150 Best Albums of 1979

I was working in a Fotomat booth in the middle of a parking lot outside a strip mall (“shopping centers” I guess they were called more often then) on Orchard Lake Road in the summer of ’79, taking in undeveloped rolls of film and handing out envelopes of developed photos, when I realized that my two next music purchases would both say “squeeze” on the cover — what a coincidence, huh? Sure enough, next record-store trip I’d add Squeeze’s best album Cool For Cats and Graham Parker’s most acclaimed album Squeezing Out Sparks (#1 in the Village Voice Pazz & Jop poll when the year was over!) to a growing pile of LPs that had barely existed when the year started.

Not gonna check release dates, but in months soon before or after I’d picked up records below by the Boomtown Rats, Roxy Music, Ian Hunter, Elvis Costello (plus his first two), Joe Jackson (whose debut was the first album I reviewed anywhere — for Oakland Community College’s student newspaper while taking a summer shorthand class for potential interviewing use.) Independence Day was hilariously all about “My Sharona” exploding out of nowhere. Transferring to University of Missouri-Columbia for Journalism in the fall, I got excited enough about “Pop Muzik” likewise exploding out of nowhere that I bought mystery man M’s full album, which almost nobody else did. The Knack topped Billboard‘s pop chart August 25 for six weeks; M did the same for just one week November 3. Sometime that autumn, I broke onto Mizzou’s weekly Maneater staff with a review of the American edition of The Clash. I’d never heard the two-year-old British version — To this day, I’ve never physically owned a copy.

On the advice of a Columbia record store clerk, I bought unheard then loved the goofy Dutch band Gruppo Sportivo’s American sort-of-compilation, which came with a bonus 6-song 7-inch EP tucked inside, a fun sales gimmick mirrored that year by Costello (Live at Hollywood High inside Armed Forces), the Clash (“Gates of the West”/”Groovy Times” inside The Clash), Ian Dury (“Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick”/”There Ain’t Half Been Some Clever Bastards” inside the otherwise negligible Do It Yourself), I forget who else. Funkadelic had done it a year before, with a 7-inch “side three” of One Nation Under a Groove, which I’d purchased by early 1980. But in 1979 my obsessions were still strictly new wave — whatever that meant.

The definition was, let’s say, somewhat fluid. “New wave” had been originally just another name for punk rock — in fact, like “punk rock,” the genre name preceded the actual genre. But then Seymour Stein supposedly put it to use at Sire Records as a euphemism that wouldn’t repel people scared of safety pins. That demographic may well have included me — In that Clash review, which I no longer have a copy of, I’m pretty sure I dismissed actual “punks” (Richard Hell, Stranglers, Dead Boys maybe?) as too “abrasive,” the Clash being an exception that proved some rule or other. But new wave, man, was exciting whenever it wound up on rock or pop stations — Costello, Jackson, Vapors, Inmates, Herman Brood, 999 (“Homicide” was quite the AOR smash in Detroit), Gary Numan (“Cars” was so huge in the Motor City that it inspired a Dick The Bruiser parody on WRIF called “Bars” then later helped inspire techno), Bram Tchaikovsky, Boomtown Rats, Fabulous Poodles, even veterans who’d been around for years like Moon Martin and Dave Edmunds and David Werner and Iggy Pop and ex-Easybeat Flash and the Panners Harry Vanda and George Young. Roxy Music and Ian Hunter, arbitrarily enough, were as far as I remember not considered new wave, even if they were getting more AOR airplay now than they had in their glam heyday. The Kinks, whose at least somewhat new-wave-flavored Low Budget didn’t quite make my cut, also saw a noticeable AOR comeback.

Glam (Roxy, Hunter, Werner, Bowie, Suzi Quatro, Sparks going Eurodisco, former New York Dolls slicking up or sleazing out), pub rock (Records, Bishops, Inmates, Headboys, ex-Motors and Brinsley Schwarzers) and whatever you call the American equivalent of pub rock (Moon Martin, John Hiatt, Garland Jeffreys, Rachel Sweet, A’s, the Beat from L.A., hell maybe even John Cougar and Tom Petty and Rickie Lee Jones with a debut she’d never top and I don’t just say that because the hit single was about me) are all well-represented on my list of 150 favorite 1979 albums below. It saddens me to leave off all sorts of marginal quasi-wavers I’ve still got a sentimental attachment to — If only Sports/Yachts/Korgis/Pop/ Starjets/Jules & the Polar Bears/Bruce Woolley and the Camera Club (not to mention new-wavey old-wavers Robert Fripp and Bill Nelson and Tim Curry) played as magically on my turntable as they do in my memory bank.

I’m sure some will similarly grouse at the absence of the Shoes or Undertones or Stiff Little Fingers, especially when I give so much space to uncool mainstream rock station standbys (ZZ Top and Foreigner and Toto getting slightly new-wavy, Cheap Trick getting slightly less new wavey, ELO going slightly BeeGee, Doobies going blue-eyed yacht soul, Van Halen and Eagles and Supertramp) or mere AOR wannabes hedging their own new wave bets to various degrees just in case (Hounds, Yipes!, Streetheart, City Boy, Fischer Z, Shooting Star, New England, TKO.) Even Pat Benatar was kinda sorta new wave (also neo-glam) at first. And besides sharing familial and production lineage with Flash and the Pan, AC/DC were punk-adjacent enough to have shared a 1977 CBGB bill with the Dead Boys and Talking Heads.

