Friday, December 14, 1979

The Clash released London Calling: December 14, 1979

Originally posted 12/14/11. Updated 2/22/13.


Release date: 14 December 1979
Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.) London Calling (12/7/79, #11 UK) / Brand New Cadillac / Jimmy Jazz / Hateful / Rudie Can’t Fail / Spanish Bombs / The Right Profile / Lost in the Supermarket / Clampdown / The Guns of Brixton / Wrong ‘Em Boyo / Death or Glory / Koka Kola / The Card Cheat / Lover’s Rock / Four Horsemen / I’m Not Down / Revolution Rock / Train in Vain (3/22/80, #23 US)

Sales (in millions): 2.0 US, -- UK, 2.0 world (includes US and UK)

Peak: 27 US, 9 UK

Rating:


Review: “There were more than a few outraged faithful who thought their heroes had sold out because the sound was too smooth to be punk,” TL but this is an “invigorating, rocking harder and with more purpose than most albums, let alone double albums.” AMGLondon Calling proved that a band could be anti-establishment and pro-melody.” TL The album “is a remarkable leap forward, incorporating the punk aesthetic into rock & roll mythology and roots music.” AMG

This may be no better expressed than on the album’s cover, which “features the most famous photo in rock, Paul Simonon the moment before his guitar becomes thousands of expensive toothpicks, bracketed by the same font and colors used on Elvis Presley’s debut.” TL

The record’s “eclecticism and anthemic punk function as a rallying call.” AMG The Clash “explore their familiar themes of working-class rebellion and antiestablishment rants” TL “Many of the songs – particularly London Calling, Spanish Bombs, and The Guns of Brixton – are explicitly political, [but] by acknowledging no boundaries the music itself is political and revolutionary.” AMG

London Calling

The Clash, however, “also had enough maturity to realize that, while politics was inseparable from life, it was not life’s entirety.” TL Their songs were tied “in to old rock & roll traditions and myths, whether it’s rockabilly greasers or ‘Stagger Lee,’ as well as mavericks like doomed actor Montgomery Clift.” TL “Before, the Clash had experimented with reggae, but that was no preparation for the dizzying array of styles on London Calling. There’s punk and reggae, but there’s also rockabilly, ska, New Orleans R&B, pop, lounge jazz, and hard rock.” AMG “The result is a stunning statement of purpose and one of the greatest rock & roll albums ever recorded.” AMG

Train in Vain


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Saturday, October 13, 1979

The Sugar Hill Gang charts with "Rapper's Delight": October 13, 1979

Originally posted October 13, 2012.

image from ring.cdandlp.com

The development of hip-hop culture dates back to the early ‘70s in the Bronx when DJs and MCs showcased the art form in night clubs and at house parties. NPR However, the movement didn’t hit the mainstream until 1979 when a New Jersey label called Sugar Hill Records introduced the Sugar Hill Gang and the group took “Rapper’s Delight” into the top 40, a first for rap music. FR

The trio of Master Gee, Wonder Mike and Big Bank Hank were unknown MCs recruited by Sugar Hill’s Sylvia Robinson. RS500 Sylvia had seen chart success – most notably with the 1957 song “Love Is Strange” (#11) and her own “Pillow Talk” (#3) in 1973. However, in 1979, the label she’d co-founded was on the verge of bankruptcy. When she saw a DJ talking to the crowd one night at a Harlem club, she thought it would be a great idea to make a rap record. Legend has it that Sylvia’s son Joey auditioned Henry Jackson (Big Bank Hank) outside a pizza joint and his friends asked if they could participate as well. TB It has also been said that they were recruited on a Friday and recorded “Rapper’s Delight” in just one take on the following Monday. NPR

The 12-inch version of “Rapper’s Delight” released in September 1979 ran 15 minutes long. A shorter version went to pop radio. NPR The song borrowed the rhythm track from Chic’s #1 hit “Good Times,” HT itself a significant song in another important musical revolution of the ‘70s – disco. The practice of “borrowing” from another song became known as sampling and would become the basic approach for all raps songs to follow.

