Rock Flashback: The Winter of ’77
Because so much of the classic-rock canon comes from the 1970s, it’s pretty easy to pick any random week of that decade and point to one or more songs or albums that were all over the radio then that are still all over the radio now. That said, however, the list of top albums from the winter of 1977 still looks pretty amazing 34 years on.
Nearly every track on Rumours by [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Fleetwood Mac[/lastfm] got so much radio play that owning the record in succeeding years has almost been unnecessary. The three-decade ubiquity of singles like “Dreams” and “You Make Lovin’ Fun” made the expanded edition of the album that came out a few years ago into something like a miracle — the less-polished, work-in-progress versions of the album’s most familiar tracks made Rumours seem fresh again.
Hotel California by [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]the Eagles[/lastfm] is so familiar now, like the weather, that we forget it was once a current hit competing for sales and airplay with other new releases — but even during the seven or eight months spent near the top of the charts, it had the feel of an album that was going to be around forever. I once estimated that I have heard the title song at least a thousand times, and maybe more, given that I have spent time working at classic-rock radio stations. And while some people say that your life’s theme song is the tune that was #1 on your 18th birthday, I am not taking an [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Andy Gibb[/lastfm] record. I’d rather have the one that topped the chart when I turned 17: “New Kid in Town.”
Songs in the Key of Life by [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Stevie Wonder[/lastfm] is recognized as his greatest accomplishment, but as great as it is, it might be considered the greatest album ever made if it had been a single disc containing the eight or nine strongest songs from the two-disc release. Even within the album’s best tracks, Stevie’s expansive artistic vision gets in the way — “As,” “Another Star,” and “Isn’t She Lovely” run far longer than necessary, a contrast made even more stark by the perfection of “I Wish,” clocking in at about four minutes.
(Each of the above three would spend time at #1: during the 58 weeks between the ascension of Songs to the top in October 1976 and the final fall of Rumours in December 1977, all but seven weeks would find one of the three albums at the top of the Billboard 200.)
Several other landmark albums were on the charts and on the radio in the late winter of 1977, including Animals by [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Pink Floyd[/lastfm] and A Day at the Races by [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Queen[/lastfm], each of them the followup to a staggeringly successful predecessor (Wish You Were Here, A Night at the Opera). There was Fly Like an Eagle by the [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Steve Miller Band[/lastfm], the debut album by [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Boston[/lastfm], and [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Bob Seger[/lastfm]‘s Night Moves. Other albums still worth a listen today include A New World Record by the [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Electric Light Orchestra[/lastfm], the most ELO of all ELO albums, and Year of the Cat by [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Al Stewart[/lastfm], recorded at Abbey Road and produced by Alan Parsons. Here’s Stewart performing “Year of the Cat” on The Old Grey Whistle Test in 1976.
If we missed a favorite album you were listening to back then, let us know in the comments.