But really, all of these mostly white mostly guys mostly with guitars, bass and drums — both ones who made my list and ones who didn’t — go to show just how fertile a year for old fashioned (whether branded new wave or not) rock 1999 was. I haven’t even mentioned budding new wave superstars the B-52s, Cars, Blondie, Police, and (at least the singer of the increasingly neo-glam Ian Hunter-produced) Generation X. Or undeniables (at least I’ve never met anybody who denies them) like the Buzzcocks and Only Ones, who take us one step closer to bands on my list really trying to reinvent the stuff, both British (Fall, Art Bears, Joy Division, Essential Logic, Slits, Swell Maps, Cabaret Voltaire, This Heat, Raincoats) and American (Pere Ubu, Tin Huey, Chrome, Bizarros, Reds, Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, two James Chance-led combos), polar opposites of pub rock on the new wave spectrum; include the increasingly prog-rock (like Pink Floyd) Wire and eventually prog-pop (like, uh, Supertramp) XTC here if you feel they fit.

(Actually, also feel free to swap the Reds and Fischer Z in the previous two paragraphs if you want — both more or less avant/metal/new wave/etc., so enigmas of a sort. In 1979, Philly’s Reds both got a smidgen of Detroit AOR airplay — like, I think I heard them onceand compared to Pere Ubu in Rolling Stone!) (And this might be a good place to mention that I included debut LPs by budding new wave superstars the Pretenders and punk re-inventers the Gang of Four, not to mention the Clash’s decade-cusp London Calling and Public Image Ltd.’s renamed-for-States ex-metal-box Second Edition, on my 1980 list, since that’s when they came out in the U.S. and placed in P&J.)

Fun fact: The Delta 5’s “Mind Your Own Business,” thanks to a ubiquitous Apple commercial part of a “moment” that “the gnarled, joyously uncommercial cousin of new wave” called “post-punk” seems to be having now according to Rob Tannenbaum in today’s New York Times, did not receive enough votes to place in 1979’s first-ever Pazz & Jop singles competition, though Greil Marcus did vote for its B-side “Now That You’ve Gone.” Still, one related phenomenon that engendered all sorts of scuttlebutt, including in Robert Christgau’s year-end essay after he’d closed the previous year’s wondering what “new wave disco might sound like,” was so-called Dance-Oriented Rock, or DOR — which, in its most extreme form, might mean “Mind Your Own Business” (despite being a great song for little kids I can personally attest) or the Contortions’ “Contort Yourself” or Gang of Four’s “Not Great Men” or PiL’s “Death Disco” or Joy Division’s “She’s Lost Control” but which on new wave dance nights (I attended a few myself, in a suburban Detroit bowling alley disco that I’m convinced informed the one in Freaks and Geeks) might veer closer to, say, “Rock Lobster” or Lene Lovich’s “Lucky Number” or the Vapors’ “Turning Japanese” or Martha and the Muffins’ “Echo Beach” or Flying Lizards’ weirdest-AOR-crossover-of-the-year “Money” or Yellow Magic Orchestra’s top 20 r&b Japanese synth-pop future-predictor “Computer Game” or Mi-Sex’s #1 in Australia “Computer Games” or toally new-wavey old-waver Marianne Faithfull’s “Broken English.” Or, on the top two rungs of Pazz & Jop’s first-ever singles-poll ladder, Ian Dury’s “Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick”/”Reasons to Be Cheerful, Pt. 3” and — here it is again — M’s “Pop Muzik.”

All this was happening at the same time that disco itself was inching more toward rock — as witness my personal favorite album of the year from the Skatt Bros, unabashed leather-cruising links between the Village People and Judas Priest except catchier than either and even kind of countrified on occasion; or a few spaces down my list, Donna Summer’s Bad Girls; or not terribly far below that, the self-titled sophomore set by 21-year-old Prince, who hadn’t quite woken up rock critics yet despite the most disco (“I Wanna Be Your Lover”) and metal (“Bambi”) tracks he’d ever create. Michael Jackson, on his best album ever and my second favorite of the year, wasn’t quite incorporating Eddie Van Halen solos yet, but he did have a hit called “Rock With You,” just like Ray Parker Jr.s self-starting soul-funk band Raydio named their second album Rock On. Meanwhile, the top hits on albums by both Led Zeppelin (“Fool in the Rain”) and Van Halen (“Dance the Night Away” — can’t get more direct than that title) percolated with Latin-derived club rhythms. Roxy Music’s single was called “Dance Away” and also meant it; Roxy disciples the Cars’ top 15 pop hit “Let’s Go” got the chorus from Alicia Bridges’ “I Love the Nightlife (Disco Round)” onto hard rock stations.

I could go on, but I’ll spare you. Worth mentioning that, after all my words just spilled about new wave, six of my top 10 albums are more disco, and subtracting Arthur Blythe’s almost danceably Latin-infused jazz leaves just three rock albums, all of which had come out in some form in the U.K. before 1979 began. I count five more jazz LPs, all in the top 100, and six country LPs too, but five of those in the bottom half.

