1977. While the punk rock was increasing in power and frequency, mainstream rock acts weren't going away either. It wasn't as if the presence of angry young youth was going to scare away the established stars from their drugs and their money.
Here in our beautified, revisionist world that dovetails nicely into the Internet age where everything is permitted and available 24/7, 1977 takes on a less annoying presence, since with eyes moist from joy and sorrow at just how freakin' long ago everything good actually is at this point and how good it actually was, even if we didn't know it then, we no longer feel 1977's pain. All that remains are our golden memories.
25) Kiss -- Love Gun, Alive II: To men of a certain age, Kiss represent something of a childhood long since pounded in the dirt by the kids who insisted your lunch money was actually theirs! How much of this is actually good junk as opposed to junky junk, I cannot say. For Alive II is the first rock 'n' roll album I ever bought with my mom's money. Though that $8 would now be worth something like $4,079 if I had invested it wisely -- says my accountant, who handles the oodles of cash that Y! Music pays for these insights -- I am surely far richer for having started down this road, the one that has kept me from doing anything productive with my life.
24) Blondie -- Plastic Letters: Deborah Harry ruined many a young man's life, much in the way Johnny Depp has frustrated many of the ladies in our audience. Though they were not signed to Sire Records, they did take label head Seymour Stein's "New Wave" decree quite seriously and fashioned themselves as the brightest blip on the radar. That blip turned into a star.
23) The Jam -- In the City, This Is The Modern World: Originally accused of being Pete Townshend, Jr., the Jam's Paul Weller managed a streak of albums in a few short years that rivaled 15 or so years of output from The Who. If you thought America was resistant to punk, imagine how it felt about a "Mod Revival." Did we ever have Mods? I know Texas had punks.
22) Queen -- News of the World: Every generation picks from the past and decides whose reputation will rise. It looks like Foo Fighters have made the case for Queen, though I do wonder how many new fans get past the now brutal, sports-arena friendly anthems. Anyone want to check out Herman and His Hermits?
21) Lynyrd Skynyrd -- Street Survivors: Though nearly all of rock 'n' roll originates in the South, it got shipped over to the UK and sold back to us at import prices. I'm not sure I ever wanted to boogie, but I've always loved to hear the train whine. Even the ballads rocked.
20) Sex Pistols -- Never Mind the Bollocks: John Lydon was disappointed the Sex Pistols didn't dismantle rock 'n' roll, but prolonged it. Or at least that's what he said to the press. Surely, Steve Jones would clock him with his Les Paul if he'd been within earshot. Those Chuck Berry riffs don't play themselves, you know?
19) Fleetwood Mac -- Rumours: If all mainstream pop music was as immediately likable as this album, every record would sell 15 million copies, at least until people ran out of money. (I'm assuming the audience for this stuff is too old to know how to illegally download.) Just because music is easy to listen to doesn't always make it easy listening.
18) David Bowie -- Low, "Heroes": The punks may have been barking at the door, but Bowie was too busy getting weird and moody to care about their aggression. Locked away with Tony Visconti tugging at one ear and Brian Eno taking cuts at the other, Ol' Blue Eye and Grey Eye ventured onto the art-rock, Krautrock, death-disco, Exile-in-Berlin train that gave him the sharpest studio tan in the biz.
17) Angel -- On Earth As It Is In Heaven, White Hot: Longtime readers of this blog know how fascinated I remain of the unique horribleness that was Angel. The "white light" to Kiss' "dark night" for Neil Bogart's Casablanca label, Angel were the ultimate in corny, pre-fab rock, that delicate blend of pop hooks and FM radio-ready guitars and keyboards and long, luscious hair. Sounded worse on eight-track, somehow.
16) Aerosmith -- Draw The Line: While Rocks is the album that gets all the credit, Draw The Line had its own variety show happening. I'm incapable of judging this album since every note is somewhere imprinted on my grammar school brain (Catholic School to boot!). Lost interest in them when I discovered the Rolling Stones. "Kings and Queens" still works, despite its D&D-like approach. I sometimes wish Steven Tyler had been my dad.
15) Barry Manilow -- Live: I think my aunt had this album. The weirdest thing I remember about Manilow is that the RCA Music Club would feature this album in its ads and then add a little + symbol to warn that "some material may offend sensitive listeners." What the hell is on a Barry Manilow album?
