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1979 “We Will Still Come Thru In the Long Run”

February 11, 2019

Forty years ago at the beginning of 1979, I was hard at work at Stanford Business School finishing up the first-year core curriculum. ( ‘Cost Accounting’ ugh!). Meanwhile in 1979, popular music still was dominated by disco particularly in the first half of 1979 including the  The BeeGees “Tragedy” (#1 Mar.) and “Love You Inside Out” (#1 Jun), Rod Stewart “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” (#1 Feb.), Gloria Gaynor “I Will Survive” (#1 Mar.), Anita Ward‘s “Ring My Bell” (#1 Jun.) Amii Stewart‘s “Knock on Wood” (#1 Apr.), and disco queen Donna Summer “Hot Stuff” (#1 Jun.) and “Bad Girls (#1 Jul.). Though some of these songs were OK when the mood was right, I definitely preferred rock music. (Only the Village People‘s “In the Navy” (#3 Jun.) and “YMCA” (#2 Feb.) were remotely fun to listen to.)

Rock had inauspicious beginnings in 1979. It was to be an off-year for the Who and the Rolling Stones after successful albums in 1978. The four former Beatles had no new albums. Likewise there was nothing new from the Moody Blues or Yes which might have been a good development given how inadequate their 1978 albums were. Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel and Steely Dan were also on studio hiatus.

In fact there was really only one rock album (released at the very end of 1978) that dominated my attention in early 1979, the Doobie BrothersMinute by Minute (Dec. ’78). But it was an album that I had decidedly mixed feelings about. The Doobies had evolved considerably since the early to mid 1970s and was no longer the group that produced such brilliant songs as “China Grove”, “Listen to the Music” or “Black Water”. Founder, lead singer and major songwriter Tom Johnston was forced to quit the group in 1975 owing to health problems and former Steely Dan member Michael McDonald became his replacement. In the 1976 album Taking it to the Streets the Doobies sound changed radically as the two hit songs from the album: the title track and “It Keeps You Running” – were both soulful songs by McDonald. With Minute by Minute this transformation was virtually complete. The album was dominated by Michael McDonald’s blue-eyed soul with six of the ten songs written by McDonald and most of them with his lead vocals.

The most famous track on the album “What a Fool Believes” (#1 Apr.) later won the Grammy for song and record of the year in 1979. It was an outstanding song, perhaps the best of the year. However, lyrically, it became a centerpiece of my bouts of temporary depression in early 1979 as the newness and excitement of California and new friends/classmates had worn off to some degree and my loneliness and yearning for my lost love only a year or so earlier. Lyrics such as “She had a place in his life, he never made her think twice. As he rises to her apology, anybody else would surely know. He’s watching her go”. spoke to my yearning for what had come and gone. Fortunately, this winter blues was quite temporary and other songs on the album did not evoke such memories. The whole first side of the record was quite good with “Here to Love You” a nice opening track, the aforementioned “What a Fool Believes”, the very interesting and soulful “Minute by Minute” (#14 Jul.), and more traditional sounding Doobies hit song “Depending on You” (#25 Sep.) a shared McDonald-Patrick Simmons composition and Simmons “Don’t Stop To Watch the Wheels”. Side 2 was not as strong but still included an excellent bluegrass instrumental composition by Simmons “Steamer Lane Breakdown” and another strong McDonald lead vocal “How Do Fools Survive?” co-written by Carole Bayer Sayer.

Fortunately, there were at least a few other rock and pop songs that were good as well that winter:

  • “Hold the Line”- Toto (#5 Jan.) – released in late 1978, a new group from LA had their first single be a major success with this catchy rocker.
  • Robert Palmer– “Bad Case of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor)” (#13 Mar.)was the first Robert Palmer song I can remember hearing and a pretty good start to his career.
  • The Babys had their first hit since 1977’s “Isn’t it Time” with “Every Time I Think of You (#13 Mar.) a nice soft rock ballad.

