Category Archives: 1978

Rocks In The Attic #611: 10cc – ‘Bloody Tourists’ (1978)

RITA#611The band’s second studio LP following the departure of Kevin Godley and Lol Creme, Bloody Tourists finds 10cc hitting full stride with their final number one single – Dreadlock Holiday – a song that might make you think they didn’t need Godley and Creme in the first place.

This is the 10cc of Live And Let Live – the live record recorded while touring 1977’s Deceptive Bends. If anything, the band sounds a little – not much, but a little – less whacky without the more experimental Godley and Creme. That odd music-hall influence has disappeared, and they now sound much more mature. There’s more of an AOR feel, and you can hear much more of that ‘Britain’s answer to Steely Dan’ comparison .

Is the post-split 10cc a less exciting proposition than the original four-piece version of the band? Yes and no. They can still surprise, but the surprises are fewer and farther between.

Hit: Dreadlock Holiday

Hidden Gem: For You And I

Rocks In The Attic #595: Bob Marley & The Wailers – ‘Kaya’ (1978)

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This record features my favourite Bob Marley track, Is This Love. It’s a typical Wailers song – effortless, catchy and upbeat – and doesn’t let itself be burdened by the verse-chorus-verse template of western pop music. It has a structure, but a loose structure and the emphasis comes more from the message of the song rather than the boundaries of its form.

The record also features a re-recording of Sun Is Shining. Originally released on 1971’s Soul Revolution and then on the African Herbsman compilation in 1973, the song was later lifted by Funkstar Deluxe for a reggae fusion remix in 1999 which hit #1 in the USA and #3 in the UK. I’m not a huge fan of club remixes, but this was one of those tracks that forever seems to keep Marley’s music in the public eye.

I might have to hunt down the Deluxe Edition of Kaya on CD as it features a second disc of a live performance recorded in Rotterdam on the day I was born. Maybe that’s why I like Is This Love so much. Could Bob have been playing it just as I popped out into the cosmos?

Hit: Is This Love

Hidden Gem: Misty Morning

Rocks In The Attic #538: Robert Palmer – ‘Double Fun’ (1978)

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Now this fella had a good voice. I remember shopping in Kingbee Records in Manchester on the morning that I heard he had died, and toying with the idea of buying one of his records. I didn’t buy it in the end. I hadn’t heard anything by him other than the ubiquitous late ‘80s singles Addicted To Love and Simply Irresistible, and surely I wouldn’t appreciate a full album of his yuppy rock songs.

I don’t think I ever saw any of his records in the wild again until I picked this up – studio album number four. It’s a damn good record, and Palmer’s blue-eyed soul voice is really a wonderful thing. Genre-wise, it reminds me of early Hot Chocolate – a poppy mixture of groove-based rock and grown up soul and R&B. Anybody with the confidence to work up a decent funk version of the Kinks’ You Really Got Me is worth more than five minutes of my time.

By this stage, Palmer wasn’t pulling in the likes of the Meters or Little Feat to back him in the studio, as on his first two records. I don’t immediately recognise any of the musicians who contributed to the sessions, but there are definitely a lot of them – twenty nine players in total – suggesting that the sessions were a casual, unstructured affair.

Hit: Every Kinda People

Hidden Gem: Come Over

Rocks In The Attic #577: The Village People – ‘Cruisin’’ (1978)

RITA#577On Saturday mornings in Manchester, we would hit the local record stores; usually Kingbee in Chorlton, followed by Sifters a little further afield in Fallowfield. Of the two, I always preferred the selection in Kingbee. Even though the shop looked like it was never blessed with direct daylight, the rock and pop section was pretty good, although pretty pricey at times.

It was always a bit harder to navigate around the shop in Kingbee though. It isn’t the largest record shop in the world, and with only four or five racks of rock and pop – usually a record store’s most popular section – you’d always be fighting to get back into the L to R section after another buyer ruined your alphabetised digging.

RITA#577aIf pickings were not rich enough in Kingbee, we’d jump in the car and go to Sifters, the record store made famous by Noel Gallagher’s lyrics in Shakermaker. Sifter’s was such a different experience to Kingbee. It was always a bit quieter and not populated with the usual serious record buying types you would see in Kingbee.

I filled a lot of gaps in my record collection in Sifters. It seemed to be the record store where popular rock records ended up. My copies of Hysteria and Brothers In Arms probably came from Sifters, and I think I picked up the whole of ZZ Top’s pre-Eliminator output there once I figured out how good their early material is. My copies of Thriller and Bad were from there, and while I already owned Frampton Comes Alive by the time I first set foot in Sifters, I reckon I would have been able to pick up a copy there every week if I needed to.

RITA#577bOne of the records I always saw in Sifters was a copy of the Village People’s third studio album, Cruisin’, from 1978. I have a soft spot for Y.M.C.A. – it’s such a banging tune that I don’t really care about anything else the song – or the band – symbolises. The album just refers to the band’s collective love of driving around, right? And the visual gag concerning the band’s attire in Wayne’s World 2 puts such a big smile on my face that I just have trouble taking them too seriously.

It was always on my agenda to pick up that copy of Cruisin’ in Sifters. I never got around to it for one reason or another. I must have picked it up a few times, but had to put it back once I’d figured my other records had easily surpassed my budget. I always regretted this after I left Manchester, but I was lucky to pick up a beat-up (or should that be ‘rough trade’?) second-hand copy here in New Zealand last year.

