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Let's party like it's 1399: The story behind Jethro Tull's Songs From The Wood

In 1977, when punk was washing away the old and bringing in the new, Jethro Tull released an album that could have come from the Middle Ages. Ian Anderson remembers making Songs From The Wood

There is a generally accepted history of British music for 1977. In this narrative, it was not just the year that punk broke out, but also a true pop-culture watershed; a Year Zero in which rock’s so-called old guard were swept away by a revolutionising horde of angry upstarts. Certainly, at the outset of that year, The Buzzcocks and The Damned fired off opening salvos with their debut records, respectively the Spiral Scratch EP and Damned Damned Damned. By the spring, The Clash with The Clash and The Stranglers with Rattus Norvegicus had joined the fray. And that summer, Silver Jubilee street parties across the country had for an alternative soundtrack the three bile-filled minutes of the Sex Pistols’ God Save The Queen. Come October, the Pistols’ Never Mind The Bollocks album stormed straight to No.1.

Spirit Of ’77

The alternative playlist to Britain’s so-called Year Of Punk

Pink Floyd - Pigs (Three Different Ones)

An epic and terrifying descent into Roger Waters’s nightmarish near-future world, with David Gilmour’s stunning guitar playing stirring up hellfire. (From Animals.)

Fleetwood Mac - The Chain

The only Mac song credited to the entire band – Brits Mick Fleetwood, John McVie and Christine McVie; Americans Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham – and awesome from the moment John McVie’s bass rumbles with intent. (From Rumours.)

Yes - Wonderous Stories

Jon Anderson goes off with the faeries, while Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman scamper around and about him. Collectively, just as defiant in the face of punk’s anarchy as Jethro Tull were. (From Going For The One.)

Foreigner - Cold As Ice

Expat Brit Mick Jones brought in lung-busting American singer Lou Gramm straight from the building site where he was humping bricks. In tandem they defined the sound of FM rock for the next decade. (From Foreigner.)

Status Quo - Roll Over Lay Down

Recorded at Glasgow’s Apollo Theatre in October 1976, this was the ultimate rendering of the Quo’s brand of no-nonsense, heads-down boogie. (From Quo Live!.)

Judas Priest - Sinner

Heavy metal thunder was unleashed in the West Midlands through Glenn Tipton and KK Downing’s sawing, switchblade riffs and the still-remarkable voice of Rob Halford. (From Sin After Sin.)

Jethro Tull - The Whistler

Songs From The Wood’s most effusive track is driven by the whip-crack of Barriemore Barlow’s snare and Ian Anderson’s goggling wordplay. (From Songs From The Wood.)

Peter Gabriel - Solsbury Hill

Fresh out of Genesis, Gabriel teamed up with producer Bob Ezrin (Alice Cooper, Lou Reed) for his solo debut, which peaked with this celestial folk masterpiece. (From Peter Gabriel.)

UFO - Too Hot To Handle

The sound of classic British hard rock: Pete Way’s caveman bassline, Phil Mogg’s urgent vocals and guitarist Michael Schenker’s magic touches. (From Lights Out.)

Motörhead - Motörhead

Lemmy’s speed-fuelled calling card, originally written for Hawkwind and here given extra thrust by ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke and Philthy Animal Taylor. (From Motörhead.)

ELO - Sweet Talkin’ Woman

The high point of 1977’s most unashamedly overblown collection, as Jeff Lynne and his symphonic-rock overlords squeeze lost love, astral harmonies and the kitchen sink into a dazzling three minutes and forty-five seconds. (From Out Of The Blue.)

Queen - We Will Rock You

Queen recorded News Of The World at the same studio where the Sex Pistols were making Never Mind The Bollocks. Encountering Freddie Mercury one day, Sid Vicious sneered: “Still doing opera for the masses, Freddie?” “Oh yes, Mr Ferocious, we’re trying,” Mercury shot back. This was the exclamation point on that last laugh. (From News Of The World.)


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