RIFF Rewind—A time machine for your ears: 1978


Blondie, Debbie Harry

Look, guys. I’m sorry about this. These … these aren’t great songs. But when we have one year at a time to draw from, sometimes it’s a little thin, and that’s how you get Bob Seger songs that aren’t “Turn the Page.”

The late ’70s were a trying time for music. Disco existed, which isn’t really a good thing to begin with, but hair metal and new wave were just in their infancy. The great bands of the late ’60s and early ’70s were jumping over sharks left and right and the next generation of great bands was releasing its regrettable, pre-breakthrough early albums.

Blondie broke through in 1978, though. So you’ve got something to look forward to. But first…

Gerry Rafferty – Baker Street

I warned you, didn’t I?

The truth is, unnecessary saxophones are my musical guilty pleasure. I love me a saxophone that doesn’t belong there. I’m uncomfortably obsessed with “Careless Whisper,” in which the saxophone is absolutely necessary, and it just kinda bleeds over into other things.

Bob Seger – Old Time Rock & Roll

In the late ’80s and early ’90s, there were these stores in the mall where you could go in, stand in front of a green screen while lip-syncing and the poorly trained employees would cut it into a music video that made “Friday” look like “Thriller.”

The Internet didn’t exist yet. We didn’t have a lot of entertainment options.

Anyway, at one point when I was very young, my parents took me to one of those, and I made a music video of “Old Time Rock & Roll.” It wasn’t great at the time, and it hasn’t improved with age. My mom insists she doesn’t know where the VHS tape is, but I suspect she just doesn’t want to tell me so I won’t destroy the last of the evidence.

I still like the song anyway. It’s cheesy, but in an endearing way. Unlike the video.

Chic – Le Freak

When presented with the remaining options, excluding bands that I’ve featured recently, reporter extraordinaire April Siese said, “Do Le Freak because it’s good.”

It’s a hard argument to dispute.

Village People – YMCA

There’s a lesson in YMCA: If you want your song to stand the test of time, at least at weddings and sporting events, include a series of basic, easy-to-remember movements. People at weddings and sporting events love moving, but boy do they hate dancing. It leaves a big opening for the “Cha Cha Slides” and “Macarenas” of the world.

Of course, it’s getting harder to get people to dance. There was a time when you could go with an entire “Hand Jive” (Johnny Otis, 1958), but now even a simple “Humpty Dance” is pushing it. Next thing you know, you’ll just get confused looks when you tell people to wave your hands in the air like you just don’t care.

Blondie – Heart of Glass

I told you! I told you there’s a good one in there!

Debbie Harry is a genius and I won’t hear otherwise. She crossed genres before the genres she was crossing even existed, and her music got better over time. Better things will come, and she’s the first light of that musical dawn.

Honorable Mentions

Van Halen – Runnin’ With the Devil
John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John – You’re the One That I Want
Rolling Stones – Beast of Burden
Foreigner – Hot Blooded
Ramones – I Wanna Be Sedated
The Police – Roxanne

Follow editor Daniel J. Willis at Twitter.com/BayAreaData

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