Named for the Rolling Stones album, Beggar's Banquet was a record store that flirted with concert promotion when they decided to released their first single as a record label in July of 1977: "Shadow" by the London based punk band The Lurkers. One can instantly hear why The Lurkers were dubbed "The British Ramones". The debut album that would follow in 1978 is one of the first punk records purchased by Black Flag's Henry Rollins.
Sunday, July 30, 2017
On July 30, 1977 Carly Simon's "Nobody Does It Better" began its second week in the U.S. charts where it would peak at #2, held off from the top spot by Debby Boone's "You Light Up My Life".
It was an all star production for title track of the 1977 James Bond film "The Spy Who Loved Me" with music by Oscar winner Marvin Hamlisch, "lust-drunk" lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager and production by Richard Perry.
I am introducing my 12 year old son to James Bond movies. We started with "Goldfinger". Maybe this should not have been the second film despite the great opening sequence and the human can opener, "Jaws". It's just a bit silly in places.
A better story is that, when asked to provide his annual personal evaluation, one of my work colleagues thought about sending this song to our manager. No additional comments needed.
I suggested that our female boss might wonder what he's trying to say with awkward lyrics like :
Whenever you hold me
There's some kind of magic inside you
That keeps me from runnin'
But just keep it comin'
How'd you learn to do the things you do?
Saturday, July 29, 2017
On July 29, 1977 Essex pub rockers Eddie and the Hot Rods released their biggest hit single, the UK#9 "Do Anything You Wanna Do". At the beginning of the years, NME had named the Rods the most promising emergent act ( ahead of Racing Cars, Graham Parker and Sex Pistols). Now with the addition of Kursaal Flyers guitarist and songwriter Graeme Douglas, the band fattened their sound to great effect.
'Do Anything You Wanna Do", written by Dougas and band manager Ed Hollis, is one of the most exuberant songs of the year, its lyrics delivered with gusto by Barrie Masters who seems to be living every high school boy's dream on stage.
In retrospect, issuing a single with a photograph of occultist Aleister Crowley in Mickey Mouse ears might not have been such a good idea.
Bassist Paul Gray said:
It wasn't long afterwards that what was to be known as the Curse of the Hotrods struck. In retrospect it wasn't the best of ideas to mess about with Alistair Crowley. The single cover featured the image above featuring Crowley's face with a pair of Mickey Mouse ears, a play on Crowley's mantra - "Do What Thou Wilt Shall Be The Whole Of The Law" . It wasn't long before the letters started coming from his followers, saying we were playing with fire and threatening dire retributions on us all. At the time it was unnerving and we tried to laugh it off, but uncannily enough we suffered more than our fair share of tragedies soon after. In no particular order one of the guys responsible for the cover committed suicide, our manager died of a drugs overdose and all sorts of other troubles befell band members that I won't go into here.
Friday, July 28, 2017
In the week of July 27, Detroit's Floaters were racing up the U.K.charts with "Float On", a smooth R and B smash featuring members of the vocal harmony group introducing themselves by their zodiac signs. For six weeks "Float On" topped the U.S. R and B charts . It would also top the U.K. charts on August 27th .
Not sure how this kind of patter would work in a singles bar forty years later:
Now I like a woman that's quiet
A woman who carries herself like Miss Universe
Give it a try and let me know.
Thursday, July 27, 2017
The Boys : First Time
Like The Ramones, The Boys could effectively rock on that tightrope where punk and pop merged. On July 27, they released "First Time", a song about losing one's virginity. Sounds Magazine made it single of the week.
Wednesday, July 26, 2017
The Steve Gibbons Band : Tulane
The week of July 26, 1977 witnessed rock veteran Steve Gibbons entering the U.K.charts with his band's cover of Chuck Berry's "Tulane", a song that would climb all the way to #12. It's here mainly because it name checks my alma mater multiple times.
With Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" at the top, the U.K. charts were pretty exciting this week. Among the singles:
Tuesday, July 25, 2017
The Rumour : Mess Around With Love
They were best known as Graham Parker's backing band, but in July of 1977, The Rumour released their won album, the Mutt Lange produced Max. The title was a witty retort to Fleetwood Mac calling their best selling album Rumours ( not unlike Nick Lowe titling his EP Bowi in response to Bowie's album, Low).
The Rumour were made up of all stars from the pub rock world: Brinsley Schwartz (guitar) and Bob Andrews (keys) cane from the band Brinsley Schwartz, Martin Belmont (guitar) came from Ducks Deluxe, and Andrew Bodnar (bass) and Steve Goulding (drums) came from Bontemps Roulez.