If you spin the Beat’s powerpop platter about rock’n’roll girls in the workaday world during lunch, you’ve followed Blondie’s directions. The Survivor on the list is the not the Chicago guys who later did “Eye of the Tiger” but rather very heavy (for 1979) Shreveport metal thugs who incorporate more fascist imagery than might be prudent; the Rockets on the list are not the Detroit guys who hit that year with their hard-rocking-and-swinging cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well” but rather Parisian space technicians who dress up like intergalactic robots. I also rank Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers higher than Johnny Thunders’ Heartbreakers, and opted to limit the Boomtown Rats, Police and Neil Young to one album each, though I could easily have opted otherwise. (Christgau on Bob Geldof, 1979: “He’d make a terrific topical songwriter if only he believed in something.” Flash forward a half decade; well, actually…) I get the idea the Brits on my list were readier for Thatcher than the Americans were for Reagan. Enjoy your waning ’70s while you still can, everybody; it’s all downhill from here.

  1. Skatt Bros. Strange Spirits (Casablanca)
  2. Michael Jackson Off the Wall (Epic)
  3. The Clash The Clash (Epic)
  4. Pere Ubu Dub Housing (Chystalis)
  5. Arthur Blythe Lenox Avenue Breakdown (Columbia)
  6. Gino Soccio Outline (Warner Bros.)
  7. Cory Daye Cory and Me (New York International)
  8. Donna Summer Bad Girls (Casablanca)
  9. Boney M Oceans of Fantasy (Hansa Germany)
  10. The Boomtown Rats A Tonic for the Troops (Columbia)
  11. The Fall Live at the Witch Trials (I.R.S./Step Forward)
  12. Art Ensemble of Chicago Nice Guys (ECM)
  13. The Roches The Roches (Warner Bros.)
  14. Art Bears Winter Songs (Ralph)
  15. The B-52s The B-52s (Warner Bros.) 
  16. Van Halen Van Halen II (Warner Bros.)
  17. Joy Division Unknown Pleasures (Factory UK)
  18. ZZ Top Deguello (Warner Bros.)
  19. Hounds Puttin’ on the Dog (Columbia)
  20. Terry Allen Lubbock (On Everything) (Fate)
  21. Air Air Lore (Arista Novus)
  22. Buzzcocks Singles Going Steady (I.R.S.)
  23. Led Zeppelin In Through the Out Door (Swan Song)
  24. Prince Prince (Warner Bros.)
  25. Squeeze Cool for Cats (A&M)
  26. Neil Young and Crazy Horse Rust Never Sleeps (Reprise)
  27. Gruppo Sportivo Mistakes (Sire)
  28. The Plastic People Egon Bondy’s Happy Hearts Club Banned (Boží Mlýn France)
  29. Ian Hunter You’re Never Alone With a Schizophrenic (Chrysalis)
  30. Joe Jackson Look Sharp (A&M)
  31. Beaver Harris 360 Degree Music Experience Beautiful Africa (Soul Note Italy)
  32. Tin Huey Contents Dislodged During Shipment (Warner Bros.)
  33. John Cougar John Cougar (Riva)
  34. David Werner David Werner (Epic)
  35. Don Armando’s 2nd Ave. Rhumba Band Don Armando’s 2nd Ave. Rhumba Band (Ze)
  36. Dave Edmunds Repeat When Necessary (Swan Song)
  37. Chic Risque (Atlantic)
  38. Graham Parker & the Rumour Squeezing Out Sparks (Arista)
  39. The A’s The A’s (Arista)
  40. The Cars Candy-O (Elektra)
  41. Rachel Sweet Fool Around (Stiff/Columbia)
  42. Elvis Costello and the Attractions Armed Forces (Columbia)
  43. Moon Martin Escape From Domination (Capitol)
  44. High Life (Polystar Germany 2475 539)
  45. The Only Ones Special View (Epic)
  46. Roxy Music Manifesto (Atco)
  47. M New York London Paris Munich (Sire)
  48. Joe Jackson I’m the Man (A&M)
  49. Sparks No. 1 in Heaven (Elektra)
  50. Flash and the Pan Flash and the Pan (Epic)
  51. Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis The Heavy Hitter (Muse)
  52. Nick Lowe Labour of Lust (Columbia)
  53. Streetheart Under Heaven Over Hell (Atlantic)
  54. Marianne Faithfull Broken English (Island)
  55. Lene Lovich Stateless (Stiff)
  56. L.T.D. Devotion (A&M)
  57. Gary Numan + Tubeway Army Replicas (Atco)
  58. The Slits Cut (Antilles)
  59. Tom Verlaine Tom Verlaine (Elektra)
  60. City Boy The Day the Earth Caught Fire (Atlantic)
  61. Yipes! Yipes! (Millennium)
  62. Suzi Quatro Suzi…And Other Four Letter Words (RSO)
  63. Gibson Brothers Cuba (Island)
  64. Iggy Pop New Values (Arista)
  65. The Police Regatta De Blanc (A&M)
  66. Chrome Half Machine Lip Moves (Siren)
  67. Foxy Party Boys (Dash)
  68. Raydio Rock On (Arista)
  69. ADC Band Talk That Stuff (Cotillion)
  70. Van Morrison Into the Music (Warner Bros.)
  71. Maze Inspiration (Capitol)
  72. The Contortions Buy The Contortions (Ze)
  73. Instant Funk Instant Funk (Salsoul)
  74. The Knack Get the Knack (Capitol)
  75. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Damn the Torpedoes (Backstreet)
  76. Merle Haggard Serving 190 Proof (MCA)
  77. AC/DC Highway to Hell (Atlantic)
  78. Philip Glass/Robert Wilson Einstein on the Beach (Tomato)
  79. Wire 154 (Warner Bros.)
  80. Essential Logic Beat Rhythm News (Rough Trade UK)
  81. Crusaders Street Life (MCA)
  82. Poobah Steamroller (Peppermint)
  83. The World Saxophone Quartet Steppin’ With the World Saxophone Quartet (Black Saint Italy)
  84. The Reds The Reds (A&M)
  85. Joe Ely Down on the Drag (MCA)
  86. Puhdys 10 Wilde Jahre (Amiga East Germany)
  87. Hank Williams Jr. Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound (Elektra)
  88. James White and the Blacks Off White (Ze)
  89. Millie Jackson Live & Uncensored (Spring)
  90. Heartbreakers Live at Max’s Kansas City (Max’s Kansas City)
  91. Bram Tchaikovsky Strange Man Changed Man (Polydor)
  92. XTC Drums and Wires (Virgin)
  93. Yellow Magic Orchestra Yellow Magic Orchestra (Horizon)
  94. Cheap Trick Dream Police (Epic)
  95. David Johansen In Style (Epic)
  96. Bizarros Bizarros (Mercury)
  97. Generation X Valley of the Dolls (Chrysalis)
  98. The Fabulous Poodles Think Pink (Epic)
  99. The Beat The Beat (Columbia)
  100. Talking Heads Fear of Music (Sire)
  101. Blondie Eat to the Beat (Chrysalis)
  102. Marseille Marseille (RCA Victor)
  103. Gary Numan The Pleasure Principle (Atco)
  104. High Speed Disco (Polystar Germany)
  105. Mutiny Munity on the Mamaship (Columbia)
  106. Swell Maps A Trip to Marineville (Rather/Rough Trade UK)
  107. Abba Voulez-Vous (Atlantic)
  108. Jimmy “Bo” Horne Goin’ Home for Love (Sunshine Sound)
  109. Cabaret Voltaire Mix-Up (Rough Trade UK)
  110. Vancouver Complication (Pinned Canada)
  111. David Bowie Lodger (RCA)
  112. Head East Live! (A&M)
  113. Teena Marie Wild and Peaceful (Gordy)
  114. Permanent Wave (Epic)
  115. Foreigner Head Games (Atlantic)
  116. Pat Benatar In the Heat of the Night (Chrysalis)
  117. Moe Bandy & Joe Stampley Just Good Old Boys (Columbia)
  118. This Heat This Heat (Piano UK)
  119. The Doobie Brothers Minute By Minute (Warner Bros.)
  120. Survivor All Your Pretty Moves (Survivor)
  121. Teenage Jesus and the Jerks Teenage Jesus and the Jerks (Migraine EP)
  122. Bruce Cockburn Dancing in the Dragon’s Jaws (Gold Mountain)
  123. 999 High Energy Plan (PVC)
  124. Herman Brood and his Wild Romance Herman Brood and his Wild Romance (Arista)
  125. The Vapors New Clear Days (United Artists)
  126. Pere Ubu New Picnic Time (Chrysalis UK)
  127. The Bishops Cross Cuts (Chiswick UK)
  128. Eagles The Long Run (Asylum)
  129. Taana Gardner Taana Gardner (West End)
  130. Electric Light Orchestra Discovery (Jet)
  131. The Headboys The Headboys (RSO)
  132. The Records The Records (Virgin)
  133. Toto Hydra (Columbia)
  134. Fischer Z Word Salad (Liberty)
  135. Shooting Star Shooting Star (Virgin)
  136. John Hiatt Slug Line (MCA)
  137. The Raincoats The Raincoats (Rough Trade UK)
  138. Linton Kwesi Johnson Forces of Victory (Mango)
  139. New England New England (Infinity)
  140. Roy Clark/Gatemouth Brown Makin’ Music (MCA)
  141. Gamma Gamma 1 (Elektra)
  142. Garland Jeffreys American Boy and Girl (A&M)
  143. TKO Let It Roll (Infinity)
  144. Supertramp Breakfast in America (A&M)
  145. The Inmates First Offense (Polydor)
  146. Cowboys International The Original Sin (Virgin)
  147. Rockets Plasteroid (Rockland France)
  148. Theo Vaness Bad Bad Boy (Epic)
  149. Rickie Lee Jones Rickie Lee Jones (Warner Bros.)
  150. The Afflicted Man The Afflicted Man’s Musical Bag (Bonk UK)

