Best Songs of 1978

Quite often I will listen to a song and remind myself when it was released by looking it up, I will then have a look to see what was released that same year and somehow end up making a list which results in a top xx of that year, this time it’s 82 tracks but if you would like to make it a round 100, give me another 18 songs! For reference, I was 11/12 in ’78. The vast majority of these songs were UK singles but I’ve thrown a couple of others in just because I can. So here goes (There is a spotify playlist at the bottom):

82 – Again and Again – Status Quo
I had the album this was taken from, ‘If you can’t Stand The Heat’, and this was pretty much the only decent song on it. Well, that’s not entirely fair, but this was the lead single and opening track and was the highlight of the album.

81 – Please Don’t Touch – Steve Hackett
I wasn’t that big on purely instrumental tracks back in 1978 but with Hackett being ex Genesis I gave this one a listen and liked it.

80 – Never Say Die – Black Sabbath
This was a very different Black Sabbath which reminds me more of the later Ozzy solo work than the Sabbath that had preceeded it, this initial incarnation of the band was probably on its last legs by now, which might explain it.

79 – Rush – Circumstances
I’m not sure this was ever a single but I’m pretty sure The Trees, taken from the same Hemispheres album, was and in my opinion this song is much better. I still find myself occasionally singing it in my head.

All the same
We take our chances
Laughed at by time
Tricked by circumstances
Plus ca change
Plus c’est la meme chose
The more that things change
The more they stay the same.

A odd lyric really as the two lines of French are translated into English in the following two lines.

78 – Don’t Kill The Whale – Yes
This is not my favourite Yes song taken from not my favourite Yes album, however, I still kinda like it. As a kid I would go to the local market and there was a record stall there which had this 7″ single and I would often pick it up, think about buying it and then not bother.

77 – Lucky Number – Lena Lovich
This period was a time of transition for me, moving into new musical areas such as indie and punk having previously been firmly in, what we now call, the Classic Rock camp. Singles were much more important as I was now buying them and could rarely afford to buy an album based on one song. This song was originally a B-side (of a cover of ‘I Think We’re Alone Now’, the same one covered by Tiffany) and was later released as an A-side. I had assumed it was also a cover, but it wasn’t.

76 – Oh What A Circus – David Essex
This might seem like a odd choice from me but it was huge at the time and was on the radio all the time so it buried into my flesh somewhat. It’s a song from the Evita soundtrack and appeared on his album ‘Imperial Wizard’, which is actually pretty good.

75 – Forever Autumn – Jeff Wayne
I loved War of The Worlds and this song, with the Richard Burton narrationn is great, sung as it is by the Moody Blues Justin Hayward. It was a hit single at the time and I can’t remember if we bought the album as a result of the song or already had it. I still listen to it fairly regularly all these years later.

74 – Every Day I Die – Tubeway Army
Taken from the first Tubeway Army album which was to be a standard guitar bass and drums affair but somebody left one of those new fangled synths in the studio and it changed the course of Gary Numans career and life.

73 – Because the Night – Patti Smith
I later played this song in a band I was in. It’s an odd one to me as it is a sort of straight ahead rock song and not what I thought Patti Smith was about at all.

72 – Angels with dirty faces – Sham 69
I used to love Sham 69 to the point that listening to a bootleg tape of a live gig that could have been almost anybody if it wasn’t for the occasional muffled ‘Hurry ‘up Harry’. The strange thing to me is that a lot of these punk songs that are supposed to be anti-everything, sound like really good pop songs now.

71 – Run for home – Lindisfarne
I’ve mentioned recently that, for a number of reasons, I rather like Lindisfarne and this track is probably one of their most accessible.

70 – 5-7-0-5 – City Boy
I used to hear this song on the radio a lot but never knew who it was. A few years ago I was at the Shakespeares Birth place visitors centre ad this song was being played in the gift shop on the radio, which is when I found out who it was, it’s a great pop song.

69 – Killing an Arab – The Cure
I’m pretty sure I didn’t hear this song until 1982, which made me late to The Cure I guess, but that’s OK. I had the 1980 compilation ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ at some point, which I just listened to again. It’s very good.

68 – Being Boiled – Human League
A friend of mine had this in his box of singles and, at the time, it sounded really very odd, but I liked it. Listening to it more recently I can see that it was a pretty groundbreaking sound, which they weren’t alone in creating but were in amongst the first.

