Songs To Lean and Sing Golden Years #8: 1978

by George_East on June 20, 2013

Charlie East-West’s posting of Van Halen’s Eruption as part of instrumental week a few  days back, saw 1978 become the 8th year to have had 20 songs posted.  The other years in order of reaching this milestone are: 1967, 1969, 1980, 1977, 2011, 1979 and 2012.

1978 is the fourth year from the punk/new wave explosion to become a Golden Year.  These years were probably the most creative period in the history of popular music and 1978 was undoubtedly a great year, thoroughly deserving of its status.  It was also the first period since before 1966 in which the single, rather than the album, was the dominant form.  It was the era of tiny independent labels popping up all over the land, of bands scraping together enough money to make one single in their bid for immortality.  It was  a time when a single John Peel show could reveal a dozen great new artists.

It is the year that can be seen as the beginning of the new wave, as the initial punk explosion died in January of that year at Winterland as the Sex Pistols split.  John Lydon would re-emerge later in the year with Public Image Limited.  Howard Devoto’s Magazine played more expansive songs, full of soundscapes and layered guitars – heavily influenced by Television (whose 1977 debut, Marquee Moon had reintroduced the alternative scene to tracks that lasted longer than 3 minutes).   Joy Division released their first single, though had barely yet made an impact outside of their native Manchester.   Some of the established punk bands , The Clash in particular, widened their musical horizons, incorporating reggae and dub into their sound (though they had already shown the way with the fantastic cover of Junior Murvin’s Police and Thieves   in their otherwise adrenalin rush debut album).  Wire and Gang of Four took literary theory and Marxist art school semiotics into the musical arena.

Though as punk mutated into new wave in the UK, the US was seeing the beginnings of the hardcore movement, as the Dead Kennedys played their first gig and Black Flag released their first EP.

Britain was experiencing its last full year of the pre-Thatcherite era.  Like Gordon Brown in 2007, Jim Callaghan would in September 1978 decide not to go to the country at a time when he would have almost certainly won.   With the prices and income policy breaking down as they year came to an end and the beginnings of the strikes of the Winter of Discontent (and even that has entered into such absurd mythology, that it has become something to frighten the children with if any economic policy other than hardcore Thatcherism is ever suggested).   An era was coming to a close in apparent chaos – a far more unforgiving and brutal era in which we are still living would be ushered in shortly.

Amongst the great albums released that year were:  White Music – XTC, Crossing The Red Sea With The Adverts The Adverts, The Kick Inside Kate Bush, Tell Us The Truth – Sham 69, Easter – Patti Smith Group, Another Music In A Different Kitchen The Buzzcocks, Generation X – Generation X, This Year’s Model Elvis Costello & The Attractions, Kaya – Bob Marley & The Wailers, Squeeze Squeeze, The Last Waltz – The Band,  Adventure  - Television, Black and White The Stranglers, The Man-Machine Kraftwerk, Darkness At The Edge of Town Bruce Springsteen, Live and Dangerous –Thin Lizzy, The Cars – The Cars, Some Girls The Rolling Stones, Street Legal – Bob Dylan, We Have Come For Your Children – The Dead Boys, More Songs About Buildings and Food Talking Heads, Can’t Stand the Rezillos – The Rezillos, Fame – Grace Jones, We Are Not Men We Are Devo – Devo, Chairs Missing – Wire,  Systems of Romance – Ultravox, Love Bites Buzzcocks, Road To Ruin - The Ramones, Parallel Lines Blondie, One Nation Under A Groove – Funkadelic, Comes A Time Neil Young, Nervous Breakdown – Black Flag, Music For Films – Brian Eno, Prehistoric Sounds – The Saints, Private Practice Dr Feelgood,  Not Available – The Residents, Outlandos D’Amour – The Police, Give Em Enough Rope The Clash, All Mod Cons The Jam, Lionheart – Kate Bush, The Scream Siouxsie and The Banshees, Tubeway Army – Tubeway Army, Modern Dance – Pere Ubu, Germ Free Adolescents – X-Ray Spex, Music For Airports – Brian Eno, Life In A Scotch Sitting Room Vol 2 – Ivor Cutler, Marcus’ Children – Burning Spear, Third/Sister Lovers Big Star, The Feeding of the 5,000 Crass.

The 20 Songs To Learn and Sing from 1978 are, in order of appearance (this really is a cracking list):

  1. #6: Blondie, Hangin’ On The Telephone;
  2. #7: Sham 69, If The Kids Are United;
  3. #47: The Undertones, Teenage Kicks;
  4. #50: The Jam, Down At The Tube Station At Midnight;
  5. #80: Ian Dury and The Blockheads, What A Waste;
  6. #141: Stiff Little Fingers, Alternative UIster;
  7. #171: Jilted John, Jilted John;
  8. #203: Magazine, Shot By Both Sides;
  9. #224: Wire, I Am The Fly;
  10. #289: Althea & Donna, Up Town Top Ranking;
  11. #311: Gang of Four, Damaged Goods;
  12. #349: The Clash, Stay Free;
  13. #392: The Only Ones, Another Girl Another Planet;
  14. #419: The Boomtown Rats, Rat Trap;
  15. #581: Public Image Limited, Public Image;
  16. #582: Buzzcocks, What Do I Get?;
  17. #603: The Stranglers, Walk On By;
  18. #626: Blondie, One Way Or Another;
  19. #628: Sid Vicious, My Way;
  20. #706: Van Halen, Eruption.

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