3 comments

  1. As before, I’m going to pick just the ones I remember enjoying enough to go through the Herculean task of posting–what a year!!!
    The Clash The Clash (Epic) (UK version]
    Pere Ubu Dub Housing (Chystalis)
    Cory Daye Cory and Me (New York International)
    The Roches The Roches (Warner Bros.)
    The B-52s The B-52s (Warner Bros.)
    Joy Division Unknown Pleasures (Factory UK)
    Led Zeppelin In Through the Out Door (Swan Song)
    Neil Young and Crazy Horse Rust Never Sleeps (Reprise)
    The Plastic People Egon Bondy’s Happy Hearts Club Banned (Boží Mlýn France)
    Graham Parker & the Rumour Squeezing Out Sparks (Arista)
    Roxy Music Manifesto (Atco)
    Marianne Faithfull Broken English (Island)
    Van Morrison Into the Music
    Essential Logic Beat Rhythm News (Rough Trade UK)
    Hank Williams Jr. Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound (Elektra)
    James White and the Blacks Off White (Ze)
    Millie Jackson Live & Uncensored (Spring)
    Blondie Eat to the Beat (Chrysalis)
    The Raincoats The Raincoats
    This could easily be twice as long if I actually listened again—although I never did get w Foreigner, Toto, or the Only Ones ( I’m told Peter P.’s voice comes across better on their Peel Sessions or summat), But incredible year for music!

