Results for 1977

interviews

Wire

This week our guests are the art punk innovators, Wire. Their first album, Pink Flag, catapulted the band to critical success in 1977 with its unusual song structures with shifting bursts of sound. Over the years, Wire has refused to stop making new and different music, at times refusing to even play older material live. After that incredible first trilogy of albums, Pink Flag, Chairs Missing, and 154, they took some time off and reemerged in 1987 with a very different sound. That phase lasted until the early '90s and the band again went away. But in 2003, they reunited again for a third phase of their career that is still going strong. They released their 14th studio album this year, which showed up on Jim's midyear best-of list

Jim and Greg were lucky enough to host a special performance and conversation with Wire in front of an audience at the Goose Island Barrelhouse in Chicago. The current lineup includes guitarist Colin Newman, bassist Graham Lewis, and the very soft-spoken drummer Robert Grey, all of whom were with the band at the beginning. But Jim started out the interview by asking the newest member of the group, guitarist Matthew Simms, about how he got the call inviting him to join the band.

Go to episode 512
specials

Joy Division

In 1977 Ian Curtis, Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook and Stephen Morris formed the band Joy Division in Manchester, England. Now 30 years later, the music and the legend are as important as ever. Acclaimed video director and rock photographer Anton Corbijn just released his Joy Division feature film, Control. In addition, a number of albums and compilations are being reissued and a documentary is in the works. Jim and Greg took this opportunity to delve into the band's music and story.

So, why all the interest in a British band that lasted only three years and never even toured the States? Jim explains that Joy Division left a lasting musical influence that you can hear in dance-punk fusion bands like Interpol and LCD Soundsystem, as well as mainstream rock acts like The Cure, Smashing Pumpkins and U2. Also, because front man Ian Curtis committed suicide in 1980, just one month prior to the release of "Love Will Tear Us Apart," the band's most successful single, the idea of Curtis and the band became almost as important as the music itself. The band was adopted by Goth youths and Curtis became romanticized as a tortured genius. Unfortunately while that propelled the band's name, it overshadowed what they were really about according to Jim and Greg.

The mythology surrounding Curtis‘ death isn’t the only thing that misrepresents Joy Division. Greg explains that the band's studio albums only showcase one side of the group's music. Producer Martin Hannett crafted the sound to enhance the band's dark, twisted image. On 1978's Unknown Pleasures and 1980's Closer, the songs were sparse and claustrophobic. But, as you can hear in live tracks like "Transmission," Joy Division was an aggressive, energetic band in concert. Their singles also present a more upbeat, dance-oriented sound. To get a full perspective on Joy Division, Greg recommends checking out the Closer reissue, as well as Substance, a collection of singles.

Go to episode 101
classic album dissections
Rocket to Russia

The Ramones & the Sex Pistols God Save the Queen

Jim and Greg have mastered the art of the album dissection. This week they try their hand at Rocket to Russia by The Ramones. This was the punk originators' third album, released in April of 1977. Jim and Greg picked this album because of how revolutionary it was at the time. This was the era of Yes, James Taylor and KC and the Sunshine Band. Now that radio playlists are full of songs by bands like Fall Out Boy and Green Day, it's easy to forget a time before punk music. But, until four high schoolers from Forest Hills, NY merged their love of Brill-Building pop and British invasion rock with a big dose of speed and attitude, the sound as we know it didn't exist.

Joey Ramone, born Jeffrey Hyman, sang vocals, Johnny Ramone, born John Cummings, played guitar, Dee Dee Ramone, born Douglas Colvin, played bass and Tommy Ramone, born Tom Erdelyi, played drums. The four began to record Rocket to Russia after recently releasing two other albums and touring the US and Europe. Today, Tommy Ramone is the only living member of that original group. Tommy co-produced Rocket to Russia and wrote many of the songs, and Jim and Greg invited him on to talk about making the album.

