Country music was so uncool in the Seventies that I never went near it in my youth. Until I came across Joe Ely. There was something about his debut album in 1977 that struck the same sort of chord as the ramshackle thrashings of punk. But in an American way – specifically a Texan way.
Some time in 1979 I was at a gig at the Electric Ballroom when a sharp-dressed man with a prematurely balding dome and pallid complexion walked past me. He was not a looker by any means, but he had a stunning girl on his arm. I recognised him as Joe Jackson; and his debut single came instantly and inevitably to mind.
Amid the visceral energy and tuneless thrashing of punk, a label called Beserkley somehow surfed along on the New Wave with a bunch of records that reminded us what a tune was. This was one of the best examples – a jangly version of a song from Springsteen’s debut album by a bloke called Greg Kihn.
Talking Heads’ second album tends to get unfairly overlooked. Probably partly because it came so soon after their debut, and partly due to being sandwiched between their landmark debut 77 and the masterpiece that followed with Fear Of Music.
The Pop Group never sold many records but their legacy has been huge in their influence on other bands. Nick Cave, whose band The Birthday Party was very much in their image, acclaimed this song as their masterpiece.
Listening now to their debut single, Tell Me Your Plans, it’s hard to see (or hear) how The Shirts were ever considered a punk band. Yet they were staples at CBGBs in that golden era of the mid-Seventies that spawned The Ramones, Television, Talking Heads and Blondie.