Rock Era Limelight: The Prominent Rock Songs Of 1978
via Patti Smith/YouTube
Rock ‘n Roll in Five Songs
The glorious decade of the ’70s was almost coming to a close but there was still an onslaught of unforgettable classics. There were a few hits and misses especially those who tried dabbling with disco – which continued to increase in popularity thanks mostly to Saturday Night Fever‘s soundtrack topping the charts for six weeks. Still, that doesn’t mean rock was already cast aside. On the contrary, many rockers churned out hits that transcend time and generation, songs that made traditionalists drool with excitement.
From Van Halen to Dire Straits, they dropped their debut albums and announced their arrival in a spectacular fashion. Let’s check out those tracks that defined this year.
5. Van Halen – “Runnin’ With The Devil”
The second single off their eponymous debut album, some people thought this song was satanic – no surprise there, though. Interestingly, the blare of car horns at the beginning of the song was Gene Simmons’ idea, this KISS member was the one who basically discovered Van Halen and they even did demos for him including Runnin’ with the Devil. Anyway, it was fairly easy for VH to record this and they didn’t have to employ numerous tricks in the studio. Although it didn’t crack the top 20 in the US and UK, this became one of their most enduring songs.
4. The Rolling Stones – “Miss You”
The Rolling Stones were one of those rock acts who wanted to keep up with the trend. Not everyone was excited about it, some thought it was a departure from the Stones’ sound that they loved. Even with the disco elements though, it still sounded so much like the Stones no matter what the haters say. Although Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood claimed that Miss You wasn’t originally conceived as a disco song, Keith Richards argued that it “was a damn good disco record; it was calculated to be one.” Nevertheless, it topped the US Billboard Hot 100 and was also a hit in several countries.
3. Dire Straits – “Sultans of Swing”
Written by Mark Knopfler, he wasn’t too thrilled with it at first and even thought it was “dull.” He initially got the idea after going to the club and witnessing a lousy performance from a jazz band. Sultans of Swing was one of the songs that landed them a record deal and it also became the highlight of their debut album. Knopfler recalls, “As soon as I bought my first Strat in 1977, the whole thing changed, though the lyrics remained the same. It just came alive as soon as I played it on that ’61 Strat which remained my main guitar for many years and was basically the only thing I played on the first album and the new chord changes just presented themselves and fell into place.”
2. Patti Smith – “Because The Night”
This is the song that helped Smith break into mainstream. It’s also one of her most popular tracks. It was actually Bruce Springsteen who started writing this back in 1976 but he struggled with the verses. Engineer Jimmy Iovine suggested that he give it to Smith. Smith finished the song, recorded it, and she finally had her first big hit. She was hesitant to use someone else’s song at first but eventually came around to working on it. She told Billboard, “In the end, we were a good match for that particular song. I could have never written a song like that. I’d never write a chorus like that.”
1. Cheap Trick – “Surrender”
Taken off their third studio album Heaven Tonight, the Rolling Stone magazine called it “the ultimate Seventies teen anthem” and it’s just fitting. It didn’t crack the top 20 but it became popular. And it was even featured in several films. Cheap Trick ‘s drummer Bun E. Carlos said, “We had that track back in 1975. We used to rehearse in the basement of Rick [Nielsen]’s dad’s music shop on Seventh Avenue in Rockford, Illinois. As soon as I heard it, I thought it was a really interesting lyric.”