My name was Brian McGee

The estimable Merrick declines to do the album-for-every-year-of-your-life thing, with some compelling reasons (and some truly horrible images). I think he’s got a point about the aridity of the list format; when I did mine I seriously considered going back afterwards and writing a paragraph or two about just how wonderful some of those albums are, and why if you don’t know them you’re missing out, and if you do you should probably listen to them again (I mean, Taking Tiger Mountain! the Homosexuals! Soft Machine Third! Blame the Messenger! Horses! Chill Out! Wilder! bloody hell, the Faust Tapes!) But the moment went, and besides, there would be no end to it – that’s eight albums I’ve pulled out without pausing for breath, and I could easily add another three or four.

So I liked Merrick’s proposed alternative:

The ‘one per year for your whole life’ thing is too much to ask to someone to write or read, but still, I think there’s the germ of a good idea there. Perhaps it’s to pick a year and reel off, say, five albums for it.

I note that the year I picked at random is the year I left school. I suppose it’s not surprising that, in a teenage intensity of focus, I’ve got some albums that the sharper, more knowledgable and more dismissive music lovers of the time would’ve passed on.

Yes, after all that meander, I think that’s it. Give us five albums from the year you left school. Not necessarily the five ‘greatest’, but five that really do it for you.

So there’s the buildup. The rest is something of a placeholder, I’m afraid. I’ve identified my ten favourite albums from the year I left school – 1978, which I think was quite genuinely a particularly good year for music – and I’m going to narrow them down to five by the novel technique of listening to them again. In the mean time, if anyone wants to beat me to the punch by taking up Merrick’s challenge themselves – Edinburgh Rob, maybe? – feel free.

Here are the contenders:

the Jam, All Mod Cons
Talking Heads, More songs about buildings and food
Magazine, Real Life
Buzzcocks, Another music in a different kitchen
Ultravox, Systems of Romance
Wire, Chairs Missing
Elvis Costello, This year’s model
Captain Beefheart, Shiny beast (Bat chain puller)
XTC, Go 2
John Cooper Clarke, Disguise in love

Three first albums, four second albums, two 3rds and one, er, 10th. Arbitrarily disqualified on the grounds that I didn’t actually get into them in 1978: Dylan, Street Legal; the Clash, Give ’em enough rope; Tubeway Army, first album; Pere Ubu, The Modern Dance and Dub Housing… Let’s face it, that was a very good year.


  1. Posted 3 October 2008 at 00:04 | Permalink | Reply

    That gives me 1977, another rich year – and the year in which my sense of pop music changed more dramatically than in any other.

    Here are five that spent a whole lot of time spinning on my turntable:

    Iggy Pop, The Idiot
    Television, Marquee Moon
    The Clash, The Clash (as an American, I need to specify that I mean the original UK album)
    The Sex Pistols, Never Mind the Bollocks
    The Ramones, Leave Home

    Others that could just as easily have made the cut:

    Vibrators, Pure Mania
    Wire, Pink Flag
    Dead Boys, Young, Loud and Snotty
    David Bowie, Low (and Heroes)
    The Saints, (I’m) Stranded
    Talking Heads, 77
    Iggy Pop, Lust for Life
    The Ramones, Rocket to Russia

    This was certainly a good year for Bowie, as he not only released both Low and Heroes but in his spare time produced and cowrote The Idiot and Lust for Life. Never let it be said that cocaine doesn’t have an upside.

    And not only did both Iggy and Bowie put out two great albums that year, but so did the Ramones. Those days are gone.

  2. Posted 19 October 2008 at 17:44 | Permalink | Reply

    The five albums I listened to most in 1983 that were released in 1983 (my last year of high schoo):

    Speaking in Tongues – Talking Heads
    Reach the Beach – The Fixx
    Naked Eyes (U.S Debut)
    Syncronicity – The Police
    Eliminator – Z.Z. Top

    honorable mention:
    Let’s Dance – Davie Bowie
    Murmur – REM
    Hello, I Must be Going – Phil Collins

  3. Posted 26 October 2008 at 22:08 | Permalink | Reply

    I’ll get back on the five albums, but I would say that lists aren’t the worst thing in the world to provide a means of digging deeper into a subject. Limiting. Of course. But also revealing.

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