It was 30 years ago today…

…actually, it was 30 years ago in February, but for some reason, someone over on the guardian music blog saw fit today to post a piece in defence of the wonder that is Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours – a pertinent post round here as Lo. thinks it’s a load of old balls, and I love it. Really love it. Dancing-around-on-the-tube-singing-along-even-though-people-think-I’m-a-mentalist love it. It’s an album fueled by extreme tensions within the band, but one possessed of a number of the most gorgeous tender love songs I’ve ever heard (‘You Make Loving Fun’ is in my all time top 20 or so songs).

As the Guardian bloggist says, ’77 is seen as the year of Punk. It was also the year of ‘Bat Out Of Hell’, ‘Saturday Night Fever’ and ‘Rumours’. The biggest bands of the late 70s weren’t the Clash or The Pistols, but the Mac, Queen, ELO, and in the US, the stadium behemoths of Journey, Boston, Foreigner etc… Of course punk was significant, it just didn’t wipe the slate clean in any way at all. It offered an alternative, but thank God it wasn’t the tsunami of disco-crushing, prog-destroying, MOR-trampling destruction that the tainted hindsight of most music journos would have you believe. I’d still rather listen to Chic than the Pistols any day. Sure, I like the Clash, but I’m still not averse to a quick listen through Mr Blue Sky either.

No, the late 70s was no more an artistic monoculture than any other time in music – it was as much about the creative tension-laden folky MOR-ness of the Mac as it was about the New York Dolls rip-off that was the Pistols (I still contest that – aside from The Clash – Americans did punk way way way better than the UK, from The Stooges, and the Dolls through The Minutemen, Blondie and Talking Heads, up to Big Black, Black Flag, Husker Du and on up to Green Day, Rancid and the fake-but-tuneladen pop punk of today.)

So, go and listen to Rumours. With pride. Revel in it, embrace the genius that is the Fleetwood/McVie rhythm section, bask in how Songbird is meant to sound when it’s not being overcooked by Eva Cassidy. Ditto Dreams and The Corrs. And remember that the middle bit out of The Chain is probably the most financially lucrative bit of bass playing in the history of the world, thanks to someone at the BBC’s Formula One production team. Dummmmmmmmm, De-De-Dum De-De-De-De-Dum Dummmmmmmmmmmmm.

6 Replies to “It was 30 years ago today…”

  1. and I’m sure it’ll be a lot of fun, and a bit tragic, and will sound like lots of old men trying to sound like their younger selves who tried to sound like the New York Dolls… which isn’t neccessarily a bad thing… ;o)

  2. Heheh.

    This from the man who doesn’t like Babyshambles.

    I think we’re starting to flesh out our musical differences, aren’t we, Mr. Lawson? Is this why bands break up?!?

    See – this is funny. You tend to talk about musicality. Which I think is important, but for me attitood is just as important – which is where we diverge, I would guess. Am I right , or am I right?

  3. Nah, attitude is definitely important – mindless musical showboatin’ is just an infuriating as talentless hucksterism – musicality can be expressed on lots of different levels, and certainly isn’t confined to the technically virtuosic. Attitude is definitely what made David Byrne’s stuff with Talking Heads more interesting than his solo stuff, however lovely it has been.

    I’m not a Pistols hater, I just don’t think that swearing at Bill Grundy and dying of a heroin O.D constitutes the reinvention of music that they are retrospectively credited with. The Velvet Underground, Stooges, MC5, The Damned and New York Dolls did it all musically before them… maybe they got lucky with it being the Jubilee year…

    Having said that, PIL were fantastic, so maybe McLaren was the one holding Mr Lydon back…

  4. Well.

    If we’re talking about attitood, then that merits a little discussion, and I’m glad you agree that its more than just musicality.

    But consider. If it’s attitude, then the attitude is very different from US punk to British. US punk was based around a scene that was actually quite affluent – it was more to do with trying to be a bit Boho (which is valid enough, but not the punk for me).

    Whereas British punk was much more to do with class rebellion IMO, and the Pistols anti-royal thing was of the time – and totally hit the nail on the contemporary head.

    Dying of heroin OD was one thing (and I think Doherty’s addiction problems are equally heinous for the same fake/real reasons), but the Bill Grundy was another – swearing at him, ok, but it was the typical upper/lower class, culture/trash war written large for the first time, something that hasn’t really gone away, and indeed has got worse as London has become more gentrified, despite protestation that those are artificial dichotomies.

    I’m forever pretending to hate classical music in certain company for exactly the same reasons – it seems that its still perfectly acceptable to say that you “hate pop music”, but if I dare say that I can’t stand classical music, I get the same reaction is if I’d just asked to bugger someone’s firstborn. It drive me nuts. Shows how we’ve moved on in the past thirty years, eh? Its just nice to give a nod to someone who pointed it out 30 years ago and got vilified for doing so, and who also had the balls to take it on the chin.

    And so I’d day that its the polemical side of British punk that appeals to me. And I guess that it comes down to whether you’re a Clash man, or a Pistols man. Although Strummer was an ex-public schoolboy, so there you go.

    I appreciate that some of this is down to myth-making, but that’s entertainment. It’s just a case of which myth you’d prefer to buy into.

    I’ve said it before: Jonny Rotten talks bollocks and complete sense in equal measure – which makes him far more worth listening to than about 90% of most other musicians in his genre/level of infamy.

    And yeh, I’d say you’re right about McLaren.

  5. The addiction thing – as a total side issue – is fascinating and tragic, due to the utter disregard for the well being of people living a ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ life by those who are set to make money off their infamy. Amy Winehouse, Pete Doherty, and an endless string of druggie musicians back to the 60s have had their problems exacerbated by record company staff and media monkeys who seek to promote their excesses as some part of a made up rock ‘n’ roll mythology that in practice involves people suffering all the same grisley side effects of addiction that plague the homeless addicts of the world, just without the need to shoplift to meet that habit… If people were pulled from the limelight and given time to rehabilitate, perhaps they’d be around a bit longer. Instead their record companies run TV ads for their latest album on the day when the story breaks about them being caught with a pocket full of smack…

    But anyway, the class war thing – I think that’s a really important element in music, but I’m not sure how real it was in the UK punk scene, or at least in the circles that surrounded the Pistols. I too have a fascination with the things that John Lydon comes out with – 90% is total horseshit, but the good stuff is worth waiting around for. But I don’t think the Pistols articulated the class aspects of the struggle as well as the soon-to-follow hip-hop scene, which too had its fair share of big mouths and self-aggrandizing bandwagonists, in amongst the voices of poverty and dislocation…

    I do love what punk did to the artistic air of the music scene in the late 70s – it brought back an element of protest and idealism that had been missing since the late 60s, and it took the pub rock DIY ethic (which had been around for about 4 or 5 years as a ‘scene’) and made it newsworthy, which in turn caused a massive number of people to start bands who then went on to make some of the greatest music that’s happened since then. I just don’t think that the Pistols themselves were much of a part of it, beyond McLaren’s genius for stealing tabloid headlines. Their scene was based around the clothing boutiques of the King’s Road, for fuck’s sake – hardly Red Wedge.

    But brit punk did give us The Clash, The Jam, Billy Bragg, The Undertones, and then thanks to Peel, the entire world of indie that it spawned. For that I am most grateful…. :o)

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