Slade, Nazareth, Blue Oyster Cult, Status Quo, Nick Gilder and Golden Earring, just to name a few, released decent but overlooked hard rock albums in 1979 and yeah, sure, I could tell you about those, but my goal is to make this a list of albums that most visitors to this site will probably not be familiar with but should give a good listen, which is why this list is made up almost entirely of power pop and/or punk rock releases. The reality is that in 1979 the best obscure stuff coming out was the power pop and/or punk stuff. And yes, bands like The Jam and The Undertones are not necessarily obscure, but I’m guessing that most of the people who read this will not have sought these records out. If you give the songs linked to below a listen please let me know what you think in the Comments section at the bottom of the page! Enjoy. (the list continues! Check out 21-30 here.)
19. The Carpettes – Frustration Paradise
The Carpettes formed in 1977 when a band made up of three school chums called Brown Sugar decided to evolve from seventies rock to punk and in so doing changed the band’s name. They signed to legendary indie label Beggar’s Banquet in 1979 and released this, their first LP, that same year. They were closer to a punk band but got swallowed up by the Mod movement sweeping the UK at the time. The band would release one more album, Fight Amongst Yourselves, before breaking up in 1981. Check out the catchy “I Don’t Mean It.”
18. Starjets – God Bless The Starjets
16. Joe Jackson – I’m The Man
Joe Jackson hit paydirt with “Is She Really Going Out With Him” from his debut album, Look Sharp, but that song was not very indicative of the rock sound of most of the rest of the album, just ask Anthrax, who famously covered the album’s last song, “Got The Time.” Jackson’s second record, I’m The Man, was a direct sequel to Look Sharp, and just as good. My favorite is “Don’t Wanna Be Like That,” a great rocker, check it out.
15. Dwight Twilley – Twilley
Dwight Twilley’s first single, “I’m On Fire,” was a top 20 hit in 1975 but the follow-up “Shark,” which he even performed on American Bandstand, was infamously shelved by the record company in fear that it would be judged a novelty song simply meant to cash in on the massive success of the film Jaws at the time. Twilley’s first two albums were credited to the Dwight Twilley Band, which was essentially just Twilley and fellow genius Phil Seymour. Twilley was Dwight’s first solo release, meaning without Phil Seymour, who would release an amazing album of his own in 1980.
Dwight Twilley – Darlin’
Dwight Twilley – Nothing’s Ever Gonna Change So Fast
14. Brakes – For Why You Kicka My Donkey
Brakes formed in London in 1977-1978 and signed with Epic Records, who released their one and only album, the oddly titled For Why You Kicka My Donkey, in 1979. If anyone can tell me where that album title comes from I’ll send you a prize, because I haven’t a clue. It’s a great record. Mod, punk, power pop–who knows, all of the above. There is not a lot of info about the ba
nd online, but be sure to check out my favorite song from the record, “Blame It On The Brakes.”
13. The Heats – Have An Idea
The Heats formed in Seattle in 1978 as The Heaters but shortened it when they discovered that a band from California had already laid claim to the name. The band’s killer debut single, “I Don’t Like Your Face,” sold 18,000 copies locally (the Puget Sound area), which helped convince Heart guitarist Howard Leese to produce the band’s full length album, Have An Idea. I scored my copy of the LP for one dollar at a huge flea market outside Houston, TX. You can hear the awesome title track (and more) below.
Zones was made up of 3/4 of the Scottish bubblegum band Slik, who wore fifties-style baseball uniforms and had a number one hit in the UK in 1976 with “Forever and Ever.” The fourth Slik member was Midge Ure, who would join Steve Jones in his post-Pistols band Rich Kids, serve a short stint on guitar with Thin Lizzy, and eventually join Ultravox. The other three dudes from Slik decided to toughen up their image and sound for their new band, Zones. They released a couple punky singles and a cool full length album called Under Influence, which culminates in brilliant final song, “Mourning Star.”
11. Off Broadway – On
Off Broadway were a Chicago power pop band that signed with Atlantic Records in 1979 and had a minor radio hit with “Stay In Time.” The band’s debut album, On, almost cracked the Top 100, stalling at 101. It’s a really good power pop record, Enuff Z’Nuff actually sound more like Off Broadway than Cheap Trick. The second single released from the album, “Bad Indication,” was much better than the first single.
