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A Life In Vinyl: 1979

October 16th, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments

A Life in Vinyl 1979.

As 1979, the year I turned 13, began I tried to fast-track myself to serious popfanship. The previous year I had started to investigate the pop music of the past. I had read up about the rock ‘n’ roll of the 1950s in a fanzine, and I had been particularly taken with the 1960s. The Box Tops’ “The Letter”, released ten years earlier and therefore in another lifetime altogether, was a particular favourite. For Christmas I asked for and received the three essential Beatles double album compilations: 1962-66, 1967-70 and Love Songs.

And in 1978 I had dabbled in punk. Now I flirted with the other side. I listened to Al Stewart, whose music I still like but who didn’t really aim for 13-year-olds. I pompously expounded on the “brilliance” of Barclay James Harvest’s XII album, which I neither understood nor actually liked. It is, indeed, quite awful. I soon became sick of the pretense. That didn’t stop me, however, from getting Supertramp’s Breakfast in America album later in the year.

By the time my birthday in April arrived, I had reverted to eclectic record-buying. LPs by Status Quo and Queen, and singles by artists as diverse as Thin Lizzy, Hot Chocolate, Billy Joel and the disco outfit The Richie Family. With that in hand, Barclay James Harvest and their prog-rock noodling was soon passé.

I was not immune to questionable musical choices. I would hesitate to describe ownership of Olivia Newton-John’s Totally Hot LP or Suzi Quatro’s Smokie-produced If You Knew Suzi…  album as evidence of musical sophistication. Still, I knew the real horrors of 1979, the songs which are forgotten by the nostalgia that recalls the year  as a highwater mark in pop — which, of course, it was..

Much of the charts were infected by some of the worst music ever made. There were some post-disco horrors around in Europe: Snoopy, Luv and Luisa Fernandez (couldn’t sing, couldn’t dance) were among the most talent-free offenders, and the Vader Abraham Smurfs song cannot be redeemed even by the most indulgent childhood nostalgia (Holland, you nearly fucked up 1979!).

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But I reserved my most virulent bile for two particular songs which, with hindsight, I acknowledge to be quite brilliant. First there was Patrick Hernandez “Born To Be Alive”, which blighted every German school disco (where I lived, it was “danced” to by jumping with legs closed from one side to another, if possible with the beat). The song still evokes the taste of cheap cola and peanut twirls, and the anxiety of relating to girls who suddenly had become romantic notions.

The other musical nemesis was Cliff Richard’s “We Don’t Talk Anymore”. It’s a very good song, but it was ubiquitous in the summer of 1979. Besides, I had taken a dislike to Cliff Richard before I ever knowingly heard a note he sang. I was not going to surrender my antipathy to that song.

Cliff scored my unhappy summer of 1979, on which I was sent on a church youth camp, as I had been two years before. In 1977 the camp group had been great. I had fallen “in love”, we had great outings and fantastic leaders. In 1979 the group was populated by creeps, and I didn’t like any of the girls other than those older than I was, and therefore unattainable. On top of that, the camp leaders ignored my complaint of theft, the sort of commandment-violation one might think would require some sort of reaction in a church-run jam.  I never went again.

Things picked up in autumn. And what an autumn it was — indeed, the stretch from autumn 1979 to early summer 1980 produced a fantastic run of singles purchases. It started with The Knack’s “My Sharona”, the cover of which, I must confess, excited my hormones the way the girls in my age cohort on summer camp didn’t (I liked the song, too. Still do). There were some new kind of sounds. Gary Numan’s Tubeway Army, with the synth sound that seemed more musical to me than the robotic Kraftwerk, set the scene for the New Romantics which would arrive within a year and a bit. “Video Killed The Radio Star” sounded very unusual too.

But my favourite act of 1979 was the Boomtown Rats. I had liked them before, of course, but “I Don’t Like Mondays” was a few cuts above “She’s So Modern” or “Like Clockwork”. I loved their The Fine Art Of Surfacing LP. It has not really stood the test of time, but I’ll stand by the trio of singles — “Mondays”, “Diamond Smiles”, “Someone’s Looking At You” — and closing track “When the Night Comes” .

And as 1979 ended, I started to get into AC/DC — just in time for Bon Scott’s death in February 1980.