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    John Ned
    Chuck Eddy great list. Interesting to see how punk/new wave was impacting American music. WB deserves credit for introducing Brit bands like Wire, PiL and Go4 to the states. And classic rockers from ZZ Top, Rush and Styx, among others would adapt a more streamlined, danceable sound. Ah those were the daze.

    Tim Ellison
    6th grade for me and we were buying 45s. I actually bought “Rock Lobster” off of a friend, but I think I bought “Cars” after hearing it on American Top 40. Flying Lizards’ “Money” was a big one for me that year. I never bought “Rappers’ Delight,” but me and my friend had both versions memorized.

    Chuck Eddy
    I bought my college friend Steve the 12-inch of “Rapper’s Delight” for his birthday, and I’m embarrassed to say that I was embarrassed to take it to the register, I guess because I didn’t want the record store clerk to think I’d fallen for some cheesy disco novelty for little kids. I’ve rarely been stupider in my life.

    Tim Ellison
    That’s interesting, I don’t know if I was weighing in my mind whether I thought it was a novelty record or not. I was definitely aware of novelty records because I listened to Dr. Demento.

    Chuck Eddy
    I wonder how many people hearing it, including those who went out and bought it, figured out that it was a new “kind” of music. I bet not many. Do any hip-hop histories ever point that out?

    Tim Ellison
    Looking back, I don’t think I figured that out until the popularity of “The Breaks” the following year.

    Adam Sobolak
    Strange; it feels like *I* intuitively clued into Rapper’s Delight representing “something new”–and a rather disarming kind of “something new”. Though I was also already aware of “bubblegum revisionism” as a post-punk canon-inversion impulse, so I was prepared for going all-in with that cheesy-disco-novelty element. (It helped its omnipresence that one Top 40 station in my neck of the woods got so hepped up on Rapper’s Delight , a pair of their own jocks did a parody–a real curio)

    Steve Pick
    I didn’t hear Rappers Delight until after I heard The Breaks, both on the local r&b radio station WESL, which played them just as if they were regular songs. And almost instantly, kids were calling in to that station and rapping on the radio about their schools and the greatest station in the nation and whatnot. I don’t remember thinking it was weird, but it was obviously not the same as the rest.

    Ian Grey
    I know I’m being ordinary for lobbying on its side but still, no matter how much Sparks-mania paints the land right now Number 1 in Heaven really is, at the very least, as important as Sgt Pepper or The Dreaming.

    Chuck Eddy
    I very much prefer it to both.

    Jake Alrich
    “bands on my list really trying to reinvent the stuff, both British (Fall, Art Bears, Joy Division, Essential Logic, Slits, Swell Maps, Cabaret Voltaire, This Heat, Raincoats)” — this is like half of the “Wanna Buy a Bridge” comp, so whither the Pop Group?

    Chuck Eddy
    Wow — good point! I put For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder? at #57 on my 1980 list. Including Y for some reason never crossed my mind (I’ve never owned it, though I’ve always kind of wanted to); may need to fix this oversight.

    Jake Alrich
    It’s a tough call. On the one hand, Y is a great album and would be at home in any serious record collection. But on the other, the very act of buying it might constitute…dare I say it… CONSUMER FASCISM!!!!!!!

    Nigel Richardson
    i bought Y when it came out and still haven’t made my mind up about it yet.

    Chuck Eddy
    Pretty sure I still have the “We Are All Prostitutes” 45, with one of the all-time amazing B-side titles: “Amnesty International Report On British Army Torture Of Irish Prisoners.” Mark Stewart and comrades didn’t fool around. (And he was decades ahead of the game re: the veneer of democracy fading as well.)

    Jake Alrich
    He is beyond good and evil.

    Ian Grey
    It’s so nice to see Bram’s 1st getting props.

    Chuck Eddy
    His/their best, unless the first two Motors albums count.

    Ian Grey
    I like the Bram more—the real desperation sells it. Also, their record deal was so shitty they could only afford this terrible studio with broken walls, street noise and an audible A/C. Talk about working class ambience

    ******

    Sara Quell
    ‘Bad Girls’ ranked: (1) Our Love (2) Sunset People (3) Hot Stuff (4) Dim All The Lights (5) Lucky (6) Can’t Get To Sleep At Night (7) Walk Away (8)Bad Girls (9) Love Will Always Find You (10) My Baby Understands (11) All Through The Night (12) Journey To The Center Of Your Heart (13) One Night in a Lifetime (14) There Will Always Be A You (15) On My Honor

    Sara Quell
    (1) Life After Death (2) Cleveland Rocks (3) Just Another Night (4) Standing In My Light (5) Wild East (6) Bastard (7) When The Morning Comes (8)Ships (9)The Outsider

    Sara Quell
    (1) DOA (2) Somebody Get Me A Doctor (3) Dance The Night Away (4) Bottoms Up (5) Outta Love Again (6) Beautiful Girls (7) Spanish Fly (8)Light Up The Sky (9) You’re No Good (10) Women In Love

    Jaz Jacobi
    I like Van Halen a bunch these days, so I’m not even sure what I would name as my second favorite VH tune, but “D.O.A.” is my #1 pick by a mile. I can listen to that song in a loop like 5 or 6 times in a row, like “Annalisa.”