10. Eddie and the Hot Rods – Thriller
Eddie and the Hot Rods started out as a pub rock band but in 1976 they released what is considered to be one of the earliest punk singles, “Teenage Depression.” They then reinvented themselves again when Graeme Douglas of Kursaal Flyers joined, releasing the power pop classic Life on the Line
, which is a much revered record but I think the band’s third album, Thriller (so-called years before Michael Jackson used the title) is just as good.
The second Scottish band on the list, Fingerprintz are one of my favorite bands of the era. They were signed to Virgin and released a few singles before recording their full length debut, The Very Dab, which they produced themselves. It’s a good record but in 1980 the band would release one of my favorite albums of all time, Distinguishing Marks, which was exquisitely produced by Nick Garvey of the Motors. That record is full on power pop but The Very Dab vacillates between punk and new wave. “Tough Luck” and “Hey Mr. Smith” are probably my favorite songs on the record.
8. The Only Ones – Even Serpents Shine
The Only Ones formed in 1976, originally calling themselves England’s Glory. They are most famous for the timeless classic “Another Girl, Another Planet” from their self-titled debut but their second record, Even Serpents Shine, is an even better album. The band managed to eek out one last LP, Baby’s Got a Gun, before singer Peter Perrett, quite possibly a genius, left the music business to pursue a full time career in drug addiction, resurfacing sporadically to remind us all of what might have been.
7. The Jam – Setting Sons
“Mod” was a sub-genre of punk/new wave that sprang up in England in the late seventies. The mod sound was punky but with a significant sixties influence. Mod fashion on the other hand was the antithesis of punk, in fact many mod bands, including The Jam, wore suits and ties on stage. The Jam were a brilliant band and massively unsuccessful in the UK, releasing 18 consecutive top 40 singles in just five years, but they had almost zero mainstream exposure in the United States. Setting Sons was the band’s fourth record and an aborted concept album.
The Undertones were an Irish pop punk band (the second on our list). They originally formed in 1975 and their 1979 debut album made it to number 13 on the UK album charts (their second album would hit the top ten). They are perhaps best known for their 1978 debut single, “Teenage Kicks,” which was not included on the original May 1979 release of the album but was added to a re-release in October of 1979. The band’s second single, “Get Over You,” was also included on the October issue of the album.
5. Skids – Scared To Dance
Skids, the third Scottish band on our list, played their first gig in August of 1977. They signed with Virgin in 1978 and Scared To Dance, their debut album, would hit the top twenty in the UK the next year. The single “Into the Valley” would even crash the top ten. They were a great band, releasing two more excellent albums before guitarist Stuart Adamson (R.I.P.) left to form his own group, the even better Big Country.
4. Numbers – Add Up
Toronto based power pop band the Numbers were the first band signed to the Attic Records’ offshoot Basement Records. Their debut album, Add Up, was produced by GGGarth Richardson (minus the extra G’s at the time), who would become a big deal producer in the nineties (Blah Against The Machine and others). The record is great all the way through but the lead off track, “Sideways Elevator,” is an absolutely infectious rocker–resistance is futile! The band would change their name to Hot Tip (some kind of legal maneuvering) for their second album, Stop All Motion, released in 1981.
2. The Damned – Machine Gun Etiquette
Machine Gun Etiquette was the Damned’s third album but the first after a quasi-breakup and founding guitarist Brian James’ departure, which was quite the blessing in disguise. The Damned made history with their punk debut, Damned Damned Damned but their second album, Music For Pleasure, was a real stinker. Without James they were able to reinvent themselves. Bassist Captain Sensible switched to guitar and they made an amazing record, far and away their best and one of the best albums of the era. The first song, “Love Song,” is absolutely brilliant. Hell, the whole record is great.
1. The Beat – The Beat
There once was a band called The Nerves, a power trio which consisted of Jack Lee on guitar, Peter Case on bass, and Paul Collins on drums. They independently released an absolutely brilliant four song EP in 1976, Jack wrote and sang two songs and Peter and Paul each wrote and sang one. Jack Lee’s “Hangin’ On The Telephone” would later be a hit for Blondie. Peter Case would go on to front The Plimsouls, most famous for their song “A Million Miles Away.” Nerves drummer Paul Collins would step out from behind the kit to front his own band, The Beat. That band’s debut, released by Columbia in 1979, is stunningly good, almost every song is fantastic. Check out my three faves below.