Okay, okay already – so I missed a month! Plus this month is going to be super busy on music projects of my own, so here, in brief, is the cream of the crop from July and August:
Rust Never Sleeps was a live album that wasn’t entirely live, with overdubs added and audience noise taken out. The title was Young’s concept of an artist avoiding complacency.
I’d be lying if I said I was a Neil Young aficionado, but I do remember listening to this and being pretty impressed. Perhaps more relevantly, it got rave reviews at the time, and seems to have aged well critically.
Disco was frowned upon by Serious Rock Fans like me at that age. Except to the extent it allowed you to dance next to actual girls.
…whereas AC/DC, not so much. Wikipedia has a great story about the making of the album: it’s fair to say that the lads weren’t over keen on the first producer the record label tried to get them to use instead of their brother George and Harry Vanda: they told him not to come in one Saturday and, while he was off, they sneaked into the studio, recorded six songs, and sent off a demo to their preferred option, Mutt Lange.
This was to be Forfar-born Bon Scott’s last album with the band before he died, either of choking on his own vomit Hendrix-style or a heroin overdose, in February 1980. The rest of the group briefly considered disbanding before recruiting a new singer and recording their classic, Back in Black.
Moving into August, on the 10th Michael Jackson released Off the Wall, a breakaway from his work with the ‘family business,’ the Jackson 5. I doubt I paid much attention to it at the time, but hits like ‘Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough,’ and ‘Rock with You,’ were the start of Jackson’s long climb into solo superstardom. Having Quncy Jones as your producer and Paul McCartney as one of your songwriters probably didn’t hinder.
Whatever. I would have been much more receptive to Led Zeppelin’s final studio album, In Through The Out Door, although not so much with the politics of English rock stars being tax exiles and recording their album, bizarrely, in Abba’s studios in Stockholm. Mind you, that was when the upper tax band in the UK was proper stinging!
Like the Jackson album, in retrospect this record is coloured slightly by what happened after: Bonham was addicted to booze, Page to heroin, so most of the songwriting was done by Robert Plant and John Paul Jones. Like Bon Scott, Bonham was to check out the following year.
It’s tempting at this point to make Randy Newman’s largely forgotten album Born Again the final choice (he apparently said said he thought the album ‘was great and would create a big stir. I was looking forward to it coming out so much that I didn’t fly any small planes before it was released,’ but public and critics sadly disagreed, not getting the jokes) but I suppose I have to feature another American songwriter who was busy being born again.
Yea, I say unto you, His Bobness (for it was he) released the first of his explicitly Christian albums, Slow Train Coming. In late 1978 Dylan had encountered his Saviour in a Tucson hotel room, and, whether influenced by the poor reviews he’d had for the Budokan live album, Street Legal, and the recently released film of his Rolling Thunder tour, Renaldo and Clara, (the first two unfairly in my humble opinion, the movie not so much) he set off on a new track.
For young lefties like me, born-again Christianity was associated with right-wing Americans and a certain Ronald Reagan who was to be elected President in 1981. To be fair, whatever you thought of the lyrics, Dylan did his best to get a great-sounding record, hiring Jerry Wexler to produce, and a certain young hopeful Mark Knopfler to play guitar on it, and recording it down at Muscle Shoals. Musically, it’s superb.
On tour, the hecklers got louder. The sermons got longer. I started to listen to Bruce Springsteen much more. He was singing about busting out of that small town you grew up in. I was getting ready to do just that.
See, I hit the return button to push all the adverts down here. Doesn’t work if you’re reading this on the phone