I wouldn’t want to suggest that the Village People were a one-hit wonder, but nearly every song on this record sounds like a reworking of Y.M.C.A. There’s a really tasty horn break in I’m A Cruiser which I’m having major trouble placing. Either it’s lifted from something else, or it’s been samped since (it’s at 02:50 here, if you can help me out).

Hit: Y.M.C.A.

Hidden Gem: Medley: The Women / I’m A Cruiser

Rocks In The Attic #556: Blondie – ‘Plastic Letters’ (1978)

rita556Plastic Letters is album number two for Blondie, and starts to see them move towards more of a pop sound after their grittier debut. Their choice of covering Randy & The Rainbow’s 1963 hit Denis points to the direction which the band was going in from this point forward. I can’t help but think that early fans of the band in and around New York City would have felt a little disappointed in this gradual shift in direction.

It would be the equivalent in the UK of the Pistols or the Clash recording a cover by Gerry & The Pacemakers for their second album. Now, while I could imagine Johnny Rotten and company doing something like this, it would be too much like selling out for Strummer’s band. Some punk bands remained true to their original manifesto, while others like Blondie made a shortcut straight past post-Punk and New Wave, seemingly straight into the pop mainstream.

Isn’t this just what successful bands do though? The Beatles very quickly turned their backs on their rock and roll roots, opting to magpie the best parts of Motown, folk and R&B to produce their own “original” pop sound (one gets the impression that the rock and roll covers on the first couple of Beatles albums would have sounded old-hat at the time, whereas looking back they appear to come from the same era). Perhaps Debbie Harry and Chris Stein always had their eyes on the pop charts when they put Blondie together. Maybe when they were writing their early two-minute punk songs, they were really writing two-minute pop songs.

Alongside Denis, the album’s other big hit (I’m Always Touched By Your) Presence, Dear features the couplet Stay awake at night and count your R.E.M.s / When you’re talking with your super friends. While Michael Stipe claims to have chosen the name of his band at random from a dictionary, could he have subconsciously heard these lyrics on the radio?

Hit: Denis

Hidden Gem: Bermuda Triangle Blues (Flight 45)

Rocks In The Attic #549: Wings – ‘Wings Greatest’ (1978)

RITA#549.jpgI’m currently half-way through reading Howard Sounes’ Fab: The Intimate Life Of Paul McCartney. While it’s not the most revelatory of Beatle biographies, Sounes does win points for writing the most cutting paragraph of Sir Paul’s woeful fashion sense:

Paul showed up in a baggy tartan suit, like a Caledonian clown. [Linda McCartney] wore a maternity dress. Paul had cut a sharp figure during the Sixties, never more so than when he strode across the Abbey Road zebra crossing in a beautifully tailored Saville Row suit. Now he had mislaid his style compass. It would be years until he found it again. Not all Seventies fashion was bad, but it is fair to say that Paul McCartney dressed appallingly throughout that decade and much of the Eighties, wearing ill-chosen clothes and sporting a trendy yet hideous mullet haircut.

Ouch! Thankfully, unless you scan the record covers intensely, it’s now quite easily to overlook his sartorial crimes. All’s that’s left is a load of catchy – sometimes syrupy – songs. The other target in Sounes’ book is the strength – or weakness, if we’re going to be honest – of McCartney’s lyrics. For me, you can forgive something like Silly Love Songs when you have something like Live And Let Die to consider. The unbelievably good sometimes outweighs the unbelievably bad. Still, he does seem to defer to the act of choosing words because they rhyme rather than the words meaning anything. Just try and decipher the lyrics to Jet; it’s just gibberish.

You can’t fault the man’s light-hearted approach to promotion though. The album was supported by a jokey television advert, featuring several members of the public singing Wings tunes, ending with a dustman, parked in his lorry in Abbey Road, singing a wildly out of tune rendition of Band On The Run, at which point Paul, Linda and Denny Laine pull up alongside and Paul shouts “You’re a bit flat mate!”. The driver leans out his window and says “Funny, I only checked them this morning”.

Hit: Live And Let Die

Hidden Gem: Junior’s Farm

Rocks In The Attic #533: Kate Bush – ‘The Kick Inside’ (1978)

rita533Almost 1,000 records on my shelves (I’m currently sitting at 996 at the time of writing), and I’ve only just got around to buying my first Kate Bush album. I saw this, her 1978 debut, and Lionheart, her follow-up from the same year, at the Auckland record fair last weekend. Five dollars each? Yes, please.

It always feels a bit nicer to not only listen to records in chronological order, but also to buy them in chronological order too. I also saw Hounds Of Love, my favourite album of hers, in the same rack, but not only was it a bit on the dirty side – which admittedly, I could have cleaned up – it would have ruined the OCD part of my brain to buy album numbers one, two and…five.

I must admit I’m not the biggest Kate Bush fan. She’s just somebody I haven’t managed to get around to listening to in great detail. I know the hits from growing up in England, but a lot of the album tracks would be new to me.

She makes for a weird listen; kind of like how I see Lorde these days. A strange voice, odd lyrics that read more like poetry than anything else in the pop charts, and everything sung in such an odd meter that you’d be forgiven for mishearing a lot of the lyrics. Kate Bush doesn’t so much start a word on one bar and finish it on the next; instead she seems to effortlessly make it up on the spot, stretching or squeezing in syllables wherever she cares to.

It’s very much appreciated that the record comes with the lyrics printed on the rear cover. I’d struggled to understand most of Wuthering Heights in all my years on earth, and even with a cursory glance at the words I’d struggle to sing along even now.

Hit: Wuthering Heights

Hidden Gem: Moving