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My favourite year

January 5th, 2014 · Posted by Skuds in Music · No Comments · Music

The other night I sat down to watch the story of Top Of The Pops in 1979, followed by a compilation of clips from that year. Without question, 1979 is my favourite year for music. I know that others will prefer 1983, 1972 or 1967, There may even be some poor misguided fools that think that some year after 1983 was the best, but I am standing by 1979.

It was a good time for me generally. The first half of the year was my final couple of terms at school with the CSE and O Level exams followed by those brilliant weeks when we were still at school but had no work to do. We could just spend all the time socialising, making use of all the sports facilities and listening to music. That is one reason why some of my favourite albums are such favourites and so familiar – if I had them before summer 1979 they were listened to a lot during that time.

The latter part of the year saw me starting college and so meeting lots of new people, forming new friendships and not being confined to a boarding school it meant there were lots of house parties and after-college pub trips.

Ironically, some of my absolute favourite bands didn’t release an album in 1979. Nothing new from Yes, Genesis, Kraftwerk but there was so much else going on it didn’t really matter: some of the punks were still going, some of them had moved into more interesting things, thre was the post-punk new wave, disco was still huge, and then along came Two-Tone and rap. At the same time, classic rock, prog and heavy metal were still getting played on the radio.

At this time TOTP was still one of the few places to see music being played, along with the Old Grey Whistle Test and the John Peel radio show was, I think, at its best and stayed that way for a couple of years. Of course, with TOTP you did still have to sit through a lot of stuff which was more light entertainment than music, as the clip show reminded us – Dame Edna doing a disco version of Waltzing Matilda for example.

So what were the records that make 1979 my favourite year? Well there was Cool For Cats, Breakfast in America, The B-52’s, Tusk, The Specials, Regatta da Blanc and Off The Wall. I also played to death the Rick Wakeman album Rhapsodies and the first Sky album along with the Mike Oldfield album Platinum – a good year for unchallenging instrumental albums – and Weather Report’s live album 8:30.

Other albums were released that year that only became favourites later on – like The Wall and Metal Box but there was also the big one, my candidate for best album in the world ever, which would make 1979 my favourite musical year even if it was the only record that had been released – Entertainment! by Gang of Four. I still find it as exciting now as I did then.

As far as singles were concerned there are just too many to contemplate. There are the obvious ones like Cars, Heart of Glass, Gangsters, On My Radioand another Brick in the Wall part 3. Then there were California Uber Alles by the Dead Kennedys, Bela Lugosi’s Dead by Bauhaus, Playground Twist, Soldier, Soldier, and all sorts of  new wave goodness, including Toyah’s Sheep Farming in Barnet EP. One highlight for me was Joe Jackson’s Is She Really Going Out With Him which I still listen to often and would choose to be my karaoke track if I did that sort of thing.

Apart from the rock there were those classic pop singles like Ring My Bell (a favourite at the school dances), Ain’t No Stopping Us Now, Street Life and of course Rapper’s Delight. We had no idea that rap would become the most popular music and stay that way.

John Lydon followed up the Sex Pistols with Public Image which was far more interesting and complex, synths started to feature all over the place instead of just on German and prog albums, and Two-Tone exploded. I still remember watching that episode of TOTP with Madness, the Specials and the Selecter on it before going out to the Basildon College disco at Racquel’s Ballroom in Basildon.

1979 was also Spizzenergi year. I went to see Siouxie & the Banshees in Chelmsford, supported by the Cure. The second support was Spizzenergi and they stole the show as far as I am concerned. during the year they released two classic singles and an album (that had none of the singles on – tallk about value for money!)

Presumably BBC4’s flurry of 1979 shows the other day means that they are continuing their brave policy of repeating old TOTP through the year. If so I am going to enjoy re-watching them all. Let’s hope that no scandals crop up involving Kid Jensen or Peter Powell to interfere with transmission.

Feel free to make the case for other years, but I doubt I will be convinced to change my mind about 1979 as the benchmark.

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