Back when Fleetwood Mac and Frampton Comes Alive were the top selling albums I thought that the seventies were going to be the fifties of the eighties. The only difference being that Howard Cunningham would catch Richie at a pot party instead of a stag party. The revolutionary music of the sixties was literally dying out. By 1972 the Who could bury this revolutionary urge in the last line of "Won't Get Fooled Again."
"Meet the new boss, same as the old boss."
The revolutions were now fought at a more personal level. People like Neil Young and Joni Mitchell no longer sang about changing the world. They just wanted to secure a good life for themselves. Then there were people just out for the money. Kiss and Queen used elaborate staging and stances to sell records. The backlash came in 1977 with the arrival of punk and new wave. The Sex Pistols denied that revolution was possible but destruction would suffice. The Talking Heads and Elvis Costello (the original new wave acts) were cynical and on the edge of sanity. They thought that the way to change the world might be to "turn out the big light."
Below are what I judge to be the 10 best albums of the decade. My standards for judging take into consideration the possible impact this album had on its day and our own.
In no particular order:
This Years Model — Elvis Costello. Some of the angriest, most sexually insinuating lyrics ever on record given a tremendous rave-up by the band.
Something-Anything — Todd Rundgren. A quieter, more even White Album for the seventies. Almost every song a single, Todd makes every sound heard on the first three sides.
The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway — Genesis. The double concept album that hangs together better than any of the others. Peter Gabriel will never get the credit that he deserves.
Who's Next — The Who. The angriest musicians this side of punk put it all together. Pete Townshend rediscovers the synthesizer so Keith can reign o'er the drums.
Lola Versus the Powerman and the Money-go-round — The Kinks. Some of the funniest lyrics with real music behind them. "I'll be your Tarzan, you be my Jane. I'll keep you warm and you'll keep me sane." Ray Davies is wired for sound.
Wired — Jeff Beck. It brought jazz-rock fusion to the masses while through sheer talent staying within the form.
Some Girls — The Rolling Stones. Maybe Exile On Main Street is a better album but I was 12 when they released it. This is my Stones album.
L.A. Woman — the Doors. The death of Jim Morrison left Southern California without an antidote to lovable wimps like Jackson Brown and the Eagles. Great mood music.
Fear Of Music — Talking Heads. It was a tossup with Talking Heads '77 but my sights are set on the future so I'll choose what Robert Fripp calls "the album of the eighties."
For Your Pleasure — Roxy Music. Eno, Bryan Ferry and Phil Manzaner4 are the seminal figures for new wave bands. I suggest fans of the Talking Heads, the Cars and Devo look a this album as a source.
In a special category I will place the Sex Pistols' singles "God Save The Queen" and "Anarchy In the UK." Two songs that are angrier than anything else. They dominated their year and they live on in numerous groups.