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For those who really need to know, songs with a green asterisk I owned in 1979 on Single, red on LP (track 7 on a compilation album), blue on tape.

1. Status Quo – Accident Prone **
2. Thin Lizzy – Rosalie (live) *
3. Hot Chocolate – I’ll Put You Together Again *
4. Patrick Hernandez – Born To Be Alive
5. Ritchie Family – American Generation *
6. Billy Joel – My Life *
7. Gerard Kenny – New York, New York *
8. Elton John – Return To Paradise *
9. George Harrison – Blow Away *
10. Art Garfunkel – Bright Eyes *
11. Clout – Save Me *
12. Amii Stewart – Knock On Wood *
13. The Knack – My Sharona *
14. Tubeway Army – Are ‘Friends’ Electric *
15. Electric Light Orchestra – Don’t Bring Me Down *
16. B.A. Robertson – Bang Bang *
17. The Buggles – Video Killed the Radio Star *
18. Thom Pace – Maybe *
19. Boomtown Rats – Diamond Smiles *

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  1. halfhearteddude
    October 16th, 2014 at 07:03 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. olli
    October 16th, 2014 at 10:32 | #2

    I remember how the CLOUT band name logo fascinated me then…

  3. Reimer
    October 16th, 2014 at 10:55 | #3

    Thanks. We’re about the same age and in retrospect 1979-80 seems a golden Top 40 era, actually worthy of the naive chart-rundown-awaiting attention I paid it. Nice to see ‘Diamond Smiles’ here – almost the only BR track I cared for.

  4. JohnnyDiego
    October 16th, 2014 at 15:02 | #4

    As I’ve said many times before in this forum, in 1979 I was a musical snob. A glance at this list shows only two songs that I can hear in my head, “My Sharona” and “Video Killed the Radio Star.” While there are artist’s names that I recognize, the song titles don’t ring a bell. I will have to listen. In 1979 commercial radio drove me nuts, I couldn’t stand Top 40 song lists. Music I would hear at my friend’s homes made me angry. Didn’t they know that good music is made by musicians and not by corporate bottom line? But I’ve mellowed since then. I still can’t listen to my daughter’s (or my granddaughter’s) iPod but I always give AMDWHAH a try and most of those songs remain on my own iPod. Although The Knack’s discography may be forgotten, “My Sharona” remains on any party play list and on my personal Top 40. Thanks, Dude.

    (I had to delete “Video Killed the Radio Star” without a listen. That song goes into a pile with “You Light Up My Life,” “My Way,” and “I Will Survive.”)

  5. mikesensei
    October 16th, 2014 at 17:16 | #5

    I finished high school and started college in ’79. I never saw the “Watership Down” film it was written for, but Artie’s “Bright Eyes” sticks in my memory as a lovely pop song about death. The Amii Stewart discofied remake of “Knock On Wood” has strong, happy associations with a certain woman friend who could really bring the ‘thunder, lighting’ on the dance floor. =sigh= “My Sharona” and the entire “Get the Knack” album got a lot of spins at summer parties that year. ELO, the Buggles, Billy Joel–I remember the songs here but didn’t buy ’em. This is the year I got into the Ramones and Elvis Costello, trying to reinvent myself for college. Glad to hear all of these, some for the first time in decades.

  6. GarthJeff
    October 16th, 2014 at 17:42 | #6

    We’re all enjoying this ride WITH you!! Many thanks for the great memories AMD. Mid life (I never mentioned crises) brought with it many opportunities – Sex, drugs, booze, flashy cars or Rock ‘n Roll. I also chose MUSIC. (A lot safer when you’re married ;) and a lot cheaper in the long run.)

    B.A. Robertson was probably the most underrated artist of this era. Here’s another piece of history from 1979.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vt82hXYNr_4

  7. dogbreath
    October 17th, 2014 at 10:13 | #7

    Another fine job, many thanks, and I like the background stories too as they invoke such warm pictures of teenage life and the musical soundtrack that goes with it. Super stuff!

  8. rhod
    October 19th, 2014 at 03:30 | #8

    Nice mix Amd

    Great work as usual. I have not heard Patrick Hernandez for eons

    Regards

    Rhod

  1. October 24th, 2015 at 23:06 | #1