The best of 1977 mix tape
When I set out on this little project, there were most definitely certain years that I was looking forward to tackling, and 1977 was near the top of that list (along with 1994 and 1983). 1977 was an absolute transformative year for music, with the likes of The Clash, Television, The Jam, and The Talking Heads taking the punk DIY aesthetic and running with it to create their own brand of “punk,” which sounded the death knell for bloated, FM rock. 1977 rediscovered the joy of the sub 3:00 minute pop rock song, and we are all the better for it.
One of the real challenges though was picking just one song for each artist, especially when acts like David Bowie, Iggy Pop, and The Jam each put out two great albums during the calendar year. And how do you choose between White Riot and Janie Jones? After sifting through some of the earlier years in the 70s though, it was a good problem to have. Apologies to the many excellent songs that had to sit this mix out, but none more so than Neil Young’s Like a Hurricane, a personal favorite that I just couldn’t work in due to the 8+ minute run time.
See No Evil – Television
One of the great album openers in rock history, powered by one of the most epic guitar riffs conceived.
Mannish Boy – Muddy Waters
This is the kind of song that you just assumed was released years before it actually was. Timeless and just so great.
Sound and Vision – David Bowie
Bowie had a monster year in 1977, releasing both Low, the frankly stunning album that this track was taken from, and Heroes, and almost equally great follow up which boasts one of his most iconic songs (the title track). In the end I wanted to make sure that Low got the love it deserved so I went with Sound and Vision over Heroes, but not before seriously considering breaking the one song per artist per year rule. Plus the transition from Muddy Waters is pretty epic.
Go Your Own Way – Fleetwood Mac
Rumors has a half dozen songs that I could have included, but my Buckingham bias prevails again.
Brick House – The Commodores
This is just a tightly wound ball of irresistible, funky goodness.
In the City – The Jam
The Jam had almost as good of a year as Bowie did, putting out two heavyweight albums overflowing with classic, um, jams. In the City still sounds fresh to this day and is more than worthy of inclusion here.
White Riot – The Clash
There are few things in life I love more than The Clash at their peak. This one gets my vote for best song ever under 2:00.
Talking Heads – Uh-Oh, Love Comes to Town
Another of my favorite bands ever. I could just as easily slotted in Psycho Killer, of course, but this one is a personal favorite.
Barracuda – Heart
The powerhouse riff-age here is just undeniable. Don’t fight it, just go with it.
Funtime – Iggy Pop
Iggy was another one with an embarrassment of musical riches in 1977, with both The Idiot and Lust for Life dropping. I probably would have picked Lust for Life for this spot had it not been sullied by 1) being in a terrible Carnival Cruise line ad 2) being the bumper music for the awful Jim Rome show. Funtime, one of the ultimate intersections of punk and glam, is no slough replacement.
One Love/People Get Ready – Bob Marley
Exodus is such a great record. Yet another one with 3 or 4 couldn’t go wrong selections.
Mystery Dance – Elvis Costello and the Attractions
Like The Ramones, Elvis found the sweet spot between punk and Buddy Holly, and this is one of the best examples. Take your pick of songs from My Aim is True though and you couldn’t go wrong.
I Want You to Want Me – Cheap Trick
There’s no denying how much fun this song is, even if it isn’t a stone classic like some of the others on the list.
God Save the Queen – The Sex Pistols
Here’s a little secret. I think the Sex Pistols are kind of overrated, especially when compared with their contemporaries The Clash. This is a great one though, even more so than the better known Anarchy in the UK.
Spread Your Wings – Queen
Any disparaging words I have for FM radio rock most assuredly do not apply to Queen. It’s hard to pull off these kinds of sweeping theatrics in rock and not look ridiculous, but it helps to have Freddie Mercury in your corner.
Watch the Moon Come Down – Graham Parker & The Rumor
Cut to 90% of the people reading this: “Who?” Do a little searching on the interwebs. You’re welcome.
Rockaway Beach – The Ramones
One of about 5 songs I could have put here. There’s no diminishing how great and utterly cool The Ramones were, despite Bono’s best efforts recently.
King’s Lead Hat – Brian Eno
Closing things out with an underappreciated gem.
Wow. That’s an 18-song powerhouse of a mix tape. When all is said and done this may end up being my personal favorite of the bunch. It’s definitely one of the best to set on repeat and let it play over and over. Here’s the Spotify version for your listening pleasure.
Which one of your favorites did I leave off the list?