Among the highlights: a cover of Nick Lowe's "Mess Around With Love", Duke Ellington's "So Nothing Till You Hear from Me" and the Ducks own "Something's Going On".
Monday, July 24, 2017
Television : Prove It
On July 24, 1977 Television re-entered the U.K. pop charts, following the title track of Marquee Moon with "Prove It" b/w "Venus". The single would peak at U.K. #25. The song seems to take place on a New York City dock where the singer has woken up before the birds. It's an odd hour to be up, even in New York.
As Tom Verlaine told a U.K. magazine in 1977, "Living in New York you somehow become very night-oriented. Especially in the summers, when it gets so hot and the streets get so dirty...I've always thought of New York as an inspiration. It isn't for many people, but it is for me. Obviously it was Lou Reed , too. ..New York is a really concentrated microcosm of emotions, you know, and atmosphere. The song do deal mostly with atmosphere, yes; I think that's what art is all about."
Sunday, July 23, 2017
Giorgio Moroder : From Here to Eternity
On July 22, 1977 just two weeks before the U.S. chart debut of the futuristic synth pop masterpiece "I Feel Love", which he produced for Donna Summer, Giorgio Moroder released his own all synth creation. "From Here to Eternity" kicked off an A side that would steam up disco floors all around the world. As the liner notes state,"only electronic keyboards were used in the making of this album."
Saturday, July 22, 2017
Elvis Costello : Alison
On July 22, 1977 Elvis Costello released is debut album, My Aim Is True. It was my introduction to Costello's music and I was immediately taken by the smart wordplay, the passion and the pub rock sounds. I was thirteen years old and by the time I picked up one of those prerecorded cassettes, I was trying to survive boarding school.
It wasn't as bad as Costello's description of his rehearsal room, Headley Garage:
It was dark when I awoke. I could hear the rats scuttling across the rehearsal room floor. I t was just as I had been warned. If the light went off, the rats came out.
Feeling for my shoes, I edged to the light-switch and illuminated the drinking party passed out on another ragged sofa.
I tried to go back to sleep with the lights on, I was going to make a record the next day.
The future Huey Lewis Band, Clover, may not get as much love as the Attractions but Costello remembers feeling incredibly lucky to be "playing with such great musicians", especially after John McFee came up with the intro to "Alison"
Critics were enthralled. Only the Sex Pistols rated higher in the Village Voice critics poll for that year.
2. Elvis Costello: My Aim Is True (Columbia) 367 (33)
3. Television: Marquee Moon (Elektra) 327 (26)
4. Fleetwood Mac: Rumours (Warner Bros.) 318 (26)
5. Steely Dan: Aja (ABC) 266 (23)
From Robert Christgau's B+ review
I like the nerdy way this guy comes on, I'm fascinated by his lyrics, and I approve of his rock and roll orientation; in fact, I got quite obsessive about his two cuts on the Bunch of Stiff Records import. Yet odd as it may seem, I find that he suffers from Jackson Browne's syndrome--that is, he's a little boring. Often this malady results from overconcentration on lyrics and can be cured by a healthy relationship with a band. Since whenever I manage to attend to a Costello song all the way through I prefer it to "The Pretender." I hope he recovers soon.
About the same time the king of rock put out the big light, we first heard an impressive New Wave import by a Buddy Holly look-alike calling himself Elvis Costello. On his debut LP, My Aim Is True, Costello has captured the rare synthesis that every Sixties rock band dreamed of -- the raw bluesiness of the Stones successfully mixed with a bouncy, early Beatles sound. My Aim Is True taps riffs that span two decades of popular rock. From "Mystery Dance," which sounds a tribute to his namesake's "Jailhouse Rock," to the Bowieish "I'm Not Angry," the album, penned entirely by Costello, effects a stylistic history of rock 'n' roll. Imagine Van Morrison with The Yardbirds produced by Phil Spector and you'll have an idea. Even better: Graham Parker meets Bruce Springsteen in Motown. Confused? Listen to My Aim Is True and tell us where you've heard it all before.
From Rolling Stone's Greil Marcus:
My Aim Is True was recorded, before the recruitment of The Attractions, in six four-hour sessions in an eight-track demo studio in North London Costello now likens to a telephone booth. It says much for the standard of the songwriting that his debut stands up as a classic. With future Doobie Brother John McFee laying down Byrds-like guitar licks, "Red Shoes" was an obvious single choice. It had been preceded by "Less Than Zero," inspired by British fascist leader Oswald Mosley, and the brilliant (and untypical) ballad "Alison," from whose lyric the album title had come. But it would take "Watching The Detectives" to make the necessary singles-chart mark at the very end of 1977. (Recorded with members of The Rumour, this track was included only on later reissues of the album.) The overriding emotion of My Aim Is True was a lack of satisfaction, openly expressed by "Blame It On Cain" and "Mystery Dance," while "No Dancing" was a second song to equate dancing and sex.