67 – September – Earth, Wind & Fire
It’s a great song, ’nuff said.

66 – Rock Lobster – B-52’s
I discovered this long after the fact, probably in 1984, or around that time at least and bought their first album on cassette as a result. Although they are somewhat normalized now, that first album was some crazy shit, but great crazy shit.

65 – Dreadlock Holiday – 10cc
This was a huge hit of course and it is very catchy. Obviously there’s cultural appropriation and all that going on here, but in music this is how it works. Most modern music is a mish mash of multiple cultures, so that’s ok.

64 – Whole Wide World – Wreckless Eric
I don’t know where I first heard this and had forgotton about it completly until a couple of years ago when I was watching the ‘Stiff Tour’ film on youtube and Eric got up on stage and sang this song, which I somehow knew really well, it bugs me still that I don’t know why. Regardless, cracking song.

63 – Mr Blue Sky – ELO
Everybody knows this one don’t they? It would probabaly be higher up but I’ve heard it so many times that its attraction has paled for me somewhat. I still find myself singing along if it comes on the radio though.

62 – Right Down The Line – Gerry Rafferty
I remember waiting for the record shop to open (it was one of those shops that sold record players, hoovers and other electrical equipment and had a small record section) to buy a Gerry Rafferty 7″ single, can’t remember which one it was though, it may have been this. Is he underated? probably as most of his work is overshadowed by Baker Street, but this is a great single in and of itself.

Having thought about it, I think I queued for ‘Get it right next time’ from the Night Owl album.

61 – Rat Trap – Boomtown Rats
There was a period where I thought the Boomtown Rats were amazing and I fully expected them to have a career on the scale of U2, that is until they stopped being good, which didn’t take long. After this they released ‘I don’t like Mondays’, their 6th single and the last thing that was ever worth listeing to. Shame really.

60 – Substitute – Clout
I don’t know why I like this as it feels like a song that one might put on a Guilty Pleasures compilation, but I like, so that’s that, I can’t help it.

59 – Ca Plane Pour Moi – Plastic Bertrand
I’m pretty sure I had this 7″ and loved it. It’s in French and I have never bothered looking for a translation as it’s the energy of it I like I think, it doesn’t matter at all what he is singing about.

58 – Denis – Blondie
I didn’t kow that this was a cover version but it wouldn’t have mattered to me then or now, in 1978 Blondie could do no wrong. The original was by Randy and the Rainbows, just in case you were interested and it was, well, a bit different.

57 – Stayin Alive – Bee Gees
The Bee Gees were huge in 77/78 of course, with Saturday Night Fever being such a massive success. I listened to the whole soundtrack many times but, for me, this is the best song on it and the only one I give any time to now.

56 – James & The Cold Gun – Kate Bush
Probably my favourite song from the Kick Inside album, which is one of the greatest debut albums ever by the way. I think I like it so much now because of the songs it sits amongst and because I paid it less attention at the time.

55 – Le Freak – Chic
Well how could one not, especially with the resurgence of the Nile Rodgers guitar sound with artists such as Daft Punk bringing it back to public attention.

54 – Tommy Gun – The Clash
I played this on 7″ a lot, even though I didn’t own the record. I would go to other peoples houses and play their copy repeatedly. I may have been quite annoying, I’m not sure, I didn’t really notice.

53 – Kentucky Avenue – Tom Waits
I really like Waits, and this song from this album in particular (Blue Valentine) but I do appreciate he is not to everybodys taste, that’s ok though, they are allowed to be wrong.

52 – Take Me Im Yours – Squeeze
While I heard the Squeeze singles as they were released it took me a long time to appreciate quite how good they were and I think that’s because I heard, and liked, ‘Cool for Cats’ first and expected everythig else to be just like that.

51 – Milk & Alcohol – Dr Feelgood
I still find myself humming this now and again. It’s the only track of theirs I’ve ever listened to as far as I can recall. I think that, despite beig described as Pub Rock, this particular track bled into the punk/post punk/new wave scene rather by accident. Wiclo Johnson on guitar of course.

50 – D.I.Y – Peter Gabriel
Taken from Gabriel’s second solo album after splitting with Genesis, this single didn’t trouble the charts at all, except in France where it reached number 55. The rest of the world ignored it. Which is a shame.