Summer in DC

By the late Spring/early summer, rock albums improved immensely as did my outlook and mood. One of my favorites was The Cars Candy O (June 1979). Though not quite as good as the group’s outstanding debut album in 1978, Candy O was still one of the best rock albums of the year. Side One of the album starts off with a bang fittingly with the excellent techno-rocker “Lets Go” (#14 Sep.) (“I like the night life baby”). The pace diminishes (but not the quality) with the next two yearning love songs  “Since I Held You” (“It’s been a long time”) and the outstanding “It’s All I Can Do” (#41 Nov.) (“To keep waiting for you”). The pace quickens again with another good song, the lyrically interesting “Double Life” (“It takes a fast car lady to lead a double life“). “Shoo-Be-Doo” livens things up further and nicely leads into the title track, the up tempo “Candy-O”. Side Two is not as good as Side One but still include three very strong tracks “You Can’t Hold Out Too Long” , the frenetic “Got a Lot on My Head” and closing with my favorite song on the album “Dangerous Type” (“She’s a lot like you“). Candy-0 was one of the first albums I bought when returning to Stanford/ Palo Alto in the fall. I eventually recorded the album onto cassette and it became a staple on my drive with my friend Kirk to and from Oregon on a short-lived ski trip ( I broke my leg on the first run down Bachelor Mt.) in early December of that year.

Breakfast in America (March 1979) by Supertramp was also all over the airwaves by the summer of 1979, a summer which I spent commuting by car from our group house rental in Chevy Chase, MD to US EPA headquarters in Southwest DC (401 M Street) for my internship for the Chief of the Economic Analysis Division. Thirty minutes in the car both directions meant I spent considerable time listening to DC 101 and other FM rock stations in DC and three songs in particular were played constantly “The Logical Song” (#6 June), “Goodbye Stranger” (#15 Aug.) and my favorite on the album and one of my favorites of the year “Take the Long Way Home” (#10 Dec.). In addition, another favorite “Breakfast in America” (“take a jumbo across the water, going to see America“) received significant airplay. Supertramp’s sound was pretty unique but unfortunately wore thin over time. This was to be their peak of popularity. Roger Hodgson (lead singer and group leader) left the group in 1983 and by the mid-1980s Supertramp was done.

Meanwhile, James TaylorFlag (June) was also on the airwaves during that DC summer.  An enjoyable album by Taylor featured one of my all-time favorite covers “Up on the Roof”(#28 July) and two “lively” rockers (by Taylor standards) “Brother Trucker” (“You got to roll, roll, roll Brother Trucker”) and “Johnny Come Back”. Also of note were the two more conventional folk rock songs “I Will Not Lie for You” and “Rainy Day Man”.

By the end of the summer Led Zeppelin returned with a new studio album, their first in almost 3 1/2 years, – In Through the Out Door (Aug. ’79). It was to be the group’s final studio album. (In 1980, John Bonham the group’s drummer died and Led Zeppelin officially called it quits. ) While not quite up to the standards of the group’s early 1970s albums (and particularly the superb Led Zeppelin IV), it still boasted three excellent Zeppelin songs: (1) the hard rocking “In the Evening” (in which Jimmy Page plays his guitar with a violin bow making that unique sound in the opening part of the song) (2) “All My Love” and (3) the calypso sounding “Fool in the Rain” (#21 Jan. ’80) which employs Samba rhythms. I never bought the album, but heard these three songs on the progressive rock station by late that summer in DC and then more often back in Palo Alto in the fall.

Neil Young and Crazy HorseRust Never Sleeps (June ’79) was most noteworthy for two excellent tracks recorded live and overdubbed in the studio: the acoustic “My, My, Hey, Hey” (“Out of the Blue”)  and the lengthier hard rocking’ version of the same song “Hey, Hey, My My” (“Into the Black”)(#79 Oct.).