Producer Nick Lowe, whom Costello had followed round the country when Lowe was frontman with Brinsley Schwarz, added just enough studio fairydust to make this a "proper" record rather than another set of demos, but there was no doubting songs like "Mystery Dance," with its Jerry Lee Lewis vibe, would add a new dimension live when attacked by The Attractions. Few of Costello's songs bar "Alison" have been covered, and this No. 14 album (in the UK), which retains its quirkiness today, suggests why. A heady combination of punk and quality songcraft, it remains unique even by Elvis' standards.
Friday, July 21, 2017
Squeeze : Cat On The Wall (John Peel Session)
On July 22, 1977 Squeeze released their debut record, an EP titled "A Packet of Three". The title comes from a standard package of condoms in the UK, which is a good preview of the kind of humor Squeeze would inflict on listeners during the first two albums. Inspired by punk and a good dose of Dr. Feelgood by the sounds of it, the sessions for the three songs were produced by former Velvet Undergrounder John Cale , which shows how small the world is. Squeeze named their band after the 1973 Velvet Underground album whose only recognizable member was Doug Yule. Squeeze are Glenn Tilbrook, Chris Difford, Jools Holland, Harry Kakoulli and Gilson Lavis. The EP helped Squeeze get a deal with A and M Records.
Cale would also produce Squeeze's 1978 debut album, which would be a bit of a mess.
Thursday, July 20, 2017
Be Bop Deluxe : Blazing Apostles (live)
Finally the boys of BBD do something predictable. They release a live album. Whether you got off on Be Bop Deluxe's Live! In the Air Age, released in July of 1977, depended on whether you thought the studio sheen was a benefit or hinderance to your enjoyment of their music. Recorded on the Modern Music tour, it was originally released as a two record set, one black vinyl, the other white vinyl.
Wednesday, July 19, 2017
The Desperate Bicycles : The Medium Was Tedium
On July 19, D-I-Y evangelists The Desperate Bicycles released their second self-released single, "The Medium Was Tedium", a song that seemed to be a response to the question the English punk rockers must have been asked the most: how did they make a record. The answer is in the refrain: "It was easy/It was cheap/Go and do it"!
The drummer on the track was 14 years old.
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
The Ramones : Swallow My Pride
On July 18, 1977 The Ramones followed up "Sheena is a Punk Rocker", a UK #22 hit, with a new single, "Swallow My Pride" b/w "Pinhead". The new single would peak at #36, a number they'd fail to reach again until 1980 with "Baby, I Love You". Even the biggest Ramones fans might not know "Swallow My Pride" had ever been a single. "Pinhead", with its "Gabba Gabba Hey" chorus, is far better remembered forty years later.
Monday, July 17, 2017
The Stranglers : Something Better Change
On July 17, 1977 The Sunday Times published an article entitled "Good Clean Punk" about The Clash and their fans:
For most people, "punk rock" still means four-letter words, safety-pin jewelry, and a rude song about the Queen. After the Sex Pistols' infamous language on TV, concerts were cancelled, contracts were torn up, and righteous outrage swept the land. Punk, it seemed, was sunk. But eight months is an eon in pop; the record companies, hungry for a genuine youth phenomenon, have swallowed their misgivings and re-opened their cheque books. Punk, deodorised and re-packaged as the "New Wave", is here to stay - at least for half an hour.
Sunday, July 16, 2017
Culture : I'm Not Ashamed
On July 16. 1977 Capitol Radio broadcast a half hour show of music Johnny Rotten picked out. The show was called "A Punk and his Music" Among the songs on the playlist : Tim Buckley's "Sweet Surrender", David Bowie's "Rebel Rebel", Neil Young's "Revolution Blues", Gary Glitter's "Doing Alright With The Boys", Kevin Coyne's "Eastbourne Ladies", Captain Beefheart's "It's The Blimp and a surprising amount of reggae including Aswad's "Jah Wonderful" , Dr Alimantado's "Don't Determine My Right", and Culture;'s "I'm Not Ashamed".
Hear the first part of the show here:
Rotten may have surprised listeners by denouncing the punk scene on the show:
A lot of it's rubbish, I mean real rubbish. Pathetic. And just giving it all a terrible bad name. A lot of bands are just ruining it. They're either getting too much into the star trip or they're going the exact opposite way. Neither way is really honest. If you know what you're doing you can completely ignore the whole damn thing.
