I’m wrapping up 1977 in my project of playing my entire record collection in reverse chronological order, and there are more strange, random things about that year in music I’m itching to tell you even though I’ve already written a whole ‘nother post on the music of 1977.
In fact, I can (and will) fill a whole post just talking about 1977 music by artists starting with B or the first part of C. (I play each year in reverse alphabetical order, so have been listening to the early C’s and the B’s this week.)
Where do I begin? As with most cultural trends, you can point to their peak in the public consciousness by the music they inspired (for example, it was 1971 for hot pants). In 1977 it was cocaine, with both Jackson Browne and Eric Clapton having a song by that name on their respective hit albums, Running on Empty and Slowhand. Though both songs were written by others some time earlier, these are the versions most of us know.
(“That Smell” by Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Eagles’ “Life in the Fast Lane,” which also both make the wonderful Top 10 Cocaine Songs of All Time list — I recommend the opening commentary, which is priceless — are also 1977 hits, the latter recorded in ’76 but released as a single in ’77. Then there’s Stevie Nicks, who was also riding high in 1977.)
On a happier note, at some point in the decades since I’d last heard Running on Empty, I got the news that “Rosie” is a song about masturbation. Having just heard it again, it seems so obvious, I can’t believe that fact had escaped me, especially since the topic was so dear to me at the time.
I was a little too old, however, to appreciate the Bay City Rollers when they were big — their It’s a Game (which includes an unlikely cover of “Rebel Rebel“) and Greatest Hits both came out in 1977 — but, to borrow a phrase from Bob Dylan, I’m younger than that now. I still don’t like them a whole lot, mind you, but I can appreciate they were a pretty good boy band. Some of their hits sound good to me now that I don’t have to worry about being called a fag for listening to them. Well, maybe I still do, but I just don’t care.
And, call me crazy, but I think a lot of the soft-rock stuff that came out in the post-punk, early-MTV days, with weirder haircuts and a heavy dose of artiness — think Spandau Ballet, Style Council — sounds a hell of a lot like the Bay City Rollers, just more stilted.
That’s not all. Shaun Cassidy, who I think really was terrible, sounds to me a lot like — hold your hats — Boy George…just with worse material. Seriously, it’s the timbre of his voice. Put on a Shaun Cassidy record, close your eyes, and imagine it’s an early Culture Club record. I dare you.
The Captain and Tennille’s Greatest Hits also came out in 1977. Yes, I know, another group it’s very uncool to like, but I have a thing for them. Sometimes people think I’m being ironic when I say things like that — I’m also on record as liking Barry Manilow’s A Christmas Gift of Love, Dolly Parton’s version of “Stairway to Heaven,” and a lot of disco — but I’m not.
Daryl and Toni came along just in time to replace the divorcing Sonny and Cher as America’s favorite singing, married couple. (Their first hit, “Love Will Keep Us Together,” reached #1 just as Sonny and Cher’s divorce became final.) What’s nice about these two is that they seem to be having so much fun singing their corny, catchy love songs and making those weird muskrat noises. Sing along. I know you want to.
(I once sang “Love Will Keep Us Together” at top volume with my boss while walking to lunch in downtown San Francisco. Wish I had a video of that I could post.)
I’ve already told you, but to show I am not completely insane in my musical preferences, I will reiterate how much I like Low by David Bowie. It’s my favorite album from 1977 by someone starting with B or early C (which saves me having to decide if I like it better than Elvis Costello’s first album). “Sound and Vision” is just stunning — such a simple song, it’s hard to figure out why it’s so great. I think that is why, actually, if that makes any sense.