In the autumn of 1977, a most unlikely star made his big breakthrough on the UK music scene. A jerky and energetic man sporting Buddy Holly spectacles, Elvis Costello was to make regular appearances on Top of The Pops over the next couple of years. The power in most of his musical arrangements was immediate, but lyrically, this was a man who was a cut above. Spewing more sneering puns than anyone would likely hear on hit singles until Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine would make their breakthrough in 1989, Elvis cut a very distinctive presence.
In just two short years, Zwan demoed and recorded a huge amount of material. Whether in their electric format (The True Poets of Zwan) or stripped back and more acoustic driven (Djali Zwan), the Billy Corgan-fronted project showed a great depth and inventiveness.
Always a prolific writer, with Zwan, Corgan occasionally showed off his power pop influences (‘Lyric’, ‘Yeah’) alongside expansive prog rock indulgences (‘Jesus I/Mary Star of the Sea’). While not always championed by everyone, this varied approach to material ensured Zwan’s only studio album remains a thrilling listening experience years after the event.
Looking back, the three years between the disco and pop oriented sounds of 1976 and the majestic jumble of influences that fill 1979 are a huge gulf. By 1979, disco was on it’s last legs, punk had firmly given airtime to what we now think of as new wave and the pop music of the day was about as strong as it had been since 1975.
1977 saw a change on the UK music front as punk made a fairly grand entrance. It wasn’t the giant new broom that revisionists will have you believe, as disco and pop still had a strong grip and the prog rock bands remained a fixture in the album charts.
Perhaps the greatest thing the punk movement brought was the idea that such energy could be used to create great three minute songs. In 1978, utilising the energies of punk and a firm grasp of radio friendly pop choruses, bands like Blondie and The Jam went from strength to strength.
On December 1st 1976, UK TV history was made. On Bill Grundy’s Today show, the Sex Pistols and a couple of their associated chums shocked a nation. Their behavior was quickly seen as inappropriate for most of the 1970s public and by the time their interview concluded with Steve Jones calling Grundy “a fucking rotter”, things had moved from merely “inappropriate” to “causing outrage”.