49 – Davy’s on the road again – Manfred Mann
I feel as though this was on the radio all the time back in ’78 and as a result it has burrowed into my subconcious, just through repetition. Listening to it again now it isn’t actually as good as it was in my memory.

48 – Germ free adolescents – X-Ray Spex
I saw this for the first time on Top of the Pops and it was part of a spirit of change that seemed to be infiltrating music. I loved it. It had that D.I.Y feel about it but was still a catchy tune.

47 – I love the sound of breaking glass – Nick Lowe
Another radio friendly song that I heard a lot but with the added kudos of Lowe’s involvemet with Stiff records.

46/45 – One Way Or Another / Hanging on the Telephone – Blondie
This was a hell of a year for Blondie, especially in my world. It seemed as though they were a hit single factory and I was enraptured by pretty much anything they released. One way or another wasn’t released as a single until ’79 but it was on Parallel Lines so I’d already heard it a lot. I also had no idea until many years later that Hanging on the Telephone was a cover of a song by The Nerves.

44 – Radio Radio – Elvis Costello
Believe it or ot this was origially written in 1974 by Costello and titled Radio Soul, inspired in some way by Bruce Springsteen. Costello dusted it off and re wrote it around the time of the album ‘This Years Model’ but it was released as a stand alone single, although it was added to later releases of the album.

43 – Shot by both sides – Magazine
The name of the song came from a political argument between Devoto and his girlfriend, in which his girlfriend said to him, “Oh, you’ll end up shot by both sides”. I was late to this song and didn’t ever hear it until several years after it was released.

42 – Hong Kong Garden – Siouxsie & the Banshees
A fried of mine had this on 7″ so it got a fair amount of play when I was round his house, I really liked their sound. The song was named after the Hong Kong Garden Chinese take-away in Chislehurst High Street. Siouxsie Sioux was quoted as explaining the lyrics with reference to the racist activities of skinheads visiting the take-away:

I’ll never forget, there was a Chinese restaurant in Chislehurst called the Hong Kong Garden. Me and my friend were really upset that we used to go there and like, occasionally when the skinheads would turn up it would really turn really ugly. These gits would just go in en masse and just terrorise these Chinese people who were working there. We’d try and say ‘Leave them alone’, you know. It was a kind of tribute.

She also stated:

I remember wishing that I could be like Emma Peel from The Avengers and kick all the skinheads’ heads in, because they used to mercilessly torment these people for being foreigners. It made me feel so helpless, hopeless and ill.

41 – Hold The Line – Toto
I have no real idea why this appears here at number 41. I’ve been listening to the songs that preceeded it in this list and it probabaly should have been lower, but I can’t be bothered to re-number everything.

40 – Whole Lotta Rosie – AC/DC
Classic AC/DC and an opening riff that I could actually play, although I tended to get a bit lost after that.

39 – Miss You – Rolling Stones
Some songs are just comforting and for me this one of them as I remember hearing it in the car on the radio a lot when I was with my Dad.

38 – Leaving Louisianna in Broad Daylight – Emmylou Harris
It is much, much later in life that I have come to appreciate Emmylou and honestly wouldn’t have given this a moments listen back in 1978, but now I would, which is why it is here.

37 – Klu Klux Klan – Steel Pulse
I have conviced myself that I heard this somewhere back in the day, or heard about it, but I can’t quite pinpoint where or how. Maybe it is a false memory, I’ve no idea but I did see Steele Pulse at Reading Festival for 2 minutes before they were bottled off so maybe I’ve just got things mixed up.

36 – FM – Steely Dan
Taken from the soundtrack of the film FM and not on any of the Dan albums, except a best of, I really rate this song highly, though, in fairness, I rate most of them highly as they were magnificently crafted.

35 – Statue of Liberty – XTC
Amazingly, this was banned by the BBC for the lyrics “In my fantasy I sail beneath your skirt”, how bloody ridiculous.

34 – Nice ‘N’ Sleazy – The Stranglers
I liked The Stranglers from the first album (which is brilliant by the way, if you haven’t you should give it a go) and this track sort of felt as though it was coming from the same place as the tracks from their debut. The same album it is taken from contains their cover of ‘Walk On’ By so I’ve no idea what that was all about though.

33 – Is She Really Going Out With Him? – Joe Jackson
I associate this song, and may others in this list, with when I started in comprehensive school, as I was 11 for the second half of the year and I started to meet new people and, as a result, new music. Somebody, I don’t remember who, had the 7″ of this and we played it when I was around his house.