Part Two here:
Friday, July 14, 2017
Yes : Wondrous Stories
In July of 1977, The Sex Pistols, The Stranglers, Jonathan Richman and The Saints may have entered the U.K. singles charts, but album sales still very much belonged to prog rock veterans. That month, both Yes and Styx released some of their most successful albums, neither of which gave even the slightest inclination that punk had entered their musical vocabulary. And why should it? Both bands had developed their sounds through years of practice, practice, practice. Every member of Yes was a prodigy and, God, did they make that clear over the years. Going For the One had some nice melodies like the catchy title cut and "Wondrous Stories", but it also had a naked man's ass on the cover and I'm betting there were thousands of American teens who wouldn't take anything like that to the cash register.
Styx : Come Sail Away
Chicago's Styx released The Grand Illusion on July 7 . Their breakthrough album sold three million copies thanks to the top ten hit "Come Sail Away" and "Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)" which contains the masturbatory lines "You've got it all in the palm of your hand/But your hand's wet with sweat and your head needs a rest " .
Thursday, July 13, 2017
NRBQ : That's Alright
On June 13, 1977 lightening strikes left the city of New York without power for 25 hours. According to the New York Times because of the power failure, LaGuardia and Kennedy airports were closed down for about eight hours, automobile tunnels were closed because of lack of ventilation, and 4,000 people had to be evacuated from the subway system. ConEd called the shutdown an "act of God", enraging Mayor Abe Beame, who charged that the utility was guilty of "gross negligence."
Beame said "We've seen our citizens subjected to violence, vandalism, theft, and discomfort. The Blackout has threatened our safety and has seriously impacted our economy. We've been needlessly subjected to a night of terror in many communities that have been wantonly looted and burned. The costs when finally tallied will be enormous. "
Meanwhile at the Bottom Line, NRBQ played an all acoustic set, using flashlights taped to their microphone stands.
Wednesday, July 12, 2017
Tuesday, July 11, 2017
Village People : San Francisco
In July of 1977, Village People released their first single, "San Francisco (You've Got Me)", a Top 50 hit in the U.K. , a #1 song in U.S. dance clubs in September and a gay anthem to this date.
The band was the brainchild of French composer Jacques Morali. He hired Victor Willis to sing his songs and then ordered a casting call for dancers willing to fit the gay fantasy archetypes.the ad read "Macho Types Wanted: Must Dance And Have A Moustache". Morali hired dancers to be an American Indian, a solider, a construction worker, a cowboy and a leatherman. Willis dressed up as a cop.
The fact that America accepted The Village People was a huge step for the gay culture in the 1970's. You can open a lot of minds just by having fun.
Monday, July 10, 2017
Jonathan Richman : Roadrunner
On July 10, 1977 Jonathan Richman's "Roadrunner" , the world's greatest driving song, entered the U.K. charts at #33. It would peak at #11. There are at least three versions of "Roadrunner" worth discussing. There is the 1972 John Cale produced original Modern Lovers version which I would like to call "Roadrunner (Once)". There is the UK hit version, recorded with Bezerkley label mates The Greg Kihn Band in 1974. That's "Roadrunner (Twice)". There is also "Roadrunner (Thrice)", an eight minute live version that was released as a B side in 1977.
In any case the tune conjures up some memories of driving through New England towns in the dead of winter. Boston is still a city I don't know so well. Can we feel nostalgic about a place we've never visited? I think the answer is yes.
When Top of the Pops couldn't get the now acoustic Jonathan to perform Roadrunner on their show, Legs and Company slapped together this silly dance routine.
Sunday, July 9, 2017
The Only Ones : Lovers of Today
On July 9, 1977 The Only Ones released their classic "Lovers of Today" single on their own label, Vengeance Records. The tune was immediately named the "Single of the Week" by three out of the four major U.K. music mags. A year later The Only Ones would be signed to CBS Records.
Songwriter Peter Perrett was a member of the Velvet Underground sound a likes England's Glory. Scottish bassist Alan Mair had been in The Beanstalkers, guitarist John Parry was an ex-Rat and drummer Mike Kellie , at age 30, was the old man in the band, a veteran of Spooky Tooth. Kellie died in January of this year.
Peter Perrett would always sound detached from his own songs. He was certainly uncomfortable with being attached to the punk scene, telling an interviewer in 1977 "To the hippies we were punks and to the punks, we were hippies.". Listen closely and you'll hear Perrett declare the death of the flower power generation:
We ain't got feelings /We've got no love /We ain't got nothing to say/ We're lovers of today.