Meanwhile, the summer boasted a number of other very good rock and pop singles:

  • “Dance the Night Away” (#15 Jul.)by Van Halen was one of my favorites by the group from the group’s highly successful Van Halen II album.
  • Bad Company “Rock N Roll Fantasy” (#13 Jun.) was another solid rock song from this British quartet and their biggest single since their 1975 smash “Feel Like Makin’ Love”.
  • Bob Seger “Old Time Rock N’ Roll” (#28 June) was a nice up tempo rocker much like “Hollywood Nights” from the year earlier (both from Seger’s  highly popular “78 album Stranger in Town ). 
  • Cheap Trick had their first big hit with the excellent live rocker “I Want You to Want Me” (#7 Jul.). Later in the year, two more trademark songs were to reach the top 40, the unique cover of Fats Domino‘s “Ain’t That Shame” (#35 Sep.) and the interesting “Dream Police” (#26 Nov.).
  • The most popular rock hit of the summer and the year was “My Sharona” (#1 Aug.) by The Knack.  Like many, I tired quickly of the song as it was played constantly, but it was catchy tune and had a nice rock beat ( Hmm. Its sounds like I am one of those teenage reviewers on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand in the 1960s).
  • In the more jazzy realm, Ricky Lee Jones‘ “Chuck E’s in Love” (#4 Jul.) was a nice mellow tune which seemed to be played often in the various DC bars I visited during that summer (of course only occasionally :) ).
  • “We Are Family” (#3 Jun.) Sister Sledge was also a favorite. Perhaps this was because it was more of dance song than disco. Or more likely, it was because it became the theme song for the Pittsburg Pirates winning the pennant and World Series, then my favorite NL team.

By early September, I gathered my belongings and headed back across country in my Toyota Corolla and unlike my previous two trips when I shared the driving with two different friends from Brown (Dave Dorsey Summer ’78, John Lum June ’79), this trip was a solo expedition. I stopped in Shaker Heights, Ohio where I had dinner with my eventual stepfather Ted Frost. Two nights later I stopped in Lincoln, Nebraska staying overnight with my friend Marty Michael’s parents (from the Stanford GSB). I remember going out for a run when I arrived despite the 98 degree heat. (Marty’s parents correctly thought that I was completely insane!). Next it was on to Denver visiting with the Grant family (second cousins of my mother’s side of the family) and then a special treat to go up and stay at their cabin at the edge of the Rocky Mountain National Forest the next night on my own.

After an interesting and harrowing back-road drive thru the Mountains the next day, (the map did say it was the most direct route!) and eventually a reconnection to Highway 70, I arrived in Glenwood Springs to stay two nights with classmate and friend K.C. Branscomb and her parents at their home about 20 miles from Aspen. This included an interesting hike to the summit of 12965 ft. Mt. Sopris with KC the next day, where I stupidly (in retrospect) pushed on to the open rock summit (leaving KC some 500 ft. below in the woods) during a sudden afternoon thunderstorm. This included my unintentional attempt at replicating Benjamin Franklin’s famous kite experiments by carrying my ice ax sticking straight out of the top of my day pack.

My trip finished with two more marathon drives from Glenwood Springs, CO to Ely, Nevada and from Ely all the way to Palo Alto. Throughout these last two long driving days, my tape deck was up at full volume – blaring out songs from the rock panoply of hits and artists from the 60s and 70s.

In addition to a happy social life in the Fall of ’79, Stanford GSB work was much more enjoyable as the core curriculum courses were largely over and I could focus on what I really liked Economics, Investments, Public Policy etc. Meanwhile, several of the best albums of the year were released during the fall of 1979.

  • Eagles –The Long Run (Sep. 1979)- represented the sixth and last studio album by the group (until 2007) with the group breaking up in 1980 and not reforming until 1994. It was the first new album by the group in almost 3 years since Hotel California (Dec. ’76). Though not as good as the stellar Hotel California, it still boasted three very good songs: the rocking Heartache Tonight (#1 Dec.), The Long Run (#8 Feb. ’80) and the sad love song, “I Can’t Tell You Why” (#8 May ’80). Two other strong rockers Joe Walsh’s “In the City” and Henley-Frey-Felder’s “Those Shoes” nicely round out the album.
  • Tom PettyDamn the Torpedos (Oct. 1979) was also an excellent album and was Petty’s best until he released Full Moon Fever a decade later. It contains four of Petty’s best songs with “Refugee” (#15 Apr. ’80) “Even the Losers” ‘Here Comes My Girl’ (#59 June ’80) “Don’t Do Me Like That” (#10 Jan. ’80).
  • Though not as good as their first album, the PoliceRegatta de Blanc (Oct. 1979) was still not bad. The highlights were the US single  “Message in a Bottle” (#74 Dec.) (“I’ll send my SOS to you“) and the UK single “Walking on the Moon”.