14) Television -- Marquee Moon: In the land where the guitars shall meet, Television tangle up in blue and shimmering gold like alchemists who write pop songs for a living. Or is that art song? Verlaine can't sing, at least not in the radio-friendly way that makes travel easier, but the band make the singing secondary. The words are so good, you can ignore them and they'll come back at you sideways.
13) Meat Loaf -- Bat Out of Hell: Is this Springsteen lite? Or Springsteen heavy? And I'm not making any allusions to his weight, which is off topic. This music pounds you into submission and only a guy who comes from the theater could think this is rock 'n' roll. It's a good laugh and at times a lot funnier than Born To Run. I like to think there's an early version of "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad" that considers "Three Out of Seven Ain't Bad," for the theater guy's approach to baseball.
12) Leonard Cohen -- Death of A Ladies' Man: After receiving so many floggings over the years from the press and even its creator, this album has been receiving, like its creator, a renaissance of sorts. People now speak of its misunderstood qualities. I'm not entirely sure what that means. I always found it quite lovable. But I don't know anything about ladies' men.
11) Billy Joel -- The Stranger: Despite my deep reservations concerning Mr. Joel's sound -- that voice! -- his approach isn't one to discount too quickly. He writes songs people remember. He writes for the big stage, for people who need a little relaxation when they come home from work and who look forward to packing a baseball stadium to sing the songs of their youth. I'll buy that. What the hell are future generations going to do? Package tours? Three songs each? will.i.am in a bubble?
10) Peter Gabriel -- Peter Gabriel: No, not that "Peter Gabriel" album, this one. For a man of such robust creativity, he really messed with everyone by naming his albums so generically. If he's so forward-thinking, shouldn't he realize that someday we'd be Googling this stuff? I'm just glad I never sent my mother out to the store to pick this up. Who knows what she'd come home with.
9) Jackson Browne -- Running On Empty: Often the target of ire by hard rocking punks who didn't take kind to his sensitivity or his English-teacher approved meter, JB was better than he's perceived. David Lindley saw to that and this live album, with all new songs regarding the road, sounds a lot better today than many of his contemporaries from El Lay.
8) Cheap Trick -- Cheap Trick, In Color: Using a secret mountain blend of rock and pop, in a just world Cheap Trick would be bigger than U2. But for some reason serious looking dopes seal more deals than the "smart and funny" that people always list as being their preference. Only reason Bono hasn't found what he's looking for is because he isn't really looking. It's all right here, dude!
7) Pink Floyd -- Animals: Just for kicks, let's put this ponderous beauty right here. Say what you will about Roger Waters' deep-think, but it's his songs that keep David Gilmour on track, or else latter-day Floyd and DG's solo career would be of greater interest. I think it's what you call a band.
6) Ramones -- Leave Home, Rocket To Russia: 1977 was a decent year for the Ramones. Then again, why shouldn't bands rustle up two albums a year? If the Beatles could do it and still make movies and tour, then all other bands should show us such dedication at the beginning of their careers. This is not to encourage Robert Pollard to ramp up production to 12 albums a year. Note, I said, the "beginning" of a career.
5) Elvis Costello -- My Aim Is True: It shouldn't be a surprise that the guy who was most prickly back in 1977 is now the most congenial of them all. Is there anyone who Costello hasn't revised his opinion of in later life? Unfortunate for us, he's best when he's angry and focused. Because otherwise he just dances with everyone and loses the thread. He actually sings here without bellowing and even if the band ain't the Attractions, it's still far more economical and exciting than whatever he's been up to since 1989 or so.
4) Talking Heads -- 77: As someone who wasn't there for the trio, I can't argue against the addition of Jerry Harrison on guitar and keybs. It sounds fine and right for the record. Besides, minimalism is great until you realize how much you really like color. They'd eventually expand like a great vampire squid wrapping around the fear of music. Dr. Eno will see you now.
3) Rush -- A Farewell to Kings: Any album with a track named "Cygnus X-1 Book I: The Voyage" has to be a classic, right?
2) AC/DC -- Let There Be Rock: On the slower side of punk and from Australia, AC/DC suffered for being a hard rock band. However, time and persistence has given them the last laugh as they are now one of the bestest selling musical acts of all-time and their records sound much better than many of their contemporaries. Sometimes only a hammer can do the job.
1) Jethro Tull -- Songs From The Wood: Uh, how did this one get here?