    John Darnielle
    Sara Quell wild east is the best song on that album though

    Sara Quell
    “some cynic from the крокодил clinic”

    Graham Ashmore
    Sara’s Never Alone ranking: definitely nailed the bottom two, the only tracks I skip. Never got Xgau’s distaste for “Bastard”

    Sara Quell
    Loverboy’s innovation was recreating Streetheart except with digital keyboards so they sounded like the Cars instead of Nutz or Elvis Costello or whoever

    Jaz Jacobi
    Sara Quell Someday I will stop confusing Streetheart with Steelheart

    Graham Ashmore
    Always a thumb up for a Streetheart mention, RIP Kenny.

    ********

    Jaz Jacobi
    “post-punk’s alleged 2021 moment”–okay, I am gonna dig in and learn about this one, news to me

    Chuck Eddy
    To be fair, I hadn’t heard of it before 10:00 this morning.

    Jaz Jacobi
    “‘Cars’ was so huge in the Motor City that it inspired a Dick The Bruiser parody on WRIF called ‘Bars’ “–I think Dick the Bruiser was the first person whose picture I saw on a T-shirt, and definitely was the only picture I ever saw on my dad’s T-shirts

    Jaz Jacobi
    I fell so hard for Rockets, I made the perhaps excessive purchase of TWO boxed sets, one of which comes with a couple of DVDs’ worth of uproarious performance videos.

    Jeff Treppel
    Chuck, have you heard Rockets’ 1980 record Mystery Galaxy? The lead single, “Galactica,” is one of the catchiest disco songs about space robots ever recorded.

    Chuck Eddy
    I’ve actually got a CD by them called Galactica, which also leads with that classic! An anthology from 1992, apparently.

    Jeff Treppel
    That’s a good selection of tracks — their cover of “On the Road Again” is also worth checking out, their thoroughfare is very different than Canned Heat’s.

    Jaz Jacobi
    I was just a little kid in 1979 and didn’t start paying attention to popular music for another five years, so I don’t think it’s really “nostalgia” talking when I say this moment described here might be the most exciting moment in music for me; this list represents so many of the finest strains in music co-existing, it really puts the lie to that tired old Baby Boomer lecture we’ve all had to hear about pop music never regained its Sixties heights. [Though I will grouse about the absence of the Undertones, sure. Their 1980 LP is even better!]

    Jaz Jacobi
    “so many of the finest strains in music co-existing”–if the Ohio Express had happened in 1979 instead, I wouldn’t hesitate to call 1979 superior to any given ’60s year!

    Jaz Jacobi
    I enjoyed the shout-out for the underappreciated second Generation X album.

    Chuck Eddy
    Pretty sure there’s a picture of that one in Accidental Evolution.

    Jaz Jacobi
    I like the Damned’s MUSIC FOR PLEASURE and the Ramones’ END OF THE CENTURY and SUBTERRANEAN JUNGLE pretty good, so whadda I know about canonical “rules” of acceptable punk! 🙂

    Jaz Jacobi
    I also prefer GIVE ‘EM ENOUGH ROPE to LONDON CALLING…

    Chuck Eddy
    Oh I definitely prefer Give ‘Em Enough Rope. Always have.

    Steve Pick
    Jaz Jacobi I always liked Valley of the Dolls better than the first Gen X, perhaps because I bought it first. But I knew Ready Steady Go and Your Generation from college radio, so I at least knew right away that the second one didn’t sound like those songs.

    Steve Pick
    Chuck Eddy I never understood the disappointment people had in Give ‘Em Enough Rope. Another one I heard before the first album, but this one after reading dozens of articles describing the Only Band That Matters (TM). It mattered a hell of a lot to me, that’s for sure.

    Chuck Eddy
    Valley of the Dolls basically invented Hanoi Rocks. (Not a criticism.)

    *****************

    Mike Freedberg
    Wow — a LOT of albums here that are in my list too — including Theo Vaness, Gino Soccio, Cory Daye, Joy Division, Donna Sumner, Maze (!!), Linton Kwesi, Prince, Teena Marie, Millie Jackson, TaanaGardner MJ and of course the Skatt Brothers !

    Chuck Eddy
    Chic are on there! And I put the Tantra LP on my 1980 list. Also, I love “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” so much that I even own a 45 with the Philadelphia Phillies version (!), but to my ears the rest of the album ain’t nearly so great.

    Mike Freedberg
    Chuck Eddy — agreed on McFadden & Whitehead, but the singie is gigantic.

    Mike Freedberg
    Chuck Eddy — the Tantra cane out on Philips in 1979; US release came a year later.
    The Philips original is or was a $ 200 item in used disco circles

    Mike Freedberg
    Chuck Eddy
    The whole Azoto album — made by the same fellow who did the Tantra — is really solid.
    My favorite track : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bxSKpJCT7MU

    Mike Freedberg
    1979 was of course a fatal year for disco. There were quite a few great singles still, but the major makers had their last great outings.
    As a writer I was sent 1000s of promos of truly garbage singles. In among them, hiwever, were some so awful or misguided they were great :
    The Imortals “Ultimate Warlord”
    Michael Zager Band “Lets All Chant”
    Easy Going “Fear”
    Magnifique, “Magnufique”
    Queen Samantha “Mama Rue”
    Loose Joints “Is It All Over My Face”
    Kano “Holly Dolly”
    Simon Soussan, “Panic”
    — just to name a few
    —- but the major genres of disco were just about finished.

