Music Of The Summer Of ’77

Pledging My Love was a hit for Johnny Ace. Johnny Ace is legendary. Many men are called legends, but everyone knows that to truly be one, your story must have ended, and you must be dead. Johnny Ace ended on Christmas Eve, 1954, backstage at his own concert in Texas. He was high on new fame and PCP, playing Russian Roulette. Big Mama Thornton dared him to do it. Or so the legend goes.

Pledging My Love is lyrically a song of devotion. “Forever my darling, I’ll love only you/I’m never far from you, whatever you do.” But sonically, it is mournful and troubling. The words are sung slow and deliberately, the keys belay a funeral procession. They seem to depict the Spectre of Death, and the Love being Pledged is the kind that comes from a dying man, or perhaps a Man already Dead. Love lasts Forever if it cannot be tainted by the circumstances that only the passing of time can bring.

Way Down was released on 45 in June of 1977, from the album Moody Blue. The album had been cobbled together from the few usable tracks from lackadaisical home sessions. The singer was Elvis Presley, and he would not survive the summer. Way Down would be the last release in his lifetime. The B side was his version of Pledging My Love. He was 42.

“Good riddance to bad rubbish!”
-Johnny Rotten, upon hearing of the death of Elvis

Marc Bolan was T.Rex. He received a memorandum in so many words from the NME. It said “Your time is over. Signed, Punk Rock.” Or words to that effect. Marc Bolan symbolized Glam Rock perhaps more than any other. But Punk Rock was the new rage, and outrage. Nothing had hit as hard, upset as many parents, or created the fervor of Punk Rock in England. The Sex Pistols were critical darlings, and music critics in particular found them enthralling. Even more so after Sid Vicious hit one of them in the head with a bike chain.

Marc was almost 30, an old man compared to the teenaged Punk Bands. In the tribal youth culture of England, where third generation Teddy Boys were still cruising around in drapes and crepes chasing Gene Vincent 45s around. As the First Church of Rock & Roll in England, Punks were enemy 1 to the Teds. Everything in between was widely regarded as obsolete. Old news, phony compared to the nihilism of Punk. T.Rex took to the studio and lodged an informal rebuttal.

Celebrate Summer was released on 45 in August of 1977. A steady, driving tune. All about fun, not a nanosecond of anger. ‘Hey little Punk, forget all that junk/and celebrate summer with me.” It would be Marc’s last summer. He died in September, gone off a bridge in a purple mini. He wasn’t driving, his wife was. A premonition of death in a car had kept him from ever learning. The B side was Ride My Wheels. He was 29.

“You’re only 29, you’ve got a lot to learn”
-Seventeen, The Sex Pistols

“Well you’re just seventeen, you’ve got a lot of space between your ears”
-Sheer Heart Attack, Queen

There were few bands that rankled hip critics more than Queen. With carefully constructed and apologetically bombastic concept albums and a frontman who reveled in pomposity, they struck a chord with the record buying public. When Punk happened, the top of the enemy list would logically be Queen. 7 minute epic songs with Opera interludes vs. 3 minute 3 chord thunderblasts. Brian May built his guitar, Steve Jones stole his. Freddie Mercury wore specially designed ballet onesies, Johnny Rotten wore old clothes held together with safety pins, and sometimes literal garbage bags. 

The morning that The Sex Pistols destroyed Bill Grundy’s career on The Today Show, they only got the chance to do so because Queen had cancelled their appearance. Bohemian Rhapsody had just been honored as the top selling single of the last 20 years, and apparently they had better things to do. EMI was the shared label of the 2 bands and they had offered the substitution. Not for long though, EMI would swiftly drop The Pistols as a result of the event, after Karen Carpenter complained.

“Summer is Heaven in ’77”

-Celebrate Summer, Marc Bolan