Liner Notes

The Year That Was: 1978

by Benjamin Ray

Nineteen seventy-eight. Disco. Punk. Arena rock. Grease. You had to be there.

It was a year of debuts, notably the wall-to-wall, stone cold classics Van Halen and The Cars, but also Molly Hatchet, Toto, Dire Straits and the Police's Outlandos D'Amour. The Cars and Police fit right in with the new wave and punk sound, if not spirit, while Van Halen's record was completely out of nowhere, a badass guitar record that was both cool and innovative.

A year of sophomore releases, too, such as the Talking Heads' More Songs About Buildings And Food, Blondie's Plastic Letters (and Parallel Lines later in the year), Elvis Costello's This Year's Model, Foreigner's Double Vision, Boston's Don't Look Back and more. Punk and original new wave records also included Magazine's Real Life, XTC's White Music, two Buzzcocks albums, Pere Ubu's The Modern Dance and the first appearance of Devo, which signaled the way that pop music (and the second British Invasion) would go at the beginning of the ‘80s.

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Other rock included Rush's Hemispheres, Styx's Pieces Of Eight, Queen's Jazz, Joe Walsh's But Seriously, Folks, Heart's Magazine, Bruce Springsteen's Darkness On The Edge Of Town, Patti Smith's  "Because The Night," Jackson Browne's "Runnin' On Empty," Steely Dan's "FM," Neil Young's Comes  A Time, Southside Johnny's Hearts of Stone, Warren Zevon's Excitable Boy (with "Werewolves Of London") and Chicago's final halfway decent record, Hot Streets. Cheap Trick also recorded Heaven Tonight (with "Surrender"), George Thorogood had Move It On Over, Bob Seger offered Stranger In Town and Billy Joel released 52nd Street (with "My Life").

Artists who had been around for much of the decade had albums, too, but most of them were pretty bad. The lone exceptions were David Bowie (Heroes) and the Rolling Stones, who shook off the cobwebs of the last few years and put out the excellent Some Girls. But counteracting that was the Doobie Brothers' Minute By Minute, Black Sabbath's Never Say Die! (the final record with Ozzy), the Who's Who Are You (Keith Moon's final record and one that is only mildly interesting), Yes' moribund Tormato and the Moody Blues' return with the sleepy Octave. Even Marvin Gaye's Here My Dear, recorded as a "tribute" to his ex-wife, rarely rose to the man's high standards.

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Yes, 'twas also a year of disco: the Village People's "Macho Man" and "YMCA," Chic's "Le Freak," the Trammps "Disco Inferno" and, of course, Barry Manilow's "Copacabana." And a year of pop confections, some good (the Grease soundtrack, Genesis' "Follow You, Follow Me," from the new trio form of the group, Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street," the Jackson 5's Destiny) and some not so good (most of Andy Gibb's songs, Abba's "Take A Chance On Me," Dan Hill's "Sometimes When We Touch," the entire soundtrack to the awful Sgt. Pepper's movie with the Bee Gees, Donna Summer's remake of the truly awful "Macarthur Park," the Commodores' "Three Times A Lady"). Also of note is the Pat Metheny Group's very good self-titled fusion jazz record.

And that, friends, is the Year That Was in music.




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