It was a treat to get a first-hand account of recording Rocket to Russia from Tommy Ramone. He revealed a number of interesting facts, some of which surprised even our hosts. Here are some of the noteworthy points:

  • Johnny is known for being a speed demon. Tommy credits this with his desire to be a baseball player and his love of the fastball.
  • Joey is the band's original drummer, and Tommy acted as their manager. Tommy took over on drums in order to keep up with Johnny's pace. He had never played drums before, and sometimes outpaced the studio's click track.
  • Seymour Stein was the label executive behind the band. Despite the fact that their sound wasn't popular, he believed in The Ramones enough to boost their recording budget up to a whopping $25,000.
  • The Ramones heard God Save the Queen by the Sex Pistols during the recording of this album. Despite not having nearly the same amount of money to work with, Tommy explains that there was definitely a sense of competition. The feeling wa — they ripped us off, and now we want to sound better.
  • The Ramones were famous for being anti-guitar solo. But, there is one on the track "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow." Tommy reveals that this was actually him playing guitar, and assures Jim and Greg that Johnny wasn't miffed by the choice. Tommy was inspired by the guitar solo in "Tell Me" by the Rolling Stones.
  • A number of the songs on Rocket to Russia begin with Dee Dee counting off. The band encouraged their bassist to do this, despite the fact that those counts had nothing to do with the actual speed of the song.
  • Tommy struggles to name his favorite tune on the album, but includes "Rockaway Beach" as one of the best. Jim and Greg agree that the sunny, pop track is a great one, made even better by the fact that the actual Rockaway Beach was not a very sunny place. Juxtapose the sound of the song with the idea of trash in the sand and a syringe in your foot.

Jim and Greg also struggle to pick just one song to highlight from Rocket to Russia. Each one is great, and only clocks out at around two minutes. But, Greg was inspired by something Tommy said during their interview. He explained that the Ramones were ahead of their time, and were perhaps too dark and too subversive for mainstream culture. The song that best exemplifies this is "We're a Happy Family." While Happy Days showed one kind of family life, The Ramones wanted to show another, more realistic one. The Ramones were fans of Todd Browning's film Freaks, and celebrated the idea of being different and freaky in this song.

Jim's song choice also celebrates that freak spirit. "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker," only has a few words, but it's a definitely an anthem. The term punk previously had a negative connotation. In this song, the Ramones reclaim the word and give a big finger to anyone who judges them (or Sheena). Musically, the song is also quintessentially rock and roll, quintessentially American, quintessentially Ramones. Jim explains that if he had to choose one track to shoot into outer space and represent what rock music is, he'd choose "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker."

Go to episode 64
The Belle AlbumThe Belle Album available on iTunes

Al Green The Belle Album

Al Green is known for archetypal soul hits like "Love & Happiness," "Let's Stay Together," and "I'm So Tired of Being Alone." But, while Al's songs are known around the world, the man himself is a bit of an enigma. To get a better sense of who Al Green is, Jim and Greg sat down with Jimmy McDonough, author of a new biography called Soul Survivor.

They also unpack a lesser known album from Al Green's catalogue: The Belle Album. The album, released in 1977, came out at a crucial period in Green's life. He had just left a lucrative career in soul music for the ministry. The album was his first gospel album, one that blended funk, disco, and according to Jim, even elements of punk. It was also Al's first dip into self-producing an album. His previous work had been produced by the legendary Willie Mitchell at Hi Records in Memphis. The album with its rough, almost garage-gospel sound is an outlier among Green's earlier works. The Belle Album means a lot to both Jim and Greg. Greg calls it "a transitional album that was also a masterpiece."

Go to episode 625
Rocket to Russiaundefined available on iTunes

Rocket to Russia

In 1976, The Ramones blasted onto the budding punk scene with their self-titled first LP and blew critics away with their blistering speed and old-school simplicity. However, it wasn't until the next year, after a monumental European tour and the release of their third album, Rocket to Russia, that the group's characteristic break-neck punk sound flooded the airwaves and the took the rock world by storm. Now, nearly 40 years after Rocket to Russia blew a hole in thepunk rock atmosphere, we mourn the death of Ramones' founder, drummer, producer, and guiding light Tommy Ramone. In honor of the legend's passing, Jim and Greg strap in for a Classic Album Dissection of The Ramones' 1977 speed machine and revisit a 2007 conversation with Tommy. Jim and Greg, curious about the magic behind masters of punk, ask Tommy about the day-to-day during the recording process and the band's cross-pond rivalry with British punk group the Sex Pistols. Tommy tells all, including the story of the band's suburban origins and the secret behind Dee Dee's famous, though not-so-useful count-offs.

To stake their flag in the dissection's conclusion, Jim and Greg each choose their favorite song from Rocket to Russia. Jim plays "Sheena is a Punk Rocker", calling it the“perfect rock song”and reminiscing about his young days listening to The Ramones. Greg settles on the song "We're a Happy Family" as a representation of the Ramones knack for writing catchy social commentary. The song satirizes the idea of perfect suburban family life represented so often by TV programs at the time, a poignant topic for the suburban-boy Ramones from Queens, New York.

