In August of 1977, EMI signed Tom Robinson Band, waiting until Ray Davies released the "prince of the punks" from his Konk recording contract under the agreement that Davies would get 10% of everything Robinson earned over the next two years. Robinson and Davies did not part under the best of circumstances. In "Prince of the Punks", Davies snarls "He acts working class but it's all bologna/He's really middle class and he's just a phony/He acts tough but it's just a front,/He's the prince of the punks. "
It was a heady time for Robinson who would soon have a UK#5 hit called "2-4-6-8 Motorway"
"Within nine months we'd made the transition from signing on at Medina Road dole office to Top of the Pops, Radio One, EMI Records and the giddy heights of the front cover of the New Musical Express".
But there's still some drama awaiting EMI and Robinson who wanted his next single to be the year old "Glad To Be Gay". Was the world ready?
Bob Marley and the Wailers' Exodus may be the best known of the reggae albums to come out of 1977, but Heart of the Congos may be the most beloved. Produced by Lee Perry and featuring the falsetto vocals of Cedric Myton and the tenor tones of Roydel Johnson, Heart of the Congos has finally been recognized as a roots rock masterpiece. The songs are spiritual and mystical and they run twice as long as typical reggae tunes so you may find yourself drifting off into dub-land as they wash over you.
In the Summer of '77, The London punk band named after England's emergency telephone number released their self-financed debut single "I'm Alive b/w Quite Disappointing". "I'm Alive" remains one of '77's most memorable singles and led to the band's signing with United Artists Records right after The Buzzcocks. Nick Cash sings a bit too much like Pete Shelley. For one reason or another , 999 would remain a second tier punk band. Perhaps because they didn't bring any thing new to the genre...and suspiciously played too well. Imagine how things might have turned out, if 999 agreed to let Chrissie Hynde join the band.
On August 16, 1977 Elvis Presley, the king of rock'n' roll, died. The stunning news swept around the world where he was worshipped by millions of fans.
I was a 13 year old boy riding with a family friend who was negotiating the streets of San Francisco when we heard about the king's death on the radio. She had to pull over. Her eyes filling with tears.
He had so many fans and yet , after turning "forty and fat", Elvis distanced himself from almost everyone in his life. He died alone in a bathroom in his 23-room mansion, 14-acre estate in Memphis, Tennessee, called Graceland, and is buried there along with his parents and grandmother.
I visited on winter day in 1995 when I stopped in Memphis on the way to a new job in Colorado. There are messages from fans on the stone wall outside Graceland. His gravesite adorned with flowers year round and I even caught a photo of a man who still dresses like Elvis.
By then I was enough of a fan to know what I liked about Elvis : his comeback albums Elvis Is Back! (1961) and From Elvis in Memphis (1969); his gospel album His Hand in Mine (1960) and everything that makes up The Sun Sessions. At his best, Elvis was an incredibly inventive singer, charming, good looking, sexy, and soulful.
Of course he was not at his best in 1977. On stage he was sweating profusely, his prematurely white hair dyed shoe polish black, carrying around several pounds of waste that he couldn't defecate without pain, That's why he died on the toilet in the middle of the night.
On the tenth anniversary of Elvis's death , I wandered the streets of Charleston, South Carolina asking people for their memories. "He loved his mama," one lady said. "Elvis loved his mama".
On August 15, 1977 Ohio State University's Big Ear radio telescope picked up a 72 second transmission that still baffles scientists today... and may be the strongest proof yet of an alien radio transmission. SETI Astronomer Jerry R. Ehman discovered the signal days later, writing "Wow!" on a computer print-out. The Alien Wow Signal has never been heard again.
In the Summer of '77 The Meters released their final album together, the curiously named New Directions. Curious because, if anything, this was a return to the classic Meters sound, after the disco grooves of Trick Bagthe year before. New Directions is a mixed bag, but when they get funky ( on tracks like "No More Okey Doke", "Funkify Your Life" and "Give it What you Can ", they capture some of that Rejuvination sound. When New Directions failed to sell, The Meters broke up with Art Neville, Cyril Neville ad Art's brother Aaron forming The Neville Brothers.