1977: The Year Punk Broke (Part 1) & Red Kross Review

In part one of our two-part series on the historic year 1977, Jim and Greg explore the punk explosion in the UK with music writer Jon Savage.

main image
Download Subscribe via iTunes

1977 - The Year Punk Broke

This week, Jim and Greg kick off a two-part series about one seminal year in rock history, 1977: The Year Punk Broke. In this episode, they tackle the punk explosion in the U.K. with help from music writer Jon Savage. (Many consider Savage’s England’s Dreaming to be the definitive book on this period.) So what made punk explode in 1977? Jon chalks it up to a whole lot of rubbish pop music - songs like ABBA’s Fernando and Elton John’s Don’t Go Breaking My Heart - that were marketed to kids but failed to address concerns about unemployment, consumerism, and of course, parents and other authority figures. More immediately, there was The Ramones playing their first London gig, and inspiring bands from The Buzzcocks to The Sex Pistols to The Damned. The Sex Pistols were the first to make a splash with their controversial single God Save the Queen, banned across the British media. That Never Mind the Bullocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols was still able to chart, Jon says, demonstrated the muscle of a nascent, independent youth media organized around fanzines and record shops like Rough Trade and Beggar’s Banquet. For those who think all U.K. punk sounded the same, Jon points out some key differences. While The Sex Pistols really had a dark heart, The Clash had the social consciousness of a sixties band. Manchester’s The Buzzcocks were into psychedelia. Regardless of any one band’s take on the genre however, punk’s message was the same. In Jon’s words: Pop music doesn’t have to be something that oppresses you. It can actually liberate you.

Jim and Greg close out 1977 Part One by playing two favorite songs from this year. Greg goes out with The AdvertsOne Chord Wonder. Not only did The Adverts have the best names in punk - T.V. Advert, Gaye Advert, Howard Pickup, and Laurie Driver - they epitomized the genre’s no skill required ethos. Jim goes with the Wire track Ex-Lion Tamer from one of his favorite records of all time, Pink Flag. This quartet of art students not only embodied the punk sound in 1977, they were also looking forward to the possibilities of post-punk.

Researching the Blues Redd Kross

Researching the Blues (Bonus Track Version)

Jim and Greg review Researching the Blues, the new record from California rock veterans Redd Kross. Adopted as the little brothers of L.A.’s hardcore punk scene when they first formed in 1980, Redd Kross always tended more Beach Boys than Black Flag in sound. Their 1990 record Third Eye was a harbinger of later alt-era successes (Nevermind for one), but the band itself never achieved Nirvana-level success and went on hiatus in 1997. Researching the Blues, the band’s first new record in 15 years, reunites the classic lineup of Jeff McDonald, Steve McDonald, Robert Hecker, and Roy McDonald. Both Jim and Greg agree they’re glad to have these boys back. Redd Kross have cut all the fat, Greg says. They get in, give you a great guitar solo and some killer harmonies, and then get out. Past records have been rife with seventies pop-culture references. Greg thinks Redd Kross are taking themselves a bit more seriously this time around, though Jim points out there are still enough kitschy references to Dracula and Frankenstein to keep things light. Researching the Blues gets a double Buy It.

Dear Listeners,

For more than 15 years, Sound Opinions was a production of WBEZ, Chicago's public radio station. Now that the show is independent, we're inviting you to join the band and lend a hand! We need your support more than ever because now we have to do all the behind-the-scenes work that WBEZ handled before (like buying insurance and paying for podcast hosting, ugh). Plus, we have some exciting ideas we'd like to try now that there's no one to tell us no!