Ever since I was a young high school student writing for the student newspaper, I have always written either some of the absolute worst headlines, such as the ones for this series, or totally inappropriately sarcastic headlines that would never make it past the editor-in-chief or my long-suffering teacher. So, please bear with me on these lame headlines like the half-ass effort of today’s blog banner.
1978 represents a stellar year in my life, what with running in a national track meet, being part of Indiana’s State Jr. Olympics Championship 4 x 400 meter relay team, meeting Jesse Owens, unbelievably being named Student of the Month at school in January (BTW, January is the shortest month on the school calendar, then throw in another week or so missed due to inclimate weather so I only had to be stellar for a maximum of 10 to 12 days, the Roadmaster concert in our school’s cafeteria, to list a few things that happened that year. But, upon looking back, 1978 was a stellar year for music, what with punk, funk, disco and arena rock all beginning to peak. Plus, we started hearing the beginnings of new wave, synth pop, rap and some guy named Prince. It could not have been a better time to be a teenager when you consider the music of the era.
Let’s just jump into it!
Blondie – Parallel Lines (1978). The CBGB crowd got served a huge notice when Blondie, considered the weakest band of the initial bands who played the famous club, became one of the biggest selling groups in the world behind their greatest album. This album has everything that is great about the group: terrific girl-group send-up (“Touched by Your Presence Dear”), power pop (“Hanging on the Telephone”), rockin’ punk fury (“One Way or Another”) AND arguably the greatest disco song ever (“Heart of Glass”). This is one helluva album.
Bob Marley & the Wailers – Babylon by Bus (1978). Here we have perhaps the greatest live recording of reggae ever. The album captures reggae’s finest band ripping through a portion of their greatest hits in front of an enthusiastic crowd. How does anyone top this? On this night, Marley and his Wailers WERE the greatest band in the world.
Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band – Stranger in Town (1978). Seger took his brand of Heartland rock to an even larger chunk of America with this great album. I never had to own this album back in the day, since the Dunwiddie girls down the street had it and would play it every damn day I was down there, which was every damn day. Still, it is a great album of mature rock songs that only Seger could do. However, if I hear “Old Time Rock and Roll” or “We’ve Got Tonight” one more time, I WILL scream!
Bruce Springsteen – Darkness on the Edge of Town (1978). This album is Bruce’s reaction to being thrust into the limelight with simultaneous covers on Time and Newsweek, finally selling a boatload of albums then having one of the greatest management disputes in rock history which kept The Boss from recording for three long years. So, he dropped the romanticism from his lyrics and the grand Wall of Sound production and got raw and dirty on this album. Obviously, Bruce had been listening to more than the Raspberries’ Greatest Hits album, as he often claims. Punk rock is all over this album. Personally, this one just might be my favorite Springsteen album of all. Oh, Bruce! Cheap Trick called and wants their artwork font back!
Cheap Trick – Heaven Tonight (1978). This was the album that made me a Trick fan for life. The first album was punky, the second poppy, but this one found the perfect balance between all sides of the band. “California Man” is a great cover of a song originally recorded by The Move, and “Auf Wiedersehen” is an outstanding song about the dark subject of suicide. But, we all know this album has the band’s greatest anthem of all, “Surrender.”
Chic – C’est Chic (1978). If I had to compare Chic to anyone, it’s got to be Steely Dan. Hear me out! Both bands wear their love of jazz on their sleeves. Both bands’ albums were impeccably played and produced by the bands’ main songwriters. Both bands loved for their lyrics to possess multiple meanings on multiple levels. Easily, Chic was the greatest disco band, but they were much more than that. Duran Duran would have NEVER been as funky if they had not heard Chic. David Bowie would not have sold millions of albums in 1983 if he hadn’t hooked up with Chic guitarist Nile Rodgers. Oh, and this album has “Le Freak,” a disco anthem like no other. This is the finest moment but do not discount the greatness of their others.
Devo – Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo (1978). Across the pond, Devo had a couple of their first singles, “Satisfaction” (a total re-imagination of The Stones’ classic) and “Jocko Homo,” released by the great Stiff Records. They quickly became the darlings of the new wave and caught the ear of Brian Eno who produced this album. Devo may be the greatest political band whom everyone thinks is a novelty act, which is the most subversive thing ever!
Dire Straits – Dire Straits (1978). During a year in which some many exciting new sounds were being thrown at us, along comes an English band who have worshiped at the alter of laidback bluesman J.J. Cale. The guitar sound is coupled with Dylanesque lyrics to give us a shocking throwback sound that was at the same time very modern. Welcome Mark Knopfler, our newest guitar hero.
Elvis Costello & the Attractions – This Year’s Model (1978). So, how did Elvis follow up his debut? Well, he upped the ante higher by employing one of rock’s greatest backing bands to set fire to this group of tunes. If the debut got his foot in the door, his sophomore effort blew the door off its hinges. Oh, and this album contains the infamous “Radio, Radio,” which he was not supposed to play on Saturday Night Live, but he did anyway. To me, Elvis ranks up there with Springsteen, Petty and Prince as the greatest songwriters of my generation.
Funkadelic – One Nation Under a Groove (1978). This was the year in which, in reality, there was no real distinction between the sounds of Parliament and Funkadelic. I remember first hearing the single “One Nation Under a Groove” at that aforementioned track meet disco in the athlete’s village. The smartass DJ segued “Flashlight” right into “One Nation,” and I immediately went to dancefloor heaven. I can remember that night…
And there you have it! The first ten albums of 1978 on my list. And, I promise, the next 20 are just as strong. Peace!