So far, I have covered 300 of my favorite albums through the first of three days concerning 1977. I had to take a week-long break due to taking care of our grandchildren because their parents are using us to delay the rascals returning to daycare. See? I raised some smart kids! Plus, over the past two weeks, the youngest Kellers in the family have celebrated their second and first birthdays respectively. Add to that the fact that my older son and his family are moving this coming week, it has been a little hectic around here. Of course, this is all happening during the whole COVID pandemic that seems not to be taken seriously by a majority of the community in which I have resided most of my life. Like all of you, it’s been a little stressful.
So, let’s get back to something that allows me to decompress from the stress and anxieties of life, and that’s music. Since we are in the middle of 1977 on my list of my 1000 favorite albums of all-time, allow me some time to proffer a few words about the year. My recollection is that critics at the time where praising the year being as important as 1957 (Elvis, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, James Brown, etc.) and 1967 (Sgt. Pepper and the whole Summer of Love-thing, et. al.). As far as my list is concerned, all of those years are pretty important. Yet, I would like to point out that I feel like 1969, 1972, 1979, 1983, 1984 and 1987 are all pretty much landmark years. Still, 1977 was stellar with many AOR artists beginning to peak around this year, Southern Rock was a diminishing albeit strong force, disco and funk were flexing their muscles, and punk was just breaking wide open on both sides of the Atlantic.
So, 1977 was a pretty good year, at least much better than 1967 and as important as 1957. Which leads me to my proof, the albums on today’s list. All of my 1977 picks are still found on my turntable to this day.
Iggy Pop – Lust for Life (1977). The second of two fantastic solo albums by the godfather of punk and former lead singer of The Stooges Iggy Pop, Lust for Life is the rowdier and more aggressive of the two discs. Of course, David Bowie’s fingerprints are found all over both LPs, as he Pop into more commercial areas without sacrificing his grit. Of course, the title song has been used to death in movie soundtracks and for pimping various items and services on TV commercials.
Iggy Pop – The Idiot (1977). By the time his debut solo album was rolled out, Pop had seen his Stooges disintegrate, entered a mental institution upon his own request and was living a life more known for his abuses than his music. Then, David Bowie entered his life and offered him a way out of his funk. The Idiot is a contemplative and confident return to his status in rock music. Timed perfectly with the breakout of punk, Pop rose to the occasion on the album and resurrected his career.
Kiss – Love Gun (1977). Kiss released their sixth studio album in four years, which just might be their most consistent and mature statement ever. Where Destroyer was about a story and artistry, Love Gun is all about rocking out. And, pretty much, that’s what the band did. This is the gold standard for all Kiss albums to be measured against here on out.
Kraftwerk – Trans-Europe Express (1977). While Autobahn was a left-field hit, Trans-Europe Express remains this German band’s most accessible album. Kraftwerk was just figuring out how to make those synthesizers to rock without undermining the melodies and dance nature of their songs. Arguably, this album just might be their most influential since the whole UK synthpop phenomenon began shortly after this album was digested by a bunch of electronics geeks.
Lynyrd Skynyrd – Street Survivors (1977). Sadly, this album was the final album of the original lineup of the band. After a couple of artistically lackluster albums, Skynyrd was back to doing what is did best: a three-guitar attack, rocking rhythms, jam band-like tendencies and a lyrical struggle just to find where a Southern Man stood in society. Personally, I wish lyricist and lead singer Ronnie Van Zandt had survived the plane crash because, maybe, just maybe, his struggle might have helped ease the tension between the South and their revisionist culture and “Yankee” points-of-view. Fortunately, the Drive-By Truckers have picked up the mantle and run with it a bit here in the 21st century, but it may have been too late to make an immediate difference.
Meat Loaf – Bat Out of Hell (1977). People my age are NOT afraid to express their reverence for this album. Loaf, fresh off the movie set of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, teamed with songwriter Jim Steinman and producer Todd Rundgren to produce one of the most overblown, over-dramatic, Broadway- and Springsteen-influenced Walls of Sound ever committed to vinyl. On paper, this whole concept sounds like the ideas of a crazy person, and Rundgren even confirms this thought. Yet, it works perfectly to give voice to the geeky teenage boys whom girls wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole, not unlike this writer. I still love this album!
Pink Floyd – Animals (1977). This album, which is sandwiched between two legendary albums and arguably one of the greatest double albums in rock history, Pink Floyd dropped this underappreciated album. Animals is similar to Alan Parsons Project’s terrific ode to Edgar Alan Poe’s writing on their Tales of Mystery and Imagination of Edgar Alan Poe with the band taking on George Orwell’s fable Animal Farm. The songs are written from the points-of-view of the various groups of animals in the book. When taken as a concept, this album is brilliant. But, when put into the context of the band’s Seventies output, it doesn’t quite stand up. Still, I think there is an endless supply of musicians who wish they had created an album of this quality.
Ramones – Leave Home (1977). Much like any other band, this sophomore offering by punk’s most original band is not quite up to the standards of their debut album. But that’s not to knock Leave Home. This is a great album with some fantastic songs. I remember some buddies of mine singing “Suzy Is a Headbanger” in the halls of my high school.
Ramones – Rocket to Russia (1977). For my money, this is the Ramones’ best album. On Rocket, the band perfected their punk sound of muscular bubblegum music. Sure, the debut was the blueprint and the second album was the rehash, but this one is the gold standard.
Richard Hell & the Voidoids – Blank Generation (1977). While Patti Smith filled the poet role in the punk movement, Richard Hell took the Beat poet mantle as the artistic street urchin in a NYC punk band. After a stint in the seminal CBGB punkish band Television, Hell struck out on his own, following his artistic muse into the street hell of Lou Reed. And, this is his magnificent statement that is a direct influence on the whole LA hardcore scene of the late-Seventies and Eighties. And, the title song is THE anthem for my generation of late-Boomers and early-Gen X-ers. Oh, and my wife STILL closes the door on my music room when this album is played. Definitely not performed for the weak-hearted listeners.
I’ll finish up 1977 next time. Until then, keep on rockin’ in the free world!