32 – Uptown Top Ranking – Anthea & Donna
I’ve mentioned somewhere before that I thought of this as a novelty song at the time but I was so wrog, it is fabulous, and the album it was taken from is well worth a listen as well. Some great tracks on it.

31 – The Man with the child in his eyes – Kate Bush
She was so very different from everything else that was out there at the time, and I do think I was probably caught up in the music being a joke along with lots of other people at the time, thinking the Not the Nine O’Clock News parody hilarious (I’ve recently re-watched it and it isn’t). She is a unique genius.

30 – Beast Of Burden – Rolling Stones
Another song I didn’t really appreciate at the time and I still blow hot and cold with the Stones, but this has become one of my favourite songs of theirs over the years.

29 – Do or Die – Grace Jones
Take from her second album ‘Fame’, which is classified as disco, and included on the Island Life compilation, this track just shows how marvelous she is. I know there are many people over the years who have not taken her seriously as a musician but I’d just like to confirm, if there were any doubt, they were wrong.

Interestingly, Eartha Kitt covered this song in 1989.

28 – Turn To Stone – ELO
The opening track of the album ‘Out of the Blue’ which was like a greatest hits without it originally being one. There are a ridiculous number of hit singles on that. Sadly, I don’t believe I had it at the time, though I taped the hits off the radio chart show.

27 – I Am The Fly – Wire
Another song I missed at the time, but, fortunatly I found it later and as a result it sounds fairly modern to me still and not over 40 years old.

26 – I don’t want to go to Chelsea – Elvis Costello
I think this may be my favourite song of his from this period, it certainly seems to be the one I listened to most, although, again, I didn’t have my own copy. At this point I probably had about 30 singles and a couple of cassettes, the first album I bought on vinyl was still a year away.

25 – I Wanna Be Sedated – Ramones
It is easy for some to dismiss The Ramones, which I understand, but they are just pure pop wrapped up in a leatherclad image. Their songs are simple, short and catchy, and I like them.

24 – Who Are You – The Who
I have issues with The Who, namely that they have a great greatest hits but there is a lot of mediocraty to trawl through to get to those hits. This album is, to me, a perfect example, Who Are You, the title track, is the only really good song on it.

23 – Deacon Blues – Steely Dan
From the album Aja, which doesn’t have a bad track on it and any of them could sit here, but this one was actually released as a single. It could also be much higher but I’ve gone and applied some rules around ‘how I felt about it at the time’ which I will probabaly break later, if I haven’t already.

22 – Baker Street – Gerry Rafferty
Now I know that certain songs get played so much they become irritating or they just become unlistenable through over familiarity, but no matter how many times I hear this song, I continue to like it and part of the reason for that is because I heard it so many times at this point in my life it is almost as though it is waypoint back in time to a world where I had no responsibilities, little pressure and the whole world in front of me.

21 – So Lonely – Police
I loved the Police, particularly the first two albums, actually, mostly the first two albums and it was a very stupid day when I moved away when I was 16 and gave away all my 7″ singles, this being one of them.

20 – Follow You, Follow Me – Genesis
It was odd to hear Genesis on the Sunday chart rundown as they weren’t really a singles bad until this point. From this album on it was as though they had become a different band, which in may ways they had but it was rather a treat to hear a band you like on the radio.

19 – (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding – Elvis Costello
I believe that it was around this time that I started wearing a Ban The Bomb badge, it may have been later though, regardless, the song resonated with me.

18 – Down In the Tube Station At Midnight – The Jam
I still regard this as one of the best songs The Jam ever did. It has atmosphere, attitude and a relatable story. It still sounds great to me.

17 – Sultans Of Swing – Dire Straits
I don’t know if this appears an odd choice or not but here it is anyway. I had the album and only ever played this song, jumping straight to it and just it. That was a bit of a mistake as it is an excellent album and is more than just this one song, but it is a great song.

16 – Public Image Ltd – Public Image
What I was hoping for when I first listened to this was more in the same vein as The Pistols, which I do think this is, it has a similar sound and attitude. Unlike the rest of the album, which is quite different, and quite brilliant. I was in WH Smiths somewhere with my Dad and wanted to buy a copy of this single but I got a resouding no.

