No Elvis, Beatles or the Rolling Stones in 1977 (Part 2)
Righto, here's the second half of my look at my favorite 10 albums from the great music of 1977, thirty years ago this year when we all were riding Big Wheels and listening to Abba on our 8-tracks. Or something like that. Anyway, here's #6-10:
6. Television, Marquee Moon. A combination of jaggedy punk shards and freewheeling jam band guitar, this album is one of those stunning debuts '77 laid claim to. Yet Television as a band barely did anything notable after this. But wow, those guitars – it's kind of like if the Ramones were crossed with the Grateful Dead – rough lyrics, wheedling vocals and abrupt swerves in tone, spread out by some of the finest guitar solos you'll ever hear. I'm not a huge "guitar solo man" – I don't particularly care for Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan or Joe Satriani, I have to admit – but man, the way Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd's strings crash, bash and duel each other over tunes like "Friction," "Marquee Moon" and "Elevation" makes me dizzy, every time I listen to it. Punk proves it can be great musicianship.
7 and 8. Iggy Pop, The Idiot, Lust For Life. Just like David Bowie, Iggy Pop had an amazing 1977 musically, releasing two classic albums – which were actually produced and co-written with Bowie (I don't imagine Bowie slept much in '77). Some say Iggy was Bowie's puppet for these albums, some say Bowie was merely helping out a friend who was down and out after his riotous Stooges career. Either way, it's pretty much the best non-Stooges stuff Iggy's ever done, with classic tracks like "Nightclubbing," "Fun Time" and "The Passenger," not to mention that amazingly decadent tune, "Lust For Life." Bowie's chilled style meets Iggy's seedy charisma and comes up a winner.
9. Kraftwerk, Trans-Europe Express. I like to think of Kraftwerk as "driving music." (Maybe it's their famous song "Autobahn.") The template for everyone from Moby to Coldplay, strangely soothing and authoritative. Unlike some of their other work I've heard, here the Krauts of Kraftwerk craft real songs with catchy melody, yet steeped in that oily machine-like precision they so excel at. "Europe Endless" and "Trans-Europe Express" now feel both retro and futuristic at the same time, while songs like "Showroom Dummies" and "Hall of Mirrors" gaze with a merciless eye on the question of identity and reality. Yet the music never gets so lost in the abstract that it fails to engage you emotionally.
10. Talking Heads, 77. So jittery and nervous it's like being dipped in raw caffeine, the debut album from the Heads isn't quite as funky and experimental as their later work, but it makes up for that in tense showmanship. There's something curiously askew about songs like "Psycho Killer" and "Uh Oh , Love Comes To Town," a sense that David Byrne is about ready to explode with repressed energy. The new wave starts here.