Non-Alignment Pact – Pere Ubu
We start this series of songs with another in a long run of different shades of post-punk. This time, we’re getting in some more industrial sounds and interesting whistling choices in order to make something more experimental, like it’s the art rock version of punk. I’m assuming art punk exists, right?
In any event, the use of synthesizers and a less angry (whilst distinctly punky) sound makes this a interesting way to start the bunch. It’s the ushering in of new wave music, whose big name is in two songs time, and it’s going to be interesting to see where these threads of influence lead.
Blue Valentines – Tom Waits
Well, this is a far cry from swordfishtrombones and Rain Dogs. You still have the rough and untamed voice. There’s no strange noises or comically gruff use of his vocals, instead this is a remarkably earnest blues song and that’s knocked me a bit for six.
His voice is perfect for this kind of blues as he can sound like that half-drunk guy at the bar whose voice breaks the moment his emotions get hold of him. I need to listen more of this era of Tom Waits.
Heart of Glass – Blondie
Ah man, I love this song. Parallel Lines is in the running to be my favourite album from the 1970s and this is such a highlight. It’s just such a strange departure to have this disco-influenced new wave on a song that is far more focused on being cool and within the vision of being a new wave pioneer.
However, facts are facts – ‘Heart of Glass’ is a brilliant song that, despite some die-hard Blondie fans of the time’s accusations of them selling out for commercial gain, endures to this day. It’s one of those songs I’ve been playing since I got a Greatest Hits album back in 2001 that made me a Blondie fan… which makes it hard to think of this within a historical context.
All I know is that this is a disco-infused masterpiece and is one of a few songs that I’ll be coming across for this list.
Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve) – Buzzcocks
Much like most of Blondie’s 1978 output, ‘Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)’ is a exceptional piece of power pop and pop punk. It almost feels like a punk band doing a cover of a fragment of Beatles song, because it doesn’t exactly fall into the punk category and it’s too strong for pop.
This is the kind of music I can really get on board with and it really flies in the face in the face of what you would consider a proper punk subject. There’s no anger, just a sense of incredibly urgency that just doesn’t want to get out of your head.
Le Freak – Chic
Time for some pure disco. Growing up, the only time that I would ever hear disco music would be in commercials or if I was in someone else’s car and it came on the radio. ‘Le Freak’ came up pretty often, so I’ve probably heard the chorus done to death.
Little did I know, however, that I would be hearing that chorus again and again and again. I know that songs like this needed to be played in the club and allow time for dance breaks, but come on if you’re going to be playing it in your home or on the radio it needs more variation. I do appreciate that this song started life with ‘Fuck Off’ in the lyrics rather than ‘Freak Out’. That’s cool.
Milk and Alcohol – Dr. Feelgood
Well, the album cover for this song is pretty damned scary. The song is not. At the core is the very basic kind of rock and roll structure that I would have heard back in the 1950s, but with more of a proto-punk feel. Wikipedia calls this pub rock, which I guess makes sense as it feels pre-punk and it is a song that was apparently influenced by a night of drinking Kahlua.
It’s a bit of a throwback, which isn’t always a bad thing, but it doesn’t add much to the table compared to other songs in this section of the list.
Don’t Stop Me Now – Queen
This is the only Queen song that I have some positive associations with, so it’s nice to see it here as being one of their entries on the 1001 list. We sang it at school as part of a singing competition between houses. We didn’t win, but that doesn’t make it any the less fun to sing and to come up with dance moves to… kinda wish they hadn’t made us freestyle through the guitar solo.
It’s yet another example of how wide the berth is in the world of power pop and, with punk’s instantaneous collapse, this was one of the big genres that was born to fill the void. I still have a complex relationship with this band, but there’s no denying how much fun this song is.
Teenage Kicks – The Undertones
You can’t have good power pop without there also being some good pop punk, and that’s exactly what ‘Teenage Kicks’ is. I probably heard the Nouvelle Vague bossa nova version of this song before hearing the original many years later, which is undoubtedly the better version.
With such a pop punk/punk pop start to 1978 I can only wonder how the rest of the songs are going to shake out, but for now I got to say that I am enjoying this year.
You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) – Sylvester
This might be the first time that I’ve ended a batch of songs on something that is this gay, but it’s also a whole lot of fun. There is so much joyful energy in Sylvester’s impossible falsetto vocals that helps you to forget that you are pretty much hearing the same 4-5 lyrics over and over again.
Then there is the production that takes more than a note from Georgio Morodor’s work on the disco pinnacle of Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’. We’re starting to see disco morph into what would later become dance music and, once pop starts to grab a hold on songs like this, then it’s going to be time to welcome synthpop and the New Romantics. The 1980s cannot come soon enough.