The song did not, however, deal with the heavier themes which would come to dominate rap music. While it sported the lyrical boastfulness which became typical for rap, MA “Delight” generated controversy because it was playful instead of reflective of the urban anger of other rap from the time. In addition, none of the three members had ever been a DJ or MC and two of them were from New Jersey. NPR

Rapper’s Delight


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Saturday, August 25, 1979

The Knack hit #1 with “My Sharona”

First posted 11/14/2019.

My Sharona

The Knack

Writer(s): Doug Fieger/Berton Averre (see lyrics here)


Released: June 1979


First Charted: June 23, 1979


Peak: 16 US, 16 CB, 15 HR, 13 RR, 6 UK, 13 CN, 15 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales *: 1.0 US, -- UK, 1.15 world (includes US + UK)


Radio Airplay *: --


Video Airplay *: 31.7


Streaming *: --


* in millions

Review:

Doug Fieger, the lead singer of the Knack, wrote “My Sharona” about the real-life Sharona Alperin. They met when he was 25 and she was 17. She was working at a clothing store and while his own girlfriend looked on, invited her to a show. Fieger soon broke up with his girlfriend and professed his love to Sharon, although she was still with her boyfriend, who even accompanied her to Knack shows. SF A year later, she finally caved in and they started dating. They stayed together four years and even became engaged, but his alcoholism and rock n’ roll lifestyle led to their breakup. They remained friends, though. She was with him the last week of his life when he died of cancer on February 14, 2010. SF

In the interim before they became a couple, Fieger wrote “My Sharona.” He said she “sparked something and I started writing a lot of songs feverishly in a short amount of time.” WK Fieger says “My Sharona” came about in about in 15 minutes. Berton Averre, the guitarist and co-writer on the song, was opposed to using her name, but Fieger wanted it to be as direct as possible. WK She also is featured on the cover of the single’s picture sleeve. WK

The song “compressed a sense of teenage sexual frustration into its stutter beat built on simple rock and roll.” BR1 The stutter effect was reminiscent of the Who’s “My Generation” while the song’s main melodic hook is an inverted version of the signature riff from the Spencer Davis Group’s “Gimme Some Lovin’.” WK The Knack were also compared to the Beatles because their music felt like a throwback to the British invasion. Also, “My Sharona” was Capitol Records’ fastest debut single to reach gold status since the Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” WK going gold before it even hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. BR1

The New York Times called the song “an emblem of the new wave era in rock and a prime example of the brevity of pop fame.” WK Sadly, their pop success was indeed brief. Their name often comes up as one-hit wonders, which is inaccurate, but they did only have two other top 40 hits – “Good Girls Don’t” (#11) and “Baby Talks Dirty” (#38).


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Thursday, July 12, 1979

Disco Demolition Night: July 12, 1979

Originally posted July 12, 2011.


Chicago DJ Steve Dahl, the leader of Disco Demolition Night


When Chicago radio station WDAI shifted from an album rock format to disco, disc jockey Steve Dahl was one of the casualties. WLUP (known as The Loop) still focused on album rock and snatched him up. They knew they could build on the publicity surrounding his firing and the backlash against disco.

In conjunction with the Chicago White Sox, the radio station coordinated a “Disco Demolition Night”. The promotional event was scheduled to take place on July 12, 1979, at a doubleheader with the Detroit Tigers. Fans who brought a disco record to the game were admitted for 98¢. Between the games, Dahl would blow up the discarded records.

White Sox management hoped for a crowd of 12,000. Instead, an estimated 90,000 people turned out. With the numbers exceeding the stadium’s capacity by nearly 40,000, many people were denied admission and took to scaling the walls to get in.

With the crate already full, staff stopped collecting records from fans. Spectators took to throwing LPs around like Frisbees. They also threw beer and firecrackers. When it was time for the event, Dahl emerged wearing a combat helmet and circling the field in a jeep. Chants of “disco sucks” preceded the explosion of the crate.



A small fire started in the outfield and 7000 people stormed the field, vandalized property, lit more fires, and incited a riot. Chicago police had to clear the field in riot gear. 39 people were arrested. The field was so trashed the White Sox had to postpone the second game and later agree to forfeit it. The event has been called “the emblematic moment of the anti-disco crusade”. WK




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Sunday, July 1, 1979

The Sony Walkman was introduced: July 1, 1979

Originally posted July 1, 2012.

the Walkman TPS-L2, image from Wikipedia.org

The blue-and-silver Walkman pictured above was the first model introduced, going on sale in Japan on July 1, 1979. It hit the U.S. in June 1980. Today the idea of a device at least twice the size of an iPod which held 60-90 minutes of music may seem positively quaint, but at the time the Walkman marked a new era for music on the move. The Walkman represented individual portability; listeners no longer had to rely on big bulky ghetto blasters which shared one’s music with the world, whether they wanted to hear it or not. Suddenly a person could pop in a favorite cassette, plug in a pair of lightweight headphones, and the music could travel with them wherever they went and as long as a pair of AA batteries could take them.

Walkman was a brand tradename used by Sony to mark their portable audio cassette players. The company is still around today, marketing portable audio and video players as well as mobile phones. The prototype for the first one was built by Sony engineer Nobutoshi Kihara in 1978. Sony co-chairman Akio Morita reportedly wanted to listen to operas during long plane trips.

the Stereobelt, image from thenutgraph.com

However, the Walkman owes a debt to a predecessor known as Stereobelt which was invented in 1972 by Andreas Pavel, a German-Brazilian. He had the device patented in Italy in 1977. When Sony began selling its Walkman, it agreed to pay Pavel royalties, but only for sales in Germany. Lawsuits followed over the years, finally endingin a multi-million dollar settlement in 2003.

Eventually the Walkman would see the cassette market disintegrate and portable CD players (including Sony’s Discman, introduced in 1984) would take over. Once the digital age hit, there was no need for music to be stored on a device such as a cassette or disc, opening up the possibilities even more. However, every owner of an iPod or other digital music device owes thanks to the original portable music player.


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Saturday, April 28, 1979

Blondie hit #1 with “Heart of Glass”

First posted 10/31/2019.

Heart of Glass

Blondie

Writer(s): Deborah Harry, Chris Stein (see lyrics here)


Released: January 3, 1979


First Charted: January 27, 1979


Peak: 11 US, 11 CB, 11 HR, 11 RR, 44 AC, 14 UK, 11 CN, 15 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales *: 1.0 US, 1.32 UK, 3.72 world (includes US + UK)


Radio Airplay *: --


Video Airplay *: 173.03


Streaming *: --


* in millions

Review:

Blondie had been around several years, releasing nine singles from three albums before finding success with “Heart of Glass.” They’d never even charted on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 when that song – the fourth single from their Parallel Lines album – took them all the way to the top. There was some backlash from fans who thought the band had sold out, but Blondie has said they liked the idea of deliberately being uncool by crafting a disco song. SF Lead singer Deborah Harry said, “I don’t think being commercial is totally derogatory.” She saw “Heart of Glass” as helping to “introduce new wave music in a more commercial way.” BR1

Guitarist Chris Stein said the song was added to the Parallel Lines album as “a novelty item to put more diversity into the album.” BR1 The band had actually performed a more funk-oriented version of the song for years. BR1 Harry and Stein wrote an early version called “Once I Had a Love” back in 1974-75. On the show Words and Music, she said “lyrically, it was about a stalker who was pursuing me, and Chris Saved me from him.” SF In 1975, they recorded a demo with a slower, funkier sound inspired by the Hues Corporation’s “Rock the Boat.” WK When they started working with producer Mike Chapman in 1978, he asked them to play all the songs they had and he liked that one.

The band re-recorded the song with a more pop-oriented, disco vibe. WK “Heart of Glass” marked one of the first uses of a Roland CR-78 drum machine, which was first introduced in 1978. WK Harry said it took more than 10 hours to get the sound down right. SF The band’s decision to combine the drum machine with actual drumming as well as synthesizers alongside guitars – made for one of the first rock/disco fusion hits. WK

The song was released as a 12-inch single in December 1978. The nearly six-minute version met with reluctance from radio stations because of the line “pain in the ass” so the song was edited into a 7-inch single version released in January 1979. That version topped the charts in the U.S. and UK.


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