1978 A VINTAGE YEAR | Pocketmags.com

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It was a time of plenty, and of unbridled creativity, in the pop world. Ben Wardle revs up the DeLorean to revisit an amazing year that was pivotal in the development of music as we know it

I know what you’re thinking. I’m joking, right? Compared to the triumvirate of 1956, 1967 and 1977, 1978 was a freakshow. There’s no pelvisthrusting Elvis; no Sgt. Pepper-era Fabs and no sneering Rotten. No, it’s John Travolta in Grease, Brian and Michael’s Matchstalk Men And Matchstalk Cats And Dogs, Terry Wogan’s The Floral Dance, Boney M., Brotherhood Of Man… I won’t go on, I’m depressing myself just writing down the names.

Go to any charity shop, have a rifle through the records and you’ll still find The Sound Of Bread, Blondes Have More Fun and Nightflight To Venus.

That’s because 1978 was the final year in a decade-long run of staggering UK record sales before a slow decline set in. 1978 managed to more than double 1970’s 50 million sales, with over 107.3 million, according to the BPI. And that was during an oil crisis, which limited supplies of vinyl. Recorded-music sales would not reach these heights again until 1985, when Brothers In Arms and the scramble for CD repackaging supercharged the figures.

Sales levels are no indication of quality. Some might even argue they’re inversely proportionate. But think about it: when a business is swimming in cash, those working in it feel freer to take risks; they are more indulgent with creativity and more experimental.

In 1978, change was in the air: disco and roots reggae were both reaching maturity, punk had kickstarted a wave of new talent, the old guard were making an effort and an underground buzz of experimentation and newness was palpable. Singles were so popular that the Top 50 was extended to become the Top 75. Smash Hits was launched, marking the beginning of the savvy, ironic relationship with pop music that is still the adopted tone of so many music writers. And for all these reasons and more, it turns out that 1978 gave us pop’s greatest year.

But before we start, I have a confession: in November 1978, I turned 13 and went to my first gig: Buzzcocks at Hammersmith Odeon. Afterwards, while I waited for my mum to pick me up, watching Austin Princesses and Ford Capris chugging out towards the Westway, I tore the poster down from the wall outside. Back at home, I Blu Tacked it, still damp, to my bedroom wall. I never let it out of my sight. Now framed, it still has pride of place in the family home.

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About Long Live Vinyl

Issue 16 of Long Live Vinyl hits the shelves on what would have been Prince's 60th birthday. Our cover story focuses on the astonishingly prolific decade between 1978-88, when the Purple One released 10 albums that shaped the future of pop. We also round up the 40 essential Prince releases on vinyl that your collection should not be without and profile the cover art that accompanied his remarkable catalogue. Elsewhere this issue, we speak to The Smiths legend Johnny Marr about how he made his best solo album yet – Call The Comet – in his home city of Manchester, hear how Josh T Pearson raised the bar with his own latest record, and sit down for a chat with post-punk icons Wire. In our packed features section, we find out which record changed everything for former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler and meet famous 4AD artist in residence Vaughan Oliver to talk through his classic designs for the Pixies, The Breeders and Cocteau Twins. Also this month, we turn the spotlight on a label that's become a Chicago institution with a mind-bogglingly diverse roster – Drag City, Mark Elliott travels to Belfast for his latest cratedigging adventure in The Trip, and we take an in-depth look at the making of Carole King's career highlight, Tapestry. If all that's not enough, our packed reviews section rounds up new releases and reissues by The Rolling Stones, Black Sabbath, The Orb, Kamasi Washington, Let's Eat Grandma, Richard Hawley and many more, plus you'll find expert hardware buying and HIFI DIY advice, as well as turntable, speaker and accessory reviews. Long Live Vinyl is THE magazine for vinyl lovers. Pick up your copy today!