the idiot opens his big mouth
dinner party, navy style

friday random ten, 1977 edition

1. Al Green, "Belle." 1977 was a crucial year in rock history, which hopefully this random list will reflect. Ten years earlier, you'd get a wide variety of music, but it was still possible to hear all of that variety in one place. By 1977, battle lines were drawn: art rock, punk, disco, and the mainstream .. no one liked anyone else. Having said that, it's hard for me to imagine anyone who didn't or doesn't like Al Green. Still, The Belle Album came as a bit of a shock, as Green began to make his gospel roots more specific. Whatever people thought at the time, it was a great album.

2. Bonnie Raitt, "Louise." Speaking of misunderstood … because Bonnie Raitt was assumed to be a blueswoman when she started, and because the clatter of punk was influencing so much of rock music by 1977, much of Raitt's mid-70s work, which if you didn't pay attention was more Ronstadt than Mississippi John Hurt, has been dismissed by critics. In truth, the music Raitt made during this period was as good as the music of her "comeback" fifteen years later. Sweet Forgiveness is considered by many to be the nadir, but while it's not as good as Home Plate (the best album she ever made) or Green Light (the rockingest album she ever made), it's a fine record nonetheless. If I were in charge, I might have chosen a different song than "Louise," but that's shuffle play for you.

3. The Sex Pistols, "God Save the Queen." Well, here we go. I've written about this in the past (want to feel old? I wrote that piece 14 years ago, and when I wrote it I was describing events that were already 15 years in the past), so what else is there to say? Except to note once again that Albert Camus said it first: "The absurd enlightens me on this point: there is no future." (The quality of the video link sux, but I had to include it since I was there, one day before Sara was born.)

4. The Clash, "London's Burning." Nice to see this one follow the Pistols. The Clash seemed so … I don't know, "foreign" … to an American ear back in the day. I had no idea what Joe Strummer was saying half the time, and it didn't matter a bit. For years I heard this as "London's burning! Da, na na na na na!" and that sounded just fine to me when combined with the music and the vocals. Then one day I got a book of Clash lyrics … man, was I surprised. I still wondered what "999" was, though.

5. Santa Esmeralda, "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood." I guess we're speaking literally now of being misunderstood. While punk was happening, disco was what people actually listened to. This was the all-time greatest "let's make a disco version of an old song" recording. I loved this record at the time, but I don't know how much of a mainstream hit it was … it did make #1 on the club play charts. And then Quentin Tarantino revived it for Kill Bill. It still sounds great. (Great video, too!)

6. Donna Summer, "I Feel Love." Donna Summer, on the other hand … she was mainstream. She defined disco for many, and of course, because of that she was underrated. (I'm as big a fan of punk as anyone, but the way disco was/is trashed is criminal.)

7. Thelma Houston, "Don't Leave Me This Way." Our favorite disco song. I wasn't one for the discos … truth be told, we went to roller skating rinks and skated to disco … hopefully none of my punk-rock friends saw me there.

8. Mink DeVille, "Spanish Stroll." Somehow, this song manages to be vaguely New Wave while recalling the kind of culture that might have also spawned disco. We saw these guys once, and the opening act was an unknown local comic named Dana Carvey. Carvey was funny enough, but who comes to a rock concert to see a comedian? So he wasn't going over very well, and at one point he did some bit about a then-current commercial for Irish Spring soap. When no one laughed, he ad-libbed "what, you guys don't wash?" To which I shouted in reply, "We don't stink!" It was the only good heckle I ever got off. Robin liked Carvey, though, and so she wrote him a note on a napkin saying she thought he was funny and had our waitress take it to him. No word on whether or not he actually saw the note. He doesn't stink anymore, though.

9. Norton Buffalo, "Nobody Wants Me." While punk and disco and New Wave and all that stuff were going on, some people just made the same kind of music that folks had been listening to all along. Norton Buffalo was a local harmonica player who worked with a zillion acts, perhaps most famously Steve Miller. In 1977 he released a solo album titled Lovin' in the Valley of the Moon, a local reference that endeared him to the greater Bay Area. This was the best song from that album. A few years later, when I was in therapy and Robin would come with me, I felt like no one was paying attention to me (not just in life, but in the therapy session), and I suddenly burst into song, singing this very song … "No-body wants me, they left me all alone."

10. Nick Lowe, "Endless Sleep." An obscurity (and god bless YouTube for the video at the top of this post), this appeared on the Bowi EP (Bowie having released Low, Lowe decided to return the favor). I was fascinated by the song, and bought several different 45-RPM import EPs, trying to find one that was properly pressed. I never succeeded … every single one sounded just horrible, as if someone had already taken the time to put about a decade's worth of scratches in the grooves … and so it wasn't until Lowe released it on a compilation in the 90s that I got to play it without hearing scratches. One never knows when Nick Lowe is kidding and when he is serious (which is one of the many things that makes "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding?" such a great song). I always took "Endless Sleep" seriously, in any event … it's a pub-rocker's quiet "Gloomy Sunday." (Lowe once wrote of the recording, "Tried to play it slower …….")

When you're walkin' in the street
spoilin' for a fight
hopin' for a miracle
and there's no
miracle in sight

Registering zero
'cause you're bombed out
on the blues
you feel like
some bad story
in yesterday's news

It makes you wanna
lay face down
on the grass so brown
where the sun beats down
on the bakin' ground
To find
sweet release
in endless sleep
endless sleep

When you're hangin' by a thread
clutchin' at a straw
ain't got nothing left
and the world keeps shoutin'

more

more

You haven't got an earthly ...
'cause you're all bust up inside
nobody
you can
turn to
this time
no place you can hide

Makes you wanna
lay face down
on the grass so brown
where the sun beats down
on the bakin' ground
To find
sweet release
in endless sleep

endless sleep

endless sleep ...

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