Ten More Reasons 1978 Was The Best Year In Rock!

As the sequel to Wednesday's article, I began to really take a long hard look at my record collection and, in doing so, feel even more strongly why 1978 is the most creative and musically dominant year in rock. While the '80s as a decade bolstered a musical diversity that is, in hindsight, quite admirable, that same diversity existed in 1978 as corporate rock (which wasn't yet such a derogatory term), blues rock, power pop, new wave, post-punk and disco all peacefully co-existed and we music fans were the better for it. Here's ten great examples:


The Ramones - Road To Ruin

While their previous albums packed quite the caffeinated punch of a band with nothing to lose and still largely oblivious to the magnitude of their own genius, the Ramones' sonic template wasn't truly perfected until the production itself was able to bring as much to the table as the band's performance itself. Enter Ed Stasium, whose engineering work on Leave Home was admirably workmanlike, but whose production of Road To Ruin still stands as the band's finest recorded work and best shot at crossover success.



Additionally, the Ramones came to the sessions with a treasure trove of should-be jukebox hits: "I Wanna Be Sedated", "I Just Wanna Have Something To Do", "Don't Come Close", "I Don't Want You" - hell, you could re-release the album as-is, call it "Greatest Hits" and get absolutely no complaints.


Foreigner - Double Vision

I could go on and on about how this album proved once and for all that their debut, which included "Cold As Ice", "Long, Long Way From Home" and "Feels Like The First Time", had been no fluke. I could also ramble on about how Double Vision was actually the work of a band determined to add more colors to their sonic palette without sacrificing any of the immediacy and how the confidence that came with the success of their debut actually propelled the band, and this album, to greater heights than even they initially imagined.



All that really matters at the end of the day, though, is that this is the album with "Hot Blooded" on it. I mean, sure, the title cut is pretty fly too, but "Hot Blooded" remains one of those songs you have to be a truly dark soul to hate and a complete curmudgeon to resist the desire to bust out the ol' air guitar (mine's a Flying V, by the way) anytime you hear the song in the supermarket or the doctor's office.


Bruce Springsteen - Darkness On The Edge of Town

Never before has success threatened to derail someone's career as it did in the case of Bruce Springsteen. Rebelling against both the massive promotional campaign that his label waged on his behalf in support of 1975's Born To Run and the contractual control of manager Mike Appel, Springsteen began writing songs that explored the dark corners of life, love and liberty in an America that barely resembles the idyllic one portrayed in the movies and on TV.



Adopting a "slow and steady wins the race" methodology, Darkness may have lacked a huge hit single ("Born To Run II"), but still spent 97 weeks on the charts and continues to be a fan favorite. Impressively, many of the songs Springsteen wrote for the record, but ultimately chose to leave off, went on to be hits for other artists like Patti Smith ("Because The Night"), the Pointer Sisters ("Fire"), and Greg Kihn Band ("Rendezvous"), among others.


Ace Frehley - Ace Frehley

In 1978, KISS was still riding high from their breakthrough success of 1975's Alive! as well as the monstrous studio follow-up Destroyer (produced by Bob Ezrin), but we kids were starting to feel the burn as a KISS album seemed be beckoning for our chore money.every six months, it seemed, Due to the diminishing returns of so-so albums like Love Gun and Rock & Roll All Nite, this writer was just a tad hesitant when faced with the prospect of seeing each member of the band release their own coordinated solo album right before Christmas.



Imagine a quiet playground completely free of physical activity, the boys gathered near the monkey bars to compared notes. "Which KISS solo album did you get?" It wasn't even a matter of 'if' you got one, just which one(s) ? Those who got all four were either adored by their parents or rich.

Funny thing is, I can't even remember which solo album I got because once I heard Ace's record blaring from my brother's room, no other album even existed. This came as much of a surprise to me as it does to you seeing this album on this list. Why is it on this list? Because it isn't just the best of the coordinated KISS solo albums, it's the best KISS album, period.


The Cars - The Cars

With powerhouse rock hits like "Good Times Roll", "My Best Friend's Girl", and "Just What I Needed", The Cars was the mainstream new wave template by which a thousand other bands adhered through the '80s. In 1978, though, they (along with Blondie, maybe) they may as well have been from Mars on an American rock scene still led by Aerosmith, Foghat, ZZ Top and "The Nuge".



Thing is, I always thought the hiring of flamboyant rock producer Roy Thomas Baker was a big reason for the album's tightness and no-muss, no-fuss presentation that allowed the songs to essentially sell themselves despite Baker not exactly being known for his restraint.

So when I heard the band's demos for this album and saw that most were nearly identical to the officially-released versions, I was retroactively impressed by Baker's good sense to just hit "record" and get out of the way.


Van Halen - Van Halen

The label's original artwork
It's odd knowing now that Warner Brothers initially considered promoting VH as a proto-new wave band back in late '77, long before new wave was embraced by the mainstream. Like The Cars, which came out four months after VH's debut, everything about Van Halen seems the result of a perfect storm of circumstances that would never be replicated: great batch of songs already in album-ready arrangements, producer smart enough to stay out of their way, and a label smart enough to drop the new wave schtick and let the music sell itself.

From the first gut-rumbling bass throb of "Running With The Devil", a generation of dudes in Camaros (and those who aspired to be) lost their collective minds. One minute, there was no such thing as Van Halen, the next minute it was everywhere and part of the language. You could drop the needle anywhere on that record and hit pay dirt. Additionally, what Eddie Van Halen was doing was re-writing the guitarist's "how to" book for an entire generation.



And talk about a band making a cover their own, Ray Davies should have split writing credit with the band after hearing their complete overhaul of "You Really Got Me". Throw in a little "Jamie's Cryin'", some "Ain't Talkin' Bout Love" and a dab of "Eruption" and what you'll soon have is a party.


The Police - Outlandos d'Amour

What set the Police apart from the many UK new wave acts that tried to infiltrate the U.S. was that none of those bands had a "Roxanne"; you know, a song that sounds unlike anything else on the radio that commands your immediate and complete attention.



Of course, as a kid, I had purchased the album sight-unseen, I could just as easily have bought a Sham 69, Inmates or Fabulous Poodles record that day and been supremely happy, but, with songs like "Can't Stand Losing You", "So Lonely" and "Next To You" waiting to explode from the shrinkwrap, buying this record changed my world.


The Who - Who Are You

Known mostly as the last Who album before Keith Moon's untimely death, the punk movement had thrust its jittery fist in the direction of establishment bands like Led Zep, Pink Floyd and The Who (even as the Pistols covered one of their songs). New material from Zep and Floyd was noticeably absent in '78, but the Who answered the bell in supremely audacious fashion with the release of Who Are You.



With the arrival of punk in the UK, The Who found themselves suddenly lumped in with the "old guard" and many wondered how the band, namely Pete Townshend, would respond. As a response to the movement in question, "Who Are You" (the song) is both an indictment of punk and a sort of challenging self-inventory. As a result, it literally overshadows everything else on the album, which is a shame because "Sister Disco", "Music Must Change", and "Trick of the Light" are standout tracks in their own right.


Various Artists - Thank God Its Friday Soundtrack

Hot on the trail of "Saturday Night Fever"'s stratospheric success, which dominated 1978, came this movie and soundtrack also romanticized the "disco lifestyle", but also acted as the launch pad for Giorgio Moroder's infiltration of the U.S. charts as producer for Donna Summer's "Last Dance", which went to #3 on the pop charts and also won an Academy Award.



The soundtrack is rounded out by other popular hits: Love & Kisses' title theme, which became a Top 40 hit, as well as Cameo's "Find My Way" and the Commodores' "Too Hot Ta Trot", but literally every track on this triple-album is a winner (though my favorite is Marathon's "I Wanna Dance". If you own only two disco albums, make sure this is one of them.


Kraftwerk - The Man-Machine

While it may have seemed unfathomable that an album like Q: Are We Not Men A: We Are DEVO had could originate from an American band, one couldn't help wonder if The Man-Machine had been constructed by an intelligence not of human origin.



Oddly enough, Kraftwerk were no strangers to the US charts, as "Autobahn" had gone Top 40 in 1975 and "Trans Europe Express" had peaked at #67 the same year this album was released, but this album showed the foursome adhering to a strict concept of forever blurring the line between man and machine.

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