Home is I don’t know: Ranking 1979 Pazz & Jop winners

The year when disco went splat had the acts below jiggling in a danse macabre. Credit stagflation, the audience, drugs, and their personal stages, for Talking Heads, Michael Jackson, Marianne Faithfull, Blondie, Van Morrison, and many others went as bonkers as Lindsey Buckingham did on Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk (and he had to ply his bandmates with champagne and caviar). Donna Summer released her third or fourth double album, and, thanks to a pair of indomitable, undeniable #1 singles, the rock-disco fusion essayed on Bad Girls finally won critics over. Did they miss the ballad side? Summer had released at least three albums better than Bad Girls but no matter. Portending a turn in commercial radio as evanescent as the pet rock craze, Get The Knack knocked Summer out of the top spot for its own six-week stay. The album that knocked it out? In Through the Out Door. Followed by The Long Run. The industry plays for keeps, man.

For now, I’ll give the thumbs up to Off The Wall, which boasts enough burps, squeaks, and yelps to satisfy Lene Lovich fans if the mass audience and the Lovich claque had overlapped. Maybe they did: 1979 was like that. It’s not impossible to imagine a Specs Records and Tapes showing off its inaugural “New Wave” section with Get the Knack and Stateless in prominent display.

Let me respond to readers who want me to record new experiences. Familiar with “Lucky Number” and “New Toy,” the guitars lighting lamps in unexplored corners,  the drums taking their cues from Lovich’s exquisite (no other word for the likes of “Telepathy”), I expected a “quirky” New Wave album from Stateless. I got instead a record as surprising as The B-52′s. This is an album I imagine its fans hugging close and loving for the rest of their lives; this is an album deserving a 33 1/3, from which cults emerged.

This may be the last time in these surveys when neither Meh nor The Hague get nominations. Readers will quibble. Elvis Costello and Graham Parker were already squeezing sparks out from increasingly un-fissile stores of revenge. Lived-in, ebullient, and focused like success can do when it hasn’t spoiled you, Pirates is Rickie Lee Jones’ good album, not her fine debut.

Sound, Solid

Iggy Pop – New Values
Joe Jackson – Look Sharp!
Tom Verlaine – Tom Verlaine
David Johansen – In Style
Elvis Costello and the Attractions – Armed Forces
Graham Parker – Squeezing Out Sparks
Rickie Lee Jones – Rickie Lee Jones
Dave Edmunds – Repeat When Necessary

Good to Great

Michael Jackson – Off the Wall
The B-52s – The B-52s
Blondie – Eat to the Beat
Chic – Risque
Neil Young – Rust Never Sleeps
Lene Lovich – Stateless
David Bowie – Lodger
Donna Summer – Bad Girls
Talking Heads – Fear of Music
Fleetwood Mack – Tusk
The Clash – The Clash
Van Morrison – Into the Music
Buzzcocks- Singles Going Steady
Pere Ubu – Dub Housing
Linton Kwesi Johnson – Forces of Victory
Roxy Music – Manifesto
Marianne Faithfull: Broken English
Nick Lowe – Labour of Lust
The Slits – Cut
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers: Damn the Torpedoes
The Roches – The Roches
Neil Young with Crazy Horse – Live Rust

The Jury’s Out

Ry Cooder – Bop ‘Til You Drop
Art Ensemble of Chicago – Nice Guys

3 thoughts on “Home is I don’t know: Ranking 1979 Pazz & Jop winners

  1. Good to see the love for “In Style.” I was impressed at the time with “Swaheto Woman” and how it wore its disco lightly and with grace, unlike so many other rockers who dabbled. But when I got the album, finally, in the mid-90s, I was quite taken with the whole enchilada. A great sounding Mick Ronson production, too.

    The love for Lene Lovich knows no bounds. “Stateless” was a vibrant 1979 classic but I loved the darker “Flex” even more. Her version of “I Think We’re Alone Now” was peerless. I recently got the 1st UK [1978] pressing of “Stateless” for the early versions of the songs that were either re-recorded or at least remixed for U.S consumption a year later. The U.S. didn’t get “Flex” until 1980 [when I first bought a copy] but at least the album was unchanged from the UK 1979 version that time.

  2. Not to mention Lovich was instrumental in co-writingthe garage disco classic “Kiss Me” by Dinosaur Jr.She gets uncredited there.

    “Pirates is Rickie Lee Jones’ good album, not her fine debut”- YEP. Not to mention first loved then whipped. Why= Because it’s glossy, un-new wave, un-punk.. As if THAT is not part of its charm. In these strain times to me, one of the truly albums whose unabashed romanticism, pristine sadness, cinematic scope HEALS me. As if didn’t matter. One of those albums mysteriously didn’t make it into a musical. Even the cover with the lovers on the train station,like a frame tajen from an old Lean movie sells it flawlessly. Out of time. Timeless. Her masterpiece.

    PS: Listening now and breaking apart with “Skeletons”. Because, why not? Crying it’s a mood, too.

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