Back to my series on albums of 1979, that golden year (for me at least) when I turned 17, could nearly legally drink, could, actually, legally join the army or get married (I’m not actually sure which of these was less infinitesimally likely), and, in February, was undoubtedly shitting bricks about my impending Higher exams.
Fortunately, there was some cracking music to ease the angst.
Although the month started badly for punk with the death of Sid Vicious, a local Fife band enlivened the charts with their debut studio album, Scared to Dance. I’d be lying if I said I ever owned it, but everyone knew the single from it, ‘Into the Valley.’ Featuring Stuart Adamson’s guitar playing, later to evolve into that distinctive bagpipe sound in Big Country, the song’s lyrics were, according to Richard Jobson, about Scottish youths being recruited into the army.
However, a counter-myth has evolved, according to Wikipedia, that it was about West Fife village High Valleyfield, a place known for its internecine conflicts with neighbouring Torryburn, Rosyth, Oakley and Inverkeithing (interestingly, they don’t mention the most obvious source of inter-tribal conflict, Low Valleyfield). Who knows? Who cares? No one, not even fellow Fifers, could make out the lyrics beyond ‘Into the Valleeeee….’ and ‘Ahoy! Ahoy!’ But then, what more do you need, really?
Actually, apart from Sid’s demise, it was a good month for punk, featuring Live (X Cert) by the Stranglers, the Great Rock n’ Roll Swindle by the Sex Pistols, and Inflammable Material by Stiff Little Fingers.
At the other end of the rock spectrum, George Harrison released George Harrison on February 20th. A gentle acoustic rock record reflecting Harrison’s domestic contentment, it did moderately good business for him, reaching 14 in the US chart and going gold there. It was even critically acclaimed, although a brief listen to ‘Here Comes the Moon’ didn’t, for me, exactly set the heather alight.
However, given that the Quiet One set up Handmade Films shortly after this and financed Life of Brian for the Pythons by mortgaging his house, we should be eternally grateful that some, at least, of the album-buying public’s dollars were going on soft folk-pop-rock (or however you want to categorise it) instead of punk.
Besides, anyone who can write ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ and ‘Here Comes the Sun’ will always be all right with me.
Almost finally, another album I never owned, but the single of which seemed to be on every radio that year: Cheap Trick at Budokan. The single, being ‘I Want You To Want Me,’ was, cynically, the typical kind of thing lovelorn teenagers of the time wanted to sing along to, although not generally accompanied by 12,000 screaming Japanese fans.
Interesting factoid about the album: it was one of the first coloured albums to be released as opposed to singles or EPs, on what was described as ‘kamikaze yellow’ vinyl. Not sure how politically correct that was even in 1979.
Anyway, although I had mates that were into them, I never even listened to the album, so far as I can remember. But that annoying earworm of a single….
…and finally, since an instrumental I’ve been working on recently has been compared to Tangerine Dream, a band I’ve definitely heard of, but never knowingly listened to before now, it behoves me to mention they released Force Majeure in the same month. I’m listening to it for the first time as I type this, and it isn’t half bad. So here it is.
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I was disappointed when Cheap Trick kicked out their drummer. How can you get rid of anyone with a name as cool as Bun E. Carlos?