    *******

    Edd Hurt
    Yeah, “Lenox Avenue Breakdown” doesn’t seem influenced by disco but it is…danceable, plus as good a Blood Ulmer showcase as “Tales of Captain Black.” Randy Newman’s “Born Again” sounds better to me now than it did then, his third-best album. The Roches have completely faded for me, just too damn arch. Even “Hammond Song.” The third Dr. Buzzard’s album, from ’79, is their second best.The Cory Daye record is a bit inconsistent. “Like Flies on Sherbert” was the only real rockabilly record made since 1960 and yeah I do love Billy Swan.

    Chuck Eddy
    Wow, Born Again was certainly in the running (would’ve been in the next 30 or so probably), but I had no idea anybody ranked it as high as you do. And I did re-test Tales of Captain Black, first time in decades; still didn’t click.

    Kevin Bozelka
    Edd Hurt glad you singled out “Hammond Song” because it’s in the running for the most beautiful song ever recorded. I understand the arch complaint. But those inhuman harmonies transcend that here.

    Edd Hurt
    It’s a good song I would enjoy if those amateurs weren’t singing it. So overstated, and they think they’re cute doing all these dumb things with their voices. I played the album about a year ago and hated it intensely.

    Edd Hurt
    Like two rained-out days doing Crafts at the summer camp with a family of kids who won’t stop singing around the big wooden table with the candles they also made.

    Chuck Eddy
    Normally the sort of thing I’d hate. Never have. As friendly and good-humored — and funny — an album as you could ask for. And right, plenty of it, not just “Hammond,” is gorgeous as well. Maybe it helps to have raised a couple generations of kids to it.

    Steve Pick
    Kevin Bozelka I love the Roches without reservation, and Hammond Song is exquisite, but my all-time fave example of the unbelievable beauty they could create is “Love Radiates Around” from their fourth album – a song they didn’t even write.

    Eric Johnson
    Chuck Eddy it’s a very real-world human type album. In lots of places the “archness”in is bravado covering desperation, lust, sadness, etc.

    *******

    Edd Hurt
    I love the Undertones but it’s “Hypnotised” I love the most, the first album is pretty good.

    Jaz Jacobi
    Edd Hurt HYPNOTISED might be in my top five albums of all time

    Chuck Eddy
    Do you guys like Feargal solo or That Petrol Emotion, too? I barely even remember them. As pop-punk of the Troubles go, I’ll still take the Undertones’ first over Starjets or Stiff Little Fingers, but that’s as far as I’ll go.

    Jaz Jacobi
    Severely dislike Feargal solo, though I did try. I liked That Petrol Emotion in my teens quite a bit, I think they have a handful of tracks that might still hold up okay; they are one of those “everybody is a songwriter” bands that makes for kind of a disjointed/choppy/inconsistent listening experience over the course of an album. And I never completely liked their singer’s voice.

    Jaz Jacobi
    My current relationship with revisiting music I liked when I was 20 could be summed up pretty much as: still love punk, but what I might lump together as “college radio” is becoming more irritating with each passing year.

    Jaz Jacobi
    Chuck Eddy I just got a 3 CD box set of Irish punk, I’m not sure if this would reinforce your stance stated here, or complicate it!

    Chuck Eddy
    You and your CD box sets! (Bet I own maybe 20, total.)

    Jaz Jacobi
    Chuck Eddy I like to think of of “various artist” genre/period overview boxes like this as being like obtaining five dozen pricey rare 45s at once, and not having to flip the record after every song…!

    Chuck Eddy
    I just have trouble (no pun intended) thinking there’s 3 discs worth of Irish punk I’d want to hear. Then again, I do own three Virgin Prunes albums.
    ·
    Steve Pick
    I would like to chime in recommending Positive Touch which is Irish, sure, but decidedly not punk and not like anything else those guys ever did.

    Graham Ashmore
    Isn’t Feargal a Tory?
    ·
    Graham Ashmore
    Just like Ferry!

    ********

    Rolf B. Bloodstar
    Great list! But I think one record is missing…

    Chuck Eddy
    Am not at all familiar with this record. Will investigate!

    ******

    Steve Pick
    You make a lot of good points in your essay, Chuck – especially to someone like me, one year older than you and one year ahead in going all in on the New Wave thing. 1979 was the year I tried to picket KSHE, the giant-sized AOR station in St. Louis for being, as my t-shirt said, “Unfair to Rock & Roll.” It was the year I daydreamed in an English class at UMSL of interviewing the Ramones, and then I did so and jump-started a life of writing about music.

    Steve Pick
    I’ve heard roughly 100 of the records you list, either in whole or in part, and throwing in maybe another couple dozen, I could probably shuffle them up and come up with a reasonably similar batch myself. I should probably check out the disco stuff you are so high on – I know Bad Girls, but not the others in your top 10. Your jazz picks are choice – I might switch out Air Lore for Lennox Avenue Breakdown, but damn, that’s apples and oranges of great.

    Steve Pick
    Also, fun fact – just as I started to read this, the gigantic shuffle I’m doing on Spotify right now – 310,000 songs and counting – picked “You Can’t Be Too Strong” off of Squeezing Out Sparks mere seconds before you mentioned the album in your opening paragraph.

    Chuck Eddy
    Her name was Pauline, she lived in a tree.