Go to episode 453
reviews
Chrome Dreams IIChrome Dreams II available on iTunes

Neil Young Chrome Dreams II

Fellow rock rebel Neil Young has a new record out called Chrome Dreams II. Chrome Dreams I was a 1977 album that Young decided to scrap, despite the fact that it had some early versions of some of his most famous songs. None of those original songs are on this second effort, but you definitely get the sense that the musician is taking stock. This makes sense considering that it's been only two years since Young suffered a brain aneurysm. As Greg describes, it's a patchwork of different eras made with a bunch of different musicians, and many of the songs can be interpreted as prayers. Greg was surprised to hear such spirituality, but he found the album quite moving. He gives it a Buy It. Jim didn‘t hear as much heaviness on the album. He heard goofball moments as well. Young is looking back at his life, but he’s laughing at himself too, and Jim loves it. He also gives Chrome Dreams II a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 99
dijs

Greg

“Saturday Night Special”Lynyrd Skynyrd

Up next Greg drops a track into the Desert Island Jukebox. Coming off of the Kings of Leon discussion, he goes back to Southern rock's roots and chooses a song by the real kings of the genre: Lynyrd Skynyrd. He describes them as one of the most misunderstood bands of all time. Dismissed as just that bunch of yokels who sang "Freebird," Greg doesn't think they get the credit they deserve. Ronnie Van Zant, the original lead singer, and other members of the band died in a plane crash in 1977. But before that, he was able to lend a subtle sophistication to Skynyrd that other, blusier southern rock outfits didn't have. The track that best illustrates this is "Saturday Night Special." The song is an eloquent bit of social commentary about the dangers of guns — not the sort of thing you expect these folks to sing about. And unfortunately, not the sort of song that gets requested at live shows.

Go to episode 72

Jim

“Raving and Drooling”Pink Floyd

Jim's Desert Island Jukebox pick this week is inspired by his conversation with Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead. The band uses live performances as opportunities to explore and expand tracks they work on in the studio. This reminds Jim of the touring tactics of another great British band: Pink Floyd. They too would road-test songs for months at a time before taking them to the studio. And the result is similar: Both Radiohead and Pink Floyd are simultaneously experimental, avant-garde and also successful in the mainstream, a rare combination in the music industry. So Jim decides to add a track that Pink Floyd experimented with live, then later recorded in a different format. The song fans know as "Sheep" from the 1977 album Animals, was originally performed live as "Raving and Drooling." Listen to the studio version, then compare it to this rare DIJ pick.

Go to episode 30

Jim

“Chinese Rocks”The Heartbreakers,The Heartbreakers,The Heartbreakers

Jim noted that 20 years ago on April 23, 1991, Johnny Thunders died. The former New York Doll sadly became as famous for his bad heroin habit as he was for his music. So, Jim uses his turn at the Desert Island Jukebox to remember the music. He plays a song about addiction, "Chinese Rocks," which was written by fellow punk legends Dee Dee Ramone and Richard Hell, and performed by Thunders and his band The Heartbreakers in 1977.

Go to episode 282
news

Music News

A sad music headline kicks off this episode. Texas Blues guitarist Johnny Winter died last week at age 70. Greg notes that it's significant that Winter died while on tour in Europe, as he kept on working until the very end. And he encouraged his heroes to do the same. Winter, who had hits with his brother Edgar and with singer Rick Derringer in the 1970's, produced three late-career albums for Blues legend Muddy Waters. You can literally hear Winter's stamp on songs like "Mannish Boy" from 1977's Hard Again.

Go to episode 452

Music News

Donnasummer Last week Disco queen Donna Summer died at age 63. Jim and Greg talk about her gospel and musical theater roots and her contributions to pop music. People relegate Summer to the disco ghetto, but really she spanned many genres and didn't stop working after the 1970's. Her work with Giorgio Moroder also greatly contributed to the development of electronic music.

robingibb Only days after Summer's passing, we learned of the death of Bee Gees founder Robin Gibb. The 62-year-old had been battling cancer for some time. But before you say,“Groan…the Bee Gees,”know that the trio sold 200 million records worldwide, and not all of them copies of Saturday Night Fever. Their music from that 1977 movie defined the disco movement for many people, but the Bee Gees had hits in five different decades. And they thought of themselves more as blue-eyed soul singers. To honor Gibb, Greg highlights one of their tracks from the British Invasion period called "Every Christian Lion Hearted Man Will Show You."

Go to episode 339