1978


Title: They Called It Rock

Artist: Nick Lowe

Album: Pure Pop For Now People

Year Released: 1978

What It Is: Smart funny rock-and-roll by Nick Lowe and Rockpile. It’s a remake of a song called “Shake & Pop” that was on his “Jesus Of Cool” LP in England, but this version is much cleaner, faster, and takes the message home effectively.

Riffage / Hookage: Nick Lowe always has a way with hooks, and Billy Bremner’s opening riff is pretty solid in a twangy 50’s way.

Cowbell?: Nope.

Words Of Wisdom: “They cut another record, it never was a hit
Someone in the newspaper said it was shit
The drummer is a bookie, the singer is a whore
The bass player’s selling clothes he never would have wore”

Mixology Report: Lowe’s always good for a mix or three!

Top Five Genius Results: Rockpile – Play That Fast Thing (One More Time)
Graham Parker – Mercury Poisoning
Elvis Costello – You’ll Never Be A Man
Dave Edmunds – Girls Talk
Joe Jackson – Kinda Kute

I’m surprised Billy Bremner’s solo single isn’t in the top 5.

For The Good Of The Order: This was recorded during quite a whirlwind era for Lowe. Rockpile recorded three records (one by Dave Edmunds, one by Lowe and one as Rockpile) plus sessions that became another Edmunds LP. This song was a non-album single. Lowe also was busy as a songwriter and producer. After splitting from Edmonds, and after his marriage to Carlene Carter (making him related to Johnny Cash in a cousin in-law way), he slowed down and stalled creatively. He was quite clever, but soon his cleverness became trite. He still was a go-to producer, though, and brought together Ry Cooder and Jim Keltner to work on a John Hiatt record. That record (“Bring The Family”) is the reason we know Hiatt today. That’s just a tidbit of what I could say. I didn’t even mention Brinsley Schwarz…yet…

And here’s a live tidbit!

Title: Sultans Of Swing

Artist: Dire Straits

Album: Dire Straits

Year Released: 1978

What It Is: An encapsulation of club band (especially jazz band) ethos? Sure, I’ll buy that. One of the strongest debut singles ever? Yeah, that too. A breath of fresh air on album oriented rock radio in the late 70’s? Heck, yes. Sure beat Seger, Styx and Journey 24-7.

Riffage / Hookage: Now, the ‘riff’, the ongoing rhythm part, isn’t the centerpiece of the song, though David Knopfler and John Illsley do a fine job keeping things goin. The star, of course is Mark Knopfler and his finger-picked leads and fills. Almost all of Knopfler’s guitar work utilizes finger picking (he did admit to use a pick when recording rhythm guitar tracks later in his career, but here, that’s what baby brother was for).

Cowbell?: Maybe when Knopfler sings “the time bell rings”?

Words Of Wisdom: “You check out Guitar George
He knows all the chords
He’s strictly rhythm; he doesn’t want to make it cry or sing
And an old guitar is all he can afford
When he gets up under the lights to play his thing”

Mixology Report: Yeah, but if pressed, I’d choose “Water Of Love”, “Setting Me Up”, “Lions” or “Down To The Waterline” from their first record. But I’m onery like that.

Top Five Genius Results: Reeling In The Years – Steely Dan
You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet – Bachman Turner Overdrive (?)
House Of The Rising Sun – The Animals
Go Your Own Way – Fleetwood Mac
All Right Now – Free (?)

Genius…genius…need to stop thinking Dire Straits is an AOR arena-rock band.

For The Good Of The Order: I had a conversation with a friend this weekend, who is a younger chap, but knows some good tunes. He was surprised, perhaps, when I stated that to my ears this debut album (and Making Movies) were much better than Brothers In Arms. In fact, this debut may be one of the best debuts ever (it’s in the team picture). For some reason, I prefer Dire Straits before they added a lot of flashy production and effects. So up to that point, each album is pretty nifty (even Communique, and don’t forget about the single “Twisting By The Pool”).

Here’s Dire Straits at the “Old Gray Whistle Test”:

Title: Anytime

Artist: Journey

Album: Infinity (Wait…it could be Evolution or Departure or…no…it’s Infinity)

Year Released: 1978

What It Is: Oh, it’s Journey. But it’s a Journey song that Greg Rollie sings instead of Shrieky McBignose. Though he does sing backups. (And I have a treat for you later). Yes, I’m still in need of comfort music. Calgon, take me back to Junior High. (PS, dig the phasing on some of the vocals)

Riffage / Hookage: Not riffage per se, but heavenly vocal harmonies to open up the song and in the chorus. Everyone grab their girl and lighter (in different hands, of course) and sing along!

Cowbell?: Don’t think so. Aynsley Dunbar would use them if need be, but I don’t think this needed it.

Words Of Wisdom: Right, this is a Journey song. Words matter…not…

Mixology Report: If you’re a demented and sad child of the 70’s, sure!

Top Five Genius Results: REO Speedwagon – Roll With The Changes

Foreigner – Long Long Way From Home

Triumph – Lay It On The Line

Donny Iris – Ah! Leah! (AGAIN!)

