshend and Ronnie Lane, Rough Mix
Rolling Stones, Love You Live
Ian Drury, New Boots and Panties!!
Boomtown Rats, Boomtown Rats
Tom Waits, Foreign Affairs
The Sex Pistols, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols
Blondie, Plastic Letters
Graham Parker and the Rumour, Stick To Me
The Ramones, Rocket to Russia
The Jam, This Is The Modern World
Brian Eno, Before and After Silence
All kinds of great stuff there, to be sure, but what really stands out is the emergence of punk and what came to be known as “new wave” (a cloying 1980s marketing term, but it stuck). The Clash, Ramones, Elvis Costello, Talking Heads, Iggy Pop, Boomtown Rats, the Jam … even the Sex Pistols (whom I consider to be the Monkees of punk, but that’s the subject of another post) – it’s hard to imagine another year in rock history with as many genuinely new acts exploding on the scene at the same time. And by “new,” I mean revolutionary. I mean acts that tore down the walls and built the whole thing over again from the ground up. New, like that.
Because if you look at the full list of albums released in 1977, you’ll realize that’s exactly what rock ’n roll needed at the time.
So, yeah, “1977”:
You’re on the never never
You think it can’t go on forever
But the papers say its better
I don’t care
Cause I’m not all there
No Elvis, Beatles or the Rolling Stones
In 1977 …
Ah, yes. I remember it well. Now: Turn. It. Up.