My New Year’s wish is that 2017 would be as musically important as 1977. Though you wouldn’t know it from looking at that year’s Billboard Hot 100 chart, an undercurrent of experimentation and subversion suddenly changed our musical space.
Just like now, music was in a stagnant place in 1976, safe and predictable. The Vietnam War was finally over and rock was no longer an instrument of social change - the most popular band was Kiss. Funk had given way to disco, and country music had become a place of rhinestones and big hair. As final proof that pop had lost its way, consider “Muskrat Love” by Captain and Tennille. The time was ripe for a counter-culture revolution.
Punk rock had been an eccentric curiosity for a few years, but 1977 was its blaze of glory. The Ramones put out their two best albums, and the Sex Pistols managed to release theirs before they flamed out. Punk never made a dent in the top ten, but its raw, anti-everything message suddenly made change necessary. 1977 saw first releases by The Clash, Talking Heads, Devo, The Police, Television, The Jam and Elvis Costello. Pop shattered into splinters: New Wave, No Wave, Power Pop, New Romantic, Synthpop. Bands like the Stooges were acknowledged as “Proto-punk.” Ska made a comeback. David Bowie and Iggy Pop each made two ground-breaking albums.
Unifying all this was a spirit of experimentalism, intellectualism, and an acknowledgement that rock should reflect our culture - all the things I hope happen to music in 2017.
Wire “Three Girl Rhumba,” Pink Flag.