    *******
    James Porter
    WLUP in Chicago had just gotten a new PD that spring. One of the first things this FM rock station did was to integrate the playlist with more new wave-slanted acts. At the time, it seemed revolutionary playing the Patti Smith Group, the Charlie Daniels Band and UFO in the same half-hour. However, like with most experiments, it starts out (a) playing anything and everything, (b) narrowing it down to what works, (c) getting rid of it altogether. In the case of The Loop, (a) that’s where they were in ’79, (b) in 1980 they realized that power-pop bands went over better with Toto fans than out-and-out punk rockers, and (c) by 1981, “new music” was off the table altogether, and it was back to Styx and Foreigner.

    Ian Grey
    So my band Great Buildings was pushed by CBS for its Kinks-like lyrics (I never much cared for the Kinks), our value as Next Big Things who worshipped—obviously!—the wrong old things—The Everly Brothers, Queen, The Motors, Procol Harum, Orbison—and ended up saddling us with the guy who produced Quarterflash and Tommy Tutone, two bands we had nothing to do with aside from being mammals. At best, critics at the time tolerated us when they werent throwing their hands up in bafflement at a closing song that had 25 chords, 5 key changes and a finale ripped from Roxy, Roy AND Nazareth, Aside from Robert Palmer doing a speed freak version of our song Maybe Its You, we were so densely interesting our slide to oblivion was inevitable.

    Chuck Eddy
    “Great Buildings were a genealogical successor to California’s Quick, but this album drops the Quick’s Sparks fixation and gets on with sparkling, tuneful pop featuring a prominent guitar and rich vocal harmonies. Nothing too original, but credible enough for one LP’s worth of tunes.” — Ira A. Robbins, The New Trouser Press Record Guide
    I don’t know about the rest, but I think I’ll borrow “credible enough for one LP’s worth of tunes” in every review I write from now on.

    Ian Grey
    Indeed. Thanks, Ira/Chuck!

    Ian Grey
    (Wounded Bird put out our second album, actually an unusually good song demo we titled ”Extra Epic Everything”…which it was.)

    Graham Ashmore
    The Pop Group mention brought this to mind: Chuck, not enough of a fan to include The Pop’s Go! in the top 150?
    Would Ian Grey include Secondhand Daylight in his ’79 list?
    Lotsa Undertones mentions, no need my adding anything.

    Chuck Eddy
    I mention the Pop in the text, Graham! I assumed it would make the cut as well, but when I play it it’s spottier than I thought.

    Graham Ashmore
    Oh shit, so you did. I guess I missed it squeezed into them there slashes!

    Graham Ashmore
    It’s such a little word.

    Like

  3. via facebook:

    Alfred Soto

    This is great. You lived in a location where this stuff was accessible and were starting college: were you able to buy Pere Ubu and, say, The Only Ones easily at the time?

    Chuck Eddy
    Oh definitely. They were both on major labels! And even if they hadn’t been, record stores carried indies and imports, too.

    Andrew Walser
    You could hear most of this by judiciously flipping through Chicago radio stations in 1979. Several of the obscurities here — David Werner, Gruppo Sportivo, Herman Brood and his Wild Romance — were local hits, if “hits” is the right word.

    Andrew Walser
    Great list, incidentally.

    David Everall
    Looking at the list it was a fantastic year, possibly the peak of my interest in purchasing current releases. I dread to think how much I spent that year on records! Gruppo Sportivo were a particularly favourite of John Peel I think.

    Peter Stenhouse
    “Rock and Roll Girl” by the Beat is the song I was most surprised to hear in a supermarket this year.

    Oliver Heyer
    I think it’s the Count Bishops. Happy to see the Gruppo Sportivo still sitting on the shelf.

    Chuck Eddy
    Author
    Nope, no “Count” on that LP– I’ve got a copy right here. They were badasses, no matter what they called themselves. They could be Count Bishops Starship Mellecamp Jr. for all I care.

    *****

    Patrick Hould
    I’ve actually heard every album in the top 10, which I believe is a first. I also just learned two fun facts about Quebec homie Gino Soccio: 1. he was the man behind hockey legend Guy Lafleur’s notorious disco album (which is said to have cost over $100,000 to record!) and 2. he once placed a song in Billboard’s R&B top 40, an achievement that I’ll bet very few Quebecers can boast about.

    Chuck Eddy
    Has Celine Dion had any? Wikipedia doesn’t seem to say.

    Patrick Hould
    Ha, I asked myself the same thing! Billboard’s web site says her R. Kelly duet hit #5 R&B and “Because You Loved Me” peaked at 41.

    Chuck Eddy
    I mention Yellow Magic Orchestra’s r&b hit in the introduction. Wonder how many people from Japan have had any.

    Patrick Hould
    Kyu Sakamoto’s “Sukiyaki” hit #18! Late 50s/early 60s R&B charts had some seriously weird reverse-crossover stuff happening.

    Chuck Eddy
    That would explain the A Taste of Honey cover, I guess.

    Patrick Hould
    Albums that I did not expect to see placing much lower than The Roches: Sparks, Flash & The Pan, AC/DC.

    Kevin Bozelka
    Guess I should stop avoiding Moon Martin.

    Chuck Eddy
    If nothing else, he had an impeccable sense of style!

    Sara Quell
    I will never understand ‘Head East Live’, I just can’t endure the singer, who makes this one sound like Chet Baker.

    Peter Stenhouse
    1979 was when I started college, and (therefore) when I discovered used-record stores. I bought at least 28 records on that list. I doubt I spent more than $100, total.

    Kevin Bozelka
    Peter Stenhouse Chuck Eddy spent $28. I spent $14.

    Like

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