The fall of 1979 also saw the release of another memorable album Fleetwood MacTusk (October 1979). I’ll admit that this album became a favorite because it coincided with beginning of my now almost 40-year relationship with the love-of-my-life Anne.  I met her thru my condo mate Steve’s girlfriend Maureen who just happened to live with Anne in the same condominium complex in Palo Alto. Songs such as “Sara” (“Drowning in the sea of love”) became synonymous with my relationship with Anne and create fond romantic memories to this day. Having said this, Tusk still paled in comparison to Fleetwood Mac’s two previous stellar albums. Like many successful rock groups, Fleetwood Mac suffered from the dreaded disease, “double-album-itis”. The double album really contained about a single album’s worth of good songs, with the other half the album mediocre to bad. This was exacerbated by the fact that Lindsay Buckingham wanted to make the album very “experimental” and a bit more like the new wave/punk sound. Unfortunately like many research experiments, there were many bad results as a consequence. The exception is the excellent and totally fun “Tusk” (#8 Dec.) which even features the USC marching band. However, none of Buckingham’s other eight compositions are particularly noteworthy and only “The Ledge” is good.

Fortunately, the double album is bailed out to a degree by some excellent compositions and singing by Christine McVie and several very good songs by Stevie Nicks. Side One was the best and not coincidentally contains the most clicks and scratches on my vinyl version. “Over and Over” was a nice mellow McVie composition featuring her beautiful soothing voice to start the side. Next up is “The Ledge” Buckingham’s first experimental composition, and it works mostly this time. The third track is a stellar McVie composition “Think About Me” ( #20 May ’80) which is one of the three best tracks on the album. “Save Me a Place” another Buckingham composition is mediocre but fortunately short. The final track is the Stevie Nicks’ beautiful “Sara” (#7 Feb. ’80) which nicely rounds out Side 1. Side 4 is also good with “Honey Hi” and “Never Forget” both nice tracks from McVie and “Beautiful Child” an OK track from Nicks and Buckingham’s best composition the aforementioned “Tusk”.

Just in time for Christmas shopping season, Pink Floyd released their double album The Wall (November 1979). Unlike Tusk however, the album is still very good despite it’s one hour and twenty-minute length. The album’s tells the semi-autobiographical story  of a rocker named Pink (based in part on group leader Roger Waters early life as well as former Floyd member Syd Barrett). Pink loses his father during WWII, deals with abuse by teachers and an overprotective mother and eventually becomes isolated from society as signified by the Wall (“just another brick in the wall“). While many of the tracks are designed to tell this story including dialogue interspersed with music, the album is anchored by several outstanding rock compositions starting on Side One– “In the Flesh?” “Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 1” a nice linkage with “The Happiest Days of Our Lives’ and then “Another Brick in the Wall Pt 2” (#1 Mar. ’80)(“We don’t need no education“), Side Two is not as strong but does have one of my favorite tracks on the album the rare Gilmour composition “Young Lust” (“Oooh I need a dirty woman”) as well as the very moody, acoustic and interesting “Goodbye Blue Sky”. Side Three starts off with the brilliant and eerie rocker “Hey You” (“Out there in the cold, getting lonely, getting old, can you feel me?“), the nice acoustic, mostly instrumental  “Is There Anybody Out There?” and the sad “Nobody Home”. The side finishes with the outstanding “Comfortably Numb” (“Hello, Hello. Is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me”) perhaps one of the best progressive rock songs of all time and certainly one of the most popular among progressive rock listeners. Side 4 features a lengthier reprise of “In the Flesh” which nicely leads into to the excellent rocker “Run Like Hell” (#53 Jun ’80).