15 – What A Waste – Ian Dury & the Blockheads
I could be a driver an articulated lorry which was true as my job prospects turned out to not be all that rosy, and this became a bit of a mantra later in life. Dury didn’t tend to put singles on albums, which I liked actually, why buy it twice?

14 – Sunday Girl – Blondie
Parallel Lines, the album from which this song is taken, remains one of the greatest pop albums ever recorded. That is all.

13 – Roxanne – Police
My second favourite single from the debut album. There was a time I scoured the back pages of music magazines, where record shops advertised their wares, looking for this single with the original red telephone cover. I saw it a few times but could never afford it. I could now but I can’t be arsed.

12 – White Man In Hammersmith Palais – The Clash
I think this may have only been a single and not included on any album and it’s quite interesting as it does, in many ways, echo what the police where doing, albeit with a completly different attitude, by using reggae guitar.

11 – Teenage Kicks – Undertones
I saw the Undertones in 1983 and they were tits but this song is undeniably iconic, particularly with the John Peel association.

10 – Ever Fallen In Love? – Buzzcocks
Another Iconic track from what many regarded as the thinking mans punks. I’m not sure that is entirely true but it certainly wasn’t the usual fare.

9 – One Nation Under A Groove – Funkadelic
I feel like this song has always been in existence and has dipped in and out of my view for 53 years, even though it isn’t as old as that.

8 – Lovely Day – Bill Withers
The recent passing of Bill Withers was a sad day, but look at what he gave us while he was here. It is impossible to not love and be uplifted by this song, unless you are dead inside, are you?

7 – Is This Love – Bob Marley & the Wailers
Taken from the album ‘Kaya’ and the opening track of the massive selling compilation ‘Legend’. Like so many other people, Marley was my gateway into reggae and this is one of the first songs I would have heard, although I have convinced myself I saw the Old Grey Whistle Test performance in 1973 even though I was 6 and definately didn’t.

6 – Take Me To the River – Talking Heads
From the album ‘More Songs About Buildings and Food’ I think it is fair to say that in the musical ladscape of 1978 Talking Heads were, comparitivly, a bit weird, and this is exactly what makes this song so good. It isn’t particularly complicated musically but the vocal delivery by David Byrne with vocal ticks and almost whispering at times gives the song it’s special character.

5 – Can’t Stand Losing You – Police

This is my favourite Police song from the first album, which is why it is higher than the others. A song that we correctly believed to be about suicide as 11 year olds, although it wasn’t exactly a hidden message with the cover showing a man hanging himself and the lyrical content being a dead give away.

4 – Heart Of Glass – Blondie

Disco Blondie! and why not? I like a bit of Giergio Moroder, Vangelis and Blondie and this sort of mashes those together into a track that Blondie early adopters complained about at the time with the whole ‘Sell Out’ accusations, which I get, but c’mon, it’s a classic.

3 – Das Model – Kraftwerk

There are some songs that never seem to age, that one doesn’t grow tired of, and this is one of them. Futuristic at the time and it still is in many ways, at least to me. When originally released in ’78 it didn’t impact the charts at all and it was its ’82 re-release, against the bands wishes, that took it to number 1 in the UK.

2 – Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick – Ian Dury & the Blockheads

I must have listened to this song a thousand times or more and I still love it. I remember pop magazines like Smash Hits repeatedly running pieces on what exactly was a ‘Rhythm Stick’ and probably published the lyrics at some point. It did reach number 1 in the UK singles charts but was initially kept from the top spot for two weeks by Village People’s Y.M.C.A, Donald Trumps favourite song it would seem after recent rallies. B-Side ‘There ain’t half been some clever bastards’ is pretty good too.

1 – Wuthering Heights – Kate Bush

There are a number of reasons why I have this at number 1. First and foremost is that I really like it, but I also have great admiration for her single mindedness in releasing it at all (James And The Cold Gun was the record companies choice as first single from the album), also the impact it made which was massive. Here was a weird woman with a weird voice harping on about Heathcliffe, and yet, despite ridicule from many quarters, it wet to number one in the UK charts and was the begining of a career in music that inspired so very many other artists.

And there we have it. Do you have any tracks to add that I may have missed? If so, let me know in the comments.

3 thoughts on “Best Songs of 1978”

  1. Don’t know the Bill Withers at #4, but otherwise a fabulous Top 20.
    Costello’s ‘Radio Radio’ would be very high on my list, as would ‘Mr Blue Sky’ in all its Beatlesque glory!


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