Babys – Back On My Feet Again

(Wow, I AM back in Junior High…)

For The Good Of The Order: You may know that Randy Jackson (dawg) played bass for them for a while (after Ross Valory left (or was kicked out)). But did you know the original recorded group was Neil Schon (about ready to sport his spectacular Jew-Fro), Rollie, Dunbar, Valory and George Tickner (the last two from the late, lamented Fruminous Bandersnatch)? Tickner left after one record, and for the next two Rollie and Schon(!) sang lead vocals. They originally were progressive-y, but then tried to chase the $$ as a blandy-just like every other popular-rock band.

Then they hired a guy named Robert Fleischman, who was not butter, nor did he mesh with their fans (such as they were) or band members. So then Shrieky…er…Steve Perry was drafted…and they made Junior High School students everywhere happy!

I have TWO vids, the first is a generic live video from a later tour (with Steve Smith on drums):

The second stars the aforemented Mr. Fleischman. You can really tell why they gave him the heave-ho. (But Schon’s hair is the true star of the video! Check about 2:06 in!)

Title: Bye Bye Love

Artist: The Cars

Album: The Cars

Year Released: 1978

What It Is: One of the big winners of the first Cars album. Yes, most people know the first three cuts on side one, and “Moving In Stereo” (thanks to Phoebe Cates’ nekkidness) (YOWZA!) but that first Cars album was nine winners. This is a tour-de-force for Elliot Easton’s guitar, Ben Orr’s vocals and David Robinson’s solid drumming.

Riffage / Hookage: Not a riff, per se, but Easton and Ric Ocasek’s guitar lines and Greg Hawkes’ sublime synths carry through the intro and verses, and the chorus is hook-tastic.

Cowbell?: No, but watch David Robinson on the video below, because that’s how I always air drum! And dig the roto-toms!

Words Of Wisdom: “Substitution mass confusion
Clouds inside my head
Were fogging all my energies
Until you visited
Eyes of porcelain and blue
Could shock me into sense
You think you’re so illustrious
You call yourself intense”

Ocasek’s lyrics are underrated, I believe.

Mixology Report: Now, why wouldn’t you? Especially for a soon-to-be ex! Oh, that may be cruel, eh?

For The Good Of The Order: I believe, after seeing them in concert and on videos, that if Ric Ocasek sings lead, Ben Orr contributes backups. But Ocasek does not contribute backups when Orr sings lead.

Check this live clip out from a German TV show (Musikladen, I believe). If you have the deluxe edition of the first album, then this version is most like the demo. The harmonies are a bit thinner (well, der, since Roy Thomas Baker locked Easton, Hawkes, and Orr in a room and told them to sing the same part over and over again, I am supposing) but check out Easton’s guitar lead. Outstanding!

Title: Bat Chain Puller

Artist:Captain Beefheart

Album:Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller)

Year Released: 1978

What It Is: A deep groove underpins the song, with accenting typical Beefheartian guitar parts (which are complicated rhythmically and sonically) and the Captain’s own odd poetry. It’s quite a listen.

Riffage / Hookage: The groove is the riff and the hook. It propels the song and allows the guitarists space on which to cast their interesting spells. Oh, and allows a bedrock for the Captain to do his thing, too.

Cowbell?:No, the drums are very basic. Beefheart was over his marimba phase, too. (Basically, since Art (Ed Marimba)Tripp left the group.)

Words Of Wisdom: “It whistles like a root snatched from dry earth
Sodbustin’ rakes with grey dust claws
Announces its coming in the morning
This train with grey tubes
That houses people’s very thoughts and belongings.”

I don’t think I could add anything else…

Mixology Report: Careful scouting of your mix target will determine if they are Beefheart-ready. It takes a while to ‘get it’, but once they do, then Beefheart away!

For The Good Of The Order: He recorded this earlier as part of the “Bat Chain Puller” album, which for many tangled legal reasons involving Frank Zappa, never saw the light of day except on bootlegs. I have heard that bootleg, and the versions aren’t remarkably different. He had this thing worked out.

Here’s Beefheart on French TV in the early 80’s. As you can see, the musicians are tight but they have to know what they’re doing in order to get it right. And it still doesn’t sound ‘right’ but it’s right. Trust me.

Title: I Need To Know

Artist: Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

Album: You’re Gonna Get It!

Year Released: 1978

What It Is: Vintage early Tom Petty, where he takes a bit of the Byrds, a bit of Dylan, and a bit of the Stones, and mixed it all together. It was “New Wave” for a brief time but soon he was grouped into Classic Rock, though his early songs like this sounded so fresh on the radio back in the day.

Riffage / Hookage: The chorus is pretty catchy and the guitar riff (which I’m sure is Mike Campbell’s doing) is a great Stones rip.

Cowbell?: Nah, just some solid workmanlike drumming.

Words Of Wisdom: “Well the talk on the street
Says you might go solo
A good friend of mine saw you leavin by the back door”

You know, you’re always the LAST to know when a cheatin’ situation happens.

Mixology Report: Good for a rock n’ roll mix. Petty’s nasaly vocals may clash with some vocal styles, so please mix wisely if in a free-for-all.

For The Good Of The Order: This hit #41 on the charts as a single, the cruelest number. It’s just one spot away from Casey’s countdown and more national attention, but so far away from it.

Here’s a vintage live TV spot from TP&TH. Poor Benmont Tench was almost forgotten about. Mike Campbell hasn’t changed his look a bit. But why would he need to?