The fall/early winter also featured a number of very good rock songs:

  • While ELO’s new album Discovery was heavily influenced by disco much to its detriment, it did boast one excellent song, one of my favorites of the year “Don’t Bring Me Down” (#4 Sep.). (I’ll admit I might be biased because it is one of those rare songs that constantly mentions my first name. “Don’t bring me down, Bruce!”).
  • Jefferson Starship– Jane (#14 Dec.) was the group’s first hit featuring new lead singer Mickey Thomas after Marty Balin left the group in late 1978. Though certainly not a work of art, it is very catchy, uptempo rocker and became one of my favorites of the year.
  • Styx had their first and only #1 hit, the ballad “Babe” (#1 Dec.), but I liked their earlier in the year rocker “Renegade” (#16 Jun.) even better.
  • Journey– “Lovin’, Touchin’ and Squeezin'” (#16 Oct.) was the first top twenty hit for this San Francisco group that would become a mainstay of early ’80s rock music featuring the soaring and unique vocals of Steve Perry.
  • John Mellencamp “I Need a Lover” (#28 Dec.)was the Indiana native’s first single and a pretty good one at that. Dubbed “John Cougar’ by David Bowie’s manager David DeFries, he recorded under that name until the mid-1980s.
  • Though AC/DC album Highway to Hell came out in the summer, I don’t remember hearing the interesting hard rocking title track “Highway to Hell”(#47 Dec.) until later in the year when the single was released. Too bad as it would have been a perfect driving song thru the very hot and humid Midwest late that summer. (“I’m on a highway to hell!”)
  • “This is It” (#11 Dec.) was Kenny Loggins best solo effort to date, though he would surpass it during the 1980s with “I’m Alright”, “Footloose” and “Danger Zone”.
  • Queen “A Crazy Little Thing Called Love” (#1 Feb. 80) was initially released in October 1979 and became the first Queen song to hit number one in the US. This is just another of the many excellent Queen rock songs beginning with “Killer Queen” in 1975. (As well documented in the wonderful 2018 film “Bohemian Rhapsody“). Queen had many more to come with the release of the The Game in 1980 and its second #1 single “Another One Bites the Dust”.
  • London new wave rockers The Clash released the London Calling double album in December 1979. While I wasn’t much of a fan of their brand of new wave at the time, I did like two songs from the album the title track “London Calling” and my favorite “Train in Vain” (#23 May ’80) (“Did you stand by me. No, not at all“).
  • Fear of Music Talking Heads new album featured very unique rhythms and yes even weird sounds, but had one stellar song “Life During Wartime” (#80 Nov.).
  • Soft rockers, Little River Band had two nice pop hits “Lonesome Loser” (#6 Oct.) as well as earlier in the year, “Lady” (#10 Apr.).

R&B, Jazz and Country

While I largely listened to rock, there were some excellent R&B, jazz and even country music that also commanded my attention during 1979:

  • Earth, Wind and Fire had two great songs during 1979 with the up tempo and lively “Boogie Wonderland” (#6 July) and the slow soulful ballad “After the Love Has Gone”(#2 Sept.).
  • Michael Jackson – began his independent solo career with the release of Off the Wall ( Aug.) and its first two singles the dance songs “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough” (#1 Oct.) (which Michael wrote), and “Rock with You” (#1 Jan. ’80). While this wasn’t his first solo album, (he had four previous albums with Motown under the Jackson V franchise), it was the first released under the Epic record label where he had true creative control. Michael wrote three of the songs himself (including “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough”) and co-produced them with Quincy Jones.
  • Charlie Daniels Band had the country song of the year with “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” (#3 Sep.). Even though I wasn’t much of a country music fan, it was hard not to like the up-tempo fiddling and instrumentation and of course the interesting lyrics.
  • The jazzy “Rise” (#1 Nov.) by Herb Alpert was the best instrumental of the year.

**********

While 1979 was not one of the better years for rock music, it did close out nicely with the Eagles, Tom Petty, the Police, Fleetwood Mac and Pink Floyd among others contributing some excellent new material. And 1980 was to bring my graduation and the beginning of my 16 year consulting career at ICF in Washington, DC. It also ushered in some interesting new music and artists. As always, rock and pop music were evolving and I was happy to go along for the ride.

 

From → Music 60s70s

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