Saturday, July 8, 2017
The Jam : All Around the World
On July 8, 1977 The Jam released their second single, the U.K. #13 hit "All Around the World". The rocker hit record stores just six weeks after the Jam's debut album, but it didn't come from the In The City. It was a brand new tune.
Weller was given the opportunity to review the single for Record Mirror and he raved about it like a teen age fan:
I was hoping for 'Modern World' as the new single from The Jam. I love them. Seen them play about 15 times and this is no disappointment. In fact they make records that sound like anthems Weller's guitar explosion in the middle is like a quick journey to the centre of the earth. Single of the week and number one. 'Carnaby Street' is on the B side.
Introduced above as "JAM" by Marc Bolan, Rick Butler loses his drumstick at the 2:21 mark.
There was no second take either, so once it was filmed that was it. And I still don't know what happened to that drumstick. Maybe it's still there because I don't remember it coming down.
Friday, July 7, 2017
Elvis Costello : (The Angels Wanna Wear) Red Shoes
She said "Drop dead" then left with another guy
On July 7, 1977 Elvis Costello released his third single, "(The Angels Wanna Wear) Red Shoes". In Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink, Costello writes about the moment a year earlier on a train when the song came to his mind, fully formed.
What surprised me was this visitation by angels. Who were these cats? Were they gatekeepers to a land of acclaim and immortality that still seemed so unattainable? I can't tell you. I simply wrote it down and heard all the accompanying music playing in my head, The words arrived as fast as I could scribble them down in my notebook as the train juddered to a slower speed on the final approach through the Liverpool suburbs.
Thursday, July 6, 2017
Radio Birdman : New Race
Next to The Saints, Sydney's Radio Birdman were the loudest and hardest rocking punk band in Australia. One of the founders of the band, Deniz Tek, is actually a Michigan native who grew up hearing the Motor City's maddest bands like The Stooges and MC 5.
Birdman's debut album, Radios Appear, named for a Blue Oyster Cult lyric, opens with a Stooges cover. Like their EP Burn My Eye, the album doesn't let up, even when acoustic guitars come into the fray as on "Love Kills".
The first single was "New Race". It was hoped that the teen anthem lyrics would catch on. Lines like
There's gonna be a new race
Kids are gonna start it up
We're all gonna mutate
Kids are saying yeah hup
Unfortunately some critics thought the song smelled a bit like a fascist anthem. Nevertheless, the Australian version of Rolling Stone gave the album its highest rating and The Ramones label, Sire. soon came calling.
Wednesday, July 5, 2017
The Damned : Stretcher Case
Recorded by the legendary producer Shel Talmy, who had recorded both The Who and The Kinks, The Damned's new single "Stretcher Case Baby" was released in July of 1977 by Stiff Records as a thank you to the fans. The song had been part of the regular set since March when Rat Scabies wrote the lyrics over a Brian James riff. "I tried to get it to sound like the early records by The Who - a band I liked a lot. I don't know a stretcher case baby is. You'd have to ask Rat," said James.
Tuesday, July 4, 2017
Blondie : Scenery
On the 4th of July, 1977, Blondie bassist Gary Valentine ( far right in the photo above) split from the group. He had given Blondie their first single, "X-Offender", and the band's 1978 hit "(I'm Always Touched by Your) Presence, Dear". But, as he told Rolling Stone, he had some artistic integrity issues with Chris Stein and Deborah Harry. "I would write six songs, and they would say, 'Okay, we'll do this one.'"
Valentine would move to L.A., form a band called The Know and write books and articles, many of which would deal with mysticism and occultism. An interest that would surface in "Presence" with lyrics like "Floating pass the evidence of possibilities /We could navigate together, psychic frequencies /Coming into contact with outer entities /We could entertain each one with our theosophies".
In the 90's he returned to New York to play with Blondie. The reunion didn't last.
Monday, July 3, 2017
The Brothers Johnson : Strawberry Letter #23
On July 3, 1977 The Brothers Johnson single "Strawberry Letter #23" entered the U.K. pop charts at #42 and the U.S. charts at #71. Originally composed and recorded by Shuggie Otis in 1971, the Quincy Jones produced tune would top the US R and B charts, peak at #7 on the U.S. pop charts and peak at #35 in the U.K. Is it funkier than Shuggie's version? It certainly has a bridge of cascading electric guitars that would make Yes jealous. One of those songs that defines 1977.
Sunday, July 2, 2017
Sex Pistols : Pretty Vacant
On July 1, 1977 The Sex Pistols released their third "Pretty Vacant", with high hopes they would have another huge hit on their hands. After all they weren't disrespecting the queen this time. That said, it does seem like Johnny Rotten is really hitting the CUNT in the word VACANT. NME magazine made it their Single of the Year in 1977.