With 1979 we saw the end of an era. Foreshadowing electronica and more arena rock, the 1970s also showed us how to do the hustle and spit on our fans. We smashed guitars with Townshend and (years later) became immortalized by Billy Corgan in Smashing Pumpkins' hit "1979," and we saw a lot of new music and new faces with punk rock, disco, and everything in between. We lost Sid Vicious and Charles Mingus but saw the birth of Derek Trucks, Pete Wentz, Kris Kross, Macy Gray, Chris Daughtry and Bob Bryar of My Chemical Romance. It was a big year for music, rounding out the last decade of ROCK AND ROLL before it went down the path of becoming alternative, independent, underground, massively mainstream, English, and sad.
1979 gave us new bands from everyone between Bananarama and Modern English. Leaders of the Do-It-Yourself movement, Mission of Burma and Husker Du, got together; we saw the first EP from Def Leppard and Led Zeppelin’s In Through The Out Door, their final record of entirely new material released just before the too-soon death of legendary drummer John Bonham. And if you weren't rocking out to Cheap Trick's infamous At Budokan, you were learning how to skank with The Specials, the first of many British ska revival bands.
One of the greatest bands ever released Highway To Hell, the last AC/DC record to feature Bon Scott before he too, faded into the black. Hell is FULL of ROCK including the title track - which you might also know from any commercial outlet ever including baseball games, TV commercials, movies and mixtapes – and the timeless “If You Want Blood (You Got It)”.
Bob Marley & the Wailers put us in our places with the militant Survival while Talking Heads' third studio album, Fear of Music, taught us what it was like to live “Life During Wartime.” Neil Young gave us Rust Never Sleeps which features the sad sing-a-long “My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)/(Into the Black),” a song that to this day leaves us questioning if “it’s better to burn out than to fade away.”
But we cannot ignore two of the most important records to grace ROCK's presence in 1979. Pink Floyd already had, Dark Side of the Moon Meddle, Wish You Were Here, Animals, and - well - basically two decades of face melting and guitar shredding under their belt. But in 1979 they outdid themselves again and gave us The Wall, a double album full of hits and enough creepy artwork - courtesy of English cartoonist Gerald Scarfe - to give you nightmares for decades to com. The Wall is such a listening project that you will get lost in the anthems of “Another Brick in the Wall” and weep to the beautiful mega-hit “Comfortably Numb”. Yes, 1979 was the year that taught us to eat our meat or we won't get any pudding..
Pink Floyd wasn't the only English band making waves. In 1979 The Clash released one of the greatest records of all time - their double album, London Calling (though it wouldn't be released on U.S. soil until the following year). Mimicking Elvis Presely's self-titled debut with the pink and green block lettering, the album art was Paul Simonon smashing his bass - a now universally recognized photograph and one of the best snap shots in rock and roll history. From the title track all the way through to the smash hit closing track "Train in Vain,” London Calling produced radio favorites "Lost in the Supermarket", "Spanish Bombs", "Rudie Can't Fail", and many more. If 1979 can remember anything through all the haze, it should be The Clash - The Only Band That Matters.
Rock and Roll will never die. 1979 was a great year and a fantastic round-out to an even better decade. Now, as we start our Trek into the 80s I’d like to think we should wait and be surprised, but I have a feeling that we’ll be Spinning Right Round, Baby before it’s all said and done.