Talk Talk Talk Talk Talk Myself to Death: Pre-Punk

Monday, July 07, 2008


Remember about thirty years ago when Some Girls came out and we all called the Rolling Stones dinosaurs? Disco was big (and getting bigger), and punk hadn't been filtering into the hinterland for very long (I was still living in Nashville at the time). In terms of punk and new wave, by that point I only had the Stranglers, Elvis Costello, and Talking Heads, I think.

Mrs. Talk Talk Talk Talk Talk and I were discussing the other night what had preceded all that stuff and whether or not there was anything worth listening to. I have to admit that I didn't remember a whole lot. I recall some of the stuff I didn't especially like--Saturday Night Fever was huge, but I could never get excited about that (in fact, I was so unenthused that I never even saw the movie until after I was married). After "Piano Man," Billy Joel didn't really break nationally until "The Stranger," but he regularly came through Nashville and had a fairly large following, but I never cared for him, either. Fleetwood Mac was fine, but I could never get very excited about them. Eric Clapton had come out with Slowhand, and all I could wonder was where were those fabulous guitar solos we'd seen (and heard) with Cream and Derek and the Dominoes? Slowhanded out of existence, as far as I could tell.

So who did I like? Well, David Bowie was quite busy at the time (although later details about his biography suggest that he may not have exactly been aware of that). Station to Station was out in '76, and then he bookended '77 with Low and "Heroes," which was very powerful stuff. I was liking Queen at the time, although News of the World seemed a bit of a come down from A Night at the Opera and A Day at the Races. I think I was into 10cc just about then, too, although for some reason I came to appreciate 1976's How Dare You much more in college (which started for me in '78). Steely Dan was pretty good, with Aja being their most recent at that point. I'd been a long-time fan of Jethro Tull, but I was somewhat disappointed with their folkier, English countryside direction (and, truth to tell, they never recovered from it). Even though I was only a Genesis fan in theory (I liked them well enough, but I didn't actually have any of their albums), I'd been enjoying Peter Gabriel's first solo record. And I'd recently started following Supertramp. (I was often accused of going against trends and disliking something merely because it was popular--one girlfriend even claimed that if I'd been older when the Beatles were together I wouldn't have liked them because everybody else did--but I'll proudly state that I was disappointed by Supertramp's 1979 Breakfast in America before "The Logical Song" became a hit.) So that was a handful of stuff, but what else was there? What am I forgetting? (And what am I not forgetting but just not bothering to mention it because I didn't like it much--Jackson Browne, I'm looking at you.)


At 9:33 AM, July 08, 2008, Blogger Stevie T said...

Wow, that's a pretty small set of bands & albums. There's stuff you were still listening to like the Beatles, but you're not counting older stuff right? So, '75-'78, and no other new wave? There's gotta be more... When did you first listen to the Jam? In the City was '77 I think.

Oh, I got one. You're forgetting Elton John. I remember Captain Fantastic in your collection, and his first greatest hits came out around that time.

At 10:46 AM, July 08, 2008, Anonymous Doug said...

We were still listening to the Beatles, of course, and there was other older stuff, but I was really talking about what was new at the time. Elton John's Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, which I liked quite a bit, came out in the spring of 1975, but I found Rock of the Westies, which came out at the end of that year, something of a let down. And Elton switched over more to singles at this point--"Philadelphia Freedom," "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," and "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" never showed up on albums--"Pinball Wizard" was just on the Tommy soundtrack. I never even got Blue Moves from 1976.

I also didn't mention Led Zeppelin or the Who for the same reason. The former released Presence, which I liked very much and still do, in early '76 and weren't heard from again for more than three years, and the latter put out the iffy Who by Numbers in late '75 and got involved in other activities until late summer '78.

As for the Jam, I was also meaning to talk about what punk replaced, and although you can argue whether or not they truly were punk, they definitely came out of the movement. Besides, although In the City was '77, I don't think we got it until the summer of '78, when it was showing up in the cut-out bins.

At 11:22 AM, July 09, 2008, Blogger Stevie T said...


At 1:17 PM, July 09, 2008, Anonymous Doug said...

Born to Run came out in Fall '75, but I have to admit that I was cynical enough that I refused to fall for the hype about the new rock'n'roll savior, so I didn't jump on the bandwagon. Springsteen himself quickly got sidelined by legal wrangling to get out of his management contract, which prevented him from going into the studio for a follow-up for at least a couple of years. He didn't release anything further until Summer '78 and Darkness on the Edge of Town, so no productivity from him during this period, either.

I'm not actually sure whether or not I might've picked up Darkness before I got around to Born to Run--regardless of what order I got them, I think I bought them both within a few weeks of each other. Once I got Darkness, though, it didn't leave my turntable for at least a week.

At 7:23 AM, July 10, 2008, Anonymous Ron said...

Prior to ’77? The era of absolute dreck! Prior to Costello’s MY AIM IS TRUE, nothing. NOTHING! I searched and searched, for something, anything that sounded interesting. But until I went to college that fall, and ran into kids who knew The Ramones personally, I was stuck in the sticks.

I went through all the usual suspects – old 60s (Jefferson Airplane, Santana, Country Joe and the Fish, Spirit, Jimi Hendrix), 60s hangovers (Traffic, John Lennon, The Kinks) embarrassing heavy 70s (Pink Floyd, Wishbone Ash, The James Gang, Savoy Brown) and a bunch of random stuff, the good, bad and ugly (Bob Dylan, Shawn Phillips and Jethro Tull).

Of these, only Dylan, Hendrix, and maybe the James Gang hit regular rotation. The rest are consigned to evenings and weekends of alcohol-infused nostalgia (I’ve recently done drinks and Traffic, Floyd – “Animals” of all things – and Phillips … OK, I was really drunk for that last one).

Never, never did I buy into Elton John, The Bee Gees, Fleetwood Mac or anything else that ever hit the Top 40. Not because these artists were any worse than some of the stuff I listened too. But popularity was the only filter I had. If it was popular, I knew it was bad (Peter Frampton or Olivia Newton John anyone). I also studiously avoided the Stones, the Who and the Beatles (I quite like the Beatles now and appreciate the Who – love “Miles and Miles,” but still hate the Stones).

At 2:45 AM, July 12, 2008, Anonymous Ron said...

I forgot the one proto-punk who broke through prior to '77 in my artsy but provincial high school clique ... Lou Reed.

At 11:46 AM, July 13, 2008, Anonymous Doug said...

Basically, we knew Lou Reed existed, but not through much more than "Walk on the Wild Side," so we lacked any details. Even when I started to become more familiar with him, though, I've got to admit that it took me a long time before I came around.


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