These Albums From 1978 Just Turned 40 Years Old (Part 1)

These Albums From 1978 Just Turned 40 Years Old (Part 1)


The beginning of 1978 was a great time for music! Let's look at some from the first two months of that year which means they have just celebrated their 40th Anniversary.

January 1978

Excitable Boy by Warren Zevon 

The breakthrough album from the songwriter’s songwriter from LA. Zevon had been knocking around since the late ‘60s, but with the championing of Jackson Browne, the Eagles and Linda Ronstadt (who recorded a bunch of his tunes) and subsequently the patronage of David Geffen at Asylum Records, he finally connected in a big way. The fact that it was with “Werewolves of London”, the most throwaway song he’d recorded for the label at that point didn’t matter; it was still a great song, and a great entre to Zevon’s weird and violent world. The title track, “Lawyers, Guns & Money”, "Accidentally Like a Martyr" and the seriously wacko "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner" are the stuff of genius. Oh, and did you know “Werewolves…” (which peaked at #11 in Australia and was Zevon’s only charting single) features the rhythm section of John McVie and Mick Fleetwood?


City to City by Gerry Rafferty

Featuring one of the biggest hits of the year, “Baker Street”, City to City was a massive breakthrough for the ex-folkie Scottish singer-songwriter who’d had success earlier in the decade with the song “Stuck In The Middle With You” upfront of the band Stealer’s Wheel. (Prior to that he’d been a member of the folk outfit The Humblebums alongside future comedian Billy Connolly!) Given the ubiquity of “Baker Street” at the time, it’s surprising to note that the single, with it’s soaring sax lines, only reached #2 in Australia.  The song has been cited by guitarist Slash as an influence on his guitar solo in "Sweet Child o' Mine", which makes sense if you listen to the two back to back.

White Music by XTC

An album that was more influential than successful, White Music was the first album by the much-loved English new wave popsters around whom an obsessive cult following has grown over the years. The album includes one of Andy PaPartridge'sost enduring song “This Is Pop”, and was produced by John Leckie, who subsequently has gone on to work with the Stone Roses, Radiohead and others.

Pastiche by The Manhattan Transfer

The popular New York vocal jazz group mined the same pre-rock’n’roll pop styles that Bette Midler did in her early days, and they ended up on the same label, the legendary Atlantic Records. They broke through in a big way with 1976’s Coming Out, which featured the Top 5 Australian hit “Chanson D’Amour”, but faltered with the follow up album Pastiche, despite the near hit cover of  the Supremes’ “Where Did Our Love Go?”, which was supported by Countdown and commercial radio.

February 1978

Van Halen by Van Halen

Ah, who can forget Basia Bonkowski, host of SBS’s pioneering rock show Rock Around The World, commenting after the screening of a brief interview with Van Halen in which the band’s lead singer came across as quite the card, “He’s a funny man, that Van…” That must’ve been in the early ‘80s, maybe around the time of their near hit cover of Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Woman”, because David Lee Roth was a household name here by mid-decade. It did take Australia quite a while to catch on to Van Halen.  Their version of the Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” from this their first album did reach #26, but then there was nothing major until “Jump” in 1984. Of course these days this album is considered one of the great American hard rock records; Eddie Van Halen’s playing was almost unprecedented,  and opener  “Runnin’ With The Devil” is undeniable.


The Kick Inside by Kate Bush

Kate Bush’s debut album, released when she was 19 years old, and featuring the unforgettable “Wuthering Heights” with which she became the first woman to reach number one in the UK charts with a self-penned song. Kate, who came from a family of folk musicians, was first discovered by Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour when he heard a recording Kate had made of her original songs – she was only 16 at that point. He helped her record a professional demo which lead to her signing to EMI.

Plastic Letters by Blondie

They hit first in Australia, in 1977, thanks to Countdown’s support of “In The Flesh”, and with their second album it was the UK’s turn. Whilst the single “Denis” did just crack the Top 20 here, the album went nowhere; in the UK the album reached #10 on the back of both “Denis”, which peaked at #2, and a second Top 10 hit, the wonderful “(I’m Always Touched By Your) Presence, Dear”. America was still not ready for the kitsch New York new wavers however; that would all change of late in the year with the release of their third album Parallel Lines.

Street Hassle by Lou Reed

Lou’s eighth solo album, and one of many a fan’s favourites, “Street Hassle” is most often noted for its epic three-part title track. The first part is titled “Waltzing Matilda” but has nothing to do with the Australian song of the same name; we’re guessing the title stuck with him after Australian tours in both ’74 and ’77. The lengthy piece also includes an uncredited spoken word appearance by Bruce Springsteen. As was common on ‘70s Lou solo albums, Street Hassle contained a song originally written during his days in the Velvet Underground…in this case, "Real Good Time Together" (which more recently Patti Smith had been using as a set opener) – and the album the first pop album to employ binaural recording technology aka Dummy Head Recording, a recording technique that sounds so odd we suggest you look it up.

Macho Man by  Village People

The second album from the gay and disco icons includes the title track which was the band’s breakthrough hit (reaching #2 here in Australia) as well as a medley of the early 20th Century hits “Just A Gigolo” and “I Ain’t Got Nobody” that predated David Lee Roth’s 1985 version (although Roth would remain more faithful to Louis Prima’s original ‘50s pairing of the two songs). The album clocked in at a whopping 27 and a half minutes,  some 4 minutes longer than their 1976 debut.  

- David Laing



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