The Greatest Year in the History of Music

In 1977 I was listening to reggae and rock and roll. Later that year everything changed: I discovered Punk Rock. I suddenly became a rebellious teenager turning up the dial to 10 as I listened to the Sex Pistols’ and The Clash’s debut albums and their American counterparts, The Ramones.

Virtually every major artist of the past 35 years released an album that year. The Police, Van Halen, Dire Straits, INXS and Black Flag were formed and The B52’s played their first concert together. Of the major stars, only Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Bob Dylan and The Eagles didn’t put out an album in 1977; although The Eagles and Stevie held the charts with top-selling singles from albums they released the prior year.

It was a big year in music. Elvis Presley released three albums and died. David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Neil Young, Johnny Cash and Santana each released two albums. Peter Gabriel had his solo debut.

Heart, Earth Wind & Fire, Electric Light Orchestra, ABBA, The Commodores, Foreigner, Kansas, Styx, Journey, Aerosmith, Joni Mitchell, Al Green, Tom Waits, Bryan Ferry, Steve Miller, Eddie Money, Parliament, The O’Jays, Van Morrison, America, Paul Simon, Neil Diamond, Donna Summer, The Doobie Brothers, Jimmy Buffet, Diana Ross, Barry White, The Kinks, AC/DC, The Beach Boys, The Bee Gees, Peter Frampton, Alice Cooper, Queen, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Little Feat, James Taylor, Bette Midler, Joan Baez, Genesis, 10cc, Rush, The Band, T Rex, ZZ Top, Hall & Oates, Roy Orbison, Chic, Muddy Waters, The Rolling Stones, Joan Armatrading, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Carole King ,BTO, Blondie, The Runaways, Yes, Billy Joel, Steve Winwood and Kiss each released an album. Each artist went on to major success and is now considered a classic.

In addition, my top 10 albums from 1977 include, in no particular order:

  1. Bob Marley’s Exodus—the first reggae album I listened to in its entirety. It delivered a pulsing beat that hooked me into reggae forever. And you never forget your first.
  2. Pink Floyd, Animals featured three songs each over 10 minutes in length seamlessly blending searing instrumentals and exciting vocals like I’d never heard before.
  3. The Clash, The Clash. Joe Strummer is the Punk Rock Warlord!
  4. Grateful Dead, Terrapin Station: “Estimated Prophet”. Enough said.
  5. Steely Dan, Aja: Incredibly compelling piano, fabulous horns and a guest vocal from Michael McDonald makes this album soar.
  6. Fleetwood Mac, Rumours. “The Chain”, “Gold Dust Woman”, “Dreams”, “Never Going Back Again”, I could go on.
  7. Elvis Costello, My Aim Is True, the era’s greatest songwriter is born.
  8. Eric Clapton, Slow Hand, “Cocaine”—even though J.J. Cale wrote it, Clapton brought it to life.
  9. Supertramp, Even in the Quietest Moments, one of those albums that takes me to a happy place.
  10. Talking Heads, Talking Heads: 77, “Psycho Killer”, qu’est-ce que c’est fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa. Now there’s some depth.

This blog post originally appeared in the Ardmore-Merion-Wynnewood Patch….

Splendor in the Grass

“…nothing can bring back the hour/Of splendour in the grass…”

This quote from the Wordsworth poem that inspired the title of the 1961 movie also fueled my life-long pursuit (some might say mild obsession) of collecting significant lines. The imagery in the verse caused me to reflect on the meager 16 years of memories I had acquired. My grandmother had a simpler way of saying this; she used the term “the good old days”. Some of us still see them as good. Others, through time and circumstance have less than splendorous recollections. Either way, these memories have shaped who we are today. And whether they create longing or loathing, they will forever remain a part of us.

After gaining perspective and experience oh-so-many years later, I’ve found that the memories, no matter how small, are significant. Each one conjures a sense of my changing self and the community in which I’ve lived my whole life. Some of the things that I miss most:

  • Being able to make all the lights on the Parkway from 20th street to the entrance of the West River Drive in under three minutes when they were timed.
  • Playing softball for the Adams Mark Hotel at 9:30 Sunday morning at the Belmont Plateau. Those double headers built up a big appetite so after the games I’d head over to a stand at the Manayunk Farmers Market. On Sunday’s the owner slow roasted Bison for his amazing Buffalo Steak sandwiches, the meat melted in your mouth. (The owner of that stand is now selling flowers in the Ardmore Farmers Market. Props to Richie Freeman!)
  • Catching a show at the Wynnewood Movie Theater, which is now an Italian eatery.
  • Wolfgang’s, a cute little spot in Ardmore on Cricket Terrace. You can still see his sign from the back of the building on Athens Ave. He served a great ham sandwich on a crusty baguette that included a hard boiled egg and the best spaetzle around.
  • And the All Natural health store on Lancaster Ave—the one that served daily lunch specials.

I invite you to send me five memories from your own good old days, keeping the splendor alive and the grass green.

This blog post originally appeared in the Ardmore-Merion-Wynnewood Patch….