1977 at a glance:
- George H W Bush, ends term as 11th director of CIA
- Kiss play their first concert in Madison Square Garden (NYC)
- New Orleans' Pete Maravich sets NBA record for a guard with 68 pts
- "Eight is Enough" premieres on ABC-TV
- Fleetwood Mac's "Rumours" album goes to #1 & stays #1 for 31 weeks
- Alex Haley, author of "Roots", awarded Pulitzer Prize
- Patty Hearst let out of jail
- "Beatlemania" opens on Broadway
- Cheryl Ladd replaces Farrah Fawcett on Charlie's Angels
I was twenty-one and twenty-two years old in 1977
1977 brought some hot music and great movies. My new musical discoveries were Thin Lizzy, AC/DC, Pat Travers, Status Quo and Moxy. Movies were great too, but nothing was as long awaited or sensational as Steven Spielberg's "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." The wierd 6-note extraterrestrial signal tune was hummed by everybody, along of course, with the hand signals.
By summer I decided to leave my job at Rol-A-Way after a 3-year stint. Damn me, for my heart was no longer in sheet metal. For a bit, I was aimless not knowing what I wanted to do. After a few months I went back to my art. Thinking it would be cool, I even cut myself so I could sign a particular piece in blood. and decided to dive head first into art school. I enrolled in the winter term in 1978. The summer of 1977 was one of the hottest on record with temperatures exceeding 100 degrees.
The Portland Trailblazers took the championship and the whole city was in wild celebration. Power forward Maurice "Luke" Lucas (February 18, 1952 - October 31, 2010) was an incredible player. Bill Walton, another Blazer with a dynamite rep was also a serious Dead head, traveled with the band for their famous Egypt concert, and attended more than 650 Dead shows. He was finally awarded an induction into The Grateful Dead Hall of Honor.
The boogie-rock riffs of rock and roll were not business as usual when it came to one particular band. The summer of 1977 found me hooked on the group Status Quo. I'm not sure why they hit me so strong, but they did. Their brand of boogie-force was so clean, so tight, and so exemplary of just getting down, that I couldn't quit listening to them. To this day these guys hold a high position in my musical archives as the greatest boogie band in the world. Nobody rocked like Status Quo; (You can YouTube them yourself and see what I mean).
I bought album after album, each one better than the first. The blazing guitar duo of Rick Parfitt and Steve Rossi became a formidable rock force that drove the band. Also, the two became very close friends and have played together for years, and continue to do so. Amazingly, as adults, they barely look any different. Both guitarists are thin, long-haired, and from a distance look just as they did in 1977! Up close you can see some wrinkles, but life must have been good to them because they're in great shape. These guys have been rocking for over 50 years! How many of us can claim that these days?
Status Quo brings me to another topic: Rock Critics. Though a lot of music critics poo-pooed their stuff, it took me a long time to realize that music critics are nothing but influence peddlers. They're paid to keep publications popular, and in reading reviews, I was never swayed by bad ones. To me, the critics were missing the point constantly, analyzing things they shouldn't have focused on, and in fact, were just plain wrong most of the time! The live double set is good--not dynamite--but good, with a real interesting cover of The Door's "Roadhouse Blues." These guys are still at it, looking older with long gray ponytails, and some wrinkles, but other than that, they barely look any different than in their early days. A tribute to their kick-ass rock n' roll style, I would have to assume the reason they're in such great shape is because they just rock on constantly!
During a time in my life when newer guitar heroes were needed, I happened to be in Muisc Millennium just in time to hear a "now playing" album by a then unknown to me guitarist named Pat Travers The album was called "Makin' Magic and it was super hot! By 1979, I was a fully blown Pat Travers fan, and managed to get his autograph on a portrait I'd done of him. The only thing that really troubled me about Pat, was that each album was radically different from the one before. Much like the band Lucifer's Friend you never knew what you were going to get once you put the record on the turntable. It wasn't until I was much older that I became more adept at guitar, and learned some of the mysterious ancient secrets. However, in those great days of the 70's, guitar heroes were my true heroes indeed.
Who's That Girl?!
1977 was the year that a true WOW appeared on the cover of the newly released Fleetwood Mac album "Rumours". That album was my introduction to the blonde bombshell with the angel voice and catchy name of Stevie Nicks. As it turned out, Stevie was quite the songwriter and had a great singing style. Her song "Landslide" is one of the most incredible songs I've ever heard. The infamously missing-in-action B-side tune "Silver Springs" is likewise an outstanding piece of music. Eventually, Stevie moved on to an even more dynamic career, and besides being drop-dead gorgeous, she turned out best-selling albums on her own. Stevie Nicks had become a viable force in female rock. But hearkening back to that summer of 1977, I could not lift my eyes from the back cover photo of the "Rumours" album.
Big Hair, Big Movies
Tease, twist, tangle and blow-dry blast! The big hair queen herself, Farah Fawcett launched an indelible fashion statement as strong and provocative as The Beatles' cuts. In doing so, she stole the hearts of just about every American male when "Charlie's Angels" debuted. As it turned out later, Farrah was actually a decent actress who could deliver some serious performances. The "Farrah Mane" became on of the most imitated women's hairstyles of the late 70's. Farrah never really floated my boat, but most of the guys I knew thought she was the goods. Oddly enough, I've never seen an episode of "Charlie's Angels," as the show never interested me. I loved undercover cop shows, but the prancing of 3 hotties on prime time television never worked for me. I was never against females as undercover cops, it was just that they didn't seem believable. Julie on the Mod Squad seemed believable, but for some reason, "Charlie's Angels" didn't. Big hair became a style for not only women, but men too. Long-haired guys were now starting to fluff, mousse, and curl.
Major and minor Hollywood releases left an unforgettable mark on the decade. Blockbusters like "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and "Star Wars" left permanent marks. Burt Reynolds was up to his usual good ol' boy standards with "Smokey and The Bandit", a film that launched the 70's CB craze. "The Deep" made Jacqueline Bisset's T-shirts a viable commodity, but the film was pure pablem especially since movie goers expected something great considering that another Peter Benchley novel had been filmed.
Unforgettable imagery either delighted us, or scarred our brains forever with entries such as "Eraserhead" and the equally disturbing "Equus", a film about a disturbed young man who blinded six horses with a metal spike. The latter film however, did feature a lovely - and necessary nude scene from the ever-radiant Jenny Agutter. That alone made the price of admission worthwhile.
Farewell to the King.
There is a literal universe of things that should be said about Elvis Presley.The king changed the face of rock n' roll culture that became a permanent condition, and inspired legions. He presents as a time gone by, when the world was happier, swingin', rockin' and full of life. To see his face stirs a sadness in me for the things that have been forgotten, or are no longer important in the eyes of some today. His death in 1977 came as a crushing blow to the Elvis world. August 16, 1977, on the eve of yet another tour, Presley was found dead on his bathroom floor. The amount of drugs he'd been consuming was so profound that he suffered liver damage and an enlarged colon, plus was afflicted with extreme paranoia. His tours before that had suffered miserably, and loyal fans were expressing outrage and disappointment over his lackluster performances, short sets, and fumbling speech.
The pressures upon people like Elvis take their toll. For some, the legends continue, for others, they are found only in our memories. Elvis is no longer a first name, but a signature that will endure time. The collage I created above is how I care to remember him; young, tough, vibrant, and an incredible performer.
In the winter of 1977 I decided to branch out into pipes and cigars. I developed quite a taste for each, and they soon became my favorite thing. I used to buy all of my stuff at a place called The Tinder Box at Mall 205. My favorite pipe tobacco was a nice light flavor called "Polish Pleasure". My second favorite was "Aalborg", a Swedish cherry blend, and "Norse Gold", a very rich buttery-flavor blend. There was also a deep black vanilla blend, which I believe was called "Midnight Black". My favorite cigars were Henry Winterman's. They were thin and small, and had an excellent taste. To this day, the one vice that I truly miss is a good cigar.
Probably the greatest landmark of 70's television would have to be the 1977 mini-series "Roots." America knew something big was coming, but just how big the program was was astonishing. The program was nominated for 36 Emmy awards and won 9 making it one of television's biggest splashes ever. The show, to say the least, became a major sociological event, and bookmarked the 70's. Roots was probably the most-watched program of 1977, and certainly laid to rest any fear that networks should have had.
The Museum of Broadcast Communications recounts the apprehensions that Roots would flop, and how this made ABC prepare the format: "Familiar television actors like American actor Lorne Greene were chosen for the white, secondary roles, to reassure audiences. The white actors were featured disproportionately in network previews. For the first episode, the writers created a conscience-stricken slave captain (Ed Asner), a figure who did not appear in Haley's novel but was intended to make white audiences feel better about their historical role in the slave trade. Even the show's consecutive-night format allegedly resulted from network apprehensions. ABC programming chief Fred Silverman hoped that the unusual schedule would cut his network's imminent losses--and get Roots off the air before sweeps week.
I guess they figured wrong. Television should have learned its queue from the stylish movies that Hollywood produced in the 70's. Again, newer foundations were being laid; bold experimentation was becoming the new norm; television should have followed suit. If ABC was so apprehensious, then why do the movie to begin with? If they were to make a movie of a controversial subject, why be so cowardly about the production? Had ABC learned nothing about bold, innovative moves from its previously successful "Kung Fu"? With Kung Fu every conventional rule of the popular western television show was broken. Yet the show skyrocketed.
OYY! IT'S AC/DC!
Okay, let's talk. I can think of relatively few bands that had such a powerful fist-in-the-jaw impact that AC/DC had. They took an old style, turned it upside down and shook the dust out it to create their own brand of hard, raunchy, powerful schoolboy rock. AC/DC was a sublime discovery for me in 1977. I bought the album on the advice of a co-worker, and immediately fell in love with the band--and--that first cover! If you were in a bad mood, you were out of it after the first track plays through. AC/DC was a surge of electricity that practically blew the 70's away with one hard strum. Their style of grinding 3-chord rock was nothing new, but they did it with a more deliberate force, and an extremely clean technique. Guitarist Angus Young was a superb musician with better than average skills and licks. Even more superb was his "school boy" dress code which became an icon of 70's rock and roll. AC/DC had the parental fear factor and nasty presence that the Rolling Stones had, complete with their dangerous-looking-- sounding front man Bon Scott. The band has left its mark no doubt, but for any die-hard fans, this first album, and the album "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